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A Letter of Encouragement to Principals and Management

Dear Principal,

You are sitting in a very special chair (ok, not always sitting!!). On the day that you decided to take up the position as principal of your school and to lead your school, you most certainly had a big dream and a host of plans in your head, how you are going to lead your school to become one of the best schools in the world!! This is awesome! That is what great leaders do.

By now, I am sure that you might have experienced how hot that very same seat can become…so many “curve balls” coming your way, unforeseen and unexpected… weren’t in the diary neither part of the planning. It can at times be overwhelming. Sometimes you might feel to just give up and throw in the towel, not feeling up to it anymore”, even disappointed and disheartened.

I know the feeling! I was there, many times in my life, even now at times. Life happens.

But today, I want to write this personal letter of encouragement to you. I want to remind you that you have been chosen and selected to be in that chair. Selected, not only by people, but also by God.

I want to remind you that you do have special talents and gifts and that you do have the knowledge, skills, and passion that is needed to do what you do.

Yes, we will always learn more and gain more experience as life happens. But we, teachers, are lifelong students, aren’t we? We will never arrive at a place where we will know and understand everything. The world and its people are too complicated.

I do have this “picture” in mind which I would like to share with you, and I truly hope it will serve as a motivation or inspiration for you on the way forward. It comes from my heart.

  • To be a principal is almost like driving a motorcar, well, almost.
    Make sure your “steering wheel” is in place and at the correct “setting”, make sure that God (Holy Spirit) is your “steering wheel” to show you the way.
  • Make sure the “windows” are clean so that you have a clear vision in all directions (your vision, mission, policies, and strategies are clear).
  • Make sure the “sun visor” is in place for you to use when the sun shines in your eyes (discernment – use it when things are “blurring your vision”).
  • Make sure the hand brake is working well in case you need it (sometimes you have to call a “HOLD” when things get out of hand).
  • Make sure your seat is comfortable and the settings are according to your needs (you are after all the driver and need to sit comfortably in your chair and office).
  • Make sure you understand how and when to “shift the gears” and that you know exactly how to synchronise them with the clutch, brake, and accelerator (know when to speed things up and when to slow them down – with continuous prayer).
  • Make sure you know all the functions of the instruments on the dashboard as they are indicators (know your school, staff, learners, parents, and stakeholders – see the “warning lights” in time)- always be prepared.
  • Make sure you know when to use the indicators when you want to change direction (communicate to your staff any changes that you want to make). STOP if needed, switch on the hazards, and use the air conditioner or heater when needed.
  • Make sure your fuel tank is full – always – don’t run on reserves (have regular quiet time in the presence of the Lord – “fill up your tank”).
  • Make sure you do inspect your vehicle regularly – check the reservoirs, battery, tyres, nuts, tools wipers, and spare wheel (make sure you check your school premises and buildings regularly – maintenance, safety, and visibility).
  • Make sure your vehicle’s wheel balancing and alignment are done often and properly (school management and governance structures are in place and managed properly).
  • Make sure that your vehicle is always clean (the schools’ image, buildings, and premises are clean, it not only looks good, but it also makes people feel good).
  • Make sure you do have the “right passengers” on board (HR, learners, and parents).
  • Make sure that you look in the rear mirrors from time to time – not always (to make sure you haven’t missed something).

Note: You are in that seat because you ARE the best driver for that “vehicle”. There will also come a time when you will have to hand over the keys – make sure you have a good co-pilot on board.


Willie Havenga
Academic Head/Rector

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