Pablo Grana, Assistant Principal at Mary MacKillop Catholic College Wakeley, almost unwittingly and humbly lives this truth when he describes himself as “just a cog” and “a facilitator”. Yet, he is a highly valued leader in his school community.
Mr Grana describes his leadership as being honest with himself and working towards improving himself.
With Principal Narelle Archer, he leads a challenging, complex and diverse school community that includes refugee and asylum-seeker students and their families.
“The parents are unique here in wanting to have a relationship with the school but they don’t know how,” said Mr Grana.
To help this, the school holds parent information nights, workshops and community hubs for parents “so they can understand the big part they have to play in their children’s education”.
It’s Mr Grana’s 19th year as a schoolteacher in only his second school but his teaching philosophy is engagingly simple and consistent: “I just treat everyone the same,” he said.
“And everyone is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve whatever the situation may be, and whatever the case may be that we’re working with – that particular person, teacher, student, parents – everyone’s given a fresh start the next day. That’s how I approach my leadership,” he said.
“Whatever you’ve said to me (and I’ve been called many things under the sun by a parent, a student) but the one thing they’ve learned from me is that I never hold a grudge, I don’t ever do that,” said Mr Grana.
His work at the school has focused on the HSC students and helping the girls to set realistic goals, but ones that supported improvement: “You don’t have to focus on ‘high end’ subjects – there’s not one straight path.”
Mr Grana said his teaching career began as “a humble ICT Coordinator” at the co-educational Freeman Catholic College Bonnyrigg Heights and he then went on to working with teachers in the classroom, expanding their capacity in eLearning and the effective use of technology.
He said it was during his 16 years at Freeman that he also developed his leadership capacity.
“Very early on I was identified by the Principal as having good organisational skills so I ran the school on a day-to-day basis – there were between 1200-1500 students and I was also in charge of pastoral care of teachers at the school,” he said.
“What I love about Mary Mackillop (Catholic College) is that the girls come here with a really rich, diverse story – a lot of them have a story that is about struggle, about challenge, about overcoming adversity – whereas my previous school did not have those stories,”
He said there were migrants at Freeman Catholic College Bonnyrigg Heights but not refugees, “and that’s a very different story, because the start of their life journey in Australia is different.”
“Where one may start with some money in their back pocket and some support – the others start at zero with nothing and that’s the biggest difference which you then see in how certain girls may react to certain situations – you’ve got to be more sensitive to that than I was in my previous context,” said Mr Grana.
He said working at the school had reshaped the way he thought about his leadership and also how he worked with particular students.
“But that never changed my high expectations of students,” he added.
“What has changed is my real understanding of some of the struggles that some girls go through in their own families and also the high proportion, I guess, of mental health issues in some of the girls because of the struggles they’ve been through, the adversity they’ve been through,” he said.
Mr Grana said that permeated the importance of the faith development of students and how the school can use that to help them and their parents overcome some of the challenges they’ve faced.
“I guess it’s a combination of this being a girls’ school – there’s a very different way of approaching conversations with girls than in a co-ed school environment,” he said.
His way of approaching conversations with the girls began with listening to them and working on this feedback with Mrs Archer.