Ordinary people with extraordinary heart

By admin
07 June 2013

Our education blogger talks to us about the people behind the scenes making sure our kids go out into the world confident, well-rounded people.

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear teacher, happy birthday to you . . .”

Then the principal walked down a red carpet flanked by a guard of honour of learners. He took his place on a giant chair and every grade brought him a card with a touching message. And after the head boy had said a final “Happy birthday, sir” multicoloured balloons floated over the quad . . .

The principal is having a birthday, and the whole school is happy. And I am privileged to be looking at a profession that clearly offers so much more reward than just a salary cheque at the end of the month.

I thought it would be a good idea to have our first chat about teaching with the head of a school, the person who takes responsibility for everything in the institution.

They’re the people who are so readily criticised but also the first who have to help and understand when there’s a problem.

The principal has to maintain discipline and ensure the safety of learners, and sometimes listen patiently to unjustified criticism of the school or its staff.

They’re often a sympathetic adviser, at other times a strict leader. They help to heal emotional problems and must ensure they always thank all the learners, staff and parents for their contribution to making the school a winning institution. But when and how are they thanked for their efforts?

Once a year on their birthday?

It’s high time the principals and staff of schools were shown more appreciation for the substantial – sometimes difficult and challenging – task they tackle every day.

So, let’s say thank you and be part of the solution before we criticise and become part of the problem.

Teachers and principals are also just ordinary people whose feelings are important, ordinary people who do their best and sometimes make mistakes, ordinary people who deserve our thanks and support a lot more than negative, often unjustified criticism.

But perhaps I’m wrong – teachers aren’t ordinary people. In fact they must be super-beings of a sort because they can handle 40 kids at once and educate them. After all, there are people out there who struggle to achieve the same thing with just one or two . . .

- Olga Channing

OLga Channing is a deputy principal and Afrikaans teacher at a high school in Pretoria. She is the author of six books for the new school curriculum and after 24 years as a teacher, she still loves her job.

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