New Harrow Shanghai headmaster settles into role

Yang Meiping
New headmaster of Harrow Shanghai International School Alex Reed looks forward to being part of the local community.
Yang Meiping

Edited by Zhong Youyang. Subtitles by Yang Meiping.

New Harrow Shanghai headmaster settles into role
Ti Gong

New headmaster of Harrow Shanghai International School Alex Reed

Alex Reed, the new headmaster of Harrow Shanghai International School, is settling into his new job and new life after three months.

"I've joined a community that's very positive and forward-looking," he said. "You can see that everyone is very committed to Shanghai and to being part of the Shanghai community in general, not just international."

A Londoner by birth, Reed spent 15 years as head teacher at an international school in Auckland, New Zealand.

He found it difficult to leave for a new job in a new city, but said it was the right time and the right move for him.

"First of all, because the job is a wonderful job. It's a fantastic school with a brilliant reputation and a long heritage, a long history, but also because I know China quite well," said Reed. "I've visited China many times in the past. And Shanghai is one of my favorite cities. So when I come here, I know that I'm going to enjoy myself, find the city a fascinating blend of the modern and the traditional, enjoy the culture here and enjoy the people here too."

New Harrow Shanghai headmaster settles into role
Ti Gong

Alex Reed, the new headmaster of Harrow Shanghai International School, with his students.

In Shanghai, he said he found people were very committed to education.

"They're also committed to the very best results for their children," he said. "Working in a school like this keeps you sharp, because you have ambitious children, ambitious parents, and you want to deliver the best you possibly can for them.

He is also ambitious to make the school "bigger."

"We like the fact that we were a small community and everyone knows each other," he explained. "But we want to be a bit bigger, which will give us more opportunities to do different things for our children. We're looking at providing a different range of opportunities for children outside the classroom. I'm hoping to be here for the next three or four years, at least, and to watch the school grow, it's become even more popular because of what we do," he said.

As a senior educator and a father of two daughters who are in their early 20s now, Reed is obviously a person that parents feel comfortable to ask for advice on parenting and children's growth.

New Harrow Shanghai headmaster settles into role
Ti Gong

"One thing that I will say to parents is the most important thing you can do is to support your children and listen to them, really listen to them," he said. "They need guidance, they need direction, and they definitely need boundaries. All children need to know where the limits are. And I know that our parents provide our children with those boundaries. But they also need to support children to develop their own ideas. And whilst we all want our children to be doctors or lawyers or engineers or architects, not all of our children want to follow our guidance."

Reed said one of his daughters is doing international studies at university now, but her first degree was in nursing.

"I was able to support her with that change, because that's the right thing for her to do. And she's much happier now with the choice that she's made," said Reed.

"We all know how to provide support and resources and opportunities for our children, but sometimes parents are not as good at listening to our children as we should be, and listening carefully and together finding the right way is probably the biggest bit of advice."

He suggests parents can be pushy to make sure children do the things they need to do, but also need to give them enough space to do things that they want to do.

New Harrow Shanghai headmaster settles into role
Ti Gong

He also stressed the importance of reading for children.

"First of all, it takes them to places they can't go to and stretches their imagination," he said. "One of the reasons why reading fiction is so important is it teaches them empathy. It teaches them about other people. It takes them into the heads of other people. And it teaches them that there are things that they can learn, that other people are not all the same, and that we don't all think the same way. If we can learn to understand how other people think, then we can learn how to get on with them better, too. That's an incredibly valuable thing."

It's Reed's first time working in China, but he said he had read a book about China when he was a child and had always been interested in coming to China.

His first visit to China was in 1991 when he traveled to Hong Kong and Guangzhou. He first visited Shanghai in 2013 when he was in charge of international students at a previous school. He has observed many changes in Shanghai.

"When I first arrived here, the Shanghai Tower was only recently being built at that time. Every time I come here, the city looks smarter. The Suzhou Creek walkway wasn't there in the same way. It always seems like there's construction taking place everywhere. There are about 10 more Metro lines now than there were when I first arrived," he said.

New Harrow Shanghai headmaster settles into role
Ti Gong

"It's just changing all of the time, but I think the fundamentals remain the same. It's always been a city that has a history at its core, and at the same time is always developing changes."

He said he was impressed by the vibe of life in Shanghai also.

"There are people everywhere doing things everywhere. I can eat every type of food on the planet in Shanghai. It's great that I can enjoy going to the museums and art galleries," he said.

Reed found life in the city is incredibly comfortable.

"I use the Metro to get around because it's fantastically efficient. I get around the Metro very easily. Everything's on my phone. I do everything automatically and electronically. You can get anything you want," he said.

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