Mobile Principal

Have you ever wondered what principals do in their office all day? As an aspiring principal, I often wondered that myself until I finally crossed the line 8 years ago and made it through the door. My joy and satisfaction of having my own office and space, and a desk and chair that looked like managerial material seemed to be the pinnacle of my career.  However, is that what being a principal is all about?

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity of visiting the  Microsoft Australia Office in Sydney and noticed a totally different working environment. For a start, there was no managerial office or any office for that matter that signified a hierarchical structure and having one person more important than another. Secondly, the open space enabled staff to work anywhere and anytime depending on the tasks at hand. Thirdly, the work areas were free from clutter and all the paper files that are often attributed to an office work environment being eliminated. Finally, the spaces were engaging with different types of furnishings to enable staff to be in a relaxed environment while working.

Being a principal is about being a leader of a school and quite often we get the balance of time wrong, and spend more time tied up in red tape in our office. After reading an article on and it finally hammered home that principals need to be visible and have a presence in a school, not the roaring lion that students see as nothing more than a disciplinarian, but rather an innovative creative who is prepared to support teachers and engage them to achieve their aspirations and goals.

From my reflections from both Microsoft and the Connected Principals articles, I realised that the only thing that held my in an office was the desktop computer. Everything from an administrative purpose could be completed easily on line and all my meetings with staff, parents and students could be held in various areas around the school.

This term, instead of having a no office day, I went one further and totally reconverted my office into a learning space for small group student work or parent meetings. Idea paint adorns one of the walls for planning purposes and a range of lounges and ottomans provide the seating in a relaxed atmosphere.  A generation of students will never be sent to the principal’s office in our school anymore for breaches of school rules.

The liberating effect of not having an office has made a tremendous difference in how I perceive my role. The focus is firmly shifted back to teaching and learning, and supporting teacher development – after all, that’s how teachers become the future principals. Now instead of being tied to a desktop, a smartphone and a slate provides the tools that I need, along with skydrive and access to our school fileserver.

While still at the infancy stage of having no office, the joy of seeing children succeed and working in a range of spaces also sends the message to all students that they do not own spaces but share learning spaces too.

10 thoughts on “Mobile Principal

  1. G’day John! So pleased to follow your journey via this blog. The “no office” concept is an interesting one.
    An amazing way to model how one can learn anywhere, anytime. I like!

  2. HI John,
    I’m so inspired by what you are trying to achieve by this. It challenges me as well. My work seems to involve so much paper – piles and piles of it. I can’t imagine not having my own desk and work area. I’m looking forward to following your journey.

  3. John what a fabulous start to your blog. It tells us about you and gives us a great story too. I am sure it will inspire other principals to try going officeless too.

    (I remember getting my first office in a school and it was very much how you described you felt when you first got yours.)

    Congrats. I will be following you here for sure.

  4. I too am looking forward to your journey… and seeing it first hand… a paperless world interests me greatly!

  5. Hello John,

    A very inspiring start to your blog. I had never realised how much getting an office, desk and desktop had impacted on me as a professional. It was like getting my own classroom all over again – another space that is mine.
    But after reflecting while reading this post I realised the desk is not important. It is the learning that takes place in conversation sand lessons in all areas of our school that lead to my enjoyment of my job.

    Thank you for provoking my thoughts.
    I look forward to more posts.


  6. Hi John
    I like that you’ve used this post to actually challenge a deep seated assumption about ‘place’ and the relationship between vision of ‘what is’ and inviting readers to imagine instead: ‘what could be’ No doubt, once that vision about what the function and role is actually all about, what outcomes are desired, then we can *design* the notion of ‘place’ in different ways. Great to see you continuing to share ideas, and put it ‘out there’ for genuine collaboration around the optimisation of the idea. Thanks 🙂

  7. Congratulations on the leap, John. I find it amazing that so many educators are sharing the fabulous learning journeys they embark on. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Congratulations on the leap, John. I find it amazing that so many educators are sharing the fabulous learning journeys they embark on. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Hi John, a great idea. There is still an office in the admin building at my school and at times I can be found in there! But at other times the counsellor will be there, or the assistant principal will use it, or parents wanting to meet with teachers or students wanting to meet with teachers … it has a fairly large use, but only one of the sets of footprints are mine.

  10. Great post- The academic year I had the opportunity to redesign our teacher co-working spaces. As PYP coordinator I also ditched the office to be in these redesigned spaces. With a choice of working space and connectivity there is a greater degree of collaboration and creativity across both grade levels and schools. Day to day operational challenges can be met personally rather than by email and the learning community had benefited as a whole offering more opportunities for sharing good practice and reflection, we even develop creative diversions with mobile photography and tape art!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *