Zoe Roles: My Journey to ECE Leadership

Zoe Roles photo.jpg

Last month, our ECE consultant Adwina Armstrong talked about the centre manager shortage in New Zealand in her blog post "Where have all the ECE leaders gone?" This post inspired much discussion about this issue in the ECE sector. 

In this blog post, the second of the series, Adwina wanted to highlight the experience of a teacher who had taken the step up to ECE leadership. 

Zoe Roles is currently the Dean of the Preschool at St Mark's Church School in Wellington. Here is her story. 

How many years of ECE leadership experience do you have? What encouraged you to take on your first leadership role?

I have been in several different leadership roles once about 10 years ago for about a year and then I went back to teaching for several years. This time I have been in my role for about two and a half years. When I started teaching I didn't see myself as a leader. I was someone that lacked confidence in myself and never saw myself capable of leading others let alone managing a Preschool and being on the senior management team of a Primary school. I was encouraged by people around me who saw things in me that I never saw in myself. They saw me as a passionate capable teacher that had a lot to offer. They believed in me when I didn't really believe in myself. 

For me it has been the people around me that have encouraged me to be a leader, one particular place I worked in encouraged me in so many different ways and gave me the chance to learn and grow. They never doubted me and were always there for me when I made mistakes or didn't know how to deal with situations. That place made me who I am today. I truly believe almost everyone has the ability to be a leader if they have supportive, reflective people along the way that help them to learn how to be a leader. 

What challenges did you experience and how did you overcome them?

I have had so many challenges along the way. Days where I looked at myself and wondered how I got myself into this position. How did people ever have faith that I could do it? Every single challenge I have faced whether big or small has had someone beside me helping me to treat it like a learning curve. "Okay, so I did this and I should have done this but next time I will know." We all make mistakes but if you are prepared to learn and grow from them you will always get better. 

I feel like I am on a journey where I am trying to tackle a massive flight of stairs. Some days I go up so many and then a day later I can be right back down the bottom again. It is such an exciting journey and as you climb higher you learn how to get closer to the top even faster. To overcome any challenges be honest, talk through your concerns, and more important than anything else understand it is a journey and you are always going to have those tough days. Have someone to be there for you to listen but also tell you what is really going on. I spend a lot of time trouble shooting with others. Treat challenges as a learning journey. It's not about failing or being right or wrong, it's about growing! 

What advice can you give to teachers who are thinking of stepping up?

Have faith in yourself. Learn from the people that have been great leaders to you. What made them great leaders? I truly believe if you are passionate, a great communicator and committed you can be a leader. The best leaders I have had listen to people, and they appreciate their community whether it be children, families or staff. 

Remember to celebrate all the successes you have and not focus on the negatives. I never ever saw myself doing what I do now. But what I do know is I love my job, I have learnt so much about myself it is incredible. If I think about how my staff see me it would be someone who always listens even when I may not want to hear, is never too busy to talk to people, doesn't know the answers but shows an enthusiasm towards what they do. 

The journey of leadership and going up and down those stairs is so exciting. If you have the chance to grab that opportunity take it even if you don't feel ready. You don't need to be ready you just need to be able to learn along the way!