On Thursday 23 May, a group of four GEMS (Singapore) parents followed me for a day. In return for having the opportunity to see the school from a different perspective, the parents were asked to write a brief story of their experience. In my newsletter article today, I wish to share their story.
I was very impressed with this group of parents and their commitment to exploring what goes on "behind the scenes" at GEMS. I wish to thank them for giving up their time and I'm sure they would be willing to share more with you should you have further questions. In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy reading their account of the day.
Head of School
A Day in the life of Richard Henry (Head of School at GEMS World Academy – Singapore)
Recently, four eager parents experienced the opportunity to shadow Richard Henry for the day. Much like the students at GEMS, we ranged from ‘newbies’ to having 3 years experience at the school, in and across a broad number of grades and from different cultures. The four of us are originally from Poland, Japan, Germany and Australia.
It was an 8:30am start with an agenda briefing. Our schedule was very tight, packed with back-to-back meetings with people from across the school community, from volunteers to faculty as well as classroom observations.
After easing us in by being thoroughly entertained by a Grade 4 assembly (well done kids!), we met with the representatives of the Parent Teacher Community (PTC). The PTC are a fabulous group of parents who are committed to servicing our school community by volunteering their time and ideas for year round school support. It was great to see that not only are there opportunities for the students at GEMS, but for the parents to also get involved and really contribute to overall school life.
We then took part in a few of the weekly meetings with some of the key people in the school. The involvement and dedication of every one of them is very impressive and the support they all receive from the Head of School is reassuring that the school is going in the right direction.
Classroom observations showed us different styles of learning and engagement between the students and teachers. We learned GEMS uses many different tools to evaluate and monitor the progress of their students. A wide selection of assessments and tests are in place and we learned how this information is used to the benefit of the students.
As well as students, detailed rubrics are used to assess teachers carefully. There is much criteria being evaluated during class observations. Numerous workshops and professional development trainings are offered to maintain the high quality skills of the faculty members.
Parent feedback through the surveys are thoroughly analysed and measures are then put in place to help make the school a great environment for our children to learn in.
We were very pleased to see how transparent and open Richard is and the atmosphere that such an approach creates around the school. Even though the day was very intense and filled to the last minute, it only showed a fraction of what the Head of School needs to deal with on daily basis. Making sure that all voices are heard, constant discussions with HQ in Dubai, understanding that there are many areas in the school’s life that need to be precisely planned 9-12 months in advance, for the next academic year to come and beyond. Considering the nature of an international school, with students coming and going, families relocating, it is definitely not an easy task to get that planning right, and is one that requires involvement of the whole leadership team.
The Head of School is rarely free. Even if there is a gap in his schedule, it is very likely that this gap will be filled with an ad hoc meeting with a parent, student, staff member, etc. … and that’s what our Head of School does – he makes sure that all voices are heard.
Takero Izuhara, Tanya Strinich, Karlheinz Paessler, Jola Kuc