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Learning 24 Aug 2021

Introducing Dan Smith, our new Lakeside Secondary School Principal

By CIS Communications
Photograph by CIS Communicatiojns

Our new Lakeside Secondary principal, Daniel (Dan) Smith comes to CIS with over 20 years experience as an international educator at a variety of leading schools in US, India and, most recently, Thailand.

We chatted with Dan about his journey to Singapore, his feelings about starting a new school year and what life is like for him outside the classroom.

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Welcome to CIS, Dan! How do you feel about starting a new school year?

I start every year with the mixed emotions of excitement, anxiety, enthusiasm and the energy that comes with a new start. A new role at a new school adds emphasis to all of these. I'm especially excited to be involved in the full and broad range of development from the grade 7 students making successful transitions to the new challenges of secondary. I’m also excited about the second year IBDP (grade 12) students who are creating culminating learning experiences to finish their senior year and keeping a focused eye on their plans to transition into the important years of university. There is so much growth, development and exciting change between these phases that I can't wait to see and support in this role.

Tell us a little bit about your summer, which must have looked a little different than usual given that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic — and you’ve moved internationally.

I've been grateful to spend some time at "home" in the beautiful Rocky mountains of Utah. We were able to return from Bangkok in early January and spend some very valuable time with family before moving overseas again. My family was all fortunate to get vaccinated during the stretch of time. I've learned how to value and prioritise what is most important for my learning and fulfillment — both individually and together with my family — during the challenging months where COVID safety measures changed so many of our regular routines. While I can't wait to return to school leadership, I did treasure the opportunity to return to teaching over the last year as I homeschooled our two teenagers. I've also taken advantage of the time provided to catch up a bit on a long list of books I've been wanting to read.

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Tell us about your journey to Singapore. How was quarantine?

I flew from Salt Lake City to Singapore via Dallas and Doha. It was a long trip capped with a series of safety measures and detailed processes at Changi airport that could have easily taken hours elsewhere — it was less than two hours between the time I stood up on the plane at the gate to pulling up in front of our hotel. Quarantine days were long and boring but I was able to begin connecting with many of my CIS colleagues virtually. Our beautiful view of Singapore out the window teased us each morning with the exciting prospect of finally being able to walk the streets we watched closely.

Looking forward to the 21/22 school year, what are your biggest goals?

In making the transition to a new school my most significant focus is on building relationships with students, parents and teachers in the months ahead so I can understand the best ways to support teaching and learning that is truly engaging, enlightening and empowering.

Do you have any tips for parents to help their children settle into the new school year?

The beginning of any new school year is challenging given all of the changing routines and faces. The modifications that come with COVID-19 safety measures may add new elements to this experience.

With all of this in mind I think it's most helpful to know that "back to school" doesn't happen in one day, or even one week. Be patient with the time necessary to reconnect with friends or even find new ones, build relationships of learning with teachers and to fully understand the scope of what will be expected in each class. It's tempting to ask your children about details and logistics from their first days back at school but be sure to ask them about experiences from the people they are interacting with and especially about their reactions or feelings to the broad range of experiences they are likely to have each day.

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We’d also love to get to know a little bit more about your life beyond the classroom…

I really do love to read and if you are carrying a book I'm likely to stop you and ask about it. I also really enjoy playing board games. I'm not extremely competitive in that regard but appreciate how interesting the design of a game can be in recreating unique experiences or even bringing to life situations that we can't otherwise truly experience. Schools are not that different; we design a version of the world ahead to help our students prepare as best as possible for the challenges of life in an environment full of structure and support that help them take risks with our support and expand their understanding through reflective experience. For the right time and place I do have a great story about how my 11th grade English teacher arranged my marriage...

Thank you for your time Dan. We are thrilled to have you on board at CIS.

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