Yew Chung International School of Beijing, (YCIS) recently welcomed new co-principal, Noel Thomas, for the start of the new academic year. Thomas moved to YCIS Beijing from his position as academic director of the Cambridge International Curriculum Centre of Beijing Normal University. After teaching higher education courses for a number of years in Australian schools, Thomas took up administrative roles for several years, authored textbooks and journals, and eventually went on to serve on several Counsil of International Schools’ (CIS) accreditation panels. Thomas partners with Chinese co-principal, Christian Xu, in running YCIS. Thomas sat down to tell beijingkids more about himself.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m from Australia and have been living and working in Beijing for the past two years. My wife and I have two children. Our daughter is currently studying marketing at university while pursuing a career in hospitality management, and our son is in his first year at the University of Melbourne. He is a keen student of history and politics.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Who was your childhood hero?
I was always enthusiastic about the thought of being a teacher although I studied law at university. Rather than practice law, I went straight into teaching once I graduated and have never regretted the decision. I don’t recall having a hero but I was very fortunate to have wonderfully supportive and loving parents.
What kind of student were you as a child?
I never really had problems with the academic programs at school and I was active in sporting teams, but I was not always well behaved and often pushed boundaries and questioned authority. I tended to ask “why?” when people just wanted me to do as I was told.
What was your image of the school principal when you were a student? How do you describe your image now?
The headmaster always seemed to be pretty aloof and authoritarian. I hope that’s not how I’m viewed, but I’m probably not the best person to ask.
What kind of jobs did you have before becoming a principal?
In my years as a student I picked fruit, carted hay, worked in a can-making factory, served in a retail store and sorted products in a fishing tackle warehouse. During my career since university I have also written books, run a small computer training business, written and managed public examinations and designed data base applications for different industries.
What is a typical day like in the life of a principal?
There are not really typical days. Life is much more unpredictable in schools than you might think, but it’s a wonderful job that enables me to work at many different levels and to interact with great young people and some very skilled and passionate colleagues. I love it!
How do most people respond when they find out you are a school principal? Here in China, the response is always very positive and respectful. I am impressed by the value Chinese society places on education.
In all your time as an educator, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Principals spend a lot of time problem solving with others. I’ve learned to always remember that “doing nothing” is an option worthy of consideration. People need time and space to work through issues and are often more creative and resilient than they might first think.
Photo: Courtesy of YCIS