Rex Ferguson-Baird on life as a principal

Photo credit: Rex Ferguson-Baird

In celebration of Canada’s inaugural National Principals’ Month, we’re highlighting principals across Canada. Rex Ferguson-Baird, Principal of Brooklands School in Winnipeg and one of Canada’s 2016 Outstanding Principals award recipients, shares his thoughts.

Tell us about your background.

I have been working in schools for most of my adult life. I began in my early twenties as an Educational Assistant, which was a role I did while attending university. I worked as a teacher for five years and then moved into a vice-principal role for seven years at three different schools. This is my ninth year as a school principal.

What’s a typical day like? Has your role changed at all?

Being a school principal is one of the most diverse and rewarding jobs I can think of! Over the course of my career, I have discovered that collaboration is critical to coaching a school staff into a high performing team. Each day I get to interact with students and parents, community members and the staff team. I get to see kids make gains in their reading, writing and numeracy skills, and celebrate those accomplishments with them!  I have an outline of the day in my agenda but it quickly fills with new items that I need to “triage” – so the days are really never typical. I think the largest shift in administration that I have seen during my education career is the move to highly visible and engaged school principals who collaboratively create rich cultures of learning.

If you could offer one piece of advice to new principals and school administrators, what would it be?

Don’t take yourself too seriously; schools are full of wonder, joy, engagement and interesting people. Take the time to listen to people – all people. They will have lots of questions and challenges, but they will also have the answers. Let others grow their leadership skills. If you can get the team to own the same vision, they will make it happen.

How has The Learning Partnership’s Executive Leadership program helped you in your role?

One of my favourite takeaways from the program was a discussion on the concept of “teaming.” The Rotman school’s Nouman Ashraf presented the concept and I used it to anchor some of my staff development ideas when I returned to Winnipeg. I have also continued a professional conversation with several of my cohort and connected with local previous winners of the award. Both groups have helped me build my professional skills through conversation and idea sharing.

Can you tell us an interesting fact about you?

I can’t skate. Unfortunately, my mom wasn’t able to afford skates or hockey gear when I was young, which is why I love to champion the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy, a program that enables students who have few recreational options to participate in a hockey skills program over a 25-week period.

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