From the Principal

Roller coasters

Roller coaster written over an image of a roller coaster

Even though I am over six feet (old world measurements for humans and surfboards), I am not great with heights. As a result, riding on a roller coaster is not my idea of fun.

This distaste for roller coasters travels with me into my office. I know that many organisations and schools go through periods of success, followed by a decline in fortunes and performance – a roller coaster ride!

Repeat, not my idea of fun!

The aim of St Columba Anglican School is to be the most outstanding regional school in New South Wales.

Based on our 2016 Higher School Certificate results, we can probably claim to be very close to achieving this goal.

Therefore, I should be celebrating our successes and feeling comfortable – and a little smug – about our school’s future. Not necessarily.

As I said to our School Executive when we met for the first time in 2017: “Our results have shown that our goal of becoming the best regional school in the state is not just hyperbole. 2017 sees us on the next stage of our journey to excellence and, paradoxically, I see our greatest threat to ongoing success coming from within our walls”

The thing that stands between us and achieving great results in the future is our own attitude.

If we decide that these results are good enough and that we have done all we need to do to be a successful (great?) school, we are about to find out that roller coaster rides go down faster than they go up.success loading bar illustration design over a white background

Success is about creating a culture that makes good results almost inevitable.

Question: How do you create a “winning culture” that avoids the decline?

Answer: Look to the very best and learn from them.

I enjoy rugby. Unfortunately, the most notable aspect of my playing career was the injuries I managed to sustain – particularly to my knees.

I never got beyond first grade and onto representative honours and the closest I got to greatness was being made to look pretty mediocre by some great players. Still, I have maintained an interest.

So it was with curiosity and some alacrity that I approached James Kerr’s book Legacy. 15 Lessons in Leadership, sub-titled, What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life. And I love its message.Book cover of Legacy by James Kerr

The message: “Success can be developed and maintained if you have the right culture”.

The All Blacks are probably the most successful team in sports history. A country of about 4.5m people has produced amazing results in their sport of choice.

The  culture that the All Blacks have developed has allowed them to keep on winning, avoiding most of the downturns that other successful teams have faced (Hello, South Sydney 2016) and created an enduring story of success.The All Blacks New Zealand rugby team

To save you the trouble of reading the book, I will borrow from Gavin Hickie the summary of what underpins their winning culture:

  1. Sweep the Sheds: Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done. Stay grounded.
  2. Go for the Gap: When you’re on top of your game, change your game. Constantly strive to improve.
  3. Play with Purpose: Ask ‘Why?’ Understand the shared goals.
  4. Pass the Ball: Leaders Create Leaders. Take responsibility.
  5. Create a Learning Environment: Leaders are Teachers. Help others improve.
  6. No Dickheads: You can develop talent, you cannot change character. !!!
  7. Embrace Expectations: Aim for the highest cloud. Dream big.
  8. Train to Win: Practice under pressure. Do the extra work to make the difference.
  9. Keep a Blue Head: Control your attention. Know your options and back yourself.
  10. Know Thyself: Keep it real. Ask yourself, could I do more?
  11. Invent Your Own Language: Sing your world into existence. Find your common bonds.
  12. Sacrifice: Find something you would die for and give your life to it. Good isn’t good enough.
  13. Ritualise to Actualise: Create a culture. Build a culture based on your collective values.
  14. Be a Good Ancestor: Plant trees you’ll never see. Play for the name on the front of the shirt, not the back.
  15. Write Your Legacy: This is your time. Build your legacy.

A picture of author James KerrReading this has convinced me SCAS can refuse to accept the “inevitable” decline after success. That is because the culture the All Blacks have created looks very much like the culture that SCAS is creating.

SCAS can avoid the roller coaster ride and stay on top if it is willing to keep developing a culture that says good enough is never enough and that when you are “on top” you try even harder.

In the first weeks back I have become more optimistic than on that first day. I feel better because I get the sense that we have not stopped trying. Looking around SCAS 2017 I see:

  • New ways of orienting Year 7,
  • New students welcomed into our learning community,
  • Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care working together to give added value to our students’ lives,
  • Project based learning (PBL) engaging students,
  • Teachers using educational data to inform practice and teach individuals,
  • Uncovering the curriculum, rather than just covering it,
  • A library that is vibrant and welcoming,
  • Report structures and administrative practices that are being reviewed to make them more descriptive, accurate and accessible,
  • Teachers who are constantly thinking about ways to improve their practice and using these thoughts to invigorate classrooms,
  • Sport and Performing Arts reaching new heights,
  • Facilities being improved, planned and built.

The list of reasons why this school has greatness before it goes on and on.

Back to back great results? We can do that (and if we don’t we’ll find out why and fix it).

I think it is going to be a great year at SCAS, not so sure about Australia’s chances of winning the next Bledisloe Cup though!

Don’t fight a battle if you don’t gain anything by winning. -Erwin Rommel

Related posts
From the Principal

Who is teaching what?

From the Principal

Think before you attack

From the Principal

Educating for the future

From the Principal

Principal's Blog