Tell us about yourself.
My name is Allen Lambert and I’m from the United States. I’m the Secondary School Deputy Principal of BCIS.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Who was your childhood hero?
I think my grandfather was my hero. He could fix anything. He was a “Jack of all Trades” and in many ways I’m like him. I certainly have his widespread curiosity to learn about everything. I remember wanting to be a doctor, a businessman, a writer and a racecar driver.
What kind of student were you as a child (e.g. the troublemaker, teacher’s pet, class clown, etc?
I was more of a teacher’s pet because I really liked learning and enjoyed school immensely, but I wasn’t an easy student, either. I had strong principles and didn’t always go with the flow.
What was your image of the school principal when you were a student? How do you describe your image now?
I rarely saw my principals. They worked in an office somewhere in the school. I thought of them as important and knew they were running the school, but I didn’t think that they knew anything about me personally. I was both in awe and in fear of them. I try to get to know all of my students by name. I greet them each morning when they arrive at school and often say farewell to them when the dismissal bell rings. I visit their classrooms and go to the cafeteria during breaks to strike up conversations with them. I attend as many school events as I can. I want my students to know that I am here for them, that I care about them, and that I’m interested in what they are learning.
Did you ever get sent to the principal’s office? Why?
I did once for standing by my principles. It didn’t end as I would have hoped, but it certainly built some character.
What kind of jobs did you have before becoming a principal?
I worked in a diner, managed a cinema, directed an NGO and was a caregiver for the mentally disabled among other part-time jobs. Once I was hired by the state to take a gentleman with disabilities on a Caribbean Cruise. He had saved for 20 years for that vacation. It was challenging but very rewarding as well.
What is a typical day like in the life of a principal?
The best days begin early, usually two hours before the students arrive at school. That way most of my paperwork is done just as the students are arriving. Then I am able to visit their advisory groups and a few classrooms before any meetings begin. Every day I meet with students, parents and teachers for a variety of reasons as well as with various teams that are involved in looking at ways to make our school better. We are always striving to improve. Sometimes there are events in the afternoon or evening where students are sharing their learning through performances or projects. This is exciting for me because I miss this aspect of being a classroom teacher. The students are always so proud of what they’ve done and when they see that the whole community is there to support them, it really makes a difference.
How do most people respond when they find out you are a school principal?
They ask me if I can help their child get into our school or they think that I am some powerful person who makes all the decisions by myself. In reality, I tell them that my job is to empower my students and build up leadership capacity within our community. We work collaboratively at BCIS and we believe in the importance of shared decision making. I wear many “hats” all through the day and perform dozen of roles, but in the end, I hope that my work helps our students and every member of our community feel inspired, knowledgeable, empowered, and more compassionate toward others.
What job would you want to do if you were not a principal?
I’ve thought of becoming a chef. I think it’s rewarding to serve others and I like that the work allows for artistic expression and makes others happy. It would be a lot of hard work, just like being a principal, but I think hard work makes you a stronger person. I’ve also wanted to go back to those childhood dreams of being a writer and/or a racecar driver. We’ll see about that.
In all your time as an educator, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Students watch you all the time and they learn as much from what they see in you as what you actually plan to teach. The two mottoes that I continually return to from my days at university are “those who do the talking do the learning, “ and “they won’t care about learning until they know how much you care.” There is the temptation to want to impart everything you’ve learned as a teacher to your students, but I try and remember that it’s hard to learn just by listening to others, and it’s not the most interesting way to learn. My job is to guide them to be inspired, to want to learn more on their own. It also takes time to build up relationships with students and their families as well as maintain a positive attitude each day. Enthusiasm is caught, not taught. These are things that I continually work on to improve in my role as an educator.
Meet the Principal/Headmaster is a new beijingkids blog series designed to give the Beijing community a better understanding of who our education leaders are in our city. If your school is interested in being featured in our Meet the Principal/Headmaster blog series, please contact the School Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of BCIS