My name is Michael Anderson and for 25 years I have been working at international schools in Asia. I have derived considerable enjoyment and growing insight about educating children and how to create happy school communities made up of local and expatriates in countries including Laos, Thailand and China. By looking back on my educational journey; firstly, as a classroom teacher and for the past 15 years as a headmaster or deputy headmaster, allow me to share with you some of the qualities and skills children need to possess forming the foundation for a successful international school. These include:
- High literacy proficiency in several languages
- High mathematical, scientific and computing proficiency
- Open-mindedness, cultural appreciation and respect
- Life-long recreational activities involving various arts and physical activities
- Ability to readily adapt to changing circumstances.
I recently spent the past three years setting up Heathfield International School in Vientiane, Laos. This involved designing the campus, and afterwards, attending to the challenges of recruiting staff, writing polices and procedures, communicating with stakeholders and the joy of welcoming students, parents and staff. Managing a school and witness it grow from having a handful of children to becoming a thriving institution was incredibly joyful and enriching.
Previously, I spent two years assisting with the founding of Eton House International School in Wuxi, China. It was during this time that I acquired a lasting passion for China including a deep interest with its myriad of cultures, customs, languages, arts, famous landmarks, along with institutions such as schools, universities, sporting and cultural centres of excellence.
Thailand is where I maintain a home with my Thai wife Geow, who also works in international schools. Having worked as the senior administrator at several excellent international schools in Bangkok including St. Stephen’s IS and Heathfield IS, I have acquired a soulful appreciation of the richness of Thai culture, language and way of life.
Life-long happiness, above all else, underpins my educational philosophy. Whenever challenges are presented, and there are many setting up an international school and attending to daily management issues, for me it all comes back to the fundamental premise of happiness and what needs to be done. This involves diligent work, endless hours of perseverance, collaborating with colleagues, confronting disappointment with positivity, modifying goals and being willing to try again. When success is achieved, it should be celebrated and shared. I strongly endorse open communication and being transparent with all stakeholders. Accountability is important, along with acceptance and appreciation. I have learnt that there can be multiple solutions to a problem and to find solutions, it involves reaching out to all parties within the school community. During times of stress, I like to take a step back and spend time reflection. This may involve thinking, reading a book, going for a run or cycle, even playing the guitar – all hobbies of mine – it brings clarity and enables me to make good decisions.
Leadership of schools is multifaceted, though for me, as mentioned in my introduction, it all comes back to the tenant of happiness.
I look forward to meeting everybody associated with MIS and continue the creation of an acclaimed school achieving its goals underpinned by its mission statement and values, focusing on high standards in a safe and happy environment. Ultimately enabling students to become lifelong learners able to thrive in an ever changing world.