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» » Best staff management practices in schools

With Cabnson Magaya

During the 43 years I have worked in the Ministry of Education as a teacher, school head, education officer and district education officer, I have come across different managers whose management styles are completely different. In this presentation I shall attempt to give our school heads and others who would be managers some suggestions on how they can manage their subordinates.
I shall begin by quoting a member of the teaching staff who had this to say about his head. ''Mr. Vuyuvuyu always tells us what to do. He never asks for our ideas or what we think about various school issues. I don’t feel involved at all”. This statement has some very important points that school heads or other managers should bear in mind when they manage their staff.
People like to be consulted about the work they have to do. If their contributions are taken in they will feel that they are part and parcel of the decision-making process. If it is a project to be undertaken, they will assume ownership of that project and will work hard towards the achievement of the strategic objectives of the institution. The staff meeting is the ideal forum for such an exchange of professional ideas.
If staff meetings are well organised, they become very helpful to the manager. At a school where I once taught, the head never took into consideration the suggestions brought in by members of staff in a staff meeting. He would just spell out what he wanted the teachers to do. The only person whose ideas he took into consideration were his wife (she was a staff member). The teachers realised this and they became very uncooperative. Some teachers went to the extent of marking their children's work during staff meetings. When the head asked the teachers on what they thought about his proposals they would just ask him to tell them what to do and they would do it.
This worried the head so much that he had to ask me, since I was one of the senior teachers, what the problem was all about. I was very frank with him and I told him that the teachers were not happy about the way he carried his business with them and that they were giving him a chance to run the school with his wife in such a way that suited them. The head had to apologise to his staff for having treated them in a very unprofessional manner. After his apology, which was accepted by his staff, the situation normalised and the teachers became more co-operative.
Heads, whose spouses are members of staff, should realise that their wives or husbands are members of staff when they are at work places. They are not the leaders there and should be treated as ordinary members of staff. If they try to assume leadership roles, then they will ignite some conflicts which will in turn become counter-productive to the institution.
The manager should try as much as possible to create an environment where his subordinates feel involved in the day to day running of an institution. If people are enjoying their work, and feel that what they are achieving is worthwhile, they are likely to be more tolerant of less than perfect working conditions (few schools can claim perfection).
One school in Binga district, which I visited when I was Education Secretary for the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe (RCZ) had a staff compliment of twelve teachers. Shops were many kilometres away. There were only two habitable teacher's houses but the teachers were happy and well-motivated. They had a good manager. There are some schools that have some very good and attractive staff houses but have a high staff turnover because of the way their managers handle them.
The head should be very sensitive when using his/her authority. Heavy handed use of authority is often unproductive. Teachers should not fear their manager. Instead, they should respect him.
In our education system, it is the human resources, i.e. teaching and non-teaching staff, which consume the most resources, i.e. most of the money budgeted for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education goes to the payment of teachers' salaries. Recently, I was looking at one of secondary boarding school’s budget. I also noticed that a large amount of money had been budgeted for the payment of non-teaching staff salaries. It is therefore imperative that managers create and maintain conditions and an atmosphere in which people are motivated and work with a sense of purpose.
Suggestions on how managers can handle teaching and non-teaching staff
Spend some time to know the people for whom you have a management responsibility. Take time to find about their professional skills and experience. A few well-chosen words can show someone that you are aware of their difficulties either at home or at school.
Communicate and explain things clearly. On communication, Martin Luther King Jnr had this to say, ''People hate each other because they do not communicate. They do not communicate because they are far apart,” The manager should ensure that the subordinates know what they are supposed to do and what is expected of them.
Allow plenty of opportunity for exchange of ideas and views. This can be done in staff meetings or during tea break in the staffroom.
Be prepared and able to take decisions. Once made, decisions do not necessarily have to be as the Law of the Medes and the Persians.
Cultivate a calm and positive image by staying cool and training yourself not to lose temper. If you lose temper you become very unreasonable. One of the dishonest tricks of winning an argument is to make the person angry. Once a person loses temper, they become unreasonable and will not be able to convince anybody professionally.

Lead by example. You cannot expect other people to do what you are not prepared to do. The manager should be available at his work place in time (punctuality).

Be considerate when handling other people; treat them as you would want to be treated.

Avoid favouritism. At one school where I once taught, the head's wife never submitted her scheme book to the head. Her plan book - if it was there - was not even updated. When the teachers got to know about it through the grape vine, they too began to take it with less seriousness and the District Education Officer had to intervene in order to normalise the situation.

Listen to what the subordinates say. The ability to listen carefully and, where necessary, sympathetically is an important skill for any manager.

Have words of encouragement all the time. Aways give credit where it is due and always go out of your way to give praise when it is deserved. When I was head at a certain primary school, I had two teacher who were former heads of schools who had been asked to relinquish their posts because of low academic and professional qualifications. Some people had told me that these two ex-heads were going to give me trouble. On the contrary, however, I discovered that they were the most co-operative pair. One of them was in charge of the school grounds and the other was in charge of the school choir. Each time I praised them for any achievement, they became very happy.
They would often show me some new things. Each time I came back to school after I had been away for some time, they would always show me something new and they ended up motivating other teachers. Subordinates need recognition, praise and encouragement.
In summary, the following points should be remembered in the management of human resources:
High level of communication, clarity, concern, interest, appreciation, encouragement, and support.

The writer is a retired educationist who served in the Ministry of Education for over 40 years. He was a teacher (1966-1974), school head at Nhamwi St Stanislaus School (1975-1984), DEO Chivi North (1985-1987), Chivi District Staffing Officer (1987-1993), Zaka Education Officer (1993-1996), Chivi Education Officer (1996-1999), Gutu DEO (1999-2008) and Reformed Church in Zimbabwe (RCZ) Education Secretary (2008-2015).
The writer can be Contacted on 0784 949 878

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