It seems like a serendipitous moment to talk about celebration- after all, Diwali is not long gone, Christmas is just around the corner and, if that were not enough, “Kool and the Gang” gave us a timely reminder of the importance of rejoicing in the good stuff not long since with their timeless anthem, “Celebrate” ringing out around town from Kololo Airstrip!
At staff briefing on Tuesday I encouraged teachers to try to find an opportunity in the week ahead to properly compliment a colleague on some aspect of their work or personality. I don’t mean a fleeting nugget of praise that the recipient can easily laugh off with some well-chosen, self-deprecating, humourous remark; I mean looking someone in the eye and telling them straight, with no caveats, equivocation or qualification, that they are amazing at something. And I encouraged them, if at all possible, to go on to explain exactly why or in what way that person is amazing. It is not something we all find easy to do (especially us Brits!). For some reason, we find the situation slightly difficult and embarrassing. In truth it is, likewise, not always the easiest thing to accept such praise, but we would all do well to try to train ourselves to do so with a simple and heartfelt “Thank you”. In doing so, we show that we value both ourselves and the compliment. Later on that day, a colleague who is a long-standing KISU teacher, took the trouble to stop me as I walked round the school and compliment me on my leadership this past year or so. I don’t raise this to blow my own trumpet (believe me, I am acutely aware of the sheer scale and depth of my shortcomings as a school leader!) but because I think it is a subtle but telling sign of a healthy organization when compliments and praise start to move both ways, both up and down its management structures.
Many thanks to those of you who took a few moments to complete this year’s Parent Survey for us. Ten of the questions were repeated from last year’s survey so that it would generate good comparative data and, while there are clearly things that we need to continue working at, there are certainly also results we should celebrate. Last year, when asked where KISU would rank in a nominal league table of international schools in the city only 13% of parents placed us top and the consensus overall was that we were in second place. This year, the consensus is that we are the top international school in Kampala: 50% more parents placed us 1st than 2nd. In addition, the percentage of parents who believe that our teachers are “excellent” at preparing and delivering engaging and appropriately challenging learning experiences for our students also rose. I would like to (and expect to) see this number continue to rise as we go forward.
Finally, while we are on our celebration kick, I want to share with you a conversation that I had with an IB student recently regarding a teacher whose performance in the past had given us some cause for concern. His opinion is that the teacher is now “completely different” and “so much better” and he even went so far as to say that the teacher concerned has “gone from being one of our weaker teachers to literally one of the best”. I can claim no credit for this transformation; it is down to the hard work of the teacher concerned and one of my senior colleagues, but it shows what can be achieved when we are honest with ourselves and really commit to change and self-improvement and it is surely worthy of celebration. That said, it is worth us all remembering (especially at a time of year when many of us are probably quite tired) that as much as “being honest with oneself” tends to mean being unswervingly self-critical, we should not forget to recognize and celebrate strengths and achievements as well!
I concluded, on Tuesday morning, by reminding our staff that they are all amazing: those who were recruited from overseas were the ones who had the “get up and go” to really “get up and go” by leaving their homelands to bring their skills and talents to Uganda; whilst those who were recruited here in Uganda have risen in their profession to work in the best international school in their country. I want to thank them all for their tremendous hard work, loyalty and commitment in what has been a very long term!