The New Role of a Head Teacher in a Post-COVID-19 World
The world is changing. As the coronavirus has brought almost all conventional forms of learning to a standstill, educators have been forced to adapt. According to Michael Fullan, the new role of head teachers in modern society is critical.
In his book: The Principal: Three Keys to Maximum Impact, Fullan shows systematically how the principal’s role must change, and demonstrates how it can be done in short order, at scale. He is noted for his expertise on educational reform and has consulted with many states, school districts, teacher groups, research institutes and various governments.
This research has been tried and tested here in Kenya, and roughly in line with Fullan’s studies, the role of a head teacher can be broken down into three broad categories: Agent of Change, Lead Learner and Education System Team Player.
- AGENT OF CHANGE
George K. Njau, a published author himself with a focus on Math and Science, is the head teacher at Kongoni Primary School. With over 25 years’ worth of teaching experience, he knows all too well what it means to be an Agent of Change.
“I am a strong believer that an organisation is only as good as its team. I had to gradually change the mindset of teachers, parents and learners at Kongoni,” says Njau.
A good number of his school’s learners come from Kenya’s North Eastern region, mostly from Mandera, Wajir and Garissa.
Having written target math and science materials approved by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) for Standard 8, Njau understands how to navigate the proverbial minefield of modern education.
As an Agent of Change, Njau has come up with goals and objectives in order to overcome obstacles and create impact within his school.
Among his innovations are what he calls the Children’s Government.
“I came up with a duly-elected governing council, what is popularly known as Children’s Government or Council to assess in maintaining discipline, executing and reinforcing school rules,” Njau explains.
His ability to adapt is especially useful in a post-COVID-19 Kenya, and is evident in his push for ICT Integration.
“I embraced technology,” says Njau, who is one of the first of many to use the MwalimuPLUS e-tutoring platform.
“I approached the area MP and not only did we receive a modern ICT room, but we were also provided with new HP computers. MwalimuPLUS also came in handy,” he continues.
- LEAD LEARNER
In order to achieve this role, head teachers must model education and shape the conditions for every student to reach their full potential.
Njau has made it a priority to advance the learning climate in the classroom, improve learning through behavioural changes and set up well-clarified goals for student performance. He believes that in this particular role, head teachers must perform a myriad of tasks in order to achieve the best results.
These tasks include creating a conducive learning environment that contributes to positive outcomes and the effective use of teaching resources.
“Pupils learn best through practical approach. The use of real items such as teaching aids makes learning real and meaningful. This is what I use to help influence my staff,” says Njau.
The aforementioned tasks also include Anticipation and Planning; Feedback and Comparison; as well as Getting Engaged in the Process of Teaching and Learning.
“As a lead educator, I set an example by teaching the pupils and sensitizing the staff on the best pedagogy to achieve positive results and produce experts in mathematics,” says Njau.
His efforts have elevated Kongoni Primary School to 2nd position in KCPE in 2019, from 5th position, with a mean score of 288 in the Sub-County and 2nd position in Math and Science.
Njau is fully aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the school calendar. He says that despite the virus’s adverse effects, learning has not stopped. In fact, he has continued engaging students through Zoom sessions.
“Since the learners are not new to ICT and online learning, we have not been greatly affected in terms of content delivery,” he says.
“MwalimuPLUS, being an intelligent e-tutoring software, offers a significant solution for my teachers and pupils. It is actually designed to suit all grades within our Kenyan curriculum as it is a personalized education tool that brings out a child’s love for learning in the form of questions, hints and worked examples,” Njau elaborates.
Njau states that the new normal in educational circles is the fact that parents and guardians have a role to play in helping their children learn online. He believes that though the future may seem daunting, a lot can be accomplished as long as everyone is open to change.
- EDUCATION SYSTEM PLAYER
The third role that a head teacher must play in order to yield positive results is that of an Education System Player. Through this role, head teachers contribute to and benefit from the Education System at the sub-county level.
In line with this role, Njau’s clarion call was to come up with a school system that works. He believes that it is the teacher who makes the difference in education.
With this in mind, Njau established a very powerful target setting program by coming up with systems such as a Reflective Black Board, wherein learners are given a report form for teachers. A score card is placed on the board to reflect on targets set, and whether or not they are achieved.
Other systems included Following up on Homework, Target Setting, where every teacher sets his / her subject targets for the term and for the whole year, as well as Teacher Performance and Appraisal Development (TPAD) a system used to capture a teacher’s performance index.
Finally, Njau has utilized Curriculum Coverage and Classroom Observation, Assessment and Monitoring to help further his academic agenda and fulfil his role.
“We put in place a system to assess and observe teachers and award marks in order to improve on content delivery and pedagogy diversity,” says Njau who spent 14 years teaching Math in Olympic, a primary school in one of Nairobi’s slums.
Under Njau’s tutelage, Olympic led public schools in Math for 8 consecutive years, when the school became a household name after posting stellar Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination results.
As a “System Team Player” at the sub-country level, Njau has worked to: Organize workshops and in-service courses for benchmarking, organize common assessments for 15 cluster schools, monitor teachers and provide feedback. He welcomes criticism as a gift and also lends a listening ear among other responsibilities.