by Julie Olson and Azra Pathan
At the recent annual East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) Leadership Conference ISKLs Elementary School (ES) Principal and Assistant Principal, Julie Olson and Azra Pathan shared their experience in navigating large scale change and leading inclusion. In their two EARCOS workshops, our ES Leaders contextualized their journey, and shared their learning and practical tips with the delegates who attended from international schools across the region. Julie and Azra explain:
“ES Leadership has been challenging to say the least! As ISKL moved into the next phase of its history, along with it came a year of unprecedented change. If it weren’t enough to move the entire Elementary School Campus from Melawati to Ampang Hilir and orchestrate a smooth transition, we also welcomed around 200 new students. With such demographic changes, came the need to recruit and hire new faculty and staff. Over the last two years we have hired 44 teachers and 12 staff members. Overall, 67% of our student body and over 50% of faculty are new over the course of the last two years! In addition, as we become more inclusive, with our first cohort of students in the Life Centered Education (LCE), a new special needs program serving students with more intensive needs.
While some changes were expected and intentionally planned, others were just thrust our way. We have been tested with these to become stronger, far more resilient and vocal advocates for our division. The courage to manage challenging circumstances, frame and reframe issues whilst maintaining our commitment to ISKL’s guiding principles has come from within and from the community of our highly adaptable faculty and staff.
First and foremost is our commitment towards collective efficacy and fostering a strong school culture. Our approach to managing change and leading Inclusion, were underpinned by ISKL’s mission that focuses on each student. Being learning-focused throughout these changes grounded our work and approach ensuring we met the needs of our diverse learners which included language learners, students with learning differences, and students with individualized learning plans. Supporting teachers and staff through these changes required structural changes, intentional focus on efficient collaboration and teacher professional inquiries to address the unique needs of our students.
During our EARCOS workshops, we encouraged participants to anchor their own experiences as leaders and apply the challenges, takeaways and practical resources to their own schools. Learning from one another and sharing the experiences and wisdom of the collective, all leaders benefit. That shared experience is what makes EARCOS Leadership such a powerful professional development experience. It’s an exciting time to be a leader at ISKL and sharing with others makes us #ISKLProud!”