4 tips to help busy principals cope

by Brett Henebery23 Feb 2017

Is your workload making you feel overwhelmed?

If the recent survey into principal health and well-being is any measure, you have every reason to be.

However, the report did show some progress, which means that schools, communities and governments are listening to the recommendations by the survey’s lead author, Associate Professor, Philip Riley, and his research team.

One principal who takes these recommendations seriously Robert Nastasi, the new principal of Emmaus Catholic College – located in Kemps Creek, NSW.

Nastasi told The Educator about four ways he copes with the daily workloads and responsibilities at his school.


1. Have a growth mindset

Nastasi said it is important to have a growth mindset, knowing that while principalship is complex at times, it is also a privilege and a vocation that inspires a daily love of learning new things.

“Having a daily love of the work you do, and avoiding a ‘fixed mindset’ can prevent the job from becoming stale,” he said.

“I am always present for the students when they arrive at school, at recess, at lunch and at the end of the day. No meetings interfere with this time.”

Nastasi said that being relational and present for the community affirms what “the real game” is in schools.

“They see that and appreciate it and again it provides instant reinforcement and happiness. I always ensure a work-life balance; work commences when I arrive at school and ceases when I leave my office of an evening,” he said.

“I also exercise as often as possible, often at school itself with colleagues.”


2. Keep an eye on ‘the big picture’

Nastasi said that despite the myriad of duties that he carries out on a daily basis, he is always conscious of “keeping his eyes on big picture” and ensuring that he doesn’t get too distracted – or stressed – by workloads.

“This also means I don't get lost on things that go wrong or sweat the small things. I’d much rather celebrate the positives, be open to feedback and review,” he said.

“Another thing I ensure is that I have a strong sense of humour.”

He pointed out that when it comes to dealing with the pressures of principalship, this can take the edge off stressful situations and ground him.


3. Professional development is crucial

Nastasi, whose school is part of the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP), said he has felt greatly supported through the induction and orientation programs that the CEDP provides

“These programs provide significant and ongoing practical applications to principals, through professional development, sharing, collaboration and mentoring,” he said.

“The establishment of principal network groups/clusters and meetings with a focus on professional formation and dialogue with colleagues around best practice in leadership and education are of immense support.”

Nastasi added that having a mentor principal who is always just a phone call away makes a meaningful difference amid the pressures inherent in a principal’s role.

 

4. Know you’re in good company

The regular company of staff and students is another important contributor to well-being, according to Nastasi.

“I always attempt to immerse myself among the staff and students as they give the best moral support and instant affirmation. You are present for them and they are for you,” he said.

On a final note, Nastasi offers some advice for busy principals who, in the rush of completing their daily duties, may not be as consultative as they should be.

“Work closely with your leadership team and debrief with them daily, so that you are making informed decisions.”

 

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