Jeff Paulson - The ZIS Perspective

Seven years after I began, this is a good time to reflect on what we’ve achieved together

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Read full edition Voices Winter 2019

“Our students have the conceptual and analytical skills to deal with whatever is thrown at them, whether that’s in higher education or in their future careers”

Back in 2012, I was lucky enough to take up the position of Director at ZIS. The previous decade had seen great change, from the rapid rise of technology to the financial crisis. I was eager to play a part in ensuring that ZIS prepared its students for a future that is certainly unpredictable, but also exciting – full of both grand challenges and bright hopes. Now, seven years later, as I come to the close of my time at ZIS, it seems like a good time to reflect on what we have achieved together.

Facts and knowledge, of course, are vital. But we owe it to our students to take their learning beyond the rote. The new century demands a very different set of skills. Our adherence to the three Cs – conceptual, competency and character learning – encourages them to learn how to learn. They have the conceptual and analytical skills to deal with whatever is thrown at them – whether that’s in higher education systems across the globe or in their future careers.

This might seem counter-intuitive, especially for those of us who were raised in a very different system. But we all know what learning looks like, as our Visiting Scholar Will Richardson memorably pointed out in his TED talk, The Surprising Truth About Learning in Schools (and I highly recommend you watch it, if you haven’t already). We see our children learn through passion, questions and play. Why not, therefore, bring these methods to the classroom?

Of course, implementing this curriculum has only been possible with the hard work and dedication of the teaching community here at ZIS. They, too, are eager to find new and better ways to do this, the most important job in the world. To that end, they’re encouraged to constantly grow and develop, just as their students are. We have introduced implementatio workshops, development days, coaching and accountability – all with one purpose: to improve learning.

Then there’s the huge amount of work that has gone on behind the scenes to ensure that this learning happens in the best and most effective way possible. We have updated our systems and processes, and built a leadership team around our strategic vision. That means a seamless transition for the children, enabling them to hit the ground running and improving results across the board. And it’s easier for parents to understand, too, meaning they are better placed to continue their vital support of students’ learning.

New challenges are always exciting. I’m excited to be working with our transition committee to ensure a smooth handover to the new Director, Lisa Lyle. She comes to ZIS from Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School (MICDS) in St Louis, Missouri, where she has served as Head of School since 2007. Under her leadership at MICDS, the academic program has grown in strength and stature.

Most importantly, Lisa’s values and vision for education align with our mission – Learn, Care, Challenge, Lead. She matches rigorous, disciplined analysis with an open mind, keen intuition for people and a strong sense of community.

For my own part, I’d like to thank the Board, the Strategic Leadership Team, all the wonderful employees and our fantastic ZIS community. You are what makes ZIS the inspirational place it is.

Succeeding over a period of almost 60 years takes a fundamental commitment to sustainability and continuous improvement, and I know that ZIS will stay at the forefront of international education.

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