Keeping afloat in rough seas

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 January, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 January, 1998, 12:00am

Did you always want to be a school principal? No. In the beginning, I only wanted to be a teacher. My dream as a child had been to be a physicist and do laboratory experiments. But when I graduated, my first job was as a physics teacher at a private secondary school. I found I was well-suited to teaching.

The students at the school were often of lower [than average] ability, yet because they had to pay school fees they had a higher motivation to learn.

What is the most demanding part of a principal's job today? I approached the job with trepidation. It is like being the helmsman of a ship. We have to be able to have a long-term vision and go in the right direction.

I worry about leading the school down the wrong track and I worry about crashing the ship.

What do you find most difficult? Our main function is to get all the teachers rowing in the same direction.

I feel lonely and isolated and sometimes have to persuade doubters to trust me.

Describe your style of headship? The vision of Wa Ying shouldn't be down to just me.

I rely on discussion. It generates greater acceptance. I listen to the opinions of my colleagues and hold talks with them on school matters.

My style is trusting people. I listen to teachers' advice and delegate power to appropriate people.

What do you enjoy as a school principal? I am happy to see students of Wa Ying become successful, not only in public exams or through entering universities. They also have achieved great things in sport and the arts.

I was delighted to hear principals and teachers of other schools acclaiming our students.

What is the most memorable moment of your career? A former student told me that when he quit his job, the employer asked him to refer another Wa Ying student as a replacement.

The boss said Wa Ying students were reliable, honest and responsible. I am very proud of these comments.

What don't you enjoy? Paperwork. There's a lot of paperwork which, as a physics teacher, I am not good at.

What would you like to tell your students? You are the best. When you leave the school, you should carry with you problem-solving skills, learning-to-learn techniques, and interpersonal communication techniques.

Living happy lives does not just mean earning a lot of money, but also knowing who to turn to and how to deal with things when you are upset.

I have long regretted not learning to play an instrument, a sport, or becoming proficient at an art form. These help you have a happy and fulfilling life.

What would you like to tell your teachers? Show more empathy to your students. Try to understand that students grow at different paces.

No matter how long it takes, all will succeed one day.

I appreciate the hard work you have done for the school and your care for the students. Take time to relax.

Any tips for teachers? Remember to enjoy your classes and let your students enjoy them too.

Any tips for principals? Listen more to your teachers' opinions and enjoy the different ones.

Name: Mak Chiu Age: 49 Years of headship: two School name: Wa Ying College