We congratulate the wonderful colleague Claire Leong for being nominated for the 2019 Australian Education, Department Head of the Year Award. Claire is currently Head of Languages at Wesley College and has been leading the way in Languages education throughout her career. In the new Wesley Languages Centre, the Wandjoo Miya, the Languages team are guided by Claire's leadership and vision to prepare boys to become 'world ready'.
We asked to Claire to share some of her insights and experiences in leading change in school:
Describe your leadership style.
I don’t know if you have heard of the Gallop Strengths Finder? I did the survey about 8 years ago and reflecting on my strengths was illuminating for me. It showed me the qualities that I naturally have and which underpin what I do which are:
- Individualization ( someone who is intrigued by the unique qualities each person brings and enjoys different people working together)
- Input (someone who enjoys exploring, collecting ideas and being curious about the world)
- Achievement (someone who has a yearning to achieve things every day)
What this looks like is that I am energized by others, love sharing what I do, need to educate myself with professional reading and experiences and I won’t stop until my list is ticked!
What is the most significant change that you led since starting at Wesley College?
Creating a brave team, who choose to be vulnerable so that they can be the best teacher and team member they can be. We know that taking risks is ok. I trust the team and I will be there when things fall in a heap because sometimes that happens too.
What do you appreciate most about your current team?
The diversity in our team. We have such different strengths and are multilingual, multicultural, young, old (I am 50 in July!) of different sexes, religions and from different backgrounds. Our strength is our difference, that we are all willing to learn more and that we want to be honest with one another and build the team.
What two factors do you think are most important in building an effective Languages program?
I believe you need to have a vision that anchors you to your work and that you can describe and explain it to others and be a role model of what you want to see more of in the world.
Why is it important for a school to have a Languages policy?
We have to connect what we do in our languages departments, with the larger policies at play in Australia and ensure that we support our school executives to see the importance and value of what we do. A policy also ensures everyone is on the same page. Goal 1 of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians: Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence, links to languages learning. I just finished writing a Languages Policy for our school, which through the process of writing it, I realized was an inclusion policy. Here is the beginning of the executive summary:
Our vision at Wesley College
To celebrate, and honour the diversity of our community.
To deeply connect with and learn about the cultures, languages, practices and stories of our world.
To ensure that our students embrace and value their own identities, languages and cultures and have opportunities to expand them.
To ensure that our students can work and live alongside others who do not share the same background so that they can contribute fully to our society.
Therefore, we are committed to being an inclusive school, celebrating diversity and ensuring equity for all. We see difference and multilingualism as a strength and know that the Languages learning area and its home, Wandjoo Miya, has a significant role to play in being a driving force in supporting, honouring, including and respecting the diversity of our students.
Thank you Claire and to Wesley College for nominating such a deserving colleague. Bonne chance!