The purpose of this blog is to make me a better educational leader. I reflect on my daily experiences and challenges as well as things that I read and hear about education. It is also my hope that it will give a better understanding for our school community members (parents, teachers, and students) as well as fellow administrators from other schools and countries. Below are some of my guiding principles in my work as an educational leader.
I am currently the Director of the Osaka International School of Kwansei Gakuin in Osaka, Japan. I hope the ideas and experiences documented in this blog help our OIS community members and educators in the international school community world wide.
This blog is dedicated to my father, Charles Kralovec (1932-2012), who is shown below on playground duty at the Caspian Elementary School (Stambaugh Township Public Schools – Caspian, Michigan). He was the last Principal of the school when it closed in 1971.
Being inspired by the 1950’s radio series hosted by Edward Murrow, and more recently by the National Public Radio series by the same name, my philosophy statement is in the same form of “This I Believe.” Some of the principles are old aphorisms, others are original observations I have made. I provide a bit of background and elaborate on each statement.
- I believe in treating every student like I would my own son or daughter. I always ask myself, if I was the parent of this child, what would I do? It also has guided me in being a better communicator with parents. If I hear or see something about a student that I feel the parent should know, I always contact the parent as soon as possible.
- I believe the most important job for a head of school or principal is hiring great teachers. If a school has teachers that enjoy being around children, are knowledgeable about pedagogy and the subject area, and go beyond the regular teaching expectations, the school will be an excellent one. In my work with teachers, I always try to support and inspire them and make them feel valued and professional. The business of recruiting great faculty is paramount and much time and consideration must be put into promoting the school and country and having a competitive salary and benefit package. Much time must be put into screening candidates and I always check references and try to get as much background on prospective employees as possible. This applies to recruiting fairs and the on line interview process.
- I believe in differentiation while evaluating teachers. Different teachers need different things from a leader. Inexperienced teachers need more attention and direction than veteran teachers, but then, this may not always be the case.
- I believe that teachers learn from other teachers and the more a school can break the isolation of the classroom teacher, the better.
- I believe in asking myself this simple question when considering re-employing a teacher: “Would I want my child to be in his or her class?” Making it personal forces me to maintain high expectations for every teacher.
- “The apple does not fall far from the tree.” My father, a long-time principal and teacher, always said this after parent-teacher conferences. After attending these for years, I understand that this is very true. To understand the student and his or her performance at school, one must understand the family which they come from. This relates to the culture, occupation, socio-economic class, genetic traits, prior school experiences, etc.
- I believe that extracurricular or co-curricular programs are just as important to a school as the academic curriculum for the development of young people. Therefore, the same amount of resources and time should be put towards them. A school can have both world-class IB exam scores and world class theatre productions or football teams.
- I believe that one must dream big when leading an international school. The amount of economic, political, and intellectual power behind and international school is incredible and it is the job of the leader to collect and direct that power.
- I believe that a leader must be himself or herself. There are many styles of leadership that are successful. My strengths are a calm, people-oriented demeanor, strong work ethic, sense of humor, creative thinking, and an open, honest, and humble manner with community members.
- I believe that one must not be afraid of confrontation. This took me a while to learn, as I have a peacemaking personality and dislike conflict, but there are times when difficult conversations must be conducted or decisions must be made. These can be done fairly and deliberately, always putting the good of the students and community in the forefront.
- I believe in mission statements. Earlier in my career, I used to think these were platitudes or “pie in the sky” language. As I mature as a leader, I find myself going back to the mission when we are making decisions or considering new programs, events, or activities.
- I believe in seeking other’s opinions, especially when something is bothering me. I rely on collaboration with trusted colleagues and share leadership responsibilities. I do not have all the answers and usually after mulling a situation about for some time, the answer or path forward rises to the center of our vision.
- I believe what is good for students, is good for parents and teachers as well.
- I believe that schools should teach life skills with the same rigor and attention as academic skills. The life skills are things such as dealing with one’s emotions, finding balance between work and family, relationships with others, resilience, etc. These are the things that as much as the academic skills, will determine a student’s future success. For example, for one’s happiness, it is more important the person one marries than the career path one chooses. Working in close conjunction with parents, it is the job of the school to help young people develop as people. The school has taken over some of the responsibilities in this area that used to be handled by churches and other community or family groups.
- I believe most students in international schools will be fine, with or without our help. This seems a bit pessimistic, but the reality is the majority of our students come from families that value education and has the resources that most often, result in highly functioning adults. The school does have a lot of impact in what direction they take and what they achieve, and I do not want to dismiss our contributions. However, the relevance of this fact must spur international schools to make a significant contribution to those in our communities that are at risk or downtrodden. The ethos of community service and the importance of caring for those that most need it in a society should permeate a school. This is where an international school can make its biggest impact on its students.
- I believe in learning the local language, history and culture of the host nation. A leader can be a bridge between the international community and the local community. Learning to speak and write at least on an intermediate level, fully understanding the historical and cultural components of the host nation shows respect to the host nation and makes me a more effective leader.
- I believe schools are hugely affected by the cultural context which they are in. Schools in many ways are the embodiment of cultural beliefs and a good leader understands that context.
- I believe an educational leader should always have a direct connection to the students. This may mean teaching a class or sponsoring an activity. It also shows the faculty that a leader knows that this is the most important part of the school. It also gives me direct experience that helps me when working with faculty or parents.
- I believe in always asking, “Am I improving learning?” and “How does this decision affect students?” The student should be in the center of any decision making.
- I believe that good ideas come from anywhere and I always listen first. It is amazing what I can learn by asking questions and keeping my mouth closed.
- I believe to always focus on the individual student. Every student has a contribution to make to the community and it is our job to find their talents and develop them.
- I believe that students will live up to high expectations. Academic rigor and a demanding school life will result in students and community stakeholders, rising up to meet them.
- I believe that you cannot separate the personal from the professional. This is true for faculty or parents and much of what they bring to school, starts at home. This is also true for me. We all have to find a balance between work and the home. I take pride in trying to be the best father, husband, brother, son, friend that I can be.