"There is an infectious joy and privilege about working in schools, brought about by the endless inspiration of young people, and enhanced by the pure commitment and dedication shared by teachers and parents, working in harmony to see young people flourish." says Andy Puttock, Principal of La Côte International School Aubonne (LCIS) and former Education Director at global premium education provider, Nord Anglia Education (NAE).
Mr. Puttock joined LCIS as the new Principal in August 2020. With over 30 years of experience as an educator and leader, he brings a wealth of knowledge in international education to the position. He passionately believes that when a school environment instils in its students the motivation to 'dare to dream', students will achieve far more than they ever thought possible.
Here he looks back on his 'First 100 Days' at La Côte International School Aubonne.
“There are many, mainly those working outside education, who have wondered why I would choose to return to a post in an international school in the midst of a pandemic, with the constant possibility of school closure, online learning, and staff or student absence due to quarantine or illness, and the ever-changing travel restrictions in my new home here in Switzerland and back in the UK. Indeed, as it happened, between the middle of September and the end of October, my wife and I spent most of our time separated, quarantining due to travel.
There is one simple reason for my choice that outweighs all the others: There is an infectious joy and privilege about working in schools, brought about by the endless inspiration of young people, and enhanced by the pure commitment and dedication shared by teachers and parents, working in harmony to see young people flourish. My first one hundred days here at La Côte International School Aubonne (LCIS) have been a true honour; when I visit the classrooms daily, when I speak with our teachers, students, and parents, I am humbled by the positivity, drive and desire to continuously build on and develop the unique and rich learning environment that makes up the fabric that is LCIS.
Young People as Natural Copers
Young people are genuinely amazing, and my daily experience is that we are right to do all that we can to invest in them in the midst of a world crisis. It is a statement of the obvious to say that our students are the future, but with every small seed that we can plant and nurture in them, their ability to positively shape the world of the future also flourishes. I have been awestruck by their resilience – we have asked so much of them in terms of adaptation, but so much of daily life in school feels very normal, thanks to their unflinching goodwill, tenacity, and commitment to be the best that they can be. These three months have also reminded me that we must not take their resilience for granted: young people are natural ‘copers’, but we must be aware that their well-being is being challenged by the current unprecedented situation. As a school, we therefore seek and implement practical steps to focus on their well-being daily as an absolute priority.
Schools are a Community
In joining any school as Principal, you join a community and not just a school, and it is always important to make a wholehearted effort to understand and engage with that community. Of course, the current situation has not always made this easy. Nonetheless, I have been privileged to begin to comprehend the way this vibrant, diverse and multi-faceted community functions. Like all international schools, LCIS has a huge range of nationalities and cultures: over 30 home languages are spoken in our families, and in addition, approximately 50% of our families are local (Swiss national or settled expat families).
Diversity and Culture
It has long been my belief that diversity and culture are to be recognised, valued and celebrated. Too often, international schools aim for the middle and create what one might call a ´compromise internationalism´, which aims to embrace everyone (of course), but does not really promote and champion diversity. It is clear to me that our families and our school share a common goal: As a community, we recognise the value of supporting our children to flourish within their own culture and language, and, through education, we nurture in them the active values, attributes and skills needed to facilitate positive change in the future.
When I was a child in Britain, there was a very common saying: "Charity begins at home". While we can debate the merits of this expression, the spirit of the sentiment is something that sustains us all daily in schools. We speak of our school as a family, and certainly the small acts of kindness, the messages of parental support, the offers of help and the relentless optimism about the future that go working with young people really matter. These are ever-present reminders that all the normal care that goes into nurturing future citizens matters just as much as the top priority we have of course given to maintaining a safe environment for learning in the current context. We strive for academic success, but with awareness that this is an important component of developing successful human beings, rather than the end goal.
I have always been proud to be a teacher and am still proud to call that my profession. I am equally proud to work in a school where my colleagues are so motivated to come to work with one aim in mind; relentlessly seeking out ways to allow every young person, whatever their background or previous experience, to flourish in ways they had not imagined. If there is one thing that my first 100 days at LCIS have taught me, it is something that I am sure school leaders worldwide have experienced in every crisis facing the world over time: Solutions are always based on education in its widest sense, and as educators, we hold both a privilege and a responsibility that is like no other.”