Tell us about yourself.
I am the middle school/ high school principal at BIBS. I’m from New Zealand and have enjoyed living on both the North and South Islands though home for me is on the east coast of the North Island. Aside from a brief visit before taking on my current role, I am new to Beijing this academic year. My children are both too young for school this year. My daughter Neriah is three and my son, Levi is eighteen months old, but in time they will both attend BIBS.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Who was your childhood hero?
I always wanted to be an explorer or adventurer. Both have vague job descriptions but I believed that they should involve regular discoveries of temples, jewels, mountains, etc. Consequently, my childhood heroes were David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, and Indiana Jones.
What kind of student were you as a child?
All my memories of school are positive so I guess I would have been the teacher’s pet. I still keep in touch with some of the teachers who influenced me in both primary and secondary school.
What was your image of the school principal when you were a student? How do you describe your image now?
As a student I viewed my principal as a Gandolf-like figure. He was always calm, patient, accessible to everyone and painfully honest. In many ways he was a role model to me and I believe in being authentic and accessible.
What kind of jobs did you have before becoming a principal?
I have had what I would consider a very normal progression through teaching and management roles, but I have also had a number of summer jobs early in my teaching career. The two most unusual of these were wakeboarding instructing and working on a Christmas tree farm. The farm I worked on would sell 60,000 Christmas trees in the three weeks before Christmas and I would drive tractors, fix fences, build farm sheds and for 15 hours a day load trees onto trucks.
More rewarding however is the volunteer work my wife and I continue to do. Last year we travelled to Papua New Guinea, where after a five-hour canoe trip, we arrived at a village where we spent a month building a primary school.
How do most people respond when they find out you are a school principal? How do your kids or your spouse introduce you to their friends?
I often find that people have a preconception of what principals are like based on their own experience at school. I can tell fairly quickly from the change in body language if they enjoyed school or not, but once the mental flashbacks finish, people are often interested in finding out what principals actually do. When I meet new people I am simply Caleb or Dad and I don’t think that will ever change.
What job would you want to do if you were not a principal?
I have a real passion for the outdoors and for working with youth, so if I was not a principal I would like to work in an outdoor leadership center. If I really needed a change though, another passion of mine is emergency medical care. So I would renew my Emergency Medical Technician qualification and become a paramedic.
In all your time as an educator, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
When I was a new teacher I learned a lesson that every teacher does – perhaps the most important I have learned. My Head of Department told this story…
A small child brags to her friend, "I taught my dog to whistle." "Wow," says the other, "Let’s hear!" "Oh, he can’t whistle," replies the first. "Why not? I thought you said you taught him!" "I did! He just didn’t learn it."
He then explained the huge importance of what I already knew, that there is a difference between teaching and learning. That by taking the title of "teacher" your job is not to teach, but to ensure that learning occurs. This lesson shaped how I approached my job and what I now expect to see in my staff. As a principal, I get to help celebrate the learning that occurs in BIBS and I regularly hear the stories from staff that remind me of this lesson.
Photo: Courtesy of BIBS
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.