TST 15 of 2023

Hello Friends

We recently acknowledged and honoured teachers on World Teachers’ Day.

During the day on October the 5th, I listened to children across the country being asked why they felt their teacher was special and needed to be thanked. The overwhelming response to this question was: ‘My teacher is kind.’

The dictionary describes kindness as ‘the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate’.

I believe that kindness is this…. and so much more. Children have different perceptions of kindness, depending on their age and circumstances. What doesn’t change is the how an act of kindness makes them feel. Nothing can take away the impact that a little bit of kindness, shown to a child in distress, will have. No matter where we are or what we are doing, there’s always an opportunity for kindness.

As educators, we have a blank canvas each day to show kindness at work – to the children that we teach, their parents or guardians, our fellow educators, and the support staff at our school. It’s a proven fact that a culture of kindness in the workplace can lead to greater success in an organisation – and it’s so easy to do. It’s a win/win situation because showing kindness to others makes us feel good too.

Kindness in the classroom and on the sports field gives children confidence to take part in group activities no matter what their skill level is. A kind sports coach will encourage an uncoordinated child to continue trying at his chosen sport without having to be the best. A kind teacher will say the right things to a child who is struggling academically that will motivate him/her to persevere. Kindness has no end – and it is within our reach as educators to model this value to our children every day.

Being kind doesn’t mean that all other values need to fall away. Kindness can run concurrently in your classroom along with being firm and maintaining good classroom management. This is achievable without compromising your role as the person in charge. As adults and as educators, we should be able to sense when a little bit of kindness is needed.

This term some of us will need to have a few difficult conversations with parents/guardians regarding their child’s lack of academic progress during the year. These conversations call for bucket loads of kindness! Parents are hurting for their children and are feeling enormously guilty for a variety of reasons. Try to keep your personal opinion and feelings about the situation at bay.

Show them some kindness for the sake of their child even if the parents are hostile and defensive to start with. You’ll be surprised at how a potentially volatile meeting can have a productive and positive outcome with a little bit of kindness thrown in the mix.

As I said before, kindness means different things to different people. It’s showing understanding and empathy in difficult situations. It’s not always easy to be kind but showing kindness when times are hard for you too, is even more meaningful for the receiver.

Being kind to ourselves always seems to come at the bottom of the list. Self-compassion is the term used for being kind to yourself. Without it, you can’t be kind to others.

Allow yourself some ‘be kind to me’ time too. It will make the world of difference to your well- being and your mental health.
Teachers are special people whose influence will stay with their learners for life. Thank you to those of you who have already shown your learners what kindness means.

Wouldn’t you also like to be remembered as the teacher who was kind? It’s easy – just try it.

Take care and have a great term.

Jenny (on behalf of)
The Teachers’ Support Team, Principals Academy Trust


16 October 2023

Watch our video version of this letter on YouTube: https://youtu.be/DbbqI8rfTs8

TST 14 of 2023

Hello Friends

We have just celebrated Literacy Week in our schools.  So many of you went out of your way to make it a special time for your learners and to encourage them to make books their friends.

The concerning thing is, that in some classrooms it took a specific week dedicated to literacy for it to become a focal point. It’s sad that this is the case.  Literacy is the front and centre of all learning and without it we cannot move forward.

Being literate is one aspect of literacy but more important is being functionally literate.  By this I mean being able to use language to read and write with meaning and understanding.  So many of our learners, young and older, can rote read but this is of no value to them if they aren’t able to make meaning of what they’re reading.  Functional literacy will enable them to become independent adults.

We have a whole cohort of learners who were severely compromised by the covid pandemic but it’s time we put that to rest now and look ahead.  We need to find creative ways in which to encourage our learners to see the importance of being literate.  We all know that children learn by watching others.  As I’ve mentioned before, they spend more time with us in the classroom than they do at home so it stands to reason that we should be setting a good example for them to follow.  Show the children how much you love reading and writing and it’s sure to make an impression.

There are numerous obstacles that stand in the way of functional literacy in our country, but we cannot afford to allow those to put us off.  As educators in the Foundation Phase, we are trained to guide children to literacy – their parents or guardians aren’t so we shouldn’t be relying on them to do so.  Providing an opportunity for reading, writing and language development is right there in our classrooms every day.  It takes a conscious effort, but the opportunity is there, and we often miss it.

Functional literacy comes from being exposed to a wide range of reading material and a rich vocabulary.  We have the tools to offer this to our learners by making every lesson, across the curriculum, into a literacy lesson. What better way to extend a learner’s vocabulary and understanding than by reading to them from a non-fiction book that ties up with the Life Skills curriculum?  Maths lessons are an ideal opportunity to encourage and develop functional literacy.   Choose your texts carefully – they must be age appropriate, interesting and leave the learner with a thirst for more.

