Exclusive Interview with Mr Thomas Schädler,
(Editor's Note: This interview was written prior to Mr Schädler began his position at CdL. Some details, such as our partnership with Meritas, have obviously changed.)
Tell us briefly about yourself, your personal and private life?
I'm a Swiss national. I'm 55 years old. I am a teacher at heart, I started out my career as a teacher in Zurich but I've spent the last 25 years abroad in 7 different countries - in charge of International schools. I have a family with three kids, and my youngest daughter just started college in Zurich yesterday! We're presently living in Rome and we are soon moving to Geneva.
What do you believe are some important traits of a director general ?
Especially in such a diverse school? I compare it with the director of an orchestra; you have to know the piece of music you want to play, but then you have to work with the different groups - the violins, the trombones, and so on. You have to understand how the different groups work. I have to understand the students, the parents and what their expecta- tions are, and then there are the teachers, and other staff members, because It's their workplace they want to be happy as well. After listening to these different groups, we can start playing the music.
What feature do you find most attractive at CDL?
If find it extremely attractive that you have so many nationalities and languages on the campus. (I am in the process of improving my French so the next time you interview me I will say a few things in French!) . Also the number of different programmes you offer, and the location, a very beautiful school in a very beautiful part of the world.
How does CDL compare to other schools you have worked in?
CDL Is much bigger, with 2000 students. My biggest school prior to this had 700 students. A personal difference is it's in my home country. Now I am going to run a school that operates in a culture that I know and that I am familiar with.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
I think it's the best profession in the world - honestly - because you do so many differ things - first, you work with human beings and not machines. You work with so many types of human beings from different places. It's a profession that also has the potential to change the world, to contribute something important to the future, and to leave a mark in the lives of people. As an example, I am connected with ex students on Facebook and it's amazing to see what they're doing now.
So we're all really curious- do you have any future plans for CDL or is it to early ?
I don't have radical concrete plans yet! First I have to get to know you to understand how the school works and develop plans together with the students and with the parents. But schools are on the move, changing constantly - we will expe- rience change together.
One thing I can tell you straight away is that we have to keep up with the integration of technology in everyday school life.
Aside from technology, what does CDL lack?
From what I've heard from students, more extra curricula, and opportunities for spots and creativity, are needed , stu- dents want improvements to the food in the canteen. We need even more diversity in our programmes, and more indi- vidual help for students who may have difficulties. To cater for student's individual learning needs is one of my goals.
What is the biggest achievement in one of the schools you have worked in so far?
There are very small things that I am very proud of. When I started out as a teacher I had many immigrant children in my class, and the chances of these students being successful in a mainstream Swiss school were very minimal because they lacked the language and the cultural understanding. With some of these students I was very successful because they had the chance to go through a professional apprenticeship afterwards. There have been bigger things too- In Berlin I started a boarding school that now houses 100 students, in Stuttgart Germany, as a team we introduced the IB diploma - and in the school in the Bahamas we introduced a sailing programme!
What is your philosophy on discipline?
Oh, that's a tricky one! I think we have to respect each other and be friendly to each other. If you want to function properly you have to follow certain rules, to be able to have a peaceful learning environment. I am happy to talk with the students, teachers and parents about setting up the rules , but once we have agreed on the rules, I can be very strict.
What are some really important things that made you stand out as a candidate?
I have a lot of experience managing schools - I've lived and worked in many different countries over the world so I un- derstand many different cultural backgrounds. I myself speak different languages. I am also a Swiss national, and I think it's important to understand the environment of the school. And it's also my educational background - having studied in Switzerland the US and UK I understand the different educational systems.
What is your biggest leadership skill- and how have you embodied it?
As a school leader you have to listen very carefully. You have to able to be quiet and listen, in order to form a picture - the bigger picture - of the school. Once you have done that, the skill is to convey your message about what you see and want to do about it. This has to be communicated in the way that people can understand.
Thank you again for coming to speak to Student Voice.
Thank you for inviting me, they were good questions, very challenging!
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