The Leadership Series 2.0 with Ian Ward

Mr Ian Ward – Principal at Emirates International School Meadows, Dubai, UAE

Can you give us a sense of what life is like as an expat in Dubai?

Living in the UAE is a positive experience, you feel safe at all times and it is very easy to communicate and navigate around the city whether that be on public transport or a private vehicle. Living in Dubai allows for emersion in different cultures, you can visit many different types of restaurants and experience traditional food from around the world while also visiting different areas of the city where you can participate in a variety of cultural opportunities, especially the local Emirati culture. Dubai is also a place where one day you can indulge, whether that be staycations, dining out etc. while other days you can visit the public beaches and parks, eating local produce purchased from markets to cook at home. It’s a place where you can choose your preferred type of lifestyle.

Tell us a little about your school and its values.

Emirates International School Meadows, is a medium sized school that still retains a community feel, even though it has students and staff are from over 80 different nationalities. We believe in ensuring our students are ‘Happy, Safe and Successful’ we achieve this by putting the students at the heart of our decision-making process. As an IB World School, we believe in developing our students into true IB learners; having skills that not only support academic success, but also having skills to be successful human beings and being prepared for the world ahead of them while also retaining a love of learning, this is summed up through our Definition of Learning, ‘A Journey of Empowerment, Inspiration and Success, Motivating Learners for Life’.

How many years have you been in leadership? What is your leadership style?

I have been in a leadership position for 19 years. My focus is on developing a team and ensuring they are given the support and guidance to grow as leaders while also providing opportunities for aspiring leaders to learn from others through Professional Development, Coaching and Mentoring. To lead a successful school, you must build the capacity of others, while also ensuring accountability. It is vital that you develop trust within your team so leaders feel empowered to make decisions, avoiding a micromanagement/dictatorial style. I also believe in the importance of staff wellbeing, if staff are happy when they come to work, this impacts positively on the students and their outcomes. We use a variety of wellbeing initiatives, but for me, being visible and actively listening are key to this.

What do you look for when hiring new teachers and/or leaders?

First and foremost, their character and personality, especially if they have not lived internationally before. Moving to another country is a challenge therefore it’s important to see if you think they are a right ‘fit’ for the country. Also, their personal/educational philosophies and values – does this fit with the school culture, ethos and most importantly mission and vision.

What advice do you have for someone interviewing for an international teaching position?

Do your homework, if the school is inspected or accredited, review the report(s), if not ask what are their school priorities and why.

Prepare well for the interview, ensure you have at least a good understanding of the school, curriculum type, profit or not for profit.

Ensure you know what are the key concepts of an outstanding lesson. If you are asked, when you last taught an outstanding lesson and what it looked like, don’t say “oh let me think, it was around 2 months ago”… this is a real red flag!

In your responses, keep to the point, be clear, concise and don’t waffle, look to add examples to your responses, if you initiated something to improve wellbeing, what was it and what was the impact? If you improved reading, how and what was the impact?

Ensure you have questions to ask at the end of interview, look to make them challenging eg how will you support my career development and what PD opportunities are available? What is the staff turnover, how do you support staff wellbeing? How would staff describe you as a leader?

What advice would you give to new teachers moving abroad for the first time?

Be sure you want to move abroad. Sometimes staff pull out at the last minute due to family and friend influences, so be clear that the move is right for you.

Ask to be set up with a buddy in school and ask them questions, unfortunately too many teachers don’t ask questions when they join a school because they don’t want others to think they don’t understand etc. We have all been there, no such thing as a silly question.

Ask to see photos of the accommodation, what are the anticipated outgoings eg utilities, gas, electricity etc.

Ensure you have enough money to keep you going until you get your first salary payment, depending on where you work, you might need to set up more of your apartment than expected.

Get all your paperwork in order as soon as possible, getting documents notarised and authenticated takes time, especially if you are joining in August.

You might not have access to the internet right away, so download movies onto your laptop or iPad so you can watch or download books on a kindle/ phone so you have something to do. This will take a few nerves away before you start school!

Where do you see the future of education headed? 5-10 years from now? Will there be a greater emphasis on technology, curriculum etc?

I would like to hope that there is further curriculum development that supports the development of skills rather then the ability to remember facts. We have no idea what the jobs of the future will be, so better to prepare students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, develop resilience and build independence while also knowing how to successfully collaborate and communicate.

In terms of technology, AI will potentially impact curriculum design as they have the facts, the skill will be research and fact checking, refining the search on AI to get the correct information that answers the questions. Similarly, the use of AI for educators and preparing resources that are far more personalised to the individual student.

Any personal motto or philosophy that you live by?

As a leader, don’t forget how you got here, go above and beyond to support others so they can be successful leaders of the future.