Principal ‘one of the lucky ones’

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Amanda Westgate, Principal at St Patrick's Catholic Primary School, Mortlake, dresses up as Where's Wally for last year's Book Week.
Amanda Westgate, Principal at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School, Mortlake, dresses up as Where’s Wally for last year’s Book Week.

By Amanda Westgate

The recent release of the Australian Catholic University Survey of Australian Principals that discusses the issues of physical abuse, offensive behaviour and aggression towards principals, demanding hours and high levels of stress, will certainly have aspiring leaders question whether or not Principalship is worth it.

Areas that are struggling with a gamat of social issues or isolated regional areas in Australia will continue to find it difficult to find the right candidate for this unique role.

The role of principal is complex and comes with high expectations from both the staff and the parents and it has demanding hours and sometimes it can be disappointing.

It is also a very energising role, one that can be hope filled, enjoyable, motivating and humbling. It is a unique role. One could even say that some days you can find the new buzz word ‘joy’!

Amanda Westgate, Principal at St Patrick's Catholic Primary School
Amanda Westgate, Principal at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School

I have been blessed to have enjoyed four amazing communities in my different levels of leadership, with my last two schools in the position of principal.

I am the first to say I have not worked in difficult communities … I am one of the lucky ones and I have thoroughly enjoyed my roles in each school.

My latest school is only three years old and the committed staff and the parents who were willing to come on board, even when there wasn’t a building to be seen, have really worked well together to try and build a faith-centred, learning-focused, community-minded school.

We are fortunate to have parents willing to participate in learning and faith based activities as well as providing critical, relevant feedback.

Our children are very well supported, but even with their young ages they are already interested in ways they can help make a change.

Gathering their feedback is a focus for our school this year. The staff always go the extra mile.

Relationships are the key. Walking in someone else’s shoes, being empathetic, accepting that the only person who can make the change is you and doing something about it.

Sound familiar? St Mary of the Cross Mackillop, Mary Aikenhead, Catherine MacAuley … three amazing women who keep inspiring generations of leaders. I’ll finish where I started … I’m one of the lucky ones.