At this year’s Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) conference for deputy heads and heads of boarding, teachers came together in Bristol to share stories and advice.
Chris Seal, headmaster of Shrewsbury School, Bangkok, admitted he “wasn’t that well prepared at all” when going from deputy headship in the UK to headship in Thailand. He told delegates about his move from Millfield School to the top performing international school in Thailand.
Along with the challenge of having more responsibility came culture challenges of living and working in another country – he said he never imagined a ‘monthly snake sweep’ of the school would be on his agenda.
Another realisation was that he didn’t need to reinvent himself to become a head.
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He said: “When I think about why the governors, my predecessor and others asked me to go to Bangkok, it wasn’t to regurgitate ‘eduspeak’, it wasn’t to lead a teaching and learning community – I’ve got perfectly good people to do that for me. What they wanted me to do was to be calm when issues came up.
When I think about why the governors, my predecessor and others asked me to go to Bangkok, it wasn’t to regurgitate ‘eduspeak’
“I really do regret in some respects trying to re-invent myself, although it was good in a way because I learned that it was to some extent unnecessary.”
He advised: “Trying to be someone that you’re not is folly, have faith in your background and what you’ve already learned – in this respect I realised I was unbelievably fortunate to work with the people that I did at the times that I did – and when times are tough, you really do get a sense of the strength of your community.
“I thoroughly commend to you the idea of headship, anywhere.”
The BSA annual conference for deputy heads and heads of boarding took place from 29-30 January in Bristol with the theme ‘Embracing the Challenge’.