I must begin this post by giving a brief statement of my philosophy of life and work. I believe that our purpose in life is to be of service to others and I share the view that work is a form of worship. Through honest work we help others. Educating myself and others has always been the main purpose of my professional life, so it is not surprising that I became a teacher and eventually a principal. Students must be at the centre of every educational initiative. We have to make sure that they reach their full academic and human potential by providing them with top quality education. We must seek continuous improvement in teaching and learning and identify the strengths of individual students. This is the context in which I want to share some of the principal’s joy I experienced during my tenure and I am speaking from the perspective of a retired principal.
I really enjoyed working with young people. One has to love young people in order to become a caring and effective teacher. They are so vibrant, funny and full of untried ideas that it is a pleasure to interact with them on a daily basis and help them to navigate the challenges of school and life. They keep teachers young and open-minded. Sometimes it is difficult to keep a straight face while dealing with them.
It was a joy to watch the camaraderie among the students, how they helped each other and looked after the few who had physical disabilities.
I loved the fact that each day at the office was very different from any other day. There was no boredom. Anything can happen at any time in a school and several things often happen at the same time, which all call for the principal’s intervention. I enjoyed those challenges. They caused me to postpone the tasks on my daily to-do lists and made my days longer, but they dispelled monotony.
One of my great Joys as a principal was the ability one has to help students, teachers and parents in many ways. There was deep satisfaction in helping them to solve problems and develop their own abilities, and in opening various doors of opportunity for them.
Instructional leadership and its outcomes contribute to a principal’s joy. It was satisfying to chair meetings, visit classes, discuss new ideas and best practices and empower teachers through mentoring, delegation and training. Working with students and teachers to advance learning and teaching contributed to the development of a real learning community. Several learning and teaching problems were solved.
A lot of the joy for me, as principal, came from relationships with many students and teachers. Getting to know them as individuals and discussing schoolwork, life and various issues with them. Hearing their ideas and inspiring them to work harder and take responsibility for their own progress. As a result of this many students improved their academic and extra-curricular performance and many teachers furthered their professional development. Positive relationships with many parents were also beneficial.
Of Course, much of the joy came from seeing the school do well as a result of our efforts. It was a pleasure to see students do well academically and in extra-curricular activities, winning scholarships of various types and trophies of all descriptions. It was a joy to see them graduate from school as accomplished young ladies and gentlemen and move on to higher education or the world of work. This meant that the staff had done well also.
Seeing at-risk students make positive attitudinal and behavioural changes through our character building and social and emotional learning modules was a distinct joy for me as well.
Leading a school involves facing many stern challenges on a daily basis but there are just as many, or more sources of joy for a principal who is willing to rise to these challenges and improve the effectiveness of his school nevertheless. A principal’s joy, however, is always tempered with humility when successful past students tell him or her that they owe their success in their chosen profession and in life to inspiration from the principal when they were at school.