Wayne Talbot – Teaching Kids to Appreciate and Embrace all Cultural Variety

Location – Building 281, Street No. 250, D-Ring Road, AL NUAIJA, Zone 43, Doha, Qatar

Website – nooralkhaleej.com

Contact +974 44666110

Born in South Africa, Wayne Talbot was raised in a small residential town close to Johannesburg before spreading his wings and teaching in a variety of countries. The journey started when he was in Edenglen High School. This is his story:

I was motivated at school by some exceptional leaders that I had admired to go into the teaching profession. Mr Gosher and Mr Wilcox were inspirational as I wanted a career that gave me as much pride as they frequently spoke about. I think I also wanted to show those teachers who were not as inspirational that it could be done.  I started my studies at teachers training college studying to be a Physical Education teacher. The course was tough with only 2 out of 38 of us completing in 4 years. While at college I had chosen to be a Primary School teacher but apart from the general subjects, I also specialized in Biology and Geography to be taught at high school level.

I completed my compulsory military service after college for 18 months and was luckily able to teach young adults during most of that time. Once finished, I joined a state school in South Africa and although I enjoyed the interaction with the students, the management was not very inspiring. The lack of leadership and motivation resulted in me leaving and I delved into the private business sector for 2 years. I missed dealing with children and  was eventually called back to teaching. Having a wonderfully inspiring Principal, Marilyn, inspired my pathway  to produce some of my best teaching years. She knew how to guide and inspire. From her I learnt that a compassionate leader who has empathy gets far better long term results than an authoritarian leader.

After 4 years there I travelled to Botswana and delved into Private Education for the first time. Once again having an inspirational Principal, Rob Altschul, who recognized my strengths and guided me to teach better, encouraging my coaching to a high level and being a mentor towards opportunities in promotion in my career. It was during a Stephen Covey course during these years that my leadership skills were really honed as well as well as the further studies done part time to help me get my degrees in Sports Management and Educational Leadership. I was lucky to be a part of a teaching team that was willing to push the envelope as far as student evaluation, catering for students with different needs and varying activities in the classroom.

Another 8 years in Botswana and 4 years in Eswatini were completed where I was Principal myself. The principal in Sowatown in Botswana, Roger Smith, was a bit of a legend in the country. When I took over from him, I found out that one of the Principal’s duties in the small remote town was also Official Snake-catcher. My leadership personality was developing and although I probably made some dubious decisions, I worked around developing Visible-Felt-Leadership. A short spell in an outdoor adventurous Primary boarding school and a year at a Montessori school helped expose me to new ways of doing things and motivated me. I then spent 2 years at a small private high school before finally travelling to the Middle East in search of a different adventure. Apart from usual career development, during my time teaching I also trained part time as a Paramedic and later as a fireman. Two skills which have proven invaluable during my teaching career. Quite often I think having practical plumbing and electrical skills, counselling skills, professional negotiation skills as well as being a driver, gardener and talk show host will be other skills that educational leaders need.

In 2017, I arrived in the Middle East in Qatar. Being away from family was difficult but it also allowed me to concentrate on my leadership skills. I have tried to motivate by example, working with the team of management at the school, we have seen steady changes in the way lessons are conducted and the general approach to teaching. Classes have become more active with massive strides made in differentiation and the use of technology. The Covid pandemic forced us to look at a variety of improvements in technology and teachers in the school are now comfortable with using different apps and varied sources of content in every lesson.

What the staff say:

  • Wayne is a transformational leader in the school. He is oriented beyond self-interest. It raises the entire team’s awareness level and purpose in relation to a shared project.
  • He has an educational vision. He mobilizes staff to develop the educational mission and objectives, involving parents and students, rendering accountability, connecting social, economic and environmental trends to the school’s needs and practices.
  • To be a good leader, one needs to be a good listener and he is an unbelievably good listener.
  • Being the Headteacher, he is part of the soul of the school, giving ultimate meaning to the teachers’ commitment and vocation. His transformational leadership allows dreams to take shape and leads to concrete results.
  • Wayne keeps a cool head and keeps the best interests of the students and the teachers in his decisions.

Being from a different culture, one of the biggest challenges has been proving my commitment to the students and parents through my actions. Being friendly and open but also to be firm and fair in my dealings with them. I try and use the same approach with the very supportive staff I have. I still believe in the old adage of never giving a task to someone to do, that you would not do yourself. I also make it a point to greet everybody regardless of their position as I believe that if you treat people with respect that respect will be returned. The education sector in Qatar is changing rapidly and we must keep up with the changes. Changes to the content of the local part of the curriculum are regular and require innovative change. The school staff have to deal with a challenging Cambridge Curriculum where English is not the first language. I look forward to spending the next 5 years continuing my role and working with the staff through the changes we will need to create, to ensure we are at the forefront of education. The school and students have received numerous academic accolades in the past and the students need motivation to continue to strive for the pinnacle of success in their school career.

So many times, I am called upon to discuss and motivate students, not academically but in their own private lives. I guess a good ethical base and the enjoyment of working with people are critical as is a good sense of humour as not every day goes according to plan. I hope that through my actions, I have taught the students about how to respect and embrace each other’s diversity and different cultures. With the youngest on campus being 3 years old and the oldest 18 years old, my daily life is filled with variety and surprise, every day is different, every day I learn something new. The future of the students, teachers and the school is where I draw my inspiration. 

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