Gráinne, what should I do? #6


Leading Your International School today shares our weekly Q&A for international school leaders and teachers. Questions are answered by Gráinne O’Reilly – founder of 13 schools around the world. Today we share Owen’s question. 

Owen: Dear Gráinne. You’ve been involved in the founding of so many schools around the world. What is it about school startups that is so appealing to you?

Gráinne: It is a pleasure to answer today’s question- thank you so much for asking it!

Start-up is immensely challenging – on a professional level as well as on physical, emotional and psychological levels! I was just talking, this week, to a colleague who is in the pre-opening phase of a fabulous start-up project. Listening to all the issues ( some of which feel insurmountable at the moment) reminded me vividly of just how difficult it really is. That also led me to ponder on the quantity of start-ups with which I have been involved. Why on earth did I put myself ( and my team! It’s never just about one person) through all that SO many times?

The answer to me is pretty simple. Bringing a successful start-up to fruition is an extraordinary feeling- it is the opportunity to get things right from the beginning. To create the best possible foundation for children, staff, families and the community. To set something up that will have a positive effect on the lives of others well into the future.

Interestingly, I learned as much from the start-ups that were not successful ( construction issues, changes in laws and ordinances, issues of finance, licensing restrictions- I’ve seen them all!) as the many that were. I also developed incredible resilience and optimism as most things- not all, but most- can be solved. There will be many Heads and Principals around the world who are in that pre-opening phase now. They will be dealing with requests that they never expected, they will be asked to act in areas that they feel they have no knowledge or experience, they will be asked to prepare for scenarios that they cannot yet imagine. At times they will throw their hands up and wonder how on earth they are expected to even understand, much less accomplish all these superhuman feats. What I’ve learned about educators – especially in start-up? They can, they will and my goodness- they’ll do a brilliant job of it.

The teams with whom I have worked in many countries, over many years in numerous start-ups have truly amazed me with their creativity, their invention, their determination, their ability to think around and through obstacles and their sheer determination to get the job done.

Opening on that first day and seeing those children come through the doors. Watching those teachers and staff creating an exceptional learning environment, talking to those parents and families who have placed extraordinary trust in you and your team. And over time, as I have had the privilege of doing- seeing children who came to you at 2, 3, 7, 11, 15- whatever- create wonderful, successful lives with joyous memories tucked firmly in their hearts of being part of those newly created school communities. This is why I ( and we) do it.

What is that beautiful Chinese proverb about the best time to plant a forest? The best time to plant a forest was twenty years ago. The second best time is today. What is more needed, more desirable, more noble and more sustainable for the benefit of all, than planting a forest today?

Thank you for reading, if you have any questions for Gráinne to answer about Leading Your International School, email them to:  

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