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Spending a day as a community principal at a state school gave our Relationship Manager Aleksandra Lisinac an insight into the hard work and commitment, but also the rewards and impact on students’ lives, that school staff can experience each day. It was a learning experience that she champions to really understand how those who work in our schools are making a difference to people’s futures.
Earlier this month, as part of the Department of Education and Training’s Community Principal Program, I was invited to spend the day with the principal, staff and students at Churchill State School near Ipswich as a ‘Community Principal’. And I couldn’t wait!
As an Education Relationship Manager for QSuper, my role is to support the leaders at DET and their staff’s wellbeing. And what is a better way to support a school than to spend a day in the life of a principal?
What was great about supporting this program is that it gave me an opportunity to gain insight into some of the challenges our education leaders and their staff face every day.*
8am: The adventure begins. I arrive early at the school, eager to start my stint as the ‘principal’.
I enter the office and the school’s office manager Vicki welcomes me with an enormous smile. As I look around, I notice staff are wearing shirts labelled ‘Champion Staff’. I learn throughout the day that their drive to encourage the children to be Champions underpins everything they do.
Principal Kelli Harvey, who I’ll be shadowing for the day, is already hard at work in her office. I suspect her day started well before my arrival.
8.25am – 8.30am: A quick assembly is held to announce me as principal for the day. Within seconds of Principal Kelli entering the space, the assembly goes from deafening noise to silence. She has their undivided attention and respect. She introduces me and it’s a symphony of “Good morning Principal Lexie.”
8:30am: The school bell rings to mark the start of learning. We start with the song “Food Glorious Food” – it makes me smile. Principal Kelli tells me the song changes regularly. A bit of fun to keep the kids engaged.
I notice the school has a common theme of quirky and fun names for every class. There are room names such as the Rainbow Room, a brightly coloured classroom where teachers provide one-on-one support to students with a disability, fun class monikers such as the Year 1 and 2 Emojis, and the aptly named Superhero Squad, comprising students who are among the school’s standout achievers. Every name has a purpose to engage and inspire young minds.
8.50am – 10.20am: The morning passes in a blur and we don’t stop for a second as Principal Kelli and I make our way around the school spending time with every class from Prep to Year 6. So many “Hi Principal Lexie” and hugs from every direction, I feel so welcome. I notice she knows every child by their first name, which is pretty special given the size of the school. She mentions: “I don’t have any of my own, but I have 370 kids.”
As we go from class to class, Principal Kelli is proud to show me the wellbeing centre for the school’s guidance officer and tells me about her plans for a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and robotics area that is currently under construction.
10.30am: It’s Tuckshop Day across Queensland schools, a day to thank the volunteers who help keep the school running. The volunteers are showered with thankyou cards from the students.
10.40am – 11am: It’s break time for the students, but we don’t stop. We join the kids in a handball competition. Keeping up with the energy of students is hard. The champion title for the day goes to Classes 4H and 4K.
11am – 1pm: I am formally invited by the Prep students for a picnic lunch in the park. We eat, we laugh and we sing their Churchill school song. Then it is reading and writing with the Superhero Squad. Principal Kelli formed the Squad as a breakout opportunity for the high achievers to have an hour away from their regular classes to focus on advanced literacy.
1pm – 1.20pm: It’s lunchtime, the first time of the day where we actually stop for time out. I am exhausted.
During the break, Principal Kelli explains that she has high expectations for her students, their parents and her staff, and firmly believes that every member of the Churchill community can be a superhero and achieve success. She works hard to ensure her students are literate, numerate and champion community members.
I discover that this attitude extends beyond her working hours. In her own time, Principal Kelli does a Facebook Live reading one night a week. She gets as many as 100 views as she helps the students and their parents with bedtime reading. She says reading is their superpower.
1.20pm – 2.50pm: More special one-on-one time for some of the students who visit Principal Kelli in her office. Every Friday the teachers pick a handful of students who have done a good job during the week and they visit the Principal to choose stickers for their communication books and a prize.
The time passes quickly as Principal Kelli gives her focus to specific students and deals with any disciplinary issues that have arisen during the day. A final visit to the youngest students at the school, who run after me and give me their drawings. I now proudly hang these on my wall at work.
2.50pm: Again “Food Glorious Food” rings out across the schoolyard. It’s time to head home for the weekend.
2.55pm: Principal Kelli stands at the front gate, greeting the parents, waving goodbye to every child and wishing them a fun weekend ahead.
3.30pm: I say my goodbyes to the team. I am looking forward to returning next year to participate in staff Professional Development days as part of my QSuper role. I am also to be a mentor to the Year 5 and 6 girls.
Principal Kelli is back at her desk. Her day doesn’t end at the bell and I suspect it won’t for a few more hours yet.
After a day filled with creativity and positivity, like the kids, I too leave the school feeling like a Churchill Champion.
The real Champions here though are Principal Kelli and her hardworking team. To do what she does every day Principal Kelli is a superhero!
But I’ve left with something very special too – an unforgettable experience and memories I will cherish.
After a busy day watching the students and staff, what did I learn?
I learned that everyone – the principal, the teachers and the support staff – takes on multiple roles throughout the day. They don’t just teach; they parent, they counsel, they guide and they love.
I also learned that at Churchill State School, their drive to set up every child up for a lifelong love of learning is unwavering.
I learned that the staff of our state schools are extremely busy but, most importantly, they are 100% dedicated to their students. They don’t sit still for a minute or take much time for themselves. For them it’s all about the students. QSuper is proud that the dedicated people who work in our state schools, such as those at Churchill State School, are among our members and are at the heart of everything we do.
* These are the individual views of the author, unless advised otherwise. The information has been put together as general information only and you should seek professional advice before making a decision.
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