And she told me, “Pierre, if you want your kids to progress, you have to apply four basic principles.”
The first one, she says, you have to believe in them. You have to believe to make sure that every single one of them can achieve great results, regardless where he or she is coming from, whether their parents are rich or poor, whether he was called Mohammed or Jean.
And you need to make sure that also they know that you believe in them. So they start also to believe that they can achieve great results.
Once you deeply and truly believe in them, you have to set a goal, which is ambitious, measurable, meaningful for your student. And she gives me a great example. She tells me, “Take Sadia. Sadia likes reading. And this is Antoni Giver, a very ambitious goal, she said, well, Sadia by the end of the year by June, you would read the book of Barkerville; it’s not an easy one and you will do it in two weeks time and you will enjoy it.
By November, I saw Sadia finishing a book of Amélie Nothomb, 102 pages and she was eager to start a new one. So once you set the goal you need to make sure that the goal that you have given to your student becomes the everyday priority of the student and their family. You need to invest in their life.
She gave me another example, Hanan. Hanan did great deficiency in spelling and because of that Mrs. Anthony told her, well, you need to stay at school every day after the normal school time. The parents of Hanan will not allow it.
So Mrs. Anthony went to see the parents of Hanan in her home, discussed with them, convinced them and told her it was the right thing to do for Hanan. Hanan is now spending every Tuesday and Thursday at school and she’s making dramatic progress.
The last principle that Mrs. Anthony told me is probably the most difficult one: You have to plan purposefully. From the objective that you have defined, you have to plan backwards to create an efficient path to success.
Take Mustafa. Mustafa is one of my students. I mean he’s incapable to concentrate for more than two minutes unless you talk about football. His goal was to receive — his goal was to be able to summarize in 200 words a very difficult article from The Morning newspaper. Every week Mrs. Anthony gave him an article a little bit longer, a little bit more complicated so that Mustafa was capable to see his own improvement.
On that specific day, the October 10, 2009 Mrs. Anthony probably gave me the best speech lesson on teaching built on leadership. Believe in your team. Set goals like for Sadia. Invest in your student like for Hanan, and plan carefully like for Mustafa.
But like every great leaders, Mrs. Anthony had also a small secret you know. And I remember, or she almost whispered to me that secret. And she told me, “Pierre, you and your student will have to work hard, because it will not be easy.”
And she’s right. I’m working much more than 20 hours per week, you know, much more. And I’ve learned so much in those last four years.
I thought that teaching had to do with… I don’t know… sense of humor, authority, respect, mastering the content of your classes, your courses. Of course, teaching has to do with all these.
But for those kids who have lost so much their self-confidence, who are so far beyond, where school do not have meaning anymore, teaching as leader show outstanding effect.
I mean since then I’ve tried to apply those four principles, it’s not easy. I failed many times. I mean sometime my vision is too high, it’s not clear enough.
Some time I come home very frustrated because of the lack of motivation of my students. But there is one thing I don’t give up: it’s the first principle: I always believe they can succeed.
There is a great quote on leadership which says that:
True leadership lies in guiding others to success. In ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well. – Bill Owens
This is exactly what great teachers are doing in Molenbeek. They’re probably the best leaders I’ve met.
So four years ago, I have decided to change my life. You know I was in my midlife crisis… and but I’m still leading.
Well there is a big difference. From my previous job as a CEO there is no better feeling than the one that you have when you feel and you see one of your students was supposed to fail, go into an upper school or opening shop like Dunia, just opened a shop a few weeks ago in Eksel, number under 25… I told her how we make some advertising for her. So please go to see her.
Nelson Mandela said once that education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.
So let’s make sure that in this country, in 2013, our leaders will use this weapon so that every children will obtain access to excellent education regardless of their social economical background.
Resources for further reading: