Students, teachers and other workers take their places in schools knowing quite well the reputation of these schools in terms of their performance and the perception that society has of these schools. For example, some schools enjoy a good reputation based on any or all of the following: their location in the society, their histories, the reputation of their principals, the performance of their students on examinations which, in turn, cast the teachers' performance in either a good or a bad light, the support that the schools get from the communities in which they are located, alumni and other well-wishers, among a host of other factors.
Many of the stakeholders of schools, oftentimes, take their cue for their behaviour from the perception of their schools that is in the public domain. This is evident in the attitude, whether positive or negative, of many students to their schools, teachers, other members of staff, their peers and their lessons.
This is also evident in the attitude, whether positive or negative, of some of the administrative staff in dealing with students, other members of staff and with their jobs.
This is evident in the attitude, whether positive or negative, of some teachers to the students and to their jobs in the schools.
This is evident in the attitude, whether positive or negative, of some of the ancillary staff to students, to staff and to their jobs in the schools.
This is also evident in the attitude, whether positive or negative, of some members of the communities in which the schools are cited to the schools.
Therefore, in many cases, if the school holds a high reputation in the community, this is reflected in every area of the school. And, in many cases, if the school holds a low reputation in the society, this is also reflected in every area of the school. What this means is that the general performance of some schools determines how the school is perceived by stakeholders of the school as well as the general public.
This brings us to the major challenge that principals of schools that are deemed by the powers that be as being under performing face. The principals of schools that have been deemed to require improvement have the challenge to improve the morale of staff, students and the members of the wider school community so that they may all begin to take action to improve their performance, thus the performance of their schools.
This improved performance will be seen in the increased number of students who pass the requisite examinations that are administered to students.
This improved performance will be seen in the positive attitude that many students will begin to display to the school personnel as well as to their work in school.
This improved performance will be seen in the number of competitions, academic and non-academic in which the schools participate and put in a creditable performance.
This improved performance will be seen in the professionalism of principals and members of staff on the job.
This improved performance will be seen in the enthusiasm that members of the communities display for the schools.
This improved performance will be seen in how well the principals use and manage the resources at their disposal.
This improved performance will be seen in the general aura that surrounds the school.
But, how do the principals of schools improve the morale of the school community in order to get the improved performance of their schools for which they seek? This is not an easy task, but I will offer three suggestions.
- First, principals of schools must start by recognising all the members of the school community. This recognition starts with respecting every member of the school community. Principals of schools begin to respect members of this community when they greet them as they traverse the environment of the schools without being prodded and by creating other opportunities to interact with them. They must respect members of the school community by tempering their tone of voice when they interact with them, no matter how aggravated they may be, remembering that they are talking to human beings who are definitely not passive and can find subtle and not so subtle ways to get even. They must respect members of the school community by asking for and appear to consider the opinions of those persons within the schools who choose to share their opinions. They must respect members of the school community by being fair or appearing to be fair in their decisions.
- Second, principals of schools must commit themselves to following the protocols that the powers that be have set out to govern the relationships within their schools. If they do not, these principals must prepare themselves for dissent. This dissent will definitely have an impact on the performance of the school because unhappy people do not willingly exert effort.
- Third, the principals of schools must set the tone for the operation of their schools. They must be willing to have their presence felt by being seen on the compound by students and staff but, more than being just seen, observers should get a sense that they know what they are about. All of their subsequent interactions with students and staff should reinforce this perception. They must lead my example. While delegation has its benefits, the principals must be willing to establish a firm presence in their schools before they almost permanently disappear from view, leaving others to 'run' the school.
Many people tend to respond more favourably to the 'big boss' than to the 'lesser bosses'.
Therefore, these principals must develop an understanding of the nature of the people they lead in every new organisation that they are called on to lead before they begin to institute any policies. And when they decide to unveil their new policies, they must be gentle and be willing to accept feedback. If they decide to be autocratic leaders, they will find themselves always going against the tide - the tide of dissent from the people they are trying to lead. And where there is this kind of discord, performance is bound to be negatively impacted.
So, principals of schools that have been deemed to be under performing have their work cut out for them to improve performance in their schools. To have any hope of doing this, they have to be willing to garner the support of the stakeholders of their schools by showing genuine respect to them, by committing to following the protocols that have been set out to govern relationships in the schools, by making their presence felt in a good way in their schools and by just tapping into their innovativeness for ideas to get the outcomes that they desire.
Read part 5 here.
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