A Principal With A Nurturing Heart

Inspiration for Headmasters & Teachers

Great Ideas And Lessons I’ve Learned From Schools That I’ve Visited Around Our Country.

If we could take all the positives from each and every school around the globe and implement it all in just one school, can you imagine the results of such a school?

I’ve visited a few schools and a lot of positives (and unfortunately some negatives) stood out at some of these schools.  In this letter I would like to share some of these issues which you could use as great ideas or lessons to grow your own school.

I won’t mention names of schools at all and only if I have permission, will I use the names of the teachers or principals.


One day I visited a school unlike any other school I’ve ever visited.  The principal, Mr. S, was very kind and had no issue about being called by his first name (to me that already said something about the atmosphere at that school).  He spend more than an hour taking me around his school and showing me how and what they are developing and planning for their buildings and for the children.  His passion and excitement was tangible.

At another great school, the learners don’t call the teachers by their surnames.  They call their teachers by their first names, as in ‘Ms Debbie’ or ‘Mr John’ for example.  This includes all the personal, even the principal.  They believe the truth about “formalities” and titles and don’t want to allow that in their school.  What is the truth about formalities?  It divides people…

Once we got back to the meeting room where we had coffee, I asked him whether he has any ideas to share on building a relationship with children.  WHAT?  Should a principal build relationships with the children in the school?  Off course!  In fact, I would like to suggest that results are much higher in schools where the principal is available to the children.  Mr. S shared three things that he does continuously to improve relationships.

1.  The Children’s Welfare Truly Matter To Mr. S

Mr. S has some hand signs that he and the children share with one another.  He uses these signs to constantly stay in touch with the kids.  The sign consists of four fingers held parallel to the ground, thumb hidden and palm inwards.  A four means a child is having a fantastic day.  A three shows that the pupil is fine and doing well.  Two fingers show that there is some pain and they need a hug and a kind word.  A one indicates that they are in real trouble and intervention is needed. Should a child show a one, Mr. S will stop any conversation with anyone immediately to attend to the child in need.  He will find out what is wrong, what is happening and how he could help.  To him, nothing is more important than a child in need.

How could this be implemented at your school?

For us to be able to stop next to a child and truly care about what they are going through, we need to redefine what “success” looks like in the teaching environment.  Success is not just achieving all A+‘s and no F’s in your class’ results.  When you are a teacher, true success is about changing lives.  Many kids are going through lots of heartache and even abuse at home.  If you could offer an opportunity like Mr. S is offering, so many kids’ lives could change for the better on a daily basis around the world!  I know that you are not a psychologist, but you have ears and a heart.  You can listen and show you care.  If you can’t help, you have more resources available to you, than that child, to find someone who can help.

This is not something all schools can just rely on the principal to do.  If all teachers would just do random checks by holding up a “thumbs-up” and having kids respond, kids who are going through a terrible time, will not fall through the cracks of our selfish lives.  I will never forget how I felt when someone who went to school with me told me a few years ago about the abuse that went on in his home.   I wonder how many times I sat next to him, not realizing what he must have gone through the night before.  If only teachers had time to look past their own agendas into his broken life…

“People Don’t Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care.”

– Zig Ziglar –

2.  Mr. S Is Not Too Important To Learn From The Children

This must be one of the most amazing things I ever heard a principal do!  Mr.S sends out handwritten invites to 10 children from different grades every second week to meet him in his office for a tea party.  He then give them each a cup-a-tea and a cup cake.  The conversation is about what they like about their school and what they think the school could improve on.  He is the first to admit that some of these “tea-party” conversations have led to some of the best improvements at the school.

How could this be implemented at your school?

Teachers, principals (and children) are very busy, I know, but instead of looking at how this could not work, how could this great idea of Mr. S (or a similar idea) be implement in our schools?  How could schools create an opportunity for children to speak their minds and feel that their input is valuable?  What about kids and teens who are bullied by others and fear coming forward?  How could we help them?  Maybe the “Principal’s tea party” idea could be a competition of some sort which takes place once a month or every two months or once a quarter?  Could something like this be an opportunity for change?   Without a doubt!

Being able to learn from others is an attitude of the heart, a sign of true maturity that in Mr. S’s school, changes everything for everyone.  Most of the time, when people are obsessed about their own achievements or titles, they believe that they know it all and they will not take a minute to learn from others, let alone from children.  Maturity, I believe, is knowing two things about ourselves:

#1 knowing that you don’t know it all and that’s okay, as long as you are prepared to learn and keep on growing;  and

#2 knowing that life is not about you, but about what you can do for others.

“Maturity Doesn’t Always Come With Age.  Sometimes Age Comes Alone!”

– John Maxwell –

3.  Mr. S Will Not Expect Anything From The Kids Unless He Is Willing To Do It Himself

If he expects them to wear their school blazers or jackets all day long, he will do the same.  If he expects them to pick up rubbish and clean the school terrain, he will do the same.  He will not walk past a piece of paper without picking it up and throwing it in the dustbin.  If he is not prepared to do it, he will not expect any child to do it.

How could this be implemented at your school?

This is without a doubt an attitude issue as well.  Leading by example is the strongest kind of leadership there is.  This is about integrity and humility.  If I don’t want the kids in my class to use bad language, I have to be the example.  If I want my learners to study hard, I need to prepare hard.  If I want my learners to achieve great marks, I have to give my all in explaining the content until every single one understands!  Yes, that is crazy, I know, but isn’t it truth?

I still remember my grade 12 accounting teacher.   I’m sure I was responsible for his grey hair!  I remember one day after the entire class, except for me, understood the work, he confirmed that everyone understood.  He then told them to continue with their work as he picked up one of the empty chairs and came and sat down next to me.  He literally kept on explaining until I understood!  More than understanding the work that day, I knew I mattered to him.  He did his all in order for me to do my all.

“Example Is Not The Main Thing In Influencing Others.  It Is The Only Thing.”

– Albert Schweitzer – 

Although I shared these ideas because I believe it could make a difference, I understand that I’m not in your environment and I don’t pretend to know it all.  I’ve learned so much from Mr. S on that day and I hope that in some way it has changed something in your mind or life as well.

Please leave me a comment on your thoughts and ideas that others can learn from as well.  The only way we can start building a positive environment in our schools, is by doing something about it.  Let’s share and implement great ideas!

If there is anything I can do to help you and your team succeed – whether you are a teacher or in the corporate environment – please do not hesitate to contact me.

Be sure to read my other letters to teachers, parents and leaders.


Teacher greetings!





7 Responses to A Principal With A Nurturing Heart

  1. Rehana Mohamed says:

    Hi,Debbie,sit en merk,middernagtelik terwyl ek ook jou artikels lees! Baie dankie,vd inspirasie!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rehana Mohamed says:

    Baie inspirerend! Ek hou hiervan!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Karen Lawlor says:

    If only all principals were like Mr S

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Analize Schoeman says:

    I pray for Life Change in everyone’s heart who reads this letter. Very good, indeed!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lesley vd Merwe says:

    Really inspirational.Thank you,Debbie.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s