Susan Walter Headteacher
After many successful years in business, where my biggest learning was in the field of team building and management, I invested in my passion for education and in 2001 went back to University, gaining a First Class Honours degree in Primary Education with Music and QTS. I am currently Head of Primary at Discovery Bay International School (DBIS) in Hong Kong.
At the EARCOS Leadership Conference in October 2013 in Bangkok, my thirst for new ideas and innovations led me to George Couros‘ session on Creating A Digital Footprint. My takeaways from this session were that as educators we should be out there online, like our students, taking ownership of our digital footprints, and that we must not treat good ideas, experience and knowledge ‘as power’ but rather share them.
With the wide availability of cheap blogging tools on the internet I had no excuse, and I therefore wrote my first blog, Reflection on Learning. I then added my conference presentations and my reflections on the books I was reading, and before I knew it I had built a website containing my most current focus areas and the resources I was using.
Current Focus Areas
On entering education as an adult, I rediscovered how much I love to learn and have continued to seek out new learning opportunities, particularly where I can take a ‘Do As I Do’ approach. In the last few years I have qualified as a Royal Yacht Association (RYA) Day Skipper, passed my Grade 3 piano, started learning to play the saxophone, joined a community choir and in October 2018 completed the training to become a facilitator for the Institute of Education NPQML and NPQSL courses.
Our students get one shot!
I believe that schools need to be focussed on one thing – learning.
As a school leader, everything I do has to come back to one question – how does it impact on learning? If our ideas do not improve learning opportunities and outcomes for our students, then they are not the right ideas. If our actions do not fully support learning, then we need to change them. If the activities we arrange, fun as they may be, do not positively improve learning, then again, we need to stop doing them in order to focus on doing more of the things that do positively impact on learning.
Why? Because our students get one shot in our care. They arrive in our classes in August (or September) and we have great ideas about exciting learning opportunities to offer them, but before we know it, we are writing year end reports, talking about next steps and wishing them well in their next form or year group. We just can’t afford to get to the end of the year and only then reflect on all the things we didn’t quite get around to doing. We have to remember that everything we do today has to count. It has to make a difference.
Our students deserve our very best. Every day!
Student Wellbeing & Experiential Learning
I believe passionately that schools are about so much more than academic outcomes. We have a duty to support all students to become more resilient, to feel more connected with the people all around them, locally and across the world, and to aim higher with their own aspirations for their future.
We all know that students in our schools generally act upon what we do rather than what we say, so it’s a far better learning experience for them if we are seen to actively take advantage of opportunities when the future becomes the present. We need to remain flexible and open to change, and new ideas that perhaps are not yet obvious, if we are to continue to ensure that our students get the best opportunity to be ready for their futures.
Experiential learning is key to student success. Giving students the opportunity to learn outside the classroom, on school trips and residential camps, service visits and community visits. Experiential learning can also happen daily as students learn alongside peers who have may have learning needs different than their own, who bring a different perspective and approach to our everyday thinking. Creating relevant, real life and challenging learning opportunities in the world in which our students live is such an important part of what we do.
Our students need to learn and recognise the excitement of learning. Appreciate how their efforts and hard work, their commitment to working through the challenges, have been an important and enjoyable part of their learning journey, rather than focussing all on the end result.
I believe that leadership is a relationship; a relationship that builds capacity when done well. I have spent many years focussing on personally improving as a leader, whilst constantly exploring the boundaries of how deeply and widely leaders can be empowered within our school community.
I started my career in the world of business, and rather than wish I had entered the teaching profession earlier, I realise that this previous experience has actually made me a better school leader than I might otherwise have been. I have brought the grounding I received in business into my life in education and now partially attribute it to the accelerated trajectory I have taken. I appreciate now how much I have benefitted from many of these previously developed skills, which were not then commonly recognised as essential to teaching.
I still strive every day to look for ways in which I can turn common sense into common practice.
My Latest Conference
21CL Conference website summary of Susan Walter’s presentation “Using Data To Support Pupil Well Being“
Outside school I enjoy cooking, playing music, reading, entertaining, and spending time with my husband and son. As a family, we love to have fun sailing, swimming, and exploring.
I believe passionately in education; making learning relevant, challenging and exciting for all learners, and in many ways follow the mantra of Dr. Seuss’s Cat In The Hat:
*Picture Credit Mzayat Cliparts