Providing learners with an opportunity to share their development towards meaningful literacy is important and this can be done by allowing them to take books home to read to their family.  Reading to their peers in the classroom also gives them an opportunity to show off their skill and will encourage others to do the same.

We need to be very sensitive to those learners who take longer to read and write.  Create opportunities for these reluctant readers to showcase their development to you in private in a one-on–one, unjudgmental environment where they feel safe. Nothing will destroy a child’s self-image more than having to stumble through a piece of text in front of his/her peers.  Be kind and encouraging and it will make the world of difference.

Take an interest in what your learners are reading and writing.  Give them the opportunity to use different forms of writing to keep them interested.  Encourage them to write, write, write. This will be a lot easier if they read, read, read!

Reading aloud for enjoyment is the foolproof way of enticing our learners into the world of literacy.  Just five minutes a day will allow the learners to escape into a world of stories that will develop their imagination and vocabulary and set the stage for functional literacy to happen.

‘The world belongs to those who read’.

Let’s make it happen – we can do it.

Take care.



Jenny (on behalf of)

The Teachers’ Support Team, Principals Academy Trust 

#13 of 2023, 12 September 2023

Watch our video version of this letter on YouTube 

Functional Literacy-It’s CRUCIAL

TST: 15 of 2021

Hello Friends

Schools are a hive of activity at the moment and there seems to be very little time to sit back and reflect on the year that has passed. Reflection, in the few weeks that are left of this term, is important for each and every one of us in order to look to the new year with optimism.

In recent months, you would have been part of an evaluation process at your schools. These evaluations are often looked upon with negativity and even fear by many teachers, but they can be incredibly valuable to us as individuals. We should look at the scores and results of these evaluations as a guide for self- improvement and not as personal criticism.

The process of reflection allows us to examine ourselves and our attitudes. It also enables us to find a way forward once we have identified the areas that need to be changed or improved on. On reflection, you’re likely to see the scores of your evaluation in a different light and use them in a positive way to develop your skills.

After reflection, don’t be afraid to approach the senior staff members at your school and make a time to discuss your concerns. You are entitled to make your voice heard in a mature, respectful and unconfrontational manner. Sometimes we incorrectly assume that our senior staff won’t have time for us but often the opposite is true.

Bear in mind that many of the members of our leadership teams don’t have experience in the Foundation Phase, so they aren’t always aware of the difficulties you might be facing. They need to know what your challenges are so that they can put measures in place to assist and support you. Remember, if you don’t voice your challenges, the management team will assume you are happy with the way things are.

Try to differentiate between what can be changed and what can’t. Continually harping on things that just cannot be changed will cause you to feel that you are not being heard. This will add to your feelings of dissatisfaction. Focussing on what can be changed will give you an opening to start a positive and meaningful conversation. It will also give the management team an opportunity to see the situation from a different perspective.

Go to such a meeting prepared to take responsibility for changes that you or your seniors may suggest. Let them know that you are a team player and that you are prepared to make changes as well in order to improve things at your school or personally. These meetings can be awkward to start with, but your attitude can make all the difference. Be open, honest, and respectful. A touch of kindness thrown in will not do any harm!

As in meetings with parents, use the word ‘I’ and ‘we’ instead of ‘you’ or ‘they. Make yourself a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Listen with understanding and be prepared to compromise. Keep your emotions in check and think carefully before making a decision or a comment that you might regret later.

Communication is key to the success of any organisation. It creates a better understanding of the needs of all the stakeholders and develops trust and respect.

If you are in a leadership position at your school, I challenge you to create an atmosphere where your teachers feel comfortable to express their concerns without fear of being judged. Set an example by being a good listener. Be aware of what is happening around you and enable your teachers to feel at ease to initiate honest discussions with you. Take their concerns to the next level of management if necessary and always make sure that you give your colleagues feedback even if it’s not what you think they want to hear.

It takes courage to go out and have those conversations. The right words at the right time have immense power. Make your words count.

Have a great week. Kind regards

Jenny (on behalf of)

The Teachers’ Support Team

Principals Academy Trust

#15 of 2021, 25 October 2021

TST: 10 of 2021

Hello Friends.

It was a great relief to watch the children making their way through the school gates last week. They greeted their classmates with such joy that it made me realise yet again how much they have missed the contact and interaction with children their own age. I also noticed the relief on the faces of many ‘covid fatigued’ parents! I hope you were able to use some of the time to rest and regain your strength after an exhausting term.

