WE’RE EXCITED TO WELCOME OUR NEW DIRECTOR, WHO BRINGS OVER 30 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN EDUCATION TO AISG AND JOINS US FROM THE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF BUSAN.
Although he’s spent the past 25 years in Asia, this will be Kevin Baker’s first time living in Guangzhou, and he’s looking forward to a lot. Experiencing the food culture for starters, maybe picking up some Mandarin … and getting his grill on! A fan of craft beer and college football, bourbon and barbecue, the latter is one thing he’s been missing in Korea and is eager to pick up again.
Plus, of course, he’s joining a school with a “big heart” where students are always at the center of what’s going on. One of his tenets is that students don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
“The most important thing that happens at any school is the interaction between teacher and student. That is the center of our business; that needs to be the very best that it can be,” he says.
A self-professed “Renaissance teacher”, Baker has taught many subjects, from physical education (kinesiology) to psychology to English literature. As a parent (his four children have been through international schools) and an educator (at all levels from guidance counselor to department head, dean to principal), he brings a rich breadth of experience to the table. His wife Dee, whose background is in retail sales management, has brought her skills to the schooling world, founding an international school shop in Korea, along with helping four other schools open their own stores. Two of their four offspring are now international educators, with the others being a graphic designer and US Marine. He’s looking forward to promoting and strengthening the reputation of AISG and getting involved in events and initiatives - don’t be surprised if you find him delving into anything from advising on universities to coaching the debate team!
Baker is passionate about community and is keen to learn what the AISG community believes is important when it comes to future-ready education. Acknowledging that “the future is going to be changing and evolving so quickly that we need to not have too static of a definition”, he says this will involve continuous dialogue and evolution.
“The more the community comes together around the shared purposes of the school, the more effective a school is.”
That’s likely to mean less focus on content and more focus on fostering adaptability and flexibility, equipping our students to be “lifelong learners”. “Think of school as more than just a building; as a concept rather than a place. Even though technology has transformed the world of work, education hasn’t really changed over the last 150 years.” According to Baker, we can’t keep up on knowledge alone and our future leaders will have to solve problems we never thought we’d have to face.
“We need our students to be able to thrive in that future. Part of that is having a growth mindset. Part of it is understanding the importance of positive struggle - because we won’t get the answers right away - to know the value of failure.”
“Students need to be active participants and all learning must be relevant to their lives,” he says.
“I believe we foster a positive attitude towards learning by encouraging students to ask challenging questions, to reflect critically, to develop research and inquiry skills, and to learn how to learn. We must encourage community service, a personal passion for sustainability, and activity beyond the classroom, because there is more to learning than academic studies alone.”
He believes it’s an exciting time to be teaching in China, and that AISG students, many of whom will become leaders in their chosen fields, will be uniquely positioned as a result. “What a joy it is that they will have such a rich knowledge of China and its culture.”
Baker, who would have loved the opportunity to study at an IB school himself, says education in this part of the world is leading the way in innovation. He believes AISG is in a unique position to step up and lead in the area of soft skills, nurturing social and emotional learning.
“We have a chance to show an approach that really can have a significant difference in the world - to a place that has seen education only as a transactional experience, we’re providing a transformational experience,” Baker says.
Parents can expect him to be authentic and caring, firm yet fair - and inclusive at every step.
“We cannot forget we have a significant responsibility to educate parents about education - what we do, why we do it, how we do it, why it’s different and will continue to be even more different in the future,” he says. “We can’t leave parents behind...otherwise you’re going to reach the summit, and no one’s going to be with you to celebrate!”
“Educators are personal forces in the lives of the students for which they are responsible,” he says, “and a top priority is modeling attitudes and behaviors to lead by example.”
“I believe it is critical for leaders to be visible and accessible to those they lead. Being visible and present generates confidence and connectedness,” he says.
Baker also sees a key part of his job as being the ”periscope of the organization” - looking ahead to see what’s on the horizon and channeling this back internally.
However, his passion will always lie with helping young people on their journey of discovery and learning. “First and foremost, I think of myself as a teacher. I will forever be drawn to that ‘aha’ moment where you inspire a child … and that’s really what education is about.”
|The Baker family: Kevin, Dee and their children|