Friday, October 25, 2019

Saying Goodbye is Personal

Recently we’ve had a few staff leave, and others announce they are leaving over the next few months. 

While it is natural for some to second guess these departures and announcements it is important to remember that arrivals and departures at a school are often pretty common place, and especially so at a new school when everyone has started at the same time. We need to remember that changes in staff can represent where people are at in their personal and professional lives as much or more than being reflective of something in the school.

As a school leader over the last twenty years I have farewelled numerous fantastic teachers and other leaders, and been farewelled myself, saying goodbye to tremendous practitioners and valued friends. I’ve left, or others have, for new opportunities both personally and professionally. Schools become like families and it is wrenching to pull yourself out of that family and move on. The tension and inner debate between developing your career and breaking the bonds of family you have created with other human beings is ever present.

A few years ago I wrote this blogpost  about moving on and saying goodbye from the vantage point of being a Principal in another new school. Much of this blogpost applies at Haeata too.

To create a school from scratch is no easy task. We have great privileges. New property, new resources, lead in time to develop thinking, and unlearn and relearn, to debate philosophies and create vision.  
But it’s also hard work. Really hard work. Creating relationships from scratch. Amongst staff. Between staff and students. Amongst students. Between schools and whānau and the wider communities. Building processes and procedures and systems from scratch with both the advantages and disadvantages of not having tradition. Being innovative in the design and delivery of learning while still being measured by indicators of success from a different system.

As a new school we attract immense attention, immense interest, immense acclaim and also immense criticism. And all of those form their own challenges. We are challenged sometimes from people who have never put a foot in the place but make assumptions based on hearsay. Sometimes from people who should know better. So for people in our place a certain level of resilience and and a level of courage to remain committed to a vision despite those challenges has been a vital disposition to grow. Nowhere in a school is holding that vision more important than in the role of Principal. So the news of an imminent departure of our foundation principal is certainly unsettling. Without diminishing the significance of the other departures we have already had, and those that are imminent, the announcement of a Principal leaving is always major.

What we need to remember is that when anyone leaves they leave a legacy, and for a Principal that legacy is in not just the vision they have created but in how they have created the living breathing day to day representation of that vision. And if that’s been done well, then there are many people who are able to keep developing that vision. 

So as we prepare to say goodbye to a principal who has been vital and instrumental and an absolute key in the success of our school so far, to a Principal who has shown courage in the face of adversary over and over, we remember that we are saying goodbye to the person not to the vision. And as we have said goodbye to others, or prepare to soon, we remember they have all been part of growing that vision too and the practice they leave behind is a part of everything we are, everything we be every day and we take a part of all of them into the future with us. We will always be linked by that vision that has been created together.

Creating that vision together and making it come alive is what makes so many schools special places to be. And it is what makes saying goodbye difficult. In the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh ( AA Milne) “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

As this post is titled, saying goodbye is personal. We are saying goodbye, or preparing to, to people who have become like family, to people we have worked hard to grow a vision with. 

But saying goodbye is personal- it is to the person. 
We are not saying goodbye to the vision.

 That will continue to grow.