When Office life is transformed by a chat with the principal of Reddam Preparatory School

On Wednesday morning, I was minding my own business in my office. I was doing the boring, but necessary task of phoning schools about some administrative task. The school secretaries breathe life into these business calls. Most of them are chirpy and we love our engagements. I usually make quick enquiries about their wellbeing or exciting things happening in their lives and then we dive into our business chat.  By the time I put the receiver down, I would have the information I needed and I would have enjoyed an uplifting moment with these guardian angels.

I was happy with my progress and just had two more calls to make. I dialed the number of Steenberg Primary school and I was ready to tease Patricia, the school secretary, about her drooling for the long weekend that was pending.

A different, firm voice answered the phone and the person rattled off the business name.  Huh? That was strange. I couldn't make out the name that definitely didn't sound like "Steenberg Primary".

" Am I at Steenberg Primary School? " I asked. Perhaps it was one of the interns working at the school, I thought.

"No, you're not. You are speaking to Annette Woolley, the principal of Reddam Preparatory School and you have just called me on my private number. I don't even know my own number," said Annette.

 This was weird.  I didn't even know that Reddam Preparatory School exists.  I was intrigued by my confident, cheerful business caller on the other side.  I explained who I was and within seconds Annette was already trying to locate the Steenberg Primary School's telephone number for me.  I could see her hands moving and her eyes darting to locate the telephone directory. There was no time to waste.

No... no, I protested. I had the number for the school.  I was fascinated that I got to talk to a principal of a school I didn't know about.  I wanted to know more about her and her school, I said. This phone call  that the universe conspired on this beautiful Wednesday morning,  was all that mattered now. We could sort out the other stuff later. For now I had bigger and better things to learn.

I shot off with my questions and I had an amazingly willing participant.

Annette Woolley Speaks up about Education

Why are you in education ?

Education is the only way to succeed in life. We should ensure that all our children receive a good education if we want our country to grow. You know, Sharon, my heart aches when I hear how some of the children say, on the Cape Flats and the Eastern Cape, are not being taught. I know about an Eastern Cape Teacher who can only teach three days a week because she has to travel an entire day to get to the school where she teaches. What about those poor children?

You sound like a livewire. Your voice is filled with happiness and passion. What keeps you going?

I have been in education for a very, very long time. I have been the principal of Reddam Prep for the past eight years. We remind our children that they need to care for others and we show that we care. For example, we have a partnership with Westlake Primary school and Immanuel Educare Centre here in Westlake. Then we also assist with the school at Red Cross hospital.  I am passionate about education and I intend to be around for a long time. I love my children and they adore me. And, my boss loves me and I simply love my boss. They are going to have a tough time getting me out of here. Education is my life.

Now, let us find out how I landed up talking to the principal of Reddam Prep school, on her private, green line ( both of us laughing).

After a long to and fro-ing, we discover that there is no similarity between Annette's private telephone number and Steenberg Primary's number. In fact, the number is partly goobledygook with the last three or so numbers matching another school I had phoned!

This chance meeting and inspirational chat transformed the Wednesday morning at the office. I told Annette that Reddam Preparatory School is blessed to have such a passionate head of school oozing with energy and life. I mentioned that I would blog about our encounter and send her the link.

"But, I am not on Facebook, Sharon!" ( Was there a bit of handwaving and eye-popping from our interviewee?)

This fitting irony was a perfect clincher.  I cleared up the difference between my blog and a Facebook post for our damsel in distress. Shoo... now we know the headmistress of Reddam Prep is not a Ms Perfect, but she is most certainly Ms Congeniality!


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