The La Chât PTA hosted a special guest mid-October when Dr Hawley kindly accepted an invitation to address parents at their General Meeting in October. This was the first opportunity for most parents to meet the new Director-General of the Foundation since he took up his position earlier in the year.
Dr Hawley (or David as we were encouraged to call him) reflected upon the three questions that had been sent to the entire Ecolint community as he took up his post (and also engaged the parents to answer additional questions using slido.com in the meeting itself).
Le PTA de la Chât a accueilli un invité spécial à la mi-octobre quand Dr Hawley a gentiment accepté de prendre la parole à leur Réunion Générale en Octobre. C’était la première occasion pour la plupart des parents de rencontrer le nouveau Directeur Général de la Fondation depuis qu’il est entré en fonction en début d’année.
Dr Hawley (ou David comme nous étions encouragés à l’appeler) s’est penché sur les trois questions qui ont été envoyées à l’ensemble de la communauté Ecolint alors qu’il a pris ses fonctions (et a aussi invité les parents à répondre à des questions additionnelles en utilisant slido.com lors de la réunion elle-même):
- What are the aspects of Ecolint you think deserve particular attention?
- What are the things that most carefully need to be preserved?
- And what do we need to change to enable us to fulfil our mission?
But first he asked, “why are we here? What is the mission of Ecolint?” In a nutshell, “we are in the human potential/human development business.” The Ecolint Mission Statement guides our students while they are at school, but also there is an expectation that they will carry out the ‘mission’ for the rest of their lives.
Taking inspiration from “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins, each and every response was placed into a matrix comprising four categories.
- Start-up – how to build capabilities to get a new program, service or project off the ground. This category deals with questions of fundraising, particularly the lack of an endowment fund compared to most other comparable schools; examining ‘better than best previous indicators’; scholarships to widen socio-economic diversity; and new strategic plans.
- Turnaround – how to address issues where there is a general consensus that change needs to be made. Examined here are cost increases and control of costs; an ‘us versus them’ mentality between admin and staff; how to follow the rule and spirit of the law in honouring the CCT (Convention Collective de Travail) and the role of the governing board; and how to place more emphasis on pedagogy.
- Realignment – how to deal with signs of trouble which are not necessarily recognised or accepted by all. These include issues such as clarifying values e.g. defining the international values referred to in the Ecolint mission statement; working on the culture of trust and respect; being more student-centred; having more conversations on teaching and learning rather than the CCT.
- Sustaining Success – how to keep sustaining the fantastic parts of the organisation. This includes focusing on student happiness; paying attention to alumni satisfaction; building on Ecolint’s great reputation and brand which already exists all around the world; continuing to deliver great academic results.
A wide-ranging discussion with the audience followed on topics such as the CCT; how to share information within schools across the foundation; better integration with the local community; whether students can take online courses; the use of technology; and how the Foundation is affected by external factors.
One question in particular – how can the DG effect change – prompted Dr Hawley to ask “Why does there need to be a Director-General? What if I did not exist?” His intention is to be committed to the principals, but not to ‘run’ the schools; reach a common framework to be experienced by every student; shape the culture and environment for the child across the school; maintain a budget reflective of Ecolint values; be involved in professional development; and lead with narrative. One way of ‘leading the narrative’ is to encourage children to read, but this is not just the role of the teacher. Parents need to be involved here too, as parents actually have more influence than teachers. Parental involvement is considered to be extremely important and is dependent upon good connectivity between parent and school, good communication back and forth.
Une question en particulier – comment le DG peut accomplir des changements – a poussé Dr Hawley à demander « Pourquoi y a-t-il besoin d’un Directeur Général ? Que se passerait il si je n’existait pas ? ». Son but est d’être engagé auprès des principaux, mais pas de diriger les écoles; de procurer un cadre commun qui soit expérimenté par chaque élève; de maintenir un budget reflétant les valeurs d’Ecolint; d’être impliqué dans le développement professionnel; et de conduire avec le récit. Une manière de « conduire le récit » est d’encourager les enfants à lire, mais ce n’est pas seulement le rôle de l’enseignant. Les parents ont besoin d’être impliqués ici aussi, dans la mesure où les parents ont plus d’influence que les enseignants. L’implication parentale est considérée comme étant extrêmement importante et est dépendante d’une bonne connexion entre les parents et l’école, une bonne communication aller-retour.
One parent asked how can we ‘future-proof’ the students. With a keen eye on the future, Dr Hawley sees that investment has to be made today for the future-proof student of tomorrow. He recognises a need to create a portrait of an Ecolint student – “of somebody we want to develop at the end of primary school and at the end of Year 13.” Students and teachers need to be ready for change and potential disruption.
On the question of student well-being, Dr Hawley revealed that he is in the process of shadowing students in all eight campuses of the Foundation (there are currently around 4500 students in total) and has had further contact by eating lunch with others. Student happiness seems to be good, but consideration of students’ mental health and resilience is something that he values. There is a need for students to have a dialogue on this issue and an examination of how to build more resilient students for the future.
Dr Hawley ended by responding to a question on how to foster creativity and raise an innovative child. He considers that the principal inhibitor is space and time; there is a need to focus on student learning in a different way, including learning that is not bound by the 40 or 45 minute lesson allotment.
The PTA would like to thank Dr Hawley for giving his time to the La Chât parents at this early stage of his post; sharing his thoughts on where Ecolint is now and how it can evolve in the future; and entering into a real and sincere dialogue with those present on the day.