As leaders, it is vital that we communicate clear messages, especially at the beginning of the year. These clear and simple messages need to be positive and motivating but they also need to convey high expectations. I love behaviour management guru Bill Roger’s term “warm-demanding”. Whilst Bill relates it to the expectations great teachers have of the students in their classrooms, the term also applies to leaders communicating with their staff about the year ahead.
Iain Taylor, Principal of Manurewa Intermediate School in Auckland states it really well.
In his end of year letter to staff (reiterated in the staff handbook for 2018), Iain expresses his belief that ‘staff matter most’, but that staff also have to give and be consistent, energized, committed and passionate about all we are trying to do for our kids!”
Iain is Principal at a challenging intermediate School (year 7 and 8) in Auckland. The area is designated Decile 1 (the lowest on the socio-economic scale).
In the letter, he highlights the importance of relationships.
“It is the relationship between you and your students that makes the difference – we must connect with them. This is best achieved initially by popular culture. It doesn’t matter how busy you are, you need to spend at least two hours a week watching the TV programmes they do, listening to the music, taking note of their fashion and noticing when they have a new haircut! This is showing them that you care, that you ARE interested in them and this WILL help with your classroom management”
“When the kids like their teacher, like their class and have good friendships then they are ready to be the learner they need to be We need to constantly work hard at addressing the needs of our kids. Things like keeping our cool with them, listening to them. We need to try to remember as many names as possible and notice new things about them – comment on their hair, their skills in the skate park, what they did on the weekends. Duty times are the best times to do this. For any teacher of an intermediate age student, it is important to remember the rapid changes they are undergoing as adolescents and maintain flexibility and empathy. We also need to remember that although they are growing up, they still need so much support from us as we guide them into becoming successful learners.”
We are not a military establishment where discipline is easy to implement. I come from the philosophic premise that the way you communicate with children is what determines positive relationships and outcomes and that we are a school concerned with solving problems children may have, rather than simply problems they create for us. Our overall school organization gives kids the chance to have a good day. The better the teaching becomes the fewer problems will arise in class. The more positive we are in our teacher-children relationships the fewer our confrontational situations will be. The more relevant, effective and personalized the teaching programmes are the fewer disengaged and disruptive the kids will be. The more straight forward and positive our expectations and following our keys to success are the fewer negative behaviour confrontations will be.
Wow! I wanted to teach at that school and be part of that culture.
Iain’s messages are also evident in the School Prospectus. Below is an exert from his Principal’s Welcome message. You can access the prospectus here.
“I am a passionate and energetic educator and I am so passionate about my role that if I won Lotto today I would still be here tomorrow. This is because I love the energy, the vibrancy and the things we can do in schools to give kids the best deal possible.”
“Education can make you rich and the lack of it can keep you poor! Education gives you choices and helps you know what it is that you really want to do. Education helps us see other people in new ways. It opens our minds and provides us all with possibilities.”
No wonder Manurewa Intermediate was awarded the 2017 Prime Minster’s Supreme Award.
Did your welcome message inspire, support and challenge your staff to make 2018 exceptional?