David Woods: from high school to La Châtaigneraie

En Bref: Mr Woods, did you visualise your career when you were in high school, how did you start your career, what brought you to La Châtaigneraie, ….. what is your story?

DW: At school in rural Norfolk in the UK I had a Geography teacher who was passionate about the subject and really brought it to life. Great field trips made the subject even more fascinating. No-one in my family had ever been to university before, but, fortunately, at my school most people did and so I did too. I went to Liverpool University in the north-west of England and did a BSc in Geography.

After 3 years at Liverpool I returned to Norfolk and worked as a volunteer in an after school play center where kids came to do their homework. I really enjoyed it and so began to wonder if I could combine my interest in Geography with working with young people.  The obvious thing to do was teaching and so I decided to do a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in Manchester. I did my teaching practice in some tough schools and at times I wondered if teaching really was the career for me. Happily I got through the course and got my first job at a boys’ grammar school, in Canterbury, in Kent. It was really a good experience – great students and great staff. The sort of school one could easily imagine spending your whole career at – and there were some staff there who had. But I realised it was too soon for me, so to everybody’s surprise, I left to do a Masters in Environmental Policy and Sustainable Development. I loved it and knew that I had found the part of Geography that really interested me.

After my masters, I decided that if I was to return to teaching I wanted to work overseas – I found an advert at the back of the Times Education publication for a job at a British school in Indonesia. I applied and got the job. The school was the British International School of Jakarta. It was a primary school and a developing secondary school. Life in Jakarta was fun, frustrating and crazy all at the same time, but I really enjoyed it as the geography was wonderful. We could sit on the beach with rainforest behind us and watch Krakatoa erupting in the distance.

I stayed in Jakarta a couple of years and then returned to the UK where I took a post in Sussex at a state secondary school. I stayed for 9 years and was very fortunate that every two or three I changed my role. I went from Humanities to the equivalent of Director of IB and University Guidance, and then at another school, I became Assistant Principal. During these years I also got married, had a family and felt very settled.

However, when I was in Jakarta, Singapore had always been somewhere that I thought, if I were ever to go back to Asia, that that was where I would want to go. And so it was in 2004 that a position as head of Senior School was advertised. It was my perfect job and so I applied, got the job and we moved to Singapore and Tanglin Trust School. The secondary school had 300 students when I arrived, but by the time I left in December 2009 had over 1000 students so it was an exciting and professionally rewarding experience.

Seven years later, we decided to head back towards Europe. That is when the position of Campus Principal at Ecolint opened up. The school had a very good reputation and seemed an ideal next step. So in January 2010 we arrived here and my two girls, who had never been cold, let alone seen snow, wondered what on earth has possessed me to move to Switzerland! After 7 years, they understand and we are very settled.

En Bref: Vous vous débrouillez vraiment bien en français Monsieur Woods, où l’avez-vous appris?

DW: J’étais très mauvais en français à l’école mais de 1980 à 1997 mes parents habitaient en Dordogne. J’ai donc appris sur le tas, sur les chantiers. Mais depuis que je suis ici, je fais de grands efforts. Et j’admire les jeunes qui parlent plusieurs langues et qui passent de l’une à l’autre avec tant d’aisance.

En Bref: Votre prochain défi?

DW: Travailler avec Vicky Tuck a été formidable. Je me réjouis de l’arrivée de Dr David Hawley, notre nouveau directeur général, et bâtir un excellent rapport professionnel avec lui est pour moi la clé de voûte du succès des prochaines années de notre école.