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KingLead Global Leading Principals – Exclusive interview with Kelly M Wailes

The Head of AISL Harrow Haikou, Kelly M Wailes was awarded the “KingLead 2022 Global Top 10 Leading Principals”, recognising her contribution to the school.

AISL Harrow Schools is dedicated to bringing the Harrow-branded education to students. Ensuring the quality of teachers is our top priority. As a Headmistress who has just been named the Top 10 leading principals, what insights does Kelly have on maintaining a high-quality team?

Below is an excerpt from Kinglead’s interview with Kelly. Click here for the full interview.

Q: What are the top 3 qualities that an outstanding principal must have?

A: I think the three things that come to my mind are integrity, vision, and child-centred. As the principal, your integrity is what makes people trust you. You need to have a vision, know where you’re trying to get to and how you’re going to get there, and be able to articulate that vision to the community. You also need to be child-centred, because it is all about securing their development and success.

Q: How do you motivate teachers and different departments?

A: Accountability is really important when you’re trying to be results-driven. I tell all my team members that everything we do at school affects the quality of education; everybody is accountable for the success of our students despite their roles and responsibilities.   

When you realise your actions matter, you start to be more conscious. For example, if you’re developing an HR system, streamlining the process and making it easier for teachers could save their time; as a result, they will have more time to plan and prepare well for lessons, which will then benefit our children.

I keep asking questions: How are the departments working? Are they functioning? Is there anything we can improve? A very big part of my role is to be the person who sets the vision and lists out what we need to do to achieve our goals. I need to ensure that all staff are engaged and working together for the best outcomes.

Q: What are the major achievements during your tenure as the principal?

A: The school was successfully opened during the pandemic, which was a difficult time for almost everyone in the world. Yet we overcame challenges such as staff mobilisation. It is the biggest accomplishment I could first think of. The second one is our rapid growth. We have 531 students in our second year, which is amazing. We’ve grown so much in such a short time, which makes me proud.

I’ve also been hugely proud of our children’s growth over the last 2 years, particularly in their language development. At first, a lot of children were reluctant to speak English with me. But now they’ll come up and say “Good morning, Mrs Wailes, how are you today?” when I walk around the campus. They’ll tell me stories or something they have just done in the classroom. You can tell they become more willing to share as their language ability improves.

Our success is also defined by our beautiful campus. It’s just an amazing space and we work on enhancements to improve the learning environment for our students, like making everything accessible for them.

Q: What are your suggestions for improving the learning quality of students?

A: Firstly, make sure they have the right learning attitude. An old saying is “you can bring a horse to a trough, but you can’t force it to drink”. So we have to help children understand the importance of their attitude toward their learning. If they have a positive mindset, even when things are challenging and hard, they will be willing to keep trying, ask for support, and this attitude will help them succeed.

Then it comes to the teacher’s daily work. They must understand the curriculum, know their students’ strengths and weaknesses, and plan the personalised learning experience for them. They also need to upskill themselves.

How do we teach children in a bilingual setting? It’s a good start to develop teachers’ skills. It would be hard for them to teach those students who don’t fully understand the class content yet. We are taking the co-teaching approach in the classrooms where students are able to learn in both languages.

It’s a holistic approach. Academics is one important part of it, but so are attributes development. With right attributes, children will develop their leadership, character and morality; through extra-curriculum activities, their talents and skills can also be developed. They will shine in their fields one day.

View the full article here.

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