Q&A with the Head of School

Grade 8 student Injun Go from the school’s Journalism Club catches up with Richard Henry and asks some probing questions.

Now that you have been Head of School for 6 months, what’s your future vision for this school?
The vision for the school is for us to be an educational leader in the region. This is in terms of innovations in teaching and learning. Underpinning this vision is the approach to be innovative in ways that our students at GEMS (Singapore) are provided with the best possible opportunities for learning.

How many years will it take for you to make your vision / plans a reality?
We have already started on a very good footing by having wonderful facilities and some amazing teachers in the school. We are beginning a process this year of creating our strategic plan for the next 3-5 years. This will map out the “how” in terms of moving from where we are now to where we want to be. Can we achieve this in 3-5 years? It is definitely my aim to do so.

In the past 6 months, what’s your hardest moment in GEMS (in other words, what has been your biggest challenge to date?)
My biggest challenge to date has been to get into as many classes as possible and see what is happening where it really matters. That is, seeing and hearing what is being taught every day. When you are new to a school, everyone wants some time to meet with you and share their thoughts on how we should do things. This is terrific and I continue to encourage people to do this, but finding time to get into classrooms then becomes my biggest challenge. Every day is filled with unexpected events so it keeps me busy but that is also what makes it enjoyable to work in a school.

What has your best moment been over the past 6 months in this school?
Wearing happy socks and seeing the EY/PY students embrace this has been wonderful. Having happy students and teachers in a school is the most important part of my job.

How has the school changed over the past 6 months since you became the Head of School?
Since I arrived at GEMS (Singapore), there have already been changes in terms of the facilities and daily routines. I would like to think that the tone of the school has changed and that all members of our community feel they have an important contribution to make. I believe that working together is the best way to achieve our goals.

How do you help the teachers to improve and learn new things?
Helping teachers to improve is a major focus area for me. A great school has great teachers. We have established a new management structure to help support teachers and a performance appraisal system which assists teachers in identifying areas where they can improve. It is important that teachers feel supported and we create a collaborative environment. Teachers are learners too.

Do you think technology is important for teachers and students?
Technology is paramount for schools today. We must be up to speed with the latest technologies but utilize them in a way that enhances learning and becomes a natural part of the educational experience.

How do you implement the IB curriculum in the school?
The International Baccalaureate (IB) has very clear guidelines for schools so that they can implement the programmes successfully. I know this very well because my job with the IB, before coming here to GEMS (Singapore), was to oversee the processes schools would follow when implementing the IB programmes. After having visited hundreds and hundreds of schools over the past six years I have learnt a lot of the best ways to ensure the IB is successful. The most important aspect is ensuring that the school community all know what we are trying to achieve and how we plan to do this. Therefore, communication and training are very important…for teachers and parents.

Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher after completing my Science degree and then realising I did not want to work in a laboratory. At the same time an opportunity arose for me to complete my teacher training. Once I started this I knew I had found my passion. I have always enjoyed working in education and it is a great pleasure to be working here at GEMS (Singapore).

Who influenced you to work in education? (In other words, who is your biggest influence?)
My biggest influencers for my work in education have been many. I have been fortunate to have had great mentors throughout my career. It is the combined sum of their influence that has shaped me to become the educator that I am today.

Read more interviews with GEMS (Singapore) staff in the next issue of the student newsletter, The GEMS Inquirer.

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