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7 Questions with Brian Fahey
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7 Questions with Brian Fahey
Name: Brian Fahey
Current title: Head of School
Current organisation: West Chester Friends School
I was a classroom teacher and coach for 30 years. I taught in lower, middle, and upper school. Although I loved classroom teaching I pursued my current job in order to challenge myself and to find a new adventure. This is my seventh year as a head of school.
Which option best describes the religious affiliation of the organisation you currently work for or most recently worked for?
Christian religious affiliation
What type of organisation do you work for or support?
Early childhood (0-4 y/os)
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader in the education sector?
Being able to plan for the future while taking care of the day-to-day is a challenge. And part of that is making sure that the school can thrive and be financially sustainable going forward.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
1. check email early, at breakfast time.
2. look at the day's schedule
3. check-in with colleagues upon arrival at school to see if anything has come up that I need to know about
4. start working my way through my list of things to accomplish during the day.
5. lunch at noon-ish, playground duty
6. afternoons are usually catching up on long-term project work, making phone calls
7. generally leave at 4 or 4:30
8. often have nighttime meetings that I do from home
9. check email once or twice at night and respond to anything that seems urgent Note: in normal years my day would be punctuated by walkthroughs in classrooms. I am not doing that this year because we are trying to maintain the fidelity of cohorts. Instead, I join the video conferences in the classes. Much less informative than an in-person visit.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
That sometimes doing the most painful thing is the right thing to do for the organization.
4. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
One book that influenced me was not specifically about leadership at all. It's "Seabiscuit". It has stayed with me b/c it tells the story of a horse that was mistreated and basically discarded, a jockey that was thought to be worthless, a trainer who had been left behind by changes in the industry, and an owner who had experienced great personal loss. Through trust, instinct, and steadfastness they were able to come together and accomplish amazing things. It taught me to look for the best in colleagues and to remember that we all have an untold history that informs our present, but doesn't have to limit our future.
5. How do you find and keep great leaders in the education sector?
Networking, talking to other leaders on a consistent basis and following helpful threads on social media, particularly Twitter.
6. What's most important as a leader in the education sector for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
With staff, clear communication and doing things that are visibly supportive, such as taking a class or bus duty for them once in a while, encouraging them to throttle back if something is not going well and they are getting frustrated. It's also important to help them with conflicts with parents so that they do not feel isolated.
With children, focusing on social/emotional learning is vital. Teaching conflict resolution, mindfulness and restorative justice important.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader in the education sector so far?
A couple of years ago a colleague came into my office to talk about a decision that I had made that impacted her in a personal way. She was visibly upset, raised her voice was sarcastic, and said unkind things about some of our other colleagues. The next day she came to me to apologize because she knew that she had been unfair to me. To paraphrase, I said, "So, you had a moment. If you're going to have a moment with anyone here I want it to be with me." Sometimes you have to give people a break and let them be angry.
We're looking at doing a limited, online 30 minute leadership masterclass in the next couple of months. What topic/s would you find most valuable from a leadership masterclass?
How do you make a strategic plan if you're in a small organization that can't afford to hire a consultant to help you with it?