Meet the Teacher is back for 2021 with a member of school leadership at BASIS International School Nanjing: Jamie Davis, Vice Head of School and Head of Upper School. Mr. Davis joined BASIS International Schools in 2019 and is a member of the founding leadership team of the school. Read on as he shares about his passion for coaching teachers, family, and advice for others considering a career abroad.
What made you decide to go into education?
From my teenage years, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I was a lifeguard, taught swimming lessons, worked at summer camps, and became hypnotized at the prospect of spending my time impacting learning. Why not spend my life doing something I loved?
What influenced your decision to teach abroad?
I had a young family at the time. The chance to see my girls grow up experiencing the world through their own eyes was an exciting prospect. I was also very lucky to have a friend to follow overseas, which made it a bit less scary. Many, many years later my girls are 3rd culture children, and proud of it–and the world is a lot more ‘normal’ than some would have lead me to believe.
What do you enjoy most about your role in leadership in an international school?
The challenge that every day is going to be different is often what motivates me. I am a unique person, and I love seeing and working and adjusting my practice on a daily basis–it is almost a sickness. Leadership requires empathy, and empathy takes a lot of practice. I am proud that I get to spend my work refining my abilities to try and better understand what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes: whether it be students, parents, teachers, or other school leaders or staff. I think I am getting better at it, but it is a work in progress, and I look forward to going to work every morning…even though I look forward more to going home to my family every night!
What do you enjoy most about working with and coaching teachers in their craft?
Listening. It took me a long time to recognize the value of really hearing what others are saying. Coaching is a philosophy in leadership that asks the coach to build capacity in the teachers on their team, to help them make better decisions about students and their classrooms, and to help them find the next step for themselves. I like to think that coaching teachers is about building agility in the craft. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to shift from fixing issues to asking, “How can I help?” and that has come from investing in my ears and guiding next steps rather than prescribing them. There is a reason we have two ears and one mouth, and I am trying desperately to use them in that ratio.
When you came to China, what did you find pleasantly surprising that you didn’t expect?
Not sure it was a surprise, but an affirmation or a hope that became a reality. The people here in China are so friendly and welcoming and accommodating. My family feels at home here now in our second year. We have so many people to learn on, ask questions, and learn from. It’s a world away from my home in Canada, but the people here, especially our team on the BASIS International School Nanjing campus make this place a home. The Chinese culture and their value of family is incredible!
What has been unique in your experience with BASIS International Schools as compared to what you have seen in other environments/organizations?
Wow is the BASIS team organized! Our operations team, specifically in Nanjing, might be the most talented group of support staff I have ever had the pleasure of working alongside. When you are working and need answers to questions you have, or need to migrate next steps in building a classroom or school-wide system, the Operations teams are not only ready, but willing and more than able to help our faculty navigate almost anything thrown at us. We operate as one team, one entity, and are ready to pick each other up whenever a fall is apparent.
What have you found to be the most rewarding part of your experience of international education in China?
Selfishly speaking, I have grown as an educational leader here in Nanjing by leaps and bounds. I have learned from so many around me, and been able to attempt to be who I am, without worry. I am a loud, sometimes funny, unique individual, and BASIS International School Nanjing has allowed me to further blossom as an educational leader. Interestingly enough, this experience has encouraged me to be more–affirming who I want to be as a leader. I am stronger today than I was when I joined the team two school years ago; BASIS has been the catalyst for my growth.
What advice would you give teachers and school leaders who are considering teaching abroad?
Go to a place where you feel valued, and seek out leadership that you are going to like working alongside. Teaching is a passion that flourishes when you love what you do. I have been lucky to be a part of several incredible campuses in my career, and the things I continue to cherish are the students I taught, and the people I worked with. Teaching is about students and parents and the people with whom you work, not the content in a book–make sure you like those people wherever you go…you’re going to spend a lot of time with them!
Learn more about careers with BASIS International Schools on our careers website.