Leading with Kindness

By Lynn Yen 2023-08-03 16:13:11

Meet Harrow's New Headmaster Mr.Alex Reed

After the winter holiday, pupils at Harrow were greeted back to campus by a new Head Master Mr. Alex Reed. He arrives in Shanghai following a career in education that started at a young age in England where he attended underperforming schools and that eventually led him to New Zealand for 15 years.

“I was very lucky that I met a teacher who had a lot of faith in me. He told me to apply to Cambridge where I read English literature, and that was one of those transformational moments when I realized what education could do and just how important that relationship between the teacher and a pupil was,” Alex said.



An Educator’s Philosophy

Alex’s view on education is simple. “Fundamentally the most important thing that any school can do is make sure the children are happy and excited to come to school,” he said.

To do that, every child needs to come into school knowing that they are loved, cared for, safe, respected, and enjoyed by peers and adults. At the same time, the school must provide an interesting curriculum and co-curricular activities, like Harrow’s upcoming outward-bound Duke of Edinburgh Award trip, to enable students to feel a sense of success.

“None of us are happy unless we are experiencing that sense of success, especially children,” said Alex.

Another central player is the parent. Harrow Shanghai hold weekly parent participation programs, and parents are invited to join in classes, such as an Early Years’ swimming lesson that involves parents swimming in the pool together with their child. Alex adds, “the sense of partnership ensures children get the security and happiness that enables them to be successful in school.”

The final part of Alex’s philosophy around education involves gaining the qualifications and life skills that will make students successful and happy in their future life, which includes outstanding examination results as well as nurturing hobbies and talents beyond academics.

“Every child, I believe, can do better than they think they can do. Our job as a school is to ensure that they’ve got that sense of belief and then the structure and support to make sure that they reach those standards,” said Alex. “Every child can develop the skills they need to do more than just work and make money. I play the guitar poorly, but it makes me feel happy. It’s a core part of my identity and I want that for all the students who leave school as well.”



A Listening Ear

Moving to Harrow Shanghai, Alex leaves behind a devoted parent base he cultivated at his old school. His time at that school coincided with a shift of the student population from being 30% Chinese families to 75%.

“We did a lot of work to make sure that all children were achieving the results they should achieve, which engenders trust among parents. At the same time, I appointed a community relations manager. In New Zealand, we set up a WeChat environment for parents to communicate with me,” said Alex. “By the time I left I got to know just about every child’s name.”

Alex is working to build the same close connections with Harrow parents by welcoming parents back onto campus with events such as high tea with parents, as well as meetings with Friends of Harrow, and meeting parent representatives.

“I think one of the key things about joining any school is getting to know your community as quickly as possible.” Alex said.



Leading by Example

The Harrow values of courage, honour, humility, and fellowship underpin everything the school does such as a leadership and service program that develops children from a young age to become confident, articulate and kind, along with the senior school shepherds who are trained to support and guide other children, as well as the student councils at each year level, where the senior council supports younger councils. These systems encourage older students to role model the school values and lead their younger peers by example.

You can find Alex and his fellow teachers at the gate every morning, getting to know the parents, and talking to children throughout the day, learning their names.

“That kind of attention to individual students is incredibly important because what you’re doing with students is you are modeling that you care and you are interested in other people. When you ask them a question about what their favorite part of the day has been, then what you’re doing is modeling to children the value of care and kindness,” Alex said.