7 Questions with Joshua Fritts
Name: Joshua Fritts
Current title: Head of School
Current organisation: Ruamrudee International School Ratchapruek Campus
Dr. Joshua Fritts is the Head of School for Ruamrudee International School’s Ratchapruek Campus in Nonthaburi, Thailand. Prior to his current role, he was the Elementary Principal at Ruamrudee International School’s main campus in Bangkok, Thailand. He has also served as the Head of Elementary at The Lab School of Washington in Washington, D.C., Head of Teaching and Learning for Qatar Foundation schools in Doha, Qatar, and as a school administrator and teacher in the United States.
He earned his doctorate from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts in Curriculum, Teaching, Learning, and Leadership, with a focus on the teaching of reading for struggling learners through culturally responsive practices. He also holds an Educational Leadership Certificate, Masters of Special Education, and Bachelors degree in History from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon in the United States.
He has worked with schools around the world, sharing his commitment to the success of all students and families. With over thirty years of experience as an educator, he offers many insights into creating truly inclusive multicultural settings focused upon educating the whole child to the highest of academic standards.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
One of the most challenging aspects of leading any organization is time management. Good leaders have to learn to balance, prioritize, and make every minute of the day count.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I began my career as a teaching assistant working with students with learning challenges and found my passion - teaching. I spent years working two jobs and going to school at night to earn my bachelor's and eventually a master's degree in Special Education and I'd thought I would spend my life in the classroom working with children with learning and behavioral challenges, but life had other plans for me. The school district I was working in at the time asked me to step into a leadership role and I quickly moved from the classroom to school and district administration. After working as a Special Education Administrator in two of the largest school districts in my home state of Oregon I was offered an amazing opportunity to create Special Education services for a school system in Qatar, and since then I have gone on to work earn my doctorate in education with a focus on curriculum, learning, and leadership and have worked with schools around the world to create inclusive school communities focused upon high achievement and success for all students.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I work long days, getting up between 4:30 am and 5:15 am each weekday morning to catch up on emails, prepare coverage for any faculty or staff that may be absent that day, and to have a quick cup of coffee before rushing off to school to arrive by 6:30 am. Once on campus I send out a daily morning email to all of the faculty and staff updating them on important details for the day, and prepare to greet students and families that usually begin arriving by 6:45. At 7:15 each morning I lead a school assembly with our Elementary and Middle school classes and send all of them off to begin their day on a positive note and a reminder to "Have a great day and grow their brains!" Following this, I like to do a walkthrough of our Preschool to greet students and faculty and staff, before I head up to the administrative section of our campus for meetings, strategic planning, and less exciting tasks. Throughout the day I then juggle the never ending "to do list" of tasks, and time walking through the campus dropping into classrooms, talking with students, parents, faculty and staff, and covering various recess and canteen duties. After school ends at 2:40 each afternoon, that is when it's time to buckle down and finish the to do list items that I never seem to get to during the day and to begin preparing for the day ahead. I typically head home around 5 pm each night where I have a quick bite for dinner before my nightly video chat with my wife and daughter across town (Bangkok traffic is a real challenge making my 25-mile commute between home and school 2 to 5 or more hours long, therefore, I spend the work week at a small studio apartment near my school ). Following this I typically spend an hour or so on my duties as an instructor for an online Masters of Advanced Teaching program that I teach in and then the remainder of my evening is spent returning emails, planning for upcoming meetings, reading research articles and other work related tasks before I turn in for the night around 11 pm or so in preparation for the day ahead.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
As a leader, I learned early in my career that the most important part of my job is the people around me. As such, there is nothing more vital than listening to them and supporting them to find their own success. After all, it takes a team to run an organization, but most especially a school since we are in the business of people.
5. What's one book 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?
Many years ago, I had the chance to read J.W. Marriott's book The Spirit to Serve: Marriott's Way and was deeply moved by his examples of servant leadership, and commitment to building positive and caring relationships with his employees.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Building leadership capacity begins by creating cohesive and caring teams that are focused upon common goals. It also requires mentoring and supporting your teammates' professional and personal growth and giving them opportunities to leadership tasks at whatever level they may be comfortable so that you develop an organization of leaders, rather than followers. As a leader I firmly believe that my role is to grow and create new leaders - succession planning is always part of my strategic plan.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Every day I come to work there is another meaningful story added to my experiences as an educational leader. Perhaps what stands out the most is watching the people I work with to grow and succeed; watching students learn to read, seeing graduates walking across the stage, and nurturing young teachers to excel at their craft and grow into instructional leaders themselves.