It says something interesting about Tim Carr’s personality that he describes his arrival at Jakarta International School as a homecoming. What’s interesting is Mr. Carr has never lived in Jakarta, Indonesia, or SE Asia before accepting the role of Head of School at JIS. The homecoming that he’s referring to is less tangible, but more of spirit and connection with the developing world that was lacking at his last position at ASIJ in Tokyo. It’s clear that the energy and vibrancy of Indonesian culture has connected with Mr. Carr as he sets out on his journey, which has already included the creation of a new and exciting school wide vision that connects to this spirit.
(If not specifically quoted, Mr. Carr’s responses to these questions have been paraphrased)
You’re relatively young for your position, what convinced you to go into leadership at a young age?
My father was in education so I think some of my interests in schools and students come from there. “I was often drawn towards how schools worked, and I’ve always been fascinated with schools as an organism.”
Early in our careers, my wife and I decided to take the step into international teaching, and “I decided at a relatively young age to walk through doors [to leadership] that were opened, even if I wasn’t qualified to do it.” In fact a lot of my opportunities have come from people who trusted me to do things I didn’t know how to do, but was willing to try.
What or who has been most fundamental in your development?
“Learning…that’s the main thing…I can’t imagine conjuring a steeper learning curve than this job”…Sometimes we get asked why we choose this lifestyle and a lot of it comes down to the opportunity to learn from world experiences. “I’m in a community of over 60 different nationalities, and I’m absolutely in my element…I’ve pretty much grown addicted to the steepness of that learning curve.”
Also like I mentioned earlier, “one of the key factors I had going for me early on was having people that believed in me, and gave me opportunities to do things that I wasn’t qualified to do.” Many of those people have inspired the way I work today, and demonstrated different styles of leadership. “[I] learned more about myself as a leader by watching them…[and having] those key mentors in my life was absolutely essential.”
I’ve also received a lot of support from the Academy of International School Heads (AISH), which has been important because it allows a way for us heads to come together to support and learn from one another.
How do you develop leadership talent at JIS?
“I hope [and believe] that the job of an educator is as a mentor, and to really help people develop through their life journey…I hope that’s what I’ve dedicated my life’s work to.”
“My philosophy of teaching is very similar to my philosophy of leadership, which is that I usually shouldn’t be directive…I need to be guiding people and discovering who they are and what their talents are, and then help draw those forth, and if that means providing or coaxing them into some new opportunities that will stretch them, then that’s what I want to do.” I always stand ready to help when they ask for it. As both a teacher and leader, I see my role in many ways as a coach on the side encouraging others to step up into their potential.
What’s your greatest priority when choosing teachers or administrators for JIS?
“I’m looking for a complimentary team”, which requires self-knowledge of my own strengths and weaknesses. I’ve heard leadership ability described in terms of points on a compass, with different styles representing North, South, East, and West. Assuming this is true, you don’t want your school filled with all Norths or all Souths. Instead creating a team that compliments each others’ strengths is key. This is why I chose to wait for a year after I arrived to hire the deputy head, so I could know the needs of the school better and then recruit the person to provide the skills to address them.
“[Basically] when I’m looking for members of the team, I know that there are things we need to do well” and I’m looking for a diverse staff that can help us in many different situations.
JIS has a very developed mission and vision, how was that developed?
“The easy answer is that we created it together.” Since I was chosen for this position very early, something like 20 months before I officially started, it allowed for a lot of transition time and the ability to study the school from many angles. It became very obvious that the school was in need of a new vision and set of core values to guide us.
I’m more a big picture and vision person, so with help from others I knew this should be a priority. However it’s kind of risky to do this during your first year. Still, ever since I arrived at JIS I felt an amazing ‘fit’ with the school. So we decided to go for the vision creation in the second semester of my first year.
More details about the Dream Summit are on our website, but basically we gathered all the major stakeholders including students, teachers, staff, community members, alumni, even government officials and started by asking broad question like “What should education be?” With help from a consultant, Sherry Miller, we facilitated and guided the Summit and subsequent discussions and eventually we ended up creating our current vision.
So what does JIS do the best? And how do you measure success at JIS?
I don’t really like that question because “being the best in the world isn’t our goal, [we want to be the] best for the world.” This was something I really connected with when I was a candidate for this position. “I think best in the world is a lousy goal…I want our students to be the best they can be, given the tools they have…[So] the goal is to take good care of the people in our community and help them learn optimally…I don’t want to beat up the competition; I want to collaborate with them.
”We’ll measure our success next to our Destiny Plan, which lays out benchmarks, challenges, and measures, which connect back to our mission and vision. Some of these marks are easily quantifiable like learning results, but we’ll also pay close attention to the qualitative factors too.
What advice do you have for the next generation of international administrators?
“If you’re interested in leadership, then raise your hand for anything that would constitute leadership, even if [it’s not your specialty].”
“Ask for as much advice as you can…seek out the mentors.”
“Make yourself indispensable.”
Reflect on your experiences…”I’ve had some horrible experiences, but they probably taught me more than the good ones.”