7 Questions with James Pietsch

Name: James Pietsch

Current title: Principal

Current organisation: Inaburra School


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1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?

Recognising that when we build expectations of one another we almost always ignore the simple fact of our own brokenness and incapacity to live up to our own standards let alone God’s.

2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

So much of my day is determined by events and incidents outside my control. But everyday I do try to engage with students in a meaningful way and spend time reflecting, reading, praying and being still.

3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

Most recently, I have been struck again by how important the combination of good communication and trust within the team are for the team to be healthy and effective.

4. What one book has had the most profound impact on your Christian school leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

I couldn’t identify just one book, but recently I have been struck by how much Plato’s Republic has to say about leadership. It describes how the leaders of a society should be people of virtue, of good character and that they should have the capability to learn effectively. Leaders are also those who do not necessarily seek out leadership. Plato argues that leaders are in fact those who do not wish for it - they are not driven by money, fame or ambition, but rather a desire to serve and guide others. Finally, leaders are philosopher kings - they are able to see the true nature of the world, as well as lead their nation in battle. They are equally comfortable with the transcendent and the immanent.

5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?

We seek to keep Christian teachers by providing them with opportunities to be Christian in the classroom, in home groups and in the playground. Staff also have opportunities to be involved in ministry in the school speaking to students and running bible studies at school.

Finding Christian teachers, however, is tricky! We are considering establishing a database which includes the contact details of churches in our local area to adopt a more targeted approach to recruitment in the future. We are also partnering in a program of training Christian teachers, supporting them throughout the duration of their undergraduate studies.

6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?

I wish I knew the answer to this question - I wish there was a simple answer, but I suspect that there isn’t. In the end, I think the answer is compassion, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humility. By developing the habits that strengthen and build these character traits in ourselves and one another, we increase the likelihood of staff and students experiencing a wellbeing-focused culture.

7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a Christian school leader so far?

It is in the most difficult moments that the most significant lessons are learnt. Most of my stories, therefore, are about suffering, hardship, confrontation and failure. But each of these stories, at least in my own retelling of them to myself, include moments of adjusting, learning, growing and becoming. I mentioned Plato earlier whose bias was always in favour of being rather than becoming. However, I have always been more attracted to the notion of becoming - that God is at work in us - in us personally, but also in us collectively, often through times of darkness, to bring us evermore closer to him. What begun on Easter Sunday continues to this day - the overturning of darkness, sin, death and despair, the establishment of Jesus on the throne of glory forever. It is hard to go past the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection as the most meaningful story that shapes how leaders lead and serve their communities.