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 http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/6520 and http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/6344 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.