|From Blogger Pictures|
As principal of a school with +/-500 population, I don’t get to mince words when it comes to reminding students to behave. So general assembly Mondays are always freaky, both for the guilt-ridden objects of my so-called ire, and for me. Sometimes, to keep a school running, I just had to be less than cool when I remind people about haircuts and unreturned reply slips. Discipline is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for young people who are simply testing the limits of teachers’ patience. Principalship 101 posits that I should step in when the teachers’ hairs are all frizzy and their freshly-manicured nails are all ragged, to do damage control.
So instead of giving the usual howdydo pep talk at the start of the school year 2008-2009, I decided to give a brief but succinct lecture on how to use the school’s spankin’ new toilets.
Why is that so vital? Because this is a school that has gone TWO DECADES WITHOUT RUNNING WATER AND FLUSH. So in case the students have trouble remembering what it’s like to swish-swish the toilet after every use, I had to give some pointers:
1. Flush, flush, flush, but don’t push the knob of the water closet knob to death. One gentle push is all it takes to bring down the “enemy.”
2. Don’t stuff the bowl with toilet paper and other inorganic solids (in the previous year our janitors found a ball of yarn, and some scratch papers!). Clogged toilets are the other enemy.
3. Don’t stand on the toilet seat. If it were made to be stood on, then it would have been shaped like your shoes.
There were a few snickers here and there as I intoned those reminders. I understand. But what really got them pumping their fists in the air and hollering like rallyists was when I said:
“We’ve got water from the faucets this year. Hallelujah!”
So I decided to push my luck. I went on to remind them about the newly painted lockers. I warned them that if their lockers did not remain pristine and pearly-grey by the end of the school year, there will be blood (okay, not that graphic). I pointed out that the canteen–er–cafeteria is now a queueing place, and the food is not all fried. So take heed, I said.
Then I had an inspiration. I said something like, “The changes are not just in the facilities. We expect that there will be changes in you as well, since you’re all one grade level older. You should be more mature now, more responsible. That way, the changes are really relevant.”
Do I hear applause? Is that a slap in the back? Hardly. It was a somber student body that looked back at me as I ended my little speech. I hope it was a look of reflection and realization: yeah, we’re all one grade level higher. That must mean something.
For us teachers and administrators, our words of wisdom can spell the difference between a mediocre performance and a truly stellar one. Section advisers who can level with students sans the threats and clenched fists fare better, eliciting more attention and long-term respect. As a section adviser in previous years, I would have an outline of what I want to say if I know I am about to give a sermon. I practice my piece before I deliver it. I want maximum impact. So with my little toilet talk that first hour of the school opening, I tested if indeed I made an impact: yes, thankfully, all the toilets were clean, happy places at the end of the day.
(reposted from Go Teacher Go blog, June 11,2008)