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7 Questions with Noel Mifsud
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Noel Mifsud
Name: Noel Mifsud
Current title: Principal
Current organisation: Tatachilla Lutheran College
Noel Mifsud has been a College principal for almost 20 years. An international speaker on education he has visited schools and run educational seminars on every continent including teaching wintering expeditioners Computing at Casey Station In Antarctica. Noel was a former educational advisor to the Australian military and international education consultant.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader in the education sector?
Many competing agendas for teachers which detract from what they do best and that is to teach and provide care for children in their care. There is also poor national recognition for the role of education in Australia- this is a cultural mindset that needs to change and evolve.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Diet, sleep and exercise underpin my day.
Having a laugh and giving thanks either through meditation or prayer daily is essential.
My first act of the day is to be present for my family- making breakfast, packing lunch- saying goodbye.
Being centred and grounded is also a way to start my day for staff. I use the drive to work to listen to classical music and clear my head.
I sacrifice paper time for people time and when listening I make myself truly present.
I never compromise my daily time in the classroom .
When visiting classrooms i always have a purpose
I teach classes, run lessons and try to avoid just showing up (unless I'm doing parent/community tours. I teach a Yr 10 English class to keep me student centred.
I spend less time on emails and more on the phone to establish connection with parents.
I try and factor in linking with the wider community and value my community visits, collegial principal meetings and PD opportunities.
I schedule some work time off campus (i'm on an education Board) it's good to give yourself some space.
I balance time between in office and in school.
I prioritise people over meetings and am not afraid to cancel meetings if this will give staff time back.
I make a point of thanking others around me but not too often that it becomes a habit rather than intent. Coffee and a laugh enter daily into my indomitable support .
I take note of how many nights I work back late and balance these in my calendar to ensure I get home in time for my own family.
I remind myself often I am in a job I love, a profession I am passionate about and a world that needs transformation only education can provide.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Take time to breathe. Listen and pause before speaking- both simple and profound advice. You are not alone . The College of Principals is an amazing network of support- use the wisdom of colleagues in a similar role to yourself.
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?
The Art of War and the Bible couldn't be two diametrically opposed pieces of literature on the strategy of leading others. Both books have taught me the strength of leading with a sound mind and sound heart. Both are books about operating out of courage and love instead of fear.
5. How do you find and keep great leaders in the education sector?
After 36 years in education I am privileged to know many brilliant educators I have asked to work for me in my schools. Seeking the endorsement of colleague principals, diligence in conducting referee and WWC checks are also essential.
To keep good leaders, respect and value their autonomy, provide the freedom and example for them to think outside the square, remunerate and reward well but always within the parameters of industrial conditions which are fair to all staff and other schools who cannot afford to do so. Valuing employees, providing honest data inspired 360 annual feedback , recognising achievement as well as potential, providing PD including some you do together.
6. What's most important as a leader in the education sector for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
Clear and honest communication.
Process, process, process- be vigilant, be contemporary in policies, insist WHS and child protection is everyone's responsibility.
Share decision making - i have students on my staff selection panels.
Know staff and student names- be present to others
Brave leadership- the hardest word we have to say as Principals is no.
Be consistent in all decision making but remember equity is not the same as equal
Be globally aspirational- Know an act on both Federal educational agendas and global best practice.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader in the education sector so far?
There was once a student who came to the Year 12 formal and was refused entry because he had runners on and not proper shoes. The venue and also teaching staff were adamant he could not enter and he lived too far away to go home and get shoes and too poor to buy shoes.
He was not given a chance to explain and was refused entry .
A few months prior this boy tried to take his own life and the police called me to intervene as his principal. I came to know this boy, his poverty, struggles with alcohol, his family dysfunctionalism. He survived and went on to complete his studies against all odds. The school formal was his entry into life- he had a date who was already at the venue and the former was a celebration of his last few months not only of school but of life.
Fortunately I was present when this occurred. I took off my shoes and gave them to the boy. I never got my shoes back but I learned a valuable lesson.
We don't just teach children, we enter the sacredness of their story and their life. Teachers who know their students know their profession and the key to its success.