At Citizens School, learning revolves around much more than memorising and performance in exams; instead, it entails deep conceptual understanding and a personalised educational journey that supports ongoing growth and development. Indeed, committed to reshaping education, this is a school with a genuinely different approach, encompassing new attitudes and strategies, driven by a leadership team with enormous passion and extraordinary experience.
Education UAE caught up with Citizens School’s new Founding Principal, Tracy Moxley, a skilled education professional who has experience in leading British, American and international schools, to congratulate her on her new post and ask how the opportunity had arisen.
“Thank you for the good wishes! I feel very privileged to be a part of this amazing new school. I initially heard about Citizens on LinkedIn and then once I started reading about the vision and the mission of the school I knew that it was the challenge for me. The Citizens’ philosophy is pretty irresistible to any educator interested in preparing students for the future and to do this effectively. The focus on digital literacy, global citizenship, sustainability and a growth mindset and wellbeing aligned with my own educational philosophy. After Covid, it’s more important than ever to focus on the wellbeing of our children and community. Citizens puts children and their wellbeing at the centre, is fully inclusive, and employs new technologies and new pedagogies to enhance learning – who wouldn’t want to join Citizens School? Plus, the Citizens team is certainly a force to be reckoned with – so I think it took me about five seconds to say ‘Yes’.”
“Citizens puts children and their wellbeing at the centre, is fully inclusive, and employs new technologies and new pedagogies to enhance learning”
Communicating the Vision
Tracy explains that a significant part of her educational experience has been focused on student wellbeing and student support, innovation and new technologies in education, and the training and development of educators. “The Citizens philosophy read like my resume!” she says. “The aspects of education that excite and inspire me are focal parts of Citizens School and a huge emphasis is placed on the ‘re-imagining of education’ mantra. Can we do it better? I think we can. The development of a future-focused, personalised transformational curriculum, embedding a growth mindset into learning, and the development of attributes such as resilience, perseverance and grit are all so important in this embryonic post-Covid world and will be for the future.”
With extensive experience in educational innovation, new pedagogies, teachers’ professional development and school improvement Tracy is committed to interdisciplinary, innovative global citizenship education and service learning. But what, we wondered, were the particular skills and abilities she would bring to Citizens?
“The same skills and abilