Insights from a School Principal #3 Catriona Golden







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In today’s blog, we meet Catriona Golden who is a teaching Principal at the new start-up school, Owenabue Educate Together N.S. in Cork. Prior to her taking up her role at Owenabue, Catriona was the Principal at Ennis Educate Together. Here she talks us through her path to leadership, her international experience as a teacher, and her current role as a school leader.

Catriona’s Path to Leadership

‘My route to Principalship was not the standard one. After qualifying in 2007, I taught for three years in a Gaelscoil in Cork before moving abroad. I spent two years in Asia, teaching Infants, and later, I was Foundation Stage Leader. I spent four years in Malaysia in a large international school, starting as Year 1 leader, and later becoming Assistant Head of Primary. I completed a Masters of Education (Leadership and Management) while in Malaysia. We moved back home in late 2016, and for the 2017/2018 school year, I subbed before getting a maternity leave position in a Special School for Autistic children. I then interviewed for and was appointed to the position of Principal in Ennis Educate Together.

A Day in the Life

There is rarely a quiet day in my job, and sometimes it seems like the work is simply never-ending. There are always 101 things on your list, and it often feels like you are juggling balls of fire, while trying to only let the least important ones drop. There’s never enough; never enough time, enough resources or enough money. The role of leader has no set job description either, and the role gets bigger and bigger by the month. I must say however, that it is also one of the most rewarding roles possible. If you enjoy problem solving and juggling, and if you can stay calm, even when it feels you’re being pushed from all sides, it’s absolutely worth it.

What I’m Looking for in SAFs and Job Applications

I look for certain attributes in applicants for teaching roles at our school. Adding someone to a school community is such a huge opportunity, but it has to be the right fit for everyone involved. As a newly developing school, recruitment over the coming years is vital to the school’s success, and with that comes some pressure to find the ‘right’ people. These people will be central to how our school culture develops.

Beware of the Ethos Section

When reviewing applications and interviewing candidates for roles at our school, for the most part, what the candidate writes in the ethos section, is what leads to applications being put in the ‘Automatic No’ pile. Applications saying that they will uphold a ‘Catholic ethos’ are immediately rejected. I would say that 15-25% of applicants make this mistake. I appreciate people are applying for so many schools at once, but do take the time to make sure the ethos section is right.

Interview Observations

Nervousness is a common feature of many interviews, and it can lead to interviewees feeling stressed and unable to express themselves as they would like to. People can clam up and not expand on answers, and this can make it difficult for the interviewers to get a feel for someone. That’s a hard one to overcome but plenty of mock interview practice with friends and colleagues will help. What I want to hear about is, experience; specific examples of situations where you’ve shown a certain skill, or quality, rather than an answer that can be learned off.

I wish teachers knew….

Teachers in Ireland are fantastic. The quality of Irish teachers and the true care they show for their students is highly impressive. Each one of you has the potential to be a huge asset to whichever school you end up working in, and you can make a difference in the lives of so many pupils. Stay open, stay willing to learn, look for help and look for support. With that, you can’t go wrong.

Many thanks to Catriona for taking the time to share her insights into leadership and recruitment. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn from a wide range of school leaders and experts in their fields. Wishing you all the best for your future and the future of all at Owneabue N.S.

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