The following nineteen (19) points are ‘thoughts that assail’ when considering school principalship.
1. A point to consider is the belief we have in our leadership roles. Off-putting is the fact that being instructional leaders is often set aside because of administrative demands emanating from above.
2. Consider ONLINE CONFERENCES and meetings via video link. I did and was delighted at being a keen contributor but a principal who was infrequently absent from his workplace. My job was my school.
3. RETIRED PRINCIPALS with lengthy school experience and system awareness should be encouraged to coach and mentor principal colleagues new to the profession. Linking one to one would facilitate sharing.
4. Principals are the ‘meat in the sandwich’. They have to meld system requirements (based on government commands) with community, parent, staff and student expectations. Negotiating skill is essential.
5. The role set of educators is like an ICEBERG. Observers are aware of the one tenth of our duties ‘above’ the water, but unaware of the nine tenths hidden from their immediate view.
6. Educators are people whose teaching and leadership has a life lasting impact upon students. What we do should come from the heart. Educators make a powerful and hopefully positive impact on students.
I was a regular in classrooms and programmed teaching until the last three years of my principalship years. It them became more incidental but was maintained. Principals need to know their students and the best way to achieve that is by teaching them. I most certainly read all reports to parents written by teachers and wrote my own comments to the child on each report. As a principal I found children valued knowing I valued them. Part of this was possible because I engaged my leadership group fulsomely in the business of school operations. Sharing in this way enabled me to share time with children.
7. Principals and teachers alike should look for opportunities to genuinely thank those with whom they work, for things that are well done. We are often quick to criticise but slow to appreciate.
8. CURRICULUM DOCUMENTS both hard copy and online are voluminous and often written in an unclear, confusing manner. We need simply written and contextually relevant guidance materials.
9. Setting SCHOOL PRIORITIES is important. Genuine education is about preparing children and students for the whole of life. This preparation is about far more than academics and test results alone.
10. So often it seems, systems wedge this ambition by driving into schools priorities that satisfy bureaucracy but disengage school and staff from this aim. Circumvention and continued focus on what the school and its community values, becomes an art.
11. It is one thing to PLAN action but another altogether to successfully conclude and evaluate those plans. We need to be COMPLETERS and FINISHERS of all tasks we undertake. This earns confidence.
12. We should always DO what we SAY we will do. Commitment as principals and teachers to teachers and students respectively, should always be met.
13. Government imposed SYSTEM TESTING is often about conferring bragging rights on governments. It is a case of ‘our students are better than yours’. Bragging rights should not be their prime purpose.
14. When counselling or advising staff or students, be EMPATHETIC. In your mind’s eye, put yourself into their place. Think how it would feel to be on the receiving end of what you are about to say.
Counselling and dealing with behavioural correction means a lot more to students if they know that parents know and care. During my years of school leadership I came to appreciate caring parents because it meant that both they and I were on the same side, keen to work on development of their child and student. I believe it to be distressing in cases where parents do not want to know about these things, or do not believe that correction is necessary.
15. After school hours meetings for the SAKE OF MEETINGS is anathema. Meetings should be brief rather than lengthy and follow a set agenda. They need to be satisfying, not staff wearying.
16. It is when meetings are held for the sake of meetings in order to ingrain a ‘meeting culture’ that problems arise. Meetings re necessary but need to follow set guidelines which avoid meetings by length and meetings which embed extraneous and irrelevant issues.
17. When talking to parents and members of community, be clear and straightforward. Don’t tarnish your conversation with jargon. Neither be disparaging or belittling by ‘talking down’ to them.
18. SOCRATIC DISCUSSION is a method of engaging principals, teachers and students in great discourse methodology. It is superior as a way of developing shared learning and empathetic understanding.
The Socratic method of discussion helps students think logically and in a problem solving way. It focuses on issues and messengers rather than messengers. It uplifts debate and brings everyone into the conversational frame. If the discussion area is appropriately set, it ensures everyone is on the same level, with all participants able to see each other’s faces. There is no talking to the back of hears, rather the opportunity to engage in meaningful visual and eye contact.
“Great tool to use when intending for the students to take ownership in the learning. Students really carry the load in making meaning, stating and defending ideas, and synthesizing learning. Even better, the students really enjoy the fact that there is not a single right answer, but they must state and defend their ideas. The fact that text is usually utilized in a seminar increases rigor because the students identify and expand upon key ideas, not simply record and regurgitate what the teacher believes to be important.”
By David Zilli
“Of course the teacher must be good at asking relevant questions with well focused objectives. He/She must be able to organize students response logically and probe students answers to make them more specific. Furthermore, if an answer or response is irrelevant the teacher response must be making the responder to think about his/her response. Last but not the least the logical sequence of From easier to difficult, from known to unknown and from concrete to abstract be followed.”
By Mohammad Faiq
19. It is sad that many Principals are UNHAPPY in the jobs they are doing. They are trapped in their profession. Too old to change jobs and too young to retire they are counting the days left.