About Jacinta Kitt
Jacinta is a Lecturer/Researcher/Author and an Organisational Consultant. She is a former primary school teacher. She teaches on the M.Ed. course in Trinity College, Dublin and on the B.Sc. and B.Ed. programmes in Marino Institute of Education. She also provides guest lectures for other colleges. She conducts professional development training for schools, colleges and various other public and private organisations. She has worked extensively with the Irish Prison Service on Dignity at Work Programmes and works with newly promoted members of The Irish Police Force on Emotional and Social Intelligence. The focus of much of this work is on the characteristics, skills and benefits of creating and maintaining a positive/effective work environment.
Her Masters thesis had workplace bullying in schools as its theme and she is an acknowledged expert on that subject. She conducts awareness sessions on bullying in schools and workplaces. Her focus is on prevention and minimisation of negative and inappropriate workplace behaviours and on the links between organisational culture and climate and the prevalence of those behaviours. Providing strategies for improving how we communicate/ interact with each other in every environment is the theme of much of her work. She regularly works with school principals on the impact of their behaviours, relationships and emotions on school effectiveness.
She frequently speaks at conferences and seminars on workplace environment related topics. She provides expert witness reports to tribunals and high court cases relating to employment law. Recently published articles by Jacinta have dealt with the subjects of “Leadership and Teacher Autonomy” and “Psychological Capital and the Positive School Environment” She is also the author of a book published in 2017 entitled “Positive Behaviours, Emotions and Relationships…. The Heart of Leadership in a School”.
Prioritising Positivity for Effectiveness and Wellbeing in Schools
The vast majority of school principals understand the importance of having people on the staff who are positive in their attitudes, relationships and behaviours. Those with a prevailing positive disposition impact not merely on the school environment, but also on the quality of the teaching and learning, and the wellbeing of both staff and students. They generally bring kindness, caring and enjoyment to their role. They take their work seriously, but do not take themselves too seriously. A school is not a formal organisation, rather, it is a community of people, inextricably linked and bonded together by the task of caring for and teaching the students. Positive relationships are essential in schools because of the interdependence of those who work and study there. A definition of a positive/effective school environment will be provided and explored.
While initial impressions of the school can be powerful indicators of the positivity or negativity of the school environment, they are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding the myriad elements and dimensions of school life that contribute to what constitutes an overall positive school environment. School leaders and teachers set an example through how they behave and relate to others. They also set the tone of the behaviours and relationships which, whether positive or negative, the students will emulate. The role of the leader in empowering positivity and addressing negativity will be outlined.
A huge body of research has been conducted on positivity in the workplace. Luthans et al (2004) built on the work of many positive psychologists to develop the concept of Psychological Capital (PsyCap). Capital refers to the resources that a person has and can draw on in the workplace. Appointment and promotion processes in schools have relied primarily of examining the qualifications and experience (human capital) of a candidate. Psychological Capital, or PsyCap, is less well understood, and refers to an individual’s positive state of mind. Someone high in PsyCap has a predominantly positive disposition. The four components of PsyCap, namely hope, optimism, self-efficacy and resilience are essential ingredients for effective teaching. They also help to maintain the enthusiasm and commitment of teachers while sustaining them in challenging times. However, PsyCap does not survive in a vacuum. When someone who is a positive influence, has been appointed, school leaders have a responsibility to ensure that he/she is facilitated and empowered to stay positive. The four components of PsyCap will be examined.
Emotional and Social Intelligence are essential for effective leadership. EI, broadly refers to the ability to manage moods and emotions, to down regulate or let go of the negative ones and to hold on to the positive ones. SI, broadly refers to the ability to get on well with others, resolve disagreements and not bear grudges. Widely regarded as powerful intelligences, they will be discussed particularly in the context of Goleman’s assertion that EI is four times more important than IQ for success in life and, in the context of Thorndike’s insightful definition of SI, as the ability to act wisely in human relations.