Lessons to learn from a day with the boss

Principal Tammy Anderson last year took a walk in the Education Secretary’s shoes. Ms Anderson reflects on what she learned from the opportunity.

Image: Secretary Georgina Harrisson with Briar Road Public School principal Tammy Anderson (far right) on a school visit in May 2021.

In the last term of 2021, I had the opportunity to shadow NSW Education Secretary Georgina Harrisson for a day.

Being a principal in a school there are many times we are asked to, and have the responsibility to, support decisions around education in our schools. Sometimes I have found myself curiously wondering how that decision was landed upon. Having the opportunity to share a day in Ms Harrisson’s world allowed me the opportunity to see the discussions, understand the priorities deeper and view the critical relationships that exists between our Deputy Secretaries and Ms Harrisson.

After my day, I feel I have gained more insight into the mechanics of such a large organisation and more importantly how the machine is oiled.

Immediately Ms Harrisson’s approach struck me as one that hinges on accountability - for the good and the bad - and I can see she wants that in all the leaders of the organisation, which as a leader on the ground is what I feel each and every day.

Something that struck me throughout the day we shared, was Ms Harrisson’s honesty as our conversation swung from current challenges to her thoughts on several key areas within the organisation. I felt like I could ask her the questions that have been on my mind for quite some time. I had a billion, but just picked a few and I felt she landed as honestly as she could on them all.

There were many takeaways for me on the day and one challenge I have embraced is to create more space to think.

In general myself and my team leave our thinking and strategising to after school and at home. This in part is due to feeling a sense of guilt about taking that time out during work hours. It is a habit I think many peers would recognise. When Ms Harrisson talked about the need to schedule space to think into our work calendar, it landed like a thud for me. I have since committed to scheduling some deeper ‘think time’ at work.

If you have ever wondered how the cogs in the machine turn I encourage you to go in and take an insider’s tour of the system we work for. Knowing who you work for is as important as knowing why you work for them.

Tammy Anderson is principal of Briar Road Public School.

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