Primary school years play a critical role in helping pupils develop a habit of lifelong learning. During this stage, they experience transition from learning through play in the early years to learning through more systematic approaches. At Huili School Shanghai, we are committed to helping pupils grow up to become well-rounded global citizens. We believe that each pupil is an individual with their own unique needs. We do not just track their academic progress. We aim to help build their character as well. This academic year, it is an honour to have Ms Rosalie Pietsch join us as our new Head of Primary. She has over 30 years’ experience in education, and we believe that her commitment and passion will make her an invaluable asset for Huili.
01 Introducing the new Head of Primary
Education has been my chosen career for over thirty years with a singular focus on working alongside parents and fellow educators to provide a learning environment in which all pupils can flourish; extending themselves beyond what they might originally perceive possible.
Most recently I have held the position of Head of Primary at Canberra Grammar School. Located in the capital city of Australia, Canberra Grammar School is the district’s premier school educating over 900 pupils in the primary school and 1000 pupils in the senior years. Situated close to the parliamentary circle, the school provides a high-quality international education to families from the surrounding embassies and high commissions (of which there are nearly eighty.) International pupils undertake their study alongside pupils from local and regional areas.
02 What inspired you to join Huili?
An alignment of values, intent and philosophy drove my decision to accept the position of Head of Primary at Huili School. Huili’s philosophy is based round the holistic development of each child, a philosophy I also hold. I view it a privilege to be asked to work alongside expert educators dedicated to enabling high levels of learning for each child; to be providing a breadth of opportunities from which pupils’ strengths can continue to grow and a learning culture in which a child’s curiosity is cherished and their independence, confidence and resilience strengthened. While working with others in the leadership team, their ability to think creatively and laterally and their willingness to work with and through the broader staff collective to achieve identified outcomes has been clearly evident.
Their tenacity and optimism when faced with challenges is admirable. The warmth, empathy and proactive consideration has helped to ease concerns which have inevitably arisen due to the global circumstances surrounding the start to the school year. During the recent staff induction week, it has again been emphasised that the Huili approach to education is founded in research. The approach also draws on knowledge from the broader Wellington schools’ group, experience of high achieving local educators, and a commitment to continual reflection and support of educators’ professional growth. It is a privilege to be joining a high achieving team of educational leaders and to serve the families of Huili school.
03 What is your understanding of the role it plays in an individual’s lifelong learning journey?
‘Why’ and ‘How’ are two words which are often heard when spending time with the very young. They explore, question and solve problems. It is this natural curiosity and wonderment of childhood that we seek to nurture throughout schooling and into later life. By doing so our pupils emerge possessing the confidence and commitment to undertake a lifetime of learning.
Of course, in equipping our pupils to answer their own ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions, we arm them with the fundamental skills and abilities needed to do so. We acknowledge that there will be errors along the way, redirected approaches and the fostering of new understandings. We also acknowledge that the pathway of learning is neither linear nor the same for everyone. And so, the greatest challenge of a primary educator is to teach in a responsive way, being mindful of the impact of their instruction on each pupil. For educators to keep alive a child’s wonder, curiosity, love for learning and their capacity to adapt to what is taking place around them.
04 What do you bring to Huili and what do you seek to achieve?
Entering Huili I bring a singular focus - that being the fostering of learning so that each of our Huili children can become inspired, intellectual and independent individuals who seek to serve others and do good in life. As a school leader I seek to respectfully challenge decisions and direction asking two questions: “What impact will that have on learning?” and, “How will we be able to judge our impact?” If our ideas, structures and systems do not drive a legacy of lifelong learning and equip our young people with skills for life, then we should change them. If learning is fun without leading to enhanced learning progress, then we should reflect and adjust our approach. I seek challenging learning, every day, in every classroom, for every child.
