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7 Questions with Kaye Gillies
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Kaye Gillies
Name: Kaye Gillies
Current title: Mrs
Current organisation: Miramar Christian School
It has long been a dream of mine to lead a Christian school. After many years of teaching in secular then Catholic Schools I now have the privilege of leading Miramar Christian School. I am passionate about Christian Education - faith and quality student learning. I take pleasure in watching and supporting students as they gain new knowledge and skills. I have extensive knowledge of teaching and learning and the New Zealand Curriculum. This includes close to 30 years’ classroom teaching experience and 12 years senior management experience. I have taught in a range of schools, city, country, multi-cultural and not, Montessori, state and state-integrated.
I am always looking for ways to expand and grow my knowledge as a teacher and as a leader. As well as listening to audiobooks and podcasts and reading I have gained new insights through professional development and courses e.g. ‘Te Aro Reo Māori’ course and my ‘Masters in Educational Leadership’.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader in the education sector?
The most challenging thing I have found had happened as a leader is when a parent misunderstood my intent in my actions and consequently accused me of all sorts of things that were untrue. As I needed to focus on dealing with the issue she presented I felt it was not my place to address what felt like a personal attack. At this point, continuing to treat her with dignity, manage my emotions, and the school was a challenge.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I have a consistent routine in the morning which starts the night before. Prior to going to bed I set up breakfast (porridge), organise my lunch for the following day and lay out my clothes. In the morning I move as quickly as possible through preparation then head out between 6.30 and 6.45 and drive to Miramar. (I leave early to avoid traffic.) On my journey (which is a minimum of half an hour) I pray, think about the day or listen to podcasts. Once in Miramar I go for a 30-40 minute walk. If it rains I walk in the tunnel. I then continue on to school and arrive by 8.00 am. On Monday and Thursday we have prayers and admin meetings from 8.00-8.30 am. On other days, I write a list of what I will try to achieve in between the happenings of the day.
meet and greet parents and students from 8.30-9.00. I write the student communication book at the same time and carry out any other tasks required. (NB our office manager arrives at 9.00)
That is the end of my predictable day. I continue to work on what I can between supporting others and assisting with things required.
I try to take a break at morning tea and check in with as many staff as possible.
After school I again am at the gate and farewell students and parents- touching base with each as I go. This is followed by a 3.15 meeting every Monday (with my deputy principal) and Tuesday (Staff PD meeting) and may also involve meetings on other days.
It is difficult to get work done after school or during the day. However by 5.00 pm when most people are gone I am able to achieve more. I leave between 6.00 and 6.30 pm. Again this later time is also to avoid traffic.
After home I have a cup of tea and talk to whichever family members are home. Tea is usually served between 7.00 and 7.30. If I haven't achieved my 10,000 steps I may go on a top-up walk with one of my daughters or a friend. I spent a little time with my husband. I aim to be in bed with the morning set up by 9.30 pm. Once in bed I aim to complete my gratitude journal.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
While I may "do all things through Christ" I am also a limited and finite being. Sometimes I cannot do all I have planned. Sometimes things are out of my control and that's okay.
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?
This is a question that I could have a different answer for each week. While I would say the Bible is fundamentally the most impactful book on me there are many others that bring exciting biblical truth and wisdom forth.
I have found value in many books e.g." You win in the Locker room first" Mike Smith; "taking People with You" David Novak; "Leadershift" John Maxwell; "The five Levels of Leadershift" John Maxwell; "Think Big" Ben Carson; "Upheaval" Jared Diamond; "The 5am club" Robin Sharma; "Book yourself solid" Michael Port"Teach like Finland" Timothy D Walker; Each spoke to where I was at with my leadership at the time. If I reread them I am sure they would bring forth different wisdom.
There is however one book that I am dying to get my hands on. Even though I am yet to read its concepts from this discussed by its author, John Maxwell impacted me greatly. The book is "The Power of Five". It is too expensive to get it shipped from America and is yet to be found on Amazon etc. The key idea is given through an image. John talks about a man going into the forest and each day with an axe strikes once in the same place on 5 trees. As time goes on the consistent striking at the same trees means eventually they will
fall. If the man goes in daily and strikes 5 random trees, or in different places all over the trees the tree will never fall. This is an analogy for our time and actions in leadership. If we consistently chip away at a limited number of things we will eventually have some wins. If we are all over the place with our actions even though in and of themselves they may be good there is no collective effect. I find for myself it is too easy to spread myself too thinly and achieve very little. I like the concept of five areas of focus, five areas in which when I have a quiet workspace can be progressed.
5. How do you find and keep great leaders in the education sector?
Finding Great Leaders:
This is an interesting question. Last year I went to a professional development day for Christian school leaders, board members and proprietors. There a speaker talked about praying for "divine appointments''. When I heard this I knew this is what we needed to do as a school before appointing our next teacher. The deputy principal and I then prayed for this. As we viewed the applicants one applicant stood out in terms of faith. We can teach about pedagogy and encourage faith but mature faith is a rarer commodity. We believe the appointment we made was a "divine appointment" for many reasons including understanding their vision and what makes them tick, plus their dispositions and miraculous circumstances around their appointment. We now have a leader who has much to contribute.
Keeping great leaders:
To keep leaders I believe we need to provide, facilitate or allow opportunities for them to utilise their skills and grow in their skill base.
6. What's most important as a leader in the education sector for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
Wellbeing for staff: I believe it is important that staff know that as leaders, we see them as more than just a teacher or office manager. We see them as a person. Being mindful of teachers' home contexts, energy levels, and limits helps build a culture of wellbeing for staff. Sharing in lives high points e.g. births, significant birthdays, and low points, e.g. deaths and disappointments also help people know we care. Similarly, decisions based on this knowledge show care for wellbeing. Once a leader sets an example of caring other staff tend to follow. A"cool to care" attitude is good for all.
During the Covid lockdown consideration for all people's health became more prominent. If people had a cold they were sent home. Soldiering on was not an option. This was to benefit the sick person and all others who may be affected by the sick person. This change was good for wellbeing.
Wellbeing for students
Again if students see teachers caring about students as whole people celebrating successes and walking with students through difficulties with respect, a culture for positive wellbeing begins. School values encouraging Christian Character, kindness, care etc when continuously brought to life by highlighting positive behaviours also helps build a culture of wellbeing.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader in the education sector so far?
We are a small school with a big heart and are seeking to grow so more students may benefit from the faith based education we offer. We come from the perspective that God is good. This year while our numbers are slightly down from the end of year roll number; we are celebrating the enrollment of nine new students. (Nine is in stark contrast to one new student at the beginning of 2020.)
We are celebrating being able to have our Commissioning Service, Mihi Whakatau and attend a New Zealand Symphony Orchestra performance in the Covid Level 1 week which was sandwiched by 2 level 2 weeks.
We are also celebrating a wave of material blessing- In the last two weeks we have received books and art materials from a the ANZ Schools Programme that we did not know we were in, a grant from the city council for recycling, a stack of memory cards from Weta, a load of mulch from Beavers Tree services and four matching cupboards to rationalise our furniture.
This has all been in the first 5 weeks of school.
We choose to focus on this, be grateful and know God is good. We look forward to the future with anticipation. Who knows what else God has installed for us. And even if these are the end of the blessing this year we will still be grateful and still know God is good.