Unlocking Potential (UP): Principal Preparation

Debby Chaves

Acting Principal, Parkdale College

Looking for confirmation that she was heading in the right direction on her leadership journey, Debby Chaves enrolled in the Unlocking Potential (UP): Principal Preparation program at Bastow.

​​​​​“I wanted to learn whether I was actually ready for that next step, whether I was best placed to be a leader of a school,” says Debby.

Debby was a participant of the first group to graduate from the UP program – a highly innovative principal preparation program that is designed to thoroughly prepare aspiring leaders for their first principal appointment. 

“I think there is so much that lies beneath the surface of the principal role, this program really brings it to the surface,” Debby explains.



Unlocking Potential (UP): Principal Preparation program at Bastow InstituteoszKo4nEPYEhttp://www.bastow.vic.edu.au/Lists/Videos/DispForm.aspx?ID=64 Unlocking Potential (UP): Principal Preparation program at Bastow InstituteUnlocking Potential (UP) graduates Debby Chaves and Neil O'Sullivan reflect on their experiences during the 2014 Bastow Principal Program./Captions/oszKo4nEPYE.vtt<div class="ExternalClass368EB9DFC3244E19B8EEF8CED7B7F053"><div>​- Hi, my name is Debby Chaves. I'm Assistant Principal of Parkdale Secondary College and I chose to participate in the Unlocking Potential course to work out whether the principalship was a professional pathway for me in the future.</div><div><br></div><div>- I was attracted to the Unlocking Potential course because I was hoping to make the bridge to become a principal.</div><div><br></div><div>- I wanted to learn whether I was actually ready for that next step, whether I was best placed to be a leader of a school as a principal.</div><div><br></div><div>- Unlocking Potential has really helped me to crystallise and refine my views about what it means to be a principal. In particular, it's caused me to reflect very sharply on the vision and values, the knowledge and skills, and the personal qualities that all combine to create an effective principal.</div><div><br></div><div>- The Unlocking Potential program presented some challenges for me personally on my leadership journey and one of those was the habits that we develop that actually hold us back as leaders, trying not to always be reactive, trying not to always have to think on our feet but giving us the time to reflect, to think about and be more deliberate in the way that we might approach some of the challenges that school leaders face. </div><div><br></div><div>- Another really important element was connecting to research basis so making that link between vision, the big ideas and what the research is telling us around effective models of principalship. So I've left the course with a clear sense of who I am, what that means for me in a principal role but also what works in the field of principalship.</div><div><br></div><div>- I believe that this is a terrific program and should be a compulsory program for anybody aspiring to be a principal. I think that there's so much that we don't see that lies beneath the surface of that leadership role and this Unlocking Potential course actually brings that to the surface. </div><div><br></div><div>- Unlocking Potential provides a clear logical sequence of development, delivered over a time frame that allows you to progress in your understanding and allows your ideas to mature over the course. I've found it to be very sequential, linking the big ideas to practical experiences but most importantly the blend of theory, practice and personal coaching is extremely powerful. </div><div><br></div><div>- One of the real strengths and differences in the Unlocking Potential program is the network of experienced principals that you link in during your master classes but also the network of aspiring principals who'll some day one day will be principals that will actually add to a great group of resources that you'll have at your disposal when you move into that next step of your leadership pathway.</div><div><br></div><div>- Unlocking Potential will put you amongst a group of serious professional collegiate and like minded people who are all inspired by education and the level of professionalism and engagement displayed by my co-participants this year was tremendous and made many powerful networks and friends within it as well professional colleagues.</div><div><br></div><div>- For me, the Unlocking Potential program has actually confirmed my aspirations. I think I went through a period at the start of the program where it just seemed so big and so all encompassing that I did question whether that was my pathway. But as the year has progressed, as I have developed a stronger foundation that's researched based, as I have had exposure to the master classes and spoken to other principals, done my internship, had my coaching sessions, it has cemented that this is my pathway.</div><div><br></div></div>

Video: ​​Unlocking Potential (UP) graduates Debby Chaves and Neil O'Sullivan reflect on their
experiences ​​during the 2014 Bastow Principal Preparation Program. 

For Debby, the program was a great chance to explore the big iss​ues around principalship, specifically the factors that impact on a leader’s ability to motivate and sustain change. The research-based content and real-life application provided Debby with a clear understanding of what is required when responding to the challenges of principalship and​ defining a vision for a school.

“I wanted to have a research basis for how I was going to tackle a leadership role in the future and that the course would give me the skills, knowledge and foundation that would set me up if I became a principal,” says Debby.

“Principals are more than just a figurehead – they are the spark that implements the changes that lead to school improvement.”

During her two-week internship, Debby had the chance to observe and reflect on the challenges faced by principals. Shadowing an experienced principal and being part of their day-to-day decision making deepened Debby’s understanding of the role, as well as strengthening her belief in the importance of a strong vision.

“It provided the time, knowledge and understanding that allowed us to take a ‘balcony view’ of our school community,” explains Debby. “The role that a principal’s vision plays within the community they lead is pivotal,” she says.

Debby also appreciated the time to investigate how her new knowledge of contemporary research and theory around leadership could be applied in her school.

“Exploring the research-based leadership practice - in seven sessions spanning eight months - allowed me to implement some of the ideas that we were learning through the workshops and readings,” says Debby.

During the program, Debby made valuable relationships with “an amazing network of excellent and passionate educators”, who sustained and supported each other during the 12 months, and have committed to continue to do so into the future.

Debby is already applying her new learning by implementing a new leadership program for teachers at her school. Developing the capacity of colleagues has been a great opportunity for her to showcase her new skills and knowledge.

Participating in the UP program has convinced Debby that she is on the right track with her leadership aspirations and is truly ready to put herself into the running when the ideal position comes along.

When given the opportunity to be principal, Debby is resolved to lead a school so that it becomes “a place that every student wants to come to, every day”.

For more information: Unlocking Potential (UP): Principal Preparation