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Paul Meany, School Principal
Education & Teaching

Paul Meany, School Principal

Paul completed his Leaving Cert in Marian College, Dublin, before going on to do a Degree in Botany and Maths in UCD. He decided to pursue his interest in Teaching and did his Higher Diploma in Education back in Marian College. Years later he applied for, and was successful in becoming Principal at that school.

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first question!

What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?

I was always very involved in sport and interested in teaching from my final years in school. I was particularly interested in English and Science subjects.  I chose to do science degree at UCD - in Botany and Maths. I got an opportunity to do my Higher Diploma in Education (HDE) at my old school, Marian College.

I enjoyed biology, then (1973) a new subject on the Leaving Certificate, so I got the opportunity to teach Biology and Maths at Marian College. Also I was very involved in basketball administration, playing and coaching in the 1970's and 1980's.

I decided to study for a Masters in Education (M.Ed) degree in Trinity College in the late 1970's. The Marist Brothers opened the school to lay Principalship in 1988. I applied and was appointed Principal in 1988. I am still Principal there now!  I have been very involved with the Association of Management of Catholic Secondary Schools (AMCSS) and served as President of the AMCSS from 2003-2006.

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

Teachers in my school at Marian College who encouraged me to think about teaching.

How did you go about getting your current job?

Applied for Principalship when the Religious Order running the school decided that lay people should be given a greater role in the management and leadership of the school.

Describe a typical day?

There is no typical day in the sense that a knock on the door might mean a 30 second conversation or it might be a problem that would dominate the remainder of the week. The job entails huge interpersonal interaction, with a good deal of conflict management.

It involves a lot of administrative and organisational skills. It also provides opportunities for longer term planning and leadership.

The day starts at about and may not finish until late in the evening if there are Board meetings or meetings with the Parents Association.

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

  • Principal teacher and leader of the team of teachers and other staff
  • De facto Manager on a day-to-day basis, answerable to the Board of Management of the school which meets once a month
  • Responsible to the Department of Education and Science for the administration of the school under the regulations of the Department
  • Responsible for ensuring that the ethos of the school is maintained for the Marist Brothers who are the owners and trustees of the school

What are the main challenges?

  • The variety of the job
  • Human nature
  • Ensuring that the school survives in the economic climate in which we find ourselves
  • Continuing development and school improvement

What's cool?

The opportunity to make a difference in the lives of over 400 teenagers each year.

What's not so cool?

A school is run on tight budgets and limited supports and this makes management difficult at times.

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

  • Energy
  • Self-motivation
  • Leadership skills
  • Good organisational and administrative skills
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Patience

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

Irish, English, Maths, French, Physics, Chemistry. For third level I had to chose between a degree in English and a degree in Science and I chose the B.Sc.

What is your education to date?

  • Leaving Certiicate - Marian College.
  • B.Sc degree in Botany and Maths - UCD
  • H.D.E. - UCD
  • M.Ed. - Trinity College

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

The science degree in terms of both content for teaching and also for the organisation of the scientific methods.

The Masters Degree in Education allowed me to place my teaching experience in a more theoretical framework

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

  • Being considered a good teacher
  • Helping youngsters grow into young adults who feel good about themselves
  • Being a good leader who has steered the school through some difficult times and where the school is now acknowledged and recognised as one of the best of its type in Dublin.

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

  • Interested in people and the world
  • Energetic and organised
  • Empathy with people
  • Optimistic and future oriented
  • Able to see the big picture while understanding the nuts and bolts

What is your dream job?

I am lucky to have a job which I love.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

The workload is massive but the job is rewarding. In a sense it is still a vocation. It also has great variety. I am also my own boss most of the time. The job is not paid as much as it should be for the work involved but it does allow me to have a lifestyle that I am happy with.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Need to have a belief about the value of the sort of education provided by the school to which you are applying.

Need to be able to cope with ambivalence - being leader in the school is not a black and white thing.

Need to believe in people, whether it is staff or students.

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

  • Energy
  • People skills
  • Organisational skills

Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

Management training is a constant over the past twenty years This is necessary both for good practice and for keeping abreast of developments in the management skills area and in the area of legislation.

Most recently I attended a four days course on Leadership in Catholic Schools.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Teaching is the ideal grounding for a school Principal. Any outside activity that builds up one's administrative and organisation skills is also important.

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