Imagine the theme from mission impossible playing quietly in the background, you’re sitting in a small congested office and the audio on the speakerphone comes on,
“ Good day Mr. Myrie, the mission you have accepted is challenging, dangerous, and colossal but should you succeed, you will be enshrined in the hallowed halls of sainthood in this country, forever knighted and known as the savior of this noble institution. But should you fail you will be banished to the confines of the Kingston College wasteland, severely criticized and written off as an educator who underestimated the superhuman demands of the job. Best of luck, Mr Myrie, and may god be with you. This tape will self-destruct etc…”
The music fades and you sit motionless in your chair for what seems like an eternity pondering what was just imparted to you, and thinking, am I the man for the job?
Well, the answer is yes, you have all the qualifications, you come well recommended, you have the requisite experience, you fall within the appropriate age group, you strike an imposing figure, you know the right people, the only thing that could have been added to that stout resume is three to four years of military training just to make you better prepared for any indiscipline you are going to have to deal with from both students and teachers. Then again you’ve lived in Jamaica long enough to have developed your own way of disciplining wayward forces.
Questioning yourself now is meaningless, you’ve signed on, the clock is ticking, the philistines are at the gate and you need to put your armor on and go out the door and face the deluge which is inevitable. Before you go think of those who came before you, there is a lot to be learnt from their successes and their failures. Some have left a legacy that must be dusted off and restored to the mantle and on which you can build your own legacy which is being so eagerly anticipated by an entire nation.
Your leadership and ensuing success is so widely anticipated that failure is not an option. Understand your time is now and you’re not interested in maintaining the status quo, because that’s what got us to where we are. Don’t ever be afraid of being tough, the KC culture is not one of flaccid indifference. Embrace the old adage ‘A chasm is not crossed by little baby steps.”
That being said, it’s good to know one’s limitation, and finding the right man for the job is always an asset. Your job will be so over-whelming; you’re going to need key people in key positions to perform, so a plant manger along the lines of what we’ve seen recently is one to keep. Have no fear about giving him the reins to get things done, at KC there are always an abundance of critics, but few are doers.
Beware of those who want everything, but produce nothing. They will come wanting new staff room, latest laptop and their own parking space, but when you ask, what was your department’s passing percentage in the last CXC, they will undoubtedly skew the argument towards how the boys are so dunce, and a lot of them are not there to learn. You may demand they assume personal responsibility, and they will respond how you “facety.” But understand that for so long, this is what has been allowed to pass as educators.
It is possible the ministry of education and the board gave you directives and tied your job to certain mandates; fear not, these can be achieved by focusing on three things.
- Academic Curriculum Advancement.
- Discipline Advancement.
- Academics Advancement.
The area of Academic advancement is going to be your biggest challenge as you will need to establish programs like Remedial learning, Math and English Mastery, and Science Mastery. In addition, the sixth form curriculum must be revamped, so those students who rise to that level are offered a respectable spectrum of course work to pursue leading to the CAPE exams. Use social media to help teach students who need remedial work, it makes them more interactive. It is critical to motivating these students that you get them emotionally involved in learning. The great tragedy of KC since I was there 40 years ago and ever since is that outside of the brightest forms the majority of teachers only teach to the brightest ten children in the class. A good majority never aspired to reach the entire class. In areas where we fall down like improving cognitive skills, use technology to assist in these areas. The ministry of education points to methods like cooperative learning, corrective feedback and mandate that they must be employed at KC. Classroom morale must improve; it cannot be business as usual. If a teacher lacks the emotional, intellectual and pedagogical skills he or she should not be allowed to teach Maths, Sciences or English at KC, it’s as simple as that.
Athletics advancement will be an easy one; I believe you come well equipped to find the answers to this one. This is necessary as many of the KC fraternity only identify with one thing, the success of the various sports program. The mainstay of these programs will rest on providing scholarships to talent from across the Island. Offer no apologies for scholarships; these deserving youngsters need an opportunity to reach their full potential, that’s what schools like KC should do for a rising generation of student-athletes. Thought must be given to creating a boarding house in the city for boys from the rural areas who are offered scholarships. Be innovative, forge partnership with private entities to manage such a boarding house. Unemployment is too high in Jamaica for us not to be able to find folks who are eager to run such a home. Paying for it should not be a problem, when a student is given a scholarship, boarding should be a part of the package. Expand the number of sports program, so a majority of the boys will be involved in some kind of extra-curricular activity.
The advancement of discipline is critical to the school’s survival. KC is a microcosm of the Jamaican society and the entire society is in a disciplinary freefall, but we have always been and will always be a disciplined institution built on stern religious principles, we cannot be allowed to deviate too far from that, it results in anarchy and we are already tittering on the brink. Again everybody must do their job, since we are at the point in our history where resource officers are needed on the campus daily, use them. Have them walk around to the classrooms to help maintain discipline. One deputy headmaster or headmistress on each campus must be a designated disciplinarian and take that job seriously. The children are not incorrigible and if you do find the occasional sociopath then expulsion shouldn’t be ruled out, after ample warnings and chances at rehabilitation.
With the advent of new technology there are endless resources available to help raise the teaching bar at KC. The school also is the home to many bright and resourceful teachers, some have mastered the subject they teach and those should be asked to develop lesson plans for students suffering with weak teachers. Web sites like “Teachers pay Teachers” provide rich source material for curriculum development. Teachers who need additional funds can be encouraged to publish their exemplary lesson plans for a profit. Establish a bonus fund to recruit talented teachers and when they are on board ensure they are rewarded for superior results. They should be nominated for merit-based Best Teacher awards, so money isn’t the reason we lose exceptional teachers. Old boys are always happy to raise funds for those teachers who have brought accolades to the school.
More than anything, remember, everyone wants you to succeed, they want the institution to return to its level of excellence. We all want to play our part to help, but you must lead. You will be asked to shoulder a disproportionate share of the responsibility to turn this school around, but that’s the nature of the assignment, you in turn must put pressure on others to do their job. If you ask for assistance to buy more computers, please be sure what’s provided extends and develops the capacity of the teachers and students and ensure they take good care of the equipment and our investment. If you do these things and show a modicum of improvement, supporters like me will always rally to your needs and stand tall in your corner while you’re knighted. Good Luck!