Accepting to take on the responsibility as Principal Viva College School on 1st June 2020 ushered me to a new paradigm I had never envisaged. I officially became Principal, three months after the closure of all Education Institutions due to COVID-19. No one had any idea when the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) would give a go-ahead for schools to re-open. When the closure was effected, everyone assumed that it would be for a month or so…but it turned out that it would take ‘forever’ for schools to re-open again! Change and adaptability remained the only constants for everyone during the COVID-19 time. This was a rude awakening for me because I had accepted and taken on a new responsibility during COVID time. As fate may have it, I had no one to consult because no one had ever led a school during COVID times!
There was no way I was going to receive payment while sitting as a lame duck, waiting for things to happen! I had ‘to happen to things’ or the game would be up! I was determined: to cultivate creativity; cultivate productivity; drive determination and encompass all that with: grit. I needed to identify what I call ‘pain points’ in my new task in order to find strategies of navigating my way around them. The school had started online teaching soon after close down in March. The challenges were many and ranged from: fixed mindsets of some teachers, parents and students to inadequate resources such as lack of personal computers by some teachers, learners, and lack of ICT skills. Maintaining, sustaining, coordinating and monitoring online teaching virtually was a ‘tall order’. Each student and teacher operated in the comfort of their homes. I had never met or interacted closely with either the teachers or students. I had to be deeply focused in order to achieve optimal performance.
After a period of seven months, MoES relented and allowed schools to open but for candidate classes only. The setting in which I had operated for five months was to change again. I had to physically move into the real arena. The vibes I was to pick later, showed that teachers were weary of what my leadership style would be like. They were aware that I had never served in a Private Secondary School for the years I served as a Secondary School Teacher and that I had only served in ‘Traditional Schools’! They feared I was clueless about the ‘Mode of Operation’ in Private Secondary Schools and the clincher was, I was a ‘retired head teacher’! According to some of them chances were that I was likely to ‘cut’ all I had practiced and learnt at Gayaza High School and ‘paste’ it to Viva College School! At a personal level, I knew that I had to have a Growth Mindset, be very objective and pick up the VCS reins as they were: without bias, prejudice or pre-conceived ideas. I had to use reason and wisdom. My situation reminded me of a Bible verse: “Listen! Wisdom is calling out. Reason is making herself heard.” Proverbs 8:1
The abnormal Term, as I called it, (MoES referred to it as Term Two but under normal circumstanced it would have been Term Three) was to last ten weeks! I had to have a death ground strategy to enable the Teaching, Non-Teaching staff and students read from the same page with me. I also believed that I had the right people, who had the right jobs and I trusted them to do the right thing!
During the first four weeks, I engaged teachers at individual levels. I wanted to understand each person’s professional and personal setting, their likes and dislikes and what they thought we could do as a Team Viva to take VCS to Greater Heights. My engagement with individual teachers melted some of the psychological barriers and preconceived perceptions they harboured about me. I realized then that the match had been lit, and by God I was ready to fan the flame.
I seized the moment. In the first two weeks of the Term, the entire school agreed on the Buzz Word for the Term: “No Pressure: No Diamonds”! We also cultivated a habit of keeping time by arriving in any scheduled place ten minutes to time. The concept to date is known as: ‘’T to T.” Every Monday, there would be (and still are) scheduled meetings. The meeting with the Senior Management Team(SMT) starts at 6.00a.m. followed by a 20-minute Meeting with the Teaching Staff which starts at 10.10 a.m. and ends at 10.40 a.m. The meeting with the Non-Teaching staff begins at 2.00p.m. and ends at 3.00p.m. School assembly begins at 4.45p.m. and lasts for 30 minutes only. Lastly, the Prefects Meeting takes place from 9.00p.m. and lasts for 30 minutes. All the meetings are held on Monday to set the tone for the week, I refer to it as a roller coaster day!
There are other subtle factors that complemented the set up. I have a personal goal I came up with to lace up, the Vision, Mission, Values and Motto of Viva College School. “To produce a teacher, learner and worker who can engage; participate; contribute and act on his/her own world to change it.”
The ultimate goal is to make everyone aware the five verbs mentioned in my goal must be factored in everything each person does or says.
I have learnt a lot since I joined VCS and strive to maintain positive habits that permeate throughout my personal and professional life. I relish staying calm under pressure, counteracting negative thoughts, reducing impulsivity, maintaining a positive outlook and building skillful responses to challenges.
I believe that, with such a frame of mind, I will be able to produce students, nurture teachers and staff to have: “Great Minds that Shape the World”!