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7 Questions with Clark Wight
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Clark Wight
Name: Clark Wight
Current title: Project Lead: innovation and Transformation
Current organisation: Guildford Grammar School
I have taught from Years 1 -12 in both the US and Australia. I have been Head of Primary at two schools in Perth and a Head of Campus (K - Yr 9) in the US.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader in the education sector?
The biggest challenges we face in education are relevance, a culture of speed and antiquated systems around curriculum and compliance. Specifically, what students are too often being forced to memorise and regurgitate is no longer relevant for their present or future needs. We need them to learn how to work collaboratively to solve real world problems. Speed is a challenge as we have pushed the curriculum down, diminished the need for play and connecting with nature and made learning about the grade/result rather than the process. We have replaced slow, deep immersive learning with fast, assessment focussed, shallow memorisation. Lastly, our governing bodies and political leaders appear unwilling to move from an educational model established in and around the industrial revolution. We have moved on... education has not.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I love the early mornings. Starting with a gratitude journal or quiet time and then on to some sort of exercise or get to the beach. Removing all electronic devices from our bedroom has made a massive difference in how we start the day. My calendar does tend to rule my days so I purposefully place in blocks for WTH (walk the hall) where I get out of my office and go spend time with students and teachers. I also block out every morning for 30 minutes to be outside when students and families arrive at school. This time for greeting with handshakes and knowing every student's name is crucial for developing culture, trust and mutual respect. I also get time to chat with parents and caregivers. (our entire executive team takes this time every day for this). I am usually good at having set times where I check emails and either action, forward, delete or save for later (I try to keep these very few). An empty inbox is like a dream come true. The only other thing I try to do (and there is no perfect) is find that 3rd Space before I get home (Google it). This is the time I give myself to leave work behind and try to enter my home as Husband/Dad/Clark. It makes a massive difference. Then, hopefully, I get time to cook, play music and be with my family. I usually sneak away with a book and wine at some point for a perfect day.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. This is the lesson that I keep having to learn as a leader and person. Deep listening is our greatest gift as leaders. My Dad taught me this one and I am forever thankful. Can I add one more ... culture is all about relationships. A strategic plan and vision are great, but go nowhere without a culture of relationships (and joy, laughter, candour and care).
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?
There are so many. True North by Bill George; Daring Greatly by Brené Brown; Start with Why by Simon Sinek and everything written or spoken by Ken Robinson. Why - simply, it is all about values, authenticity, vulnerability and "Know Thyself". Bryce Courtenay's Power of One has resonated with me deeply since I read it long long ago (and reread it every year).
5. How do you find and keep great leaders in the education sector?
What an awesome question!! Three things come straight to mind. 1. Time. Giving leaders permission (self or organisationally) to read, reflect, work from home, take a walk and be present. Leaders without time are managers and "fire put-it-outers". 2. Mentors. Having people who a leader can openly speak with without fear of judgement. Many of the answers live within us as leaders... we just need people in our lives who we can openly speak with (Not just our partners). 3. Purpose. Every leader should spend time working on both their purpose and their legacy based on their values. Without understanding these we can bounce back and forth between issues and years to (too often) end up with "Well what I have done?"
6. What's most important as a leader in the education sector for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
One word - RELATIONSHIPS. Time to listen to others. Student voice and agency are absolutely crucial. Having an open door where students can come in and chat and talk about their concerns and joys is paramount. Having the same culture with Staff is equally important. Quick story - We had a staff absentee policy where they were allowed 8 sick days per year. Average number of sick days per year for the previous 20 years was 7.2 days per year across the staff. We changed this to 4 sick days and 4 "I am too well to come to work today" days. Average sick days per staff dropped to under 5 days per year (You can add up the $$ savings).
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader in the education sector so far?
It comes down to awe and wonder. My biggest leadership lessons always seem to center on those moments where I stopped, asked questions, watched, learned and listened. Then I truly UNDERSTOOD. Funny, most of these lessons about what to make sure we keep in education and are crucial for deep, rich learning came from our 3, 4 or 5 year-old students. There is true wisdom in there!