A peek inside Pollyanna Crawford’s life + career in Education.
Inspiring + wise with experience, Polly humbly shares with us a peek into her life as the Principal of a Primary School in Cunnamulla.
We stripped back the formalities and had a down to earth conversation with her. A country girl at heart with an outlook on life that can only be attained through the eyes of someone who has left the comforts of the known.
She’s travelled to different parts of Australia and the world, yet returns to rural life with fresh perspective and dedication to leave a positive impact on the lives of those she meets as a leader in her space.
Led by her work and passion to inspire children + educators, Polly strives to guide others to finding their purpose + joy amongst education.
Tell us about your childhood:
I grew up on a small farm outside a small country town in South East Queensland. As a girl growing up in a rural town, our family was very social and community minded which enabled me to connect with people from all different walks of life. I have a large family who have always encouraged my passions, especially for learning and education. I loved to play soccer and I also did ballet tap and jazz at the local studio.
As a child, I travelled a lot with my two Aunties around the world including third world countries which gave me a good perspective and gratitude for my life in Australia.
I attended Catholic schools and then finished my schooling at boarding school in Brisbane, the same one that my two Aunties attended.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I just knew I always wanted to be a teacher from a really young age.
I grew up with a lot of siblings and we’d always play classroom games and I would always be the teacher. I was lucky that my family really valued education, especially my grandfather who used to always chant, “education, education, education” (imagine that sung with a cheesy Irish accent) and so the value of education was always a focus from the very start.
Who inspired you to be a teacher?
I have many teachers in my family but above all it was both my Aunts passion for teaching which inspired me to walk the same path. They gave me the belief that I could impact the lives of children.
Why did you take the next step to become a principal?
I was lucky enough to be provided with the opportunity to take on a number of leadership roles in school and university as well as early on in my teaching career.
My motivation lay with the desire to bring quality education to students in local and remote communities and with the encouragement from other great teachers + leaders I grasped the opportunity with enthusiasm.
Why are you passionate about rural and remote schools?
I enjoy the atmosphere and the students, it’s a different dynamic from schools in the city. I want to challenge the stigma that country schools and country kids having limited opportunities. I want to give country kids an education enriched with the same experiences you might get in a city school. Living and working in the country is a very rewarding experience. The people are friendly, genuine and very down to earth.
What have you learned from being a principal the past 2 years?
No two days are ever the same. I look forward to each day. I am working towards further developing my leadership capabilities. It is important to have a clear vision and mission and clearly articulate this to your staff and school community. I am learning more ways to build on our workplace culture and develop collective efficacy so we effectively implement our goals and high impact strategies. I’ve also learnt about the importance of flexibility, communication and creativity.
I am grateful to have a really fantastic support network around me of people who inspire me and I enjoy working together as a team. At the end of the day it’s always about making sure that our students are receiving the best opportunities possible.
Do you feel like you’ve changed?
I’d say developed is a better word. I think perspective shift is a major thing as a principal, it sheds a new light on your impact on a school and on a system.
What does a typical day look like for you?
~ Laughing Is there ever such a thing as a typical day?
But it could look a little like this:
- Welcome the students in the morning and undertaking playground duty
- Leading professional learning communities for both our teachers and school officers.. PLC meetings provide staff with opportunities to discuss and research effective pedagogies which cater for a diverse range of student learning needs, optimising learning outcomes.
- Implementing reading intervention with students
- Providing curriculum and planning support
- Analysing school data and setting school and student goals
- Modelling lessons for early career teachers or undertaking observations/walk throughs and providing feedback
- Engagement and connection with students, families and community members
- Celebrating successes including the small wins
- Organising vibrant liturgies or school celebrations
What is your funniest teaching story:
I could really write a book that’s how many there are. A lot of mine seem to involve animals.
It’s not out of the ordinary to chase kangaroos off the oval in the morning before the students can play.
I’ve had students ride their horses to school instead of bikes.
A student once brought yabbies to school for lunch, like that wouldn’t happen anywhere but in the bush.
Another story involved a student in the Northern Territory who found a python in the roof of his house at home and continued to ride it to school wrapped around the handle bars so that he could show everyone python he found.
What are your tips for 1st year teachers in rural and remote settings:
All graduating teachers I speak to I say, “Go West”. The experiences and the knowledge you will gain working in rural and remote settings is like no other. It’s a profound experience that will provide you with many learning opportunities as a professional and as a person. In these settings it’s really important to connect to the local community by building relationships and getting involved.
I also have the 3 C’s philosophy that I adopted from a previous teacher in my early years to ensure successful learning experiences;
- Curriculum: you’ve got to get the curriculum right, it can’t be too hard or too easy. It must be fun and engaging.
- Consistency: if you say you’re going to do something, be consistent.
- Care: students must feel that you care about them.
I’ve added a 4th one too.
4. Collaboration: it’s key to collaborate with all staff and work as a team.
What’s one thing you wish you knew about before you were a teacher:
I couldn’t think of anything because I know that education is forever evolving and changing. I’m happy with the journey I am on and I’m happy to evolve and change as does education.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I’m not always very good at this but I’m working on it. I listen to podcasts or audio books and I love listening to Richard Fidler. In the afternoons I like to run my dog down at the weir. I enjoy being social and catching up with people.
Do you make time for self-care?
Yes, I am mindful of needing time to care for self. Holidays are a great time to catch up with friends and family. I absolutely enjoy adventures and love to travel. I also enjoy a massage, a pedicure and retail therapy. I make time for mindfulness and practice relaxation.
What motivates you?
The students motivate me every single day. Seeing them learn, achieve and grow. I enjoy seeing them work through challenges. They make me laugh. They get me out of bed in the morning.
My life lotto has always been, if you do something you do it well. I really care about what I do and who it impacts.
Favourite inspiring social media accounts?
- @AussieTeacherTribe on Instagram is my favourite. These days teachers are more open to sharing their resources with others to add value. I think it’s a really positive space for teachers and it provides easy opportunities for people to collaborate.
- Yamma; For professional articles or resources to do with visible learning.
List of Loves?
- Board games, hand-on materials anything that helps to make learning fun!
- The meditation app, “smiling mind” for students
- TRAVEL + ADVENTURE! Hiking in the Northern Territory and Western Australia are my favourites at the moment.
- I love shopping, and I love shoes! “CUE” and “Gorman” are my go to’s for clothing. I like that they are engaging with Indigenous artists in the NT for prints.
- I love a good chick flick, or a novel of a true story.
- Eating out.
What’s your next step?
I’m studying at the moment, my Masters of Leadership and Theology as well as a Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing. I feel my future lies in working in rural and remote communities. I love it, it brings me joy and fills my passion. Let’s see where it all takes me.
Teach … [verb]
1) To impart knowledge of or skill in; give instruction in.
2) To instruct by precept, example, or experience