Updated: Mar 8, 2020
As part of our ongoing blog, we are starting a series of conversations with Heads of School. The leadership of a school directly impacts the culture and climate of that community. Our consultants recommend schools that we believe will be a good fit for relocating students and families. Recently, Bennett International chatted with Jason Morrow, Head of School at the British International School of New York. Jason’s studies and career have taken him all over the globe, just like many of the students he serves at BIS-NY.
Jason grew up in Belfast, Ireland, studied at Oxford, and then also studied at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC. While at Wake Forest, Jason studied 19th Century Cherokee History with a focus on Cherokee leadership, legal Constitutional history, and the interplay between the British, US, and First Peoples’ cultures during that time in history. He then spent some time in South Korea, where he set up the international school, North London Collegiate in Jeju. This venture combined Jason’s love of history, culture, and foreign language.
Jason has always been passionate about History, the subject he initially studied at Oxford, in addition to the pastoral care of students. His initial goal was to become a Head of History, or Department Chair as we say in the US; but his interest in how schools work and how best to bring about change led him to seek out the role of Head of School.
As a Head of School, one of the most important aspects of Jason’s leadership is the pastoral care of all the students at BIS-NY. Jason argues that you can have the most engaging and challenging curriculum, but if your students don’t feel secure and socially engaged, academic success is difficult to come by. “Pastoral care of our students is an essential prerequisite to academic and social success. Learning and being in school can be exhausting. The pressures on children and young people are intensifying,” he says. The focus on SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) is front and center in many International and US schools for good reason. Jason has always seen the absolute necessity of pastoral care for all students.
Under Jason’s leadership at BIS-NY, the pastoral care of his students is highly individualized depending on the age and circumstance of the student. The youngest students receive a stuffed Buddy the Bulldog with a welcome postcard in the mail, along with a “buddy” assignment. Their buddy family is a family already in the community who will be there to answer questions and be a familiar face on the first day of school. Older students have an advisor, their teachers, and division head looking out for them, encouraging them to get involved and to spend time with their peers. Jason mentioned that students who have relocated a number of times can suffer from “relocation fatigue,” and they need a little encouragement from their teachers and peers to join the community. Once they do, the rewards are countless.
We often talk about TCKs (Third Culture Kids) in our work as education consultants. We asked Jason what he thought these globally-minded children will bring to their communities as they grow up and enter the workforce. His answer was inspiring:
“There are so many advantages to being a TCK. They have many skills that are tough to acquire and that will be valuable to them and the companies they work for and the communities they live in. TCKs are often adaptable, open-minded, and have the view that things can be done differently. They have ‘space in their mind-set’ that comes from living in many different cultures and situations. Resilience is a skill that can come from the isolation of living in a new city with a new language and culture. These kids find a way through.”
As someone who has lived and traveled all over the world, Jason considers New York the most interesting place he’s been. “I’m still regularly surprised by the variety of new cultural experiences available in New York. Whatever you are interested in, you can find others who are like-minded (in NY). It’s always very entertaining!”
We always like to ask what our colleagues in education are reading. Jason is currently reading, Among the Sioux of Dakota by D.C. Poole, the story of an American Indian agent with the Sioux, in the Dakota territories in the 1870s. It’s surprisingly very funny and full of dry observational humor, Jason says.
Stay tuned for additional profiles of inspiring Heads of School. At Bennett International, our consultants know the whole school – from leaders to curriculum to culture!