St Michael's new head a keen listener
After almost three and a half decades at Christ Church Foundation School, Yvette Mayers is leaving to take up the post of principal at The St Michael School next month. Though pleased with the promotion from deputy principal and looking forward to the challenge of working with students, teachers and other stakeholders, hers is “a bittersweet moment”, as she is leaving the only school, on the island, where she has ever taught.
“I enjoyed teaching the boys and girls of Foundation. If I didn’t teach a child physics, mathematics or health and family life education, that does not mean I don’t remember him or her.
“I could call you into my office for a disciplinary matter, and directly before me, on my computer, I knew who you were and what your academic and other records were saying about you,” she said, noting that such interactions allowed opportunities to counsel, inspire and see that young person leave her office having learnt how to be more respectful and tolerant.”
Reminiscing further, Mayers added: “I am a person who listens and is willing to spend time with students, parents and teachers. I would like to think that the students I have taught at Foundation think of me as fair and one who is always willing to listen to them; not necessarily take what one party or the other says, but to help them to see a different perspective as well.
“I would usually say to them, ‘You may not necessarily agree with a person but you need to respect that person’s point of view’.”
The mother of two, who is married to Rev. Canon Dr Geoffrey Mayers, rector of St John Parish Church, intends to take these qualities to the school at Martindale’s Road, St Michael. Fully aware that children need to be more tolerant and resilient in today’s world, where there is so much to cope with, she noted that these were compatible with the philosophies that underlay the Schools’ Positive Behaviour Management Programme, which encourage students to accept diverse opinions, show respect and contribute to the decision-making process afforded them by student councils.
“One of my interests is in helping students to see themselves as leaders, not necessarily leaders on a wide scale, or group or service club, but leaders of self. We complain about students being followers all the time and do not always try to help them recognize their true potential. So, as I move into this new environment, my focus will not merely be on academic excellence, but personal growth,” she stressed.
First to admit that growing up she never wanted to join the ranks of pedagogy, despite her parents being in the profession, the new principal recalled that while in fifth form at Queen’s College and having to teach a physics lesson to other students on a role reversal day, her potential was recognized.
After winning the Mobil Oil Independence Scholarship in her first year at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, in 1977, and completing a double major (BSc Mathematics and Physics) in 1980, she accepted a stint at the Foundation School and taught physics and mathematics. In 1993, following a certificate course in health and family life education with the Department of Continuing Studies, UWI, she subsequently added health and family life education to her repertoire.
The holder of an MBA in education management from Leicester, she is now awaiting official confirmation of her doctoral thesis, submitted in July to that university in fulfilment of the course Education –– Leadership And Learning.
Like any new recruit, Mayers is aiming to learn the culture of The St Michael School and will not be “venturing in like a bull in a china shop”. Instead, she is committed to listening to staffers, hearing their needs and perspectives on the school before offering her own vision for the school.
Afterwards, she hopes to work collaboratively “to shape the teaching/learning environment and seek out opportunities for professional development”. Acknowledging that this will include parents and the community, she registered her awareness of the school’s vibrant Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and Alumni.
A proponent of evidence-based approaches to leading and management, this educator, whose interests lie in data collection, analysis of data and utilizing technology as part of her management tool, will also be looking to draw on findings contained in her thesis A Comparative Study Of High-Achieving Boys And Underachieving Boys In A Co-Educational Secondary School In Barbados.
Admitting to being stirred by the interviews she conducted, she divulged that what stood out about boys who were doing well at school was that they all credited their parents as contributing to their academic success, more so than their teachers. She noted they highlighted parental support and encouragement as critical factors in their lives; made a distinction between “nagging” and “encouragement”; and tended to respect caring parents.
“This is an important point which PTAs should take on board, as together we seek to wrestle with issues within the teaching/learning environment,” she stated.
Maintaining she had addressed the case of boys, as they were deemed not to be doing as well as girls, she said the deliberate focus on underachieving boys, and not lower achieving boys, obviously suggested they possessed the competence, but were simply not rising to the occasion or their standard. This apart, the new principal has vowed to sit with both genders at The St Michael School and “listen to what students are feeling as individuals and as a group and continue to provide opportunities for them to lead and contribute to the school”.
As she moves on from the Church Hill, Christ Church school, there are other fond memories she will be carrying with her, some coming as recently as this year. Alluding to the school’s successes, particularly in physics and mathematics, subjects dear to her, she praised the hard work put in by the principal and teachers.
She also expressed the view that having a sixth form had given the school the recognition it deserved, since in the years when there was none and when Scholarships and Exhibitions were announced “there were always former students of Foundation listed among the ranks”.
And, she lauded Cheryse Greenidge, whose Scholarship came 60 years after Robert “Bobby” Thomas had won one at the “unsanctioned” sixth form in 1954, and in the 205th year of the school’s life.
“Cheryse is an example of a student who has complete faith in the faculty of Christ Church Foundation School and who has remained loyal and faithful to her school. I am so proud of her! But while we speak of Cheryse, there is also Richelle Haynes, who went on to Queen’s College and gained an Exhibition, and others who have gained Grade 1s and have also done well at CAPE,” she declared.