Principal Amanda Micossi from House of Knowledge International School and Kindergarten has had quite an adventurous career in education so far. Having worked as both a lead teacher at a Chinese kindergarten as well as at HoK, the US native also taught ESOL in South Korea prior to her arrival in Beijing three years ago, volunteered as a classroom assistant in a struggling Virginia middle school, and even taught survival English for Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel. Interestingly, Micossi says she and her boyfriend decided to move to Beijing after an elaborate rock-paper-scissors tournament! Miscossi shares more about herself in our Meet the Principal blog series.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Depending on the day, I either wanted to be a vet or a doctor. Then I realized I’d have to be in school for another few decades, so I abandoned that idea. Even so, look where I ended up; in a school!
What kind of student were you as a child?
Definitely a bit of a nerd! I think the only thing I ever got in trouble for in school was reading—reading under the desk during class, reading too far ahead in our assigned books, reading extra materials assigned to another group.
What was your image of the school principal when you were a student?
I’ve been lucky to have had great principals growing up—friendly, accessible, and involved. In elementary school, our principal would give any student whose name he couldn’t remember a jellybean and made a point to invite every child to lunch in his office during the year. We’re lucky to have a small, intimate campus, so I’m able to get to know each and every student quite well. Hopefully, my image now is that I’m always around, always interested, and always willing to help!
What kind of jobs did you have before becoming a principal?
I had a few odd jobs before college, including working in an online airshow memorabilia merchandise shop run out of my neighbor’s garage and building micro-current electric therapy machines—circuits, switches, the works! Since college, everything has been about teaching. Working in such a wide variety of educational environments has really influenced how I view my job now and how fortunate we are to have so many resources, dedicated teachers, actively involved parents, and an educational approach the whole team believes in.
How do most people respond when they find out you are a school principal?
The most common response I get is, “Really? You’re so young!” When I get a chance to really talk to people about my experience and the work I do now, any questions about age disappear. To be a principal, you need to be extremely organized, manage your time well, and be able to communicate effectively, whether it’s addressing parents’ concerns or in a meeting with teachers. Parents at our kindergarten haven’t asked about my age since my first weeks as principal, and I believe it’s because they are able to see the quality of my work and are happy with how the kindergarten is running. For the skills needed to be an effective principal, there’s no age requirement.
What are you currently reading?
I just bought A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka from Roundabout at our St. Martin’s Day Lantern Walk. It came very highly recommended by the volunteers.
In all your time as an educator, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Flexibility! Even the best-laid plans of teachers and administrators go awry! It really pays off to be flexible—working in another country with a multicultural team and small children means that anything can (and will!) happen. For example, we spent weeks planning a picnic at the park only to have the pollution too high to go out on the day of the event. It was stressful, but we put the old plan behind us and had a great time at our sports room picnic. Learning to go with the flow is essential to peace of mind when each and every day can have a new wrench thrown into your plans. Plus, the unexpected moments, the surprise adventures, and the spontaneity that have the potential to be so frustrating often turn out to be the most memorable experiences, both for the students and myself.
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, email@example.com