Part one of a two-part interview
Hamish Brewer is not your typical principal. He rides his skateboard through the school, tattoos cover his arms, and he high-fives students as he walks through the halls. However, Brewer expects and receives results from his students and teachers.
Under his high energy leadership, Brewer turned Occoquan Elementary, a school with sagging test scores and a large low-income population, into one of the best schools in the state of Virginia. He accomplished it through his style of “relentless” motivation and disruptive ideas and he’s now on track to do it again at Fred Lynn Middle School.
At Occoquan he switched to unlimited field trips, he changed the schools lighting to daylight bulbs. He also installed advanced audio equipment in each of his classrooms.
Brewer believes that we’re still building schools today using an old format and he gets frustrated that kids are living in what he calls a “square box.”
“That’s not their [our kids] world anymore,” says Brewer. “I wanted to appeal to the senses. I believe if we can appeal to the senses of look, feel, touch, smell, great things can happen.”
Leading with Love
Watching Brewer in action is enough to get any educator amped up. Recently featured in a YouTube video produced by FreeThink, you see Brewer standing on cafeteria tables and being boisterous during morning announcements. The New Zealander’s delivery is impassioned and similar to that of a college football coach.
But when you look beyond Brewer’s outgoing delivery, you’ll notice he also motivates with one of the most potent tools many leaders forget to use. Love.
On the morning announcements, Brewer says over the loudspeaker “If somebody today didn’t tell you they love you. Mr. Brewer’s telling you today that he loves you.”
“We forgot to tell kids that we love them,” says Brewer. “So many of our kids don’t hear that word enough.”
Brewer says if students are in “hot water” with him he tells them that he doesn’t like what they did, but he still loves them.
“If you build a culture and expectation around love, hard conversations can be had.”
Brewer says he tells his kids that he loves them every day, and they have his back.
To hear the first part of a two-part interview with Principal Brewer listen to Class Dismissed on your favorite podcast app or on iTunes.