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Many lessons learned during four-decade education career retiring Dean says

Tuesday 17 December 2019 4:42pm

Professor Ross Notman has learned many valuable lessons over his four-decade career in education, and the retiring College of Education Dean says they have all led to a personal mantra – learn from the past, live in the present, plan for the future.

Professor Notman will retire in late 2019 almost 45 years after entering teaching at the Taieri High School, where he taught English and French, and later Latin, Classics and Physical Education.

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Professor Notman

This introduction to the profession was followed by London teaching placements in Hounslow and Brentford, before he returned to Bayfield High School and several years in senior leadership roles.

“I was attracted to secondary teaching because I enjoyed working with teenagers through youth group activities, and I loved my sport (rugby and tennis) and music – so it seemed a natural fit, which it turned out to be,” he says.

In 1990 Professor Notman was seconded to the Dunedin College of Education to be the Secondary Director of School Advisory Services. There, he ran INSET courses for Otago and Southland teachers and supported a team of advisors seconded from schools around New Zealand. This became a permanent appointment the following year.

At this time he also started study for a Master of Educational Leadership and Administration and completed a PhD at Otago.

His PhD focused on school principal development, particularly the personal dimensions of principalship. Central to the research was three-and-a-half years following two secondary principals to see how their personal and professional values impacted on the way they ran their schools.

“As a result of that research, I developed a model of principal self-development based around their set of identified values. I find it fascinating that educational leaders lead in such different ways, according to their beliefs about education and life, and each unique context in which they work.”

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Professor Notman co-edited this book which received top honours at the 2018 Copyright Licensing Education Awards.

He is proud to have explored a range of topics, but principally the personal domain of educational leadership and successful leadership in New Zealand early childhood settings.

He has done this via the International Successful School Principalship Project, and has evaluated the leadership needs principals in a high-needs school context as part of the International School Leadership Development Network project.. This work has been undertaken as Director of the Centre for Educational Leadership and Administration [2009 – 2019].

Professor Notman says throughout his membership of various international and national groups, and working with staff at the College of Education, a common factor has been his enjoyment of learning from others.

“The thing that I’ve enjoyed most through my career has quite simply been the people – their integrity and desire to make a positive difference.

“Through international research projects I had contact with some of the world’s leading scholars in their specialist fields. National groups I have belonged to, such as the New Zealand Educational Administration and Leadership Society [NZEALS], bring together people from early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary education sectors.

“Leading the College of Education, at both Dunedin and Invercargill campuses, and attached units such as Education Support Services and the Educational Assessment Research Unit – has been an absolute privilege.”

In retirement Professor Notman plans to do some education leadership consultancy work in New Zealand and overseas; travel; complete more NZ Great Walks, and enjoy biking, music and spending time with his children and grandchildren – and “attend more rugby matches!”

Key messages:


• Look to bring out potential in everyone.
• We can be allowed to make mistakes – as long as they are not the same ones repeated!
• As leaders, we can adapt our leadership approaches in different situations but we are still the same person.