Head of School on the Hot Seat

What has been your greatest challenge at this school so far? What will be your greatest challenge in the coming years?

My biggest challenges so far are the same as the ones in the coming years. They center on relevant and suitable educational practices of today. For the longest time the traditional school system has prepared students for a predictable world of employment, a situation that no longer prevails in today’s fast-changing world. To illustrate: our Middle Schoolers might conceivably, after their graduation in 4-6 years, study courses that do not even exist today, and might very well take on jobs that nobody can imagine right now.
This must have implications for the educational world of today. We cannot continue believing that what we have been doing for many, many years - i.e. preparing our students for a rather predictable world of employment - is still appropriate in the future. With more than 50% of today’s university or college graduates un- or underemployed, alternative career paths will be the order of the day, and more and more graduates will have to create jobs for themselves and others by becoming entrepreneurs.
Hence, the biggest challenge I see is to help guide the school in a direction that prepares our students for the uncertainties of their professional future.

What career would you have pursued if you weren’t a Head of School?

After having realized at the age of 18 that I was not good enough to become a professional footballer I studied to become a teacher, which is what I would still be doing if I had not become a Head of School. Starting November 13th, I will actually have the chance to get back into teaching for a while by filling in for a faculty member. Despite some obvious concerns regarding the extra workload, I am looking forward to it very much!

What is your biggest motivation to do this difficult job?

My biggest motivation is to see the school and its students do well, within everybody’s individual parameters. And when I say do well, I must stress that to me success is not only defined by achievement grades. An IB with 24 points can be a great achievement for some, and reason to celebrate success, although it is the lowest pass grade. To see our students of all ability ranges develop to become knowledgeable, confident, adaptable, communicative and team-oriented critical thinkers who can make a positive difference to their environment is my greatest motivation.

Where do you see the school in five years?

I hope that in five years the International School of Hamburg will have moved towards even more transdisciplinary learning, and that project-based learning will play a much more dominant role than it does now.

What’s your favorite thing about ISH?

I hereby freely interpret “thing” as “aspect”. Like in every school it would be the students. They are our reason for being here. The targets of our collective efforts. The pride and joy of our beliefs and successes. And hopefully the people who will remember us fondly long after their school career is over

What is the fondest memory/ best experience you have had here at ISH?

There have been quite a few in my three years here at ISH. The various projects having taken place at our school, the drama and musical performances (including one where I was privileged to play a small role in), the culminating end-of-year celebrations, and, of course, the class trip to Berlin that I was on last year. However, my fondest memory has to be my three years as a Coach of the ISH Varsity Boys’ Basketball Team. Working with our student-athletes, helping form a team out of a bunch of individuals, and being able to celebrate a degree of success with them is hands down the best memory I have of my time at ISH so far.

If there’s one thing you would change about ISH, what would it be?

A lot of changes have happened in the past few years, on all school levels, and I believe now it is time for some consolidation. Having said this, the one movement that I truly would like to help facilitate is that towards an increase in transdisciplinary and project-based learning, as I believe the compartmentalized method of learning has its severe limits.

What is the biggest challenge that society faces today?

World peace, as has been for a while, well, throughout the course of history, to be precise. The biggest conflict potential of today has shifted from nations, i.e. political entities, to proselytizing religions whose extremist wings pose the biggest risk to world peace, and, hence constitutes the biggest challenge that society faces today. I think schools like ISH, which specifically promote intercultural understanding, play an important part in discouraging the development of extremist views. Lastly, an honorary mention goes to the unequal and unfair distribution of wealth in today’s world.

Have you ever had a role model? If so, who was it and why?

Not really, to be honest. I have always admired Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, but I could not call them role models as it would be presumptuous to compare myself with such highly esteemed personalities. However, I do admire their never waning courage and selfless dedication to the right cause in the face of many major adversaries and hostile environments.

What sets ISH apart from other schools?

Of course I can only really compare ISH to other schools I’ve worked for. They are very similiar in that they all have dedicated, caring and highly-qualified staff who are great at educating responsible global citizens, thus making the world a better place. As for the differences: I’m afraid I have to say that the most striking difference between ISH and my former schools is that over here a greater portion of the community focuses on the negatives rather than the positives. In other words, I think we could do a better job celebrating our many successes without losing sight of potential areas for improvement.

Actually, the ability to identify such areas and to follow through on improvement efforts is clearly something that sets apart ISH in a positive way. Every day this school improves itself and I am proud to be a part of that process.