THE inclusive community, emphasis on academia and innovation, Jewish values, and not least, the pickles on offer at the canteen, are just some of the things that Emanuel School’s new principal, Andrew Watt, is enjoying most about his position.
Having commenced in the role at the start of term 1 this year, Watt aims to inspire both staff and students, striving to harness learning and curiosity in schools – “all those things that aren’t just a massive push for NAPLAN and HSC results”, he remarked.
“If students leave here with a sense of connection, pride and knowledge of their Jewish identity, and a lifelong love of learning, then I am a happy man.”
Now in his 35th year in education, this is Watt’s first in a Jewish egalitarian day school.
“Pride in the Jewish heritage and traditions is very clear, and so you are not working all the time to say ‘this is our vision and mission, these are our values’,” explained Watt, who was previously deputy principal at Wenona, and has also held senior positions at schools including The Scots College.
Closer to the ground, Watt has noticed some cultural aspects that differentiate Jewish and non-Jewish day schools.
“At Wenona or Scots you didn’t see too many people crunching pickles or seeing that as a treat!” he said.
Anticipating the workforce of the future, Watt focuses on embedding teaching approaches with the skills that will be expected of millennial learners – “collaboration, efficient communication skills, decision-making, critical thinking, financial and numerical literacy skills”.
“That is the challenge for the future, so that the graduates who leave here aren’t just ethical and responsible global citizens, but they are employable ethical, caring and responsible global citizens,” remarked Watt.
To bring about those outcomes, Watt places great importance on teaching quality, inquiry-based learning, as well as the design of educational spaces to enhance collaboration among students while prompting time for reflection.
Watt himself intends to engage in quiet reflection, using the metaphor of “moving off the dance floor and onto the balcony” to explain the value of this leadership skill.
“I could get caught up in the minutiae … But I’ve got to take time to shut the door, put aside time and to reflect.”
“The school is fantastic and already heading in a very positive direction,” said Watt, but with the school’s strategic plan ending in 2019, the new principal is using his first year to learn and watch, and “to reflect on what it is that we need to do as a board, as staff, as parents, as students to take the school to the next level”.