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7 Questions with Elizabeth Hutchison
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7 Questions with Elizabeth Hutchison
Name: Elizabeth (Liz) Hutchison
Current title: Dean of Curriculum and Instruction
Current organisation: International Christian School (ICS), Hong Kong,
Liz has worked in Christian education since 1990, and she is in her 13th year at ICS where she has served in a variety of positions, including Cognitive Coach and Academic Dean. Liz has a Masters in Educational Leadership and she is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research topic is Women Educational Leaders in Christian Schools. She values Christian education, teaching and learning, mentoring, and curriculum development. Liz enjoys fine-tuning systems, and supporting others to see individuals and groups grow.
1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?
Sensitively navigating pathways forward, marrying the needs, interests, and feedback of individuals versus the masses. It's especially challenging when some individual voices are more pronounced and forceful. Finding ways to give voice to less dominant people, and framing challenges in 'what's best for learning and well-being for all' are helpful anchors.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I'm up at 5 am starting the day with a quiet time with the Lord before studying and on the way to work. Pre-COVID, my work day started at 7.25 am with devotions at one of the school divisions. COVID starts are more erratic because in Hong Kong, schedules keep changing (up to schedule 9 for the 2020-21 academic year). Work involves one on one meetings to support my team, discussing their most pressing projects, questions, or concerns; weekly curriculum meetings with the leadership team (my role is school-wide alignment in the areas of curriculum, professional learning, and school accreditation); participation in senior leadership meetings (which have been more frequent and dominant over the last 18 months); participation in task forces; and working on or implementing systematic projects I lead or special projects that arise. I squeeze in lunch, and try to leave between 5 and 6 pm. I'll often walk home for 40 minutes, studying on the way. Our family eats at about 7 pm, I might watch a TV episode, and I'll study for an hour before getting ready for bed. I might read a bit and I try to be asleep before 10 pm.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The blessing of a faithful, competent, gracious team. Despite the challenges we've experienced recently, we are in this together, supporting one another holistically regardless of rank and title. I'm so blessed to walk and work with my team daily. My leadership lesson is nothing new: get the right people on the bus, in the right seats. So, recruitment is the critical key of discernment.
4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
When I first moved into full-time leadership, I was juggling multiple projects and people simultaneously. ‘Your Brain at Work’, by David Rock, made a huge difference in how I structured my day and used my brain better. It's not a spiritual formation book, but it sure helped me steward my time and energy.
5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?
Select people with the right heart, character and philosophy. Competency is important, however skills can be learned with a growth mindset, a servant heart, a gracious disposition, and a willingness for self-reflection. Once you get people, recognize and esteem them as equals, coach and mentor them so they can thrive, and support them in their continued growth, celebrating their successes. Be transparent, and deal with issues asap so they don't fester and affect relationships. Trust is hard to win back!
6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
Listen to people and pace with them. Ask ‘how can I help?’, and provide them with a say in their support needs? Model well-being. Be real. Treat everyone with respect, esteem and grace.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a Christian school leader so far?
The power of mentorship, coaching, and cheer-leaders! When I was in my first and then second year at ICS, my leader encouraged me to move into a couple of leadership positions. He then asked me to move into a full-time admin role, supporting me by providing ongoing training and weekly mentorship. In addition, the head of school at the time showed interest in my work by turning up to observe me presenting a new faculty support initiative. These men were cheerleaders and encouraged me to rise and thrive as a leader. When I lacked confidence in myself, my cheerleaders gave me theirs by cheering me on and providing the supports I needed to help me thrive. As a result, I in turn was able to serve and support the faculty, and now my team.