Happy teachers, happy school: the Arcadia method – part 1

When I was growing up, I had the good fortune to come into contact with some inspirational teachers. Of course, I didn’t realise it at the time — few of us did. Like most children, at first I just thought that they were old, like my parents, and knew a lot. But something about those teachers must have clicked with me, because they brought learning alive for me and made me want to go to school.

I even remember complaining to my parents that the summer holidays were too long!
It took many years to understand that what those teachers had was a passion — an enthusiasm for learning that they passed on to us. They loved teaching. Nothing made them happier.

Having happy teachers is our aim at The Arcadia Preparatory School, because happy teachers are the foundation for a happy school, which is a key part of being a successful school. What makes happy teachers? Being respected and valued as professionals and as individuals; feeling that they are part of a family — an important part — with a role to play in its development.

A happy school doesn’t just happen, but when you have one, you can see it on the faces of your children. And it’s a great feeling.

A place to thrive
When I was first approached by Mr Mohan Valrani and the Arcadia governors to become Principal of their new school, it quickly became apparent that they had done their homework. They knew what makes the kind of environment in which children thrive, and Arcadia was clearly going to be that place.

The board had created a broad framework for The Arcadia Preparatory School: It would be run on the respected British curriculum. It would start with Foundation Stage 1 (age 3) to Year 4 (age 8). It would grow organically, to eventually include upper primary (age 10), by which time a new secondary school would be built, providing a seamless learning progression for students. It would encourage ‘distributed leadership’ in a collaborative atmosphere. And it would cultivate an ethos of excellence by going above and beyond the basic requirements in everything it did. In a word, it would be different.

They started by appointing me one year ahead of the school’s opening in September 2016 — double the time required by local regulation; and by giving me authority to select my own deputy. I had the good fortune of finding Ms Kephren Sherry, a respected and motivated school leader in the UK. Kephren is a specialist with younger children, with strong experience in modern EYFS teaching practice — a perfect ‘fit’.

With construction of our school under way, staffing it well was our priority. We made a conscious decision to select teachers who were the very best for us, defined by three key attributes: outstanding skills, a passion for children’s development, and a pioneering spirit — people who wanted to play a key role in a new and exciting venture. And it is exciting — what new project isn’t? I could certainly tell that those who I was interviewing saw it that way; The enthusiasm I encountered among candidates was remarkable. One young teacher even asked whether she could come to Dubai immediately, and work with our administrative staff doing any job where she could be useful.

To ensure that we don’t lose that excitement in the months between hiring and the start of term, we’re committed to looking after our recruits and supporting them even before they walk through the doors at Arcadia. Communication is key, so we set up a WhatsApp group to begin the team-building process. The response has been amazing: New colleagues are sharing experiences and information about themselves, so they’ll almost be old acquaintances once they actually meet… (to be continued)…


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