05 What will be your focus in 2020-21?
Positive, impactful teaching for every child, in every class, every day is what will empower our children to attain high levels of achievement, to undertake continuous progress and to flourish as rounded, thoughtful and informed members of their community who mindfully seek to make a positive difference in their own lives and the lives of those around them. After arriving at Huili I have spent time in classrooms, observing our children as they learn and engaging them in conversation about their learning. I have observed the instructional approaches of our educators, encouraging reflection, contemplation and evidence-sharing of instructional impact. I am spending time in classrooms to experience first-hand our pupils experiencing the joy of learning; to observe their persistence in overcoming challenges, and to reflect with them what they are discovering about learning. I am spending time in classrooms to provoke thoughtful and informed conversations with fellow educators. Conversations centred on identifying what is working in classroom instruction and what evidence demonstrates success. Encouraging colleagues to think, notice, reflect, and adjust. Time in classrooms with pupils and educators provides a greater insight into a school’s success than a singular focus on grade results.
06 What can you apply from your earlier experiences to manage the school growth?
Within any organisation meaningful action is dependent on effective human interaction. Even when schools create hierarchies with identified lines for reporting, relationships are co-created beyond those which are articulated. Understanding and working with these relationships and moving beyond surface-level structures required to maintain the effective running of day-to day operations such as timetables, meeting times, class compositions and the like, toward focusing attention on creating a culture in which teachers seek to learn with, and from, one another is key. When such a culture exists, teachers are confident and actively engaged in leveraging their collective ability to positively affect pupil learning. It becomes their central focus. Thoughtfully attending to the necessary evolution of a school’s decision-making structure, making known areas of accountability, responsibility, consultation and information-sharing is also a necessary step, as is enabling effective means of operating; in particular paying attention to mechanisms targeted at maintaining a safe and secure place of learning and work.
However, creating and maintaining a culture in which mutual learning is fostered will serve the best interests of our pupils, their parents and our colleagues. Educators willingly spending time in each other’s classrooms, engaging in professional dialogue and committing, one micro-shift at a time, will enhance the impact of their instruction. While we can readily commit to valuing curiosity, undertake decision-making based on evidence, agree to keep one another accountable and engage compassionately with one another, living this out through our words and actions is what matters most.
07 The parents of Huili value education and being actively involved in their child’s journey of learning. How will you harness their dedication?
I recognise that parents choosing Huili invest a great deal in the education of their child. I seek to honour their investment; both financial and emotional. I value productive relationships between home and school; relationships based on respectful and open communication. Due to the value placed on home/school relationships, I seek to make myself available to parents and will no doubt meet many of you soon at the beginning and end of the day, FOH functions, and school events. I am also looking forward to meeting class parent representatives and gaining their insights into the learning successes evident at Huili.
The aspirations held by parents and our educators for each child align. Both home and school seek to provide each child with the best possible educational experience, one that enables a child to flourish beyond schooling. Aligning the understanding between home and school into how to educate and what measurements of success to apply is critical. Such alignment can be achieved more readily through the ongoing development of a shared language of learning. A language to describe learning that is known and applied by all within the school community – teachers, pupils, parents and administrators.
08 What is your understanding of CCA as part of the enriched learning offerings provided to our pupils?
When asked to look back on our own school experiences, memories which hold the most profound significance are commonly linked with educators who challenged, inspired and motivated our learning to reach highs we had not initially imagined; educators who themselves held a deep passion for what they were teaching. Such memories are also often linked to specific learning experiences. Experiences which took place beyond the regular classroom. Learning experiences which enabled us to assume directorship of our learning, to mix with like-minded others, to experience ‘deep dive’ refinement of our skills and knowledge; and to test our newly acquired abilities in authentic situations. Such experiences often involved opportunity to learn outside the classroom, on school trips and camps, through service experiences and to connect with the broader local, national and global community.
As part of my professional experience I held the position of Director of CCA at a large private school in Australia. Being the first person appointed to the role, I was afforded the opportunity to reinvent the existing programme, drawing on learnings from other educational settings, community sport and arts groups and insights proactively sought from the pupils and their families. It is my aspiration to continually enhance the CCA experience of our pupils; responding to their insights, the expertise of our educators, and forge purposeful connections within the wider community. Our pupils actioning their learning, cultivating character, and serving others. Let us once again extend a warm welcome to Ms Rosalie Pietsch. We are confident that her leadership skills and rich experience will help raise Huili to new heights and make passionate lifelong learners out of our pupils.