The Coronavirus outbreak is causing school principals around the country to make tough choices. How can they best look after the welfare of their staff and leaners as the schools are about to be opened? In this post we look at how school principals can best support their teachers and learners, and what the post-pandemic future might look like for our basic Education.
This is the time for leadership
Now more than ever, it’s important for school principals to demonstrate their leadership capabilities. They need to be flexible and adaptive to this new learning environment. They need to be able to address unplanned circumstances, as well as be planning for change. For many teachers, this is their first venture into teaching online. In addition to these new challenges, many of them are balancing more parental responsibilities, including taking care of children of other relatives. School principals need to be mindful of this, and make certain allowances to support their staff. They need to be aware of teachers’ responsibilities, and make sure that they don’t burn their teachers and staff out by asking them to do too much.
Leadership also means looking out for the physical and mental well-being of learners. This may mean turning to networks they’ve built within the community. Mental health centres, churches, clinics and social services – school principals can utilize these connections to create a network that parents and learners can turn to for help.
Our Advice to school Principals
The most important piece of advice that we can give to school principals in all our South African schools is that they should not operate in a vacuum. A school principal should be communicating with his/her School Management Team (SMT). It’s also important to be consistently checking in with teachers to see how they are doing and let them know about any updates.
We also advise school principals to look at current policies to see if any, need to be updated to address the current situation, while still keeping the safety of learners at the forefront. This might mean using a platform that allows the school district officials to monitor the interactions between teachers and learners, or discouraging one-on-one online communication between teachers and learners to protect learners from potential improper behaviour.
School principals need to ask themselves this question: “How can we deal with this crisis, but yet still follow the safety policies and procedures that are in place?”
What will the future look like?
Any time a school principal goes through an unexpected occurrence, besides dealing with the immediate impact and providing for the learners and teachers, need to take a step back and reflect. They need to say, ‘What have we learnt from this, and how can we put things in place to help us, should we come across something like this again?’
Even after the pandemic subsides, we’ll still see a growing frequency of online learning from grade R-12. Principals need to re-examine how instruction is delivered. We are going to see a lot of online courses being offered, not only at the Primary School and High School level, but at pre-school as well.
We believe that teachers are going to have to become more comfortable bringing technology into the classroom and we believe this will bring some light to the importance of technology in teaching and learning today. It’s not a question of, ‘Do teachers want to learn how to use technology,’ but, ‘This is a necessary part of every teachers job, to know how to use technology.’ The learners are comfortable using this technology, and we need to bring that into the school, not stop it at the door. It doesn’t replace a good teacher, but it is certainly a necessary component.
Now it’s your turn. How do you think school principals can lead during this pandemic? Let me know in the comments below.