* SCHOOL PRINCIPALS fill a very special and unique position in student guidance-ship with their teachers and support staff. It is important they work with their teams to create a strong culture.
* EDUCATION’S PRIME FOCUS HAS DISTORTED
Many years ago, the Northern Territory (Australia) became a self managing system. Our first Director of Education was a Dr Jim Eedle. Dr Eedle called all principals of the NT to a conference in Katherine, a large town 250 kilometres south of Darwin in March 1978. He told us that we should remember two things.
1. Schools are for children.
2. Structure (administration and support services) should always serve this function.
He warned that if structure grew to become too skyscraperish (too big for its boots) the system would defocus from its prime purpose and become mediocre. That has happened, in my opinion, not only here but with other Australian and overseas systems.
Dr Eedle was about holistic education. These days people ask “what is that”? How sad. How sad too, that many on schools treat those schools as trampolines – launching pads to greater glory.
* ADVICE I GAVE TO TEACHERS
1. Be malleable and persuadable but true to standards and principles.
2. Debate issues, rather than focussing on personality.
3. Take care with email traffic – written words cannot be rescinded.
4. Take care with speech that its impact is issues focussed not scarifying of personality.
5. Practice empathy but don’t lavish sympathy.
6. Don’t invite others to impart ownership of their monkeys to you; rather, help them with advice about how they might solve their own problems.
* RESPECT – SO EASILY LOST
Respect evaporates if ‘followers’ realise their leaders are sayers and not doers. It is not sufficient to talk the talk; walking the talk is important if leaders are to be taken as sincere and committed people.
* It is so important as leaders and teachers to be SINCERE in all we do. Connections with students must be enhanced by underpinning empathy and genuine interest. HUMANITY must underscore our profession
* SEPARATION of work and home is something we need to consider. There is a time for work, a time for family and a time for recreation. Wo ought avoid polluting time with family by work overlays.
*Formal PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT is a system imperative, a requirement binding on Principals and teachers. I would cut this and reinstitute meaningful, trusting, professional and collegiate conversation.
It happened in the two systems in which I have worked, that once those to whom you reported would, if advice and guidance were needed, take one aside and talk with them quietly and encouragingly about things needing to be done differently and better. There was also appreciation for things being done well. Therefore ‘bouquets’ wirth ‘brickbats’ offered throufgh a ‘velvet glove’ approach. School leaders in turn applied this principle of approach with those responsible to them. That has all changed. Performance management panels are formal and regular, being more interrogative than conversational. Recipients are nervous and frightened of what is coming, rather than being confident, relaxed and contributive before and during the process. Trust needs to be built through such a process, rather than rank worry beforehand, aversion whilst it is happening and relief once it is over (until the next time.)
* 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.
* 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.
The simpler, straightforward and more relevant the curriculum content, the better. I suspect in this world there are,within systems, tens of thousands of educators who spend their time developing curricular that are more and more complex. Their job will be never-ending and their output constantly changing. Their fear is they might have to back into classrooms and work in a primary, first hand context at the coal face.
*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.
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.
* We should always DO what we SAY we will do. Commitment as principals and teachers to teachers and students respectively, should always be met.
* 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.
Testing regimes and their apparent importance to systems, discounts and devalues what should be true educational function. In reality it is systems behoven to governments which use data outcomes to brag about ‘their’ accomplishments – as if it were GOVERNMENTS making the difference. Testing regimes are really about “keeping up with the Jones’s”.
* 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.
* 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.
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.
* 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.
*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
* It is sad to me that many educators 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.
In terms of these issues, it often seems that systems, regardless of location, are more than willing to pass the responsibility buck to schools and teachers. It also seems that those who are ‘home feee’ and excused of all responsibility for students are parents and primary caregivers. The fact that teachers are belted with brickbats and seldom appreciate with bouquets adds to the deep unhapppinmes and sense of frustration many feel. It is no wonder that stress manifests at alarming levels.
It seems to be the reality of the 21st century in the majority of countries around the world the focus is on compliance and accountability. Metaphorically, the student is like unto an object to be tested, measured, evaluated, monitored and analysed ‘ad nauseum’. Education should have soul.
* Regardless of your position, SEEK FEEDBACK from a critical friend or colleague on thing you do well and elements of your performance needing attention and improvement. Be open to advice – it helps.
* BRIEF DAILY SUMMARIES can be useful. Summary might include: *Activity/project; * How did I feel (+’s and -‘s); *What did I learn; * Implications for study/ work (tasks), people (relations) and self.