19 Letters, GSB 2023 and Gratitude

This is letter number 19 for 2023 – that’s 114 letters since Keeping in Touch in Tough Times was born as the pandemic started. If you’ve missed a few this year because you were otherwise occupied, find them in your inbox and do some holiday reading. Here are the headings to help you find the one for you.

  • RICA Values – Easily Memorable for Maximum Impact
  • Lessons from the Springbok Team to the Staff Team
  • Do You Remember that Advert?
  • Classroom Management and the Institutional Three Rs
  • Passion – The Driving Force in School and in Life
  • Schools are becoming Harder to Run
  • The Principal – the Key Driver of a Learning Climate
  • Staff Absence – a Principal’s Perspective
  • Is Flight 03/2023 Ready for Take-Off?
  • Connection: the Heart of the Matter
  • Professionalism and the Principal
  • Is your school in ‘silent revolution’ or in ‘silent crisis’?
  • William’s Dream Job – Deputy Principal
  • You Missed Something Special
  • A Teacher’s Journey to Leadership
  • Leaving Leeuwenhof Humbled and Inspired
  • Time to Renew and something New
  • Flight 2023 is Ready for Take-Off

Recently, I attended the final five group presentations of our graduating principals at UCT’s GSB. The group topics were:

  • ‘Induction Program for Novice Teachers’
  • ‘How to encourage and increase teacher involvement in staff development programs that empower them’
  • ‘Identifying, addressing and improving Staff Wellness’
  • ‘Substance Abuse in a School of Skills’
  • ‘Improving Classroom Management’

I liked the balance between topics stressing both what happens within each teacher’s classroom and the behaviour and culture beyond the classroom.

Always good to see principals working together to solve very relevant challenges. Some projects focus on one school like the Agulhas School of Skills, but in the process, provide insight and advice to all schools which, inevitably, will be affected in ways big and small. It was pleasing to see the effective use of easily obtainable data. A good example was the correlation between attendance, especially bunking, and substance abuse; and how bunking dropped dramatically on a Wednesday which included the weekly sports sessions.

Another project compared two primary schools by looking at classroom management and its big cousin, school discipline, at a large rural school, De Heide in Bredasdorp and a small, community-driven urban school, Blossom Street Primary in Silvertown.

Putting principals’ minds together to implement the systemic thinking skills they have learned takes the craft of principalship to an advanced level.

Use the same GSB skills to get your own school community to research and investigate issues identified in your 2023 reflection. That in-depth reflection is vital to school improvement. I’m sure these paragraphs bring back GSB and Dr Elanca Shelley memories!

The last days of the year should be a time of gratitude.

No matter how tough a year it has been, there are people who have shared our journey with all its twists and turns, milestones and wins, big and small.

Take the time to write a handwritten note (it says thank you many times over) and be specific about what you appreciate. ‘Thank you for being so willing to help at the busiest of times’ or ‘Thank you for the welcoming smile you so easily share’.

When you greet your staff finally next week tell them exactly what it is you are grateful for, what it is that makes your staffroom a precious place, and what it is you are looking forward to in 2024. Your carefully constructed words and list of things you appreciate will deepen their sense of connection, belonging and self-worth.

Gratitude takes time and sincerity to express.

Giving thanks – properly – is part of the privilege of being a principal.

That’s it for 2023. Rest, Reflect and Recharge and Return Ready for 2024.

Til next time.



Coach/Mentor: The Principals Academy Trust


No: 19/23
06 December 2023