"Diversity is the key – expose them to things that they may or may not like and give them opportunity."
13 January 2020| Last updated on 15 January 2020
All photos courtesy of Hamilton International School Doha.
A deeper look into what goes into unlocking your child's potential at school...
With an impressive background in education spanning more than 28 years across China and New Zealand, Terry Senior has had a fruitful career starting as a local schoolteacher to being a headmaster who has seen and experienced a multitude of international curriculums.
Today, he is the headmaster of Hamilton International School Doha, a fairly new school in Qatar that is already establishing itself as a leading provider of the International Early Years (IEYC) and International Primary Curriculum (IPC) curriculum in the country.
We had a chat with Headmaster Terry Senior on the importance of picking the right curriculum for your child, how parents can help nurture their child's potential at home, what are the common myths about being a principal, and more...
What three words would your last school use to describe you?
"Let’s start as a teacher. The students would say fun, fair and firm. I believe that a decent sense of humor helps in every aspect of life. Fair in terms of the way that I interact with students and firm that they know the boundaries of my classroom. So we can sit on the floor and laugh our heads off at a joke but when it is work time we need to adapt.
The previous school would talk about passion and strong leadership. My last school had 1,000 students and 200 staff and I built a very strong tier of leaders underneath me who worked well in teams. Mostly these were classroom teachers who worked their way up to senior leadership through mentorship and also times of humor.
What big myths about being a principal do you find students believe, and you want to dispel?
"That coming to the Principle’s office is a scary place, whereas coming to my office is a happy place. It is a hard one to dispel but I think that we are getting there. Students always have access to come to my office and I think it is important to be approachable and relatable."
What makes the IEYC and IPC curriculum a cut above the rest?
"I really like our curriculum. I have a lot of experience with all kinds of curriculums like Australian, New Zealand, Singaporean, IB, IGSC, British Curriculum, Cambridge Curriculum, and the American Curriculum. What I like about the IPC is that it has room to be tremendously creative but isn’t as loose as the MYP and PYP.
It truly has structure to it and it provides an excellent scaffold so that students can be exposed to an integrated curriculum. This provides students the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding coupled with a solid curriculum backbone academically that will set them up for the major exams like the IGSCs, A Levels or IB. "
Why would you recommended parents in Qatar to adopt the IEYC and IPC curriculum for their child?
"Because it meets the objectives of both the British and US curriculum standards so it is fantastic for when you leave here you know that your student is well positioned to apply for any other school. It might be challenging for a few curriculums, say the Singaporean curriculum because it is different in many ways, but the exposure the students have had would allow them to be fine. I also like the ability the IPC has to assess and know exactly where the students are and to track their educational journey."
Where does education in Qatar differ from your experience in China and New Zealand?
"Personally, I would say it is the unique opportunity to bring the experience and cultural foundation together to build a best in class school. In building a new school one should also focus on how to incorporate diverse cultures to create an environment that best supports students in their learning journey. A key way to do this is to focus on core values.
This leads me to share our 3Ps and 3Cs:
If you love to do what you are doing then it isn’t hard to do it. Students should want to get up and be excited about coming to school.
Purpose it is about what you are doing in the here and now in terms of students learning and understanding the bigger impact of what their education would have on this World.
Every single student is unlimited. In some schools, your potential can be capped but I say it is not. Let’s see how far we can go and push the envelope. We believe in providing plenty of opportunities for students to develop and grow.
Hamilton is in a very fortunate place whereby we are a premium school with lofty goals and high expectations for ourselves as a school. We believe our students will lead into this World making a positive difference, therefore, education has multiple facets to it but certainly having students that are not only academically sound but are also of sound character.
It has been an exciting journey since the school has started and incorporated these values into the school has been a primary focus. I lead assemblies weekly where we incorporate these values with the 3 Cs: Caring for Ourselves, Caring for Others and Caring for our Environment along with our 3 P’s: Passion, Purpose & Potential.
We also have incredible extracurricular activities, ECA’s which are teacher lead and ASA’s which are led by some of the best providers in Doha which operate out of Hamilton.
I have 3 children: Daniel 12 years old, Haley 10 years old and Eli 7 years old and all are involved in our extracurricular activities. This provides them invaluable exposure to various activities and equips them social skills to help build rapport, as well as social and emotional capital, for the children.
Lastly, our facilities are phenomenal. We have an amazing 850 seat theatre and purpose-built learning spaces. We believe that as a school we are well-positioned to equip our students in a range of different environments."
What has been your favourite achievement at Hamilton and its students/staff so far?
"It is threefold really, I meet every single person in school for 1:1 meetings at least 3 times a year to learn what they are happy with, what elements they feel can be improved or are there any areas of frustration that we can work on together and lastly are there any initiatives that they would like to see to drive our school forward.
So far the feedback that I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. Teachers sincerely enjoy working at the school and that they have never been happier at any other school. If your teachers are happy that is the litmus test that this is the environment that you want to create in a school.
Also, I am receiving feedback from parents that students are truly enjoying the school. Continuous self-review is a priority and the goal is to build a solid collective community drive to embed a sense of ownership. This comes through dispelling myths and highly effective communication. I have driven really hard to ensure the communication between school and home is excellent.
We utilize Class Dojo in a very positive way as daily learning is showcased through the tool. Positive feedback and emails from parents delight me and let us know that we are on track. Students are engaged and purposefully learning."
How do you keep spirits high among teachers?
"We had 80+ teachers that we interviewed and we have hired very well. We believe we have teachers that are part of the ethos of the school.
The key is to treat the teachers as individuals. If you feel appreciated and valued it goes a long way. This is extremely important.
In addition, I believe it is important to distribute leadership and allow them to drive excellence. "
How can parents help their child develop his/her skills and establish future goals?
"Expose them to various after school extracurricular activities. Diversity is the key – expose them to things that they may or may not like and give them opportunity. Learn a language, drama, dance, athletics… whatever that may be.
Being in an international school experience has been amazing for my family. It brings a multidimensional aspect to the children. As a parent, I felt guilty coming from New Zealand where it is green, beautiful and expansive farmland and bringing my family to China where it is vastly different.
It was truly a make-or-break situation but we came together as a family.
I said to my children that when we leave China, as a family we will say yes more than we say no. We will continue to have a positive mindset going forward. If somebody invites us to their home, we will say yes. All of a sudden we are at someone’s house and we are being exposed to a whole different situation and scenario that we would have never experienced living back in New Zealand.
Any moments at Hamilton International that took you by surprise?
"I believe it is how well the first week went. You have picked your teachers and your teams are ready to go and bam! Students arrive!
I am amazed at how successfully and quickly the teachers got on. It was a big first week but it took me by surprise by how successful it was. I am incredibly proud of the team."
These types of situations allow us to interact with others and grow. This is important, to have your heart and mind open and be willing to meet and greet others. The world is truly a global village and it is a gift to give your children the opportunity to learn new languages and be exposed to different cultures.
(references ‘Third Culture Kids’ as an interesting read and draws analogies)."
What are the biggest challenges do you find lies ahead for Hamilton International?
"Ensuring the quality of the education and the close community that we are developing continues to when we are the size of a school with 2,000 students. I am setting the school up in such a way that there are small communities within a larger community and that we are all linked together.
I want to see a crosspollination between senior, junior and primary schools. If I have done my job well, every person in the community says, “This is my school and I have helped build this part of it.”
The challenge is ensuring that this happens. It is the collective ownership that will help the school succeed."
Editor’s Note: My 9 year old son attends Hamilton and thoroughly enjoys the atmosphere and his teachers.