Kevin Jones believes the skills that underpin good teaching prepare a candidate for a leadership role.
Principal, St Clare’s Catholic High School, Hassall Grove, in Sydney’s west.
What do you do ?
My work is very much guided by the needs of the community and involves balancing the immediate with the strategically important. Flexibility is essential. It includes interactions with hundreds of people, students, staff and parents, for a variety of purposes.
How long have you been doing this job and what first sparked your interest in this area?
I have been a principal for 16 years and have been part of the leadership team in five different secondary schools. From the time I made the decision to become a teacher, working to improve student’s learning has been a real passion of mine. You could see that you could make a difference in the lives of your students. Along with this was a real interest in leadership and the possibilities that it presented to shape student and staff experience.
What do you like most about the job?
The autonomy that allows you to work with others in shaping the future of a whole community. Actually improving learning for students is a very complex, inter-relational process which involves a large number of professionals working together and, importantly, listening to students. Working to get students to see their faith as a living part of their life, and that it should be reflected in their relationships with everyone and everything, is foundational.
What is the worst thing you have had to do?
Difficult to respond to this but tragically one of our Year 12 students passed away very unexpectedly from a heart condition, right at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown. Grieving as a community, at this time, with all the social distancing restrictions, was very difficult.
How have you adapted to greater demand for online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Adaptation seemed to happen as a matter of course as everyone realised that to continue to support students’ learning, we needed to work differently. At this point, teachers’ commitment to their vocation took over. This meant keeping a watchful eye out for students who were disadvantaged and stepping in with support. Other than this, the challenge in reorganising and communicating was constant and heightened when some staff had existing health issues which placed them at increased risk.
How transferable are your skills?
I believe the skills that underpin good teaching prepare you for this sort of leadership role and then it is a matter of constantly learning in new situations. Many jobs require this approach. It is not who you are when you start the new job, it is who you see yourself becoming as you do it. I was fortunate enough to spend some time in a number of jobs before taking up teaching, including working as a storeman driver and as a shipping clerk. For me, this made a big difference.
What advice do you have for people wanting to get into a career related to your skills and experience?
For those people considering a role in teaching, my advice would be to let people see your enthusiasm and passion for the work. Show clearly that you are a learner.
Which skills and personal skills do people need in teaching?
There are so many skills required to do this sort of work and you can’t have all of them in equal measure. A big part of it is knowing your strengths and recognising areas of challenge so that you can best support students to learn. The ability to empathise with students who find some learning difficult and who bring a different life experience is crucial. Valuing all learning, in the smallest increments, for the least and the most able, will create confidence in your students and bring more joy to this work. The ability to reach out to students, sometimes repeatedly, is invaluable.