Teaching is the only profession Beverley Bancroft ever wanted. And although she is excited to have been given the task of leading the Graydon Sealy Secondary School (formerly the Garrison Secondary School) from September this year, she vows to continue teaching because she believes that is what she was born to do.
Bancroft began her career at Erdiston Primary School in 1977, and moved on to the secondary level in 2000. She took up an appointment at The Lodge School where she progressed to year head, and remained there until 2008, when she became deputy principal at the Springer Memorial School in Government Hill, St Michael.
“I just love teaching; I am passionate about it. It’s the only profession I chose. I knew I wanted to be a teacher from the time I was about three. The day that I don’t get excited about my job is the day I go home [retire],” Bancroft said.
After five years at an all-girls school, this hard-working and dedicated leader is not fazed about having to return to a co-educational institution, as she sees no challenge too great for her to overcome.
“I have had to handle boys [up to sixth form] before. The problems are not far removed from what they were before. Boys simply need to be handled in a different way; build their self-esteem so you can get the most out of them, and make them into gentlemen. Boys should be taught differently; they do not see things the same as females.
“Today, when we talk about girls outperforming boys, I believe when they get to a higher level this evens out. It’s just that a lot of them do not go on to further their education as early or as eagerly as females do,” said the mother of one daughter.
Neither is she going to Graydon Sealy with the feeling that she has “to step into anyone’s shoes” or “live up to the expectations of a few”.
Convinced that her vision is closely linked to that school’s mission, which speaks in part to “promoting all aspects of growth”, the new principal said: “Knowing that we are moving into a new era of technology and where skills are the future, my vision is to see every student developed to his or her fullest potential; and I will be seeking to channel them into areas best suited for this globalized setting and the kind of Barbados the Ministry [of Education] is aiming for.”
She added that this was necessary against the backdrop that in addition to CSEC and CAPE, the Caribbean Certificate Of Secondary Level Competence (CCLSC) and the Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQ) were being offered across subject areas of interest to students. As someone who loves to see others moulded and well trained, she will be using the skills gained over the years at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and Union Graduate College in the United States to assist her new staff.
She admits that in this changing environment, training is necessary; however, that it is not always accessible.
“We have quality teachers, quality principals, and we have people who can also fit those roles, who have several good ideas and good organizational skills. We have a lot of young people who want to stay in teaching,” declared Bancroft, pointing out that she was aware of this because of her involvement in teacher assessment for the UWI, as an external assessor for UWI at primary and secondary schools and as a tutor for the Diploma in Education in Erdiston Teachers’ summer programme.
Acknowledging that with most professions there was a lack of continuity and no succession planning, she stressed that all who managed and led must seek to develop people and she would be pushing for more on-the-job training of teachers.
“Any staff I work with I always look for ways to develop them. So, I would be looking at mentorship programmes and peer teaching. Whatever I know, I would also like others to know,” Bancroft said, while adding that efforts would be made to make her staff more comfortable with technology, beyond the use of the SMART board (interactive white board) or making PowerPoint presentations.
This techno-savvy woman believes the time has come for them to be emailing work, as well as correcting and resending it online. Maintaining that this could be considered with respect to homework, the School-Based Assessment, and for creating lessons, she noted that this was already occurring at Springer Memorial.
A spirit of cooperation is what she expects to foster at Graydon Sealy, given the work her predecessor Matthew Farley has been known to put in. And, she hopes to build on this since she welcomes working with others.
“I like to see persons working in teams. I like being an instructional leader. That’s what I see myself doing as a principal . . . being the kind of leader not only my students and teachers can come to but ancillary staff as well,” Bancroft said, admitting to having no intention of changing the culture of the school, except in a positive way.
Accepting that culture evolves as different things happened and more young people come to any institution with different ideas/views, she said: “While you may want to maintain certain traditions, you have to remember that a school does not operate in a vacuum. I would like to continue to imbue in them a community spirit and where they see service to others as important. The school is also part of Historic Bridgetown And Its Garrison and there must be a role to play here.
“Additionally, we are getting to a situation where we have the CCLSC requiring that a community service component be undertaken by students in order to be awarded the certificate. This could help them to understand and appreciate ‘you are part of a community; you have to put in to get out; you don’t exist by yourself in a school or elsewhere’.
“So, we have to continue to build on those linkages which I note that the school has with institutions like the Geriatric Hospital on Beckles Road,” she said.
With just a few days to go before Bancroft takes up her new role, she is noticeably nostalgic about leaving the Springer Memorial School, but proud of what she has left behind. During her tenure, she saw the school go through vast changes with respect to academic achievements and was very instrumental in its attaining sixth form status.
There were also success stories in music and, most importantly, sports, where the school’s unbroken record in athletics speaks for itself. But it is with the level of collegiality, mentoring, improved student attitude and performance that she feels most satisfied.
She recalled: “When I first came here, I examined the staff and the ability of the students from first to fifth. I analysed every single year group; subject level and ability of the students and every single teacher. I put this on a grid and I recognized that we could go further. The students had lots of potential and there were very good teachers; well qualified in their particular areas, but what I noticed was missing was mentorship.
“With approval from the principal, and with input from staff members, I set up a programme. If I saw a teacher struggling, I set that person up with someone they could learn from because I knew their priority had to be the students before them. The way I see it, ‘if you are not performing at your maximum, you are not going to be able to give them what they deserve’. I believe the school will go far as long as it continues on that pathway of teamwork and collegiality.”