We start this new term on a slightly better footing with many educators and school support staff having received their vaccination. What we now have to do is pick up the pieces from the very abrupt ending that we had to deal with last term. Many of you might still have been completing assessments when you suddenly had no learners at school. Before we can move on, we need to tie up the loose ends that were left unfinished.

I do believe we have all become more resilient in these ever-changing times and we’re able to cope with the sudden changes more calmly than we did before. It’s the uncertainty that causes us anxiety. By reminding ourselves that we’re one of millions of people who are uncertain about the future, it becomes easier to shed some of the anxiety we feel. The most important task we have now is getting ourselves and our learners back on track so that quality learning and teaching can take place.

The children have not been in a formal learning environment for a few weeks and getting them back into classroom mode is not going to be easy. It’s crucial that we find ways in which we can balance work and other activities that we need to get through in a school day

Keep in mind the children’s need to move and have short brain breaks during the day in order to fully engage with what you are teaching them and to process new information. This might mean small adjustments to your daily programme. You need to be flexible and take your cue from the learners. If you are struggling to hold their attention, take a quick break. Move on to something different and come back to the original lesson at a later stage. We often find that, after clearing their minds for a few minutes, children are refreshed and can once again pick up where you left off. This is going to require some creative and ‘out of the box’ thinking – nothing you haven’t had to do before. Remember, completing a section of work enables us to put a tick next to it but it means nothing if the learners haven’t mastered it. We need to make every effort to ensure that quality learning is taking place. The learners need to be able to take the knowledge and use it meaningfully before we can tick it off.

Our learners watch our every move, and they learn so much from our interactions with them and from observing our interactions with others. These different times are a perfect opportunity for us as adults to model things like problem-solving, flexibility, compassion and kindness. For some of the children you teach, you will be the only adult to model these skills for them. We are, after all, educating the whole child.

The term ahead is not going to be easy, but we need to see the glass half full and make the most of the contact time we have with each and every child. We can’t allow ourselves to become so concerned about the fact that the children aren’t at the level we know they should be that we lose sight of the way forward. Don’t look backwards – that’s not the direction we should be moving in.

Let’s take our inspiration for this term from a very wise man –
It always seems impossible until it’s done – Nelson Mandela

Have a good week and an even better term.

Jenny (on behalf of)
The Teachers’ Support Team, Principals Academy Trust

TST: 9 of 2021

Hello Friends.

The term ‘glass half full’ is used to refer to an attitude of seeing the positive in a situation – in other words an optimistic outlook. On the flip side we have the ‘glass half empty’ attitude where one only sees the negative side of a situation – a pessimistic outlook. Are you a ‘glass half full’ or a ‘glass half empty’ person?

Being an optimistic person in a negative world is challenging but optimism is a choice. It requires us to work really hard at staying positive and taking others along with us. We need to change our way of thinking and ensure that we remain strong against the negative forces within our workplace or home. Being positive is also a natural motivator. For us to successfully negotiate our way through the challenges of our daily lives during this pandemic, we need to find things that lift our mood and make us feel more positive.

A good place to start is to recognise negative thinking and to see the difference between it and genuine challenges that can be managed. Constant negative thinking or pessimism is a roadblock in our path moving forward and we find ourselves not being able to see a way around it.

A pessimistic attitude can be very draining, and such people often find themselves sitting on their own in the staffroom as their colleagues don’t have the energy to expose themselves to this negativity day in and day out. Very often our attempts to discuss their negative approach are also waved off. If you find yourself being drawn into a negative situation, make an effort to remove yourself. Pessimism is also a choice – one that is not going to help you get through these challenging times.

I have found that focussing on what I am grateful for has helped me to keep seeing the glass half full. I try to find at least one thing every day that I am grateful for. I’ll admit that some days I have to dig deep, but there is always something. I’ve also found that it has made me look at my life with new eyes and I’ve realised that it’s really the small things that keep me positive. It’s an exercise that I challenge you all to put yourself through – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you find makes you happy and positive enough to get through a difficult day.

Encouraging your colleagues to see the glass half full will improve the mood in your school and will make it a far more productive place. Encouraging your learners to see the glass half full will make them feel motivated and determined to keep on trying. Each time you acknowledge a learner’s effort, you top up their glass a little. This works particularly well with learners who are facing an uphill battle every day – in the classroom or at home.

Children are inclined to lose hope quickly and will give up trying for fear of failing in front of their classmates. By constantly encouraging them to reflect on what they have already achieved will make them realise that the glass is indeed half full.

Guiding others and yourself to see the positives in a particular situation will ground you and make you look at the problem sensibly, taking all factors into consideration. It also helps take the panic out of a situation which we all know just causes more chaos. Being overly positive and unrealistic can become a problem though, and people will find it hard to follow your optimism. Think carefully about how you approach and deal with what faces you so that this doesn’t happen. Always be realistic.

Helping others to see the glass half full means that you need to be a good listener too. Be aware of what is being said and done around you and be cautious not to let your optimism downplay a problem that someone else might view as very important. Rather help them to find the positives. You will be empowering them to see the glass half full and they’ll feel encouraged to start doing so on their own.

How about putting an image of a half full glass on the noticeboard in your staffroom as a reminder to everyone who enters to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. A constant reminder might do the trick and you could find that others start feeling more optimistic rather than bringing negativity to your staffroom every day. Remember, to encourage others to develop an optimistic attitude, you need to reflect this attitude yourself. You’ll be a happier person and a lot more pleasant to be around.

I leave you with this question: Is your glass half full or half empty? The choice is yours. Have a great week.
Kind regards

Jenny (on behalf of)
The Teachers’ Support Team, Principals Academy Trust

TST: 8 of 2021

Hello Friends.

We’re still early into the new term and we’re already detecting fatigue and a sense of mild panic amongst some of the teachers we meet. As I said in my last letter, we all need to work hard at keeping ourselves motivated and in turn we’ll motivate others. In challenging times, this is easier said than done, but we cannot afford to give up.

Classroom management is becoming more of a challenge as many of our learners are spending their ‘off day’ unsupervised and are getting up to all kinds of mischief. They are not keen to come back to school the next day either. A teacher recently said to me that every day feels like a bad Monday in terms of the children’s behaviour. Added to this is the problem that there are huge gaps in the children’s academic development that teachers are being expected to pick up and work with. This would take its toll on any teacher – you are not alone.

Rewarding children for their co-operation and good behaviour in the classroom is not my first choice as I feel acceptable behaviour should be intrinsic – children should all have a measure of self-discipline. However, nothing in our lives is normal anymore and we are at a stage where we need to use all the tools in our teacher’s toolbox in order to keep the children motivated and wanting to learn. If rewarding the children in your class works, then do it.

Rewards can take the form of a few extra minutes to play at break time, building a puzzle or playing a game that they enjoy, reading a book, writing a story or drawing. You could also have a ‘Teacher’s surprise Box’. Decorate the box so that it looks attractive and is appealing to any child. In the box you have a few meaningful activities that the child can do. These could include playing cards, word searches, times table activities and games, writing cards or even cards with interesting short stories or non-fiction paragraphs printed on them that the children can read and learn something new. These activities should not resemble extra work – they should be a real treat to do. Change the activities in the box every few weeks. The activities will vary vastly from grade to grade. Keep in mind that sometimes we need to reward the child’s effort and not only the end product. You will know which children in your class will benefit from their effort being recognised and acknowledged.

Teachers are also having difficulty getting schoolwork completed at home. Parents are either not interested or just don’t have the time as they’re working hard to make ends meet. Times are tough in the workplace too. Use your reward system, whatever it might be, to encourage and motivate the children to complete tasks at home. If you know that a particular child doesn’t have home support, try not to give him/her homework that will require adult assistance. Rather give him homework that he can do on his own and allow him to enjoy the feeling of success when it has been completed and returned to you. By doing this, you are enabling the child instead of setting him up for failure.

The academic gaps that we’re seeing are real and can’t be ignored. As experienced teachers, many of you are struggling with the fact that you have to press on in order to complete the curriculum knowing that many of the learners are not ready to move to the next concept or stage. They need more time and practice. This causes great anxiety in educators. You wouldn’t be the dedicated teacher that you are if you didn’t have these concerns. If you have done everything in your power to keep your learners learning during the pandemic, then you’re a great teacher. You can’t do more than your best for the children in your care.

Working with children in small groups might help those in need of extra assistance to catch up a little. Even ten minutes of attention in a small group with intensive focussing is better than nothing.

This is where you can use your reward system again to motivate and encourage the children to work hard while they’re at school. Be careful of allowing the more able children too much time doing meaningless things. There are more than enough meaningful activities available for them to be engaged in – just think out of the box!

Remember – we bring the enthusiasm to the classroom that motivates the children.

Bill Gates so wisely said this: “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting kids to work together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”

If you are feeling down and need some motivating, draw inspiration from a colleague or a friend who might reawaken your enthusiasm. Most of all, let your feelings of guilt and inadequacy go. You are doing the best you can do, and your efforts are appreciated.

Have a good week. Kind regards

Jenny (on behalf of)
The Teachers’ Support Team, Principals Academy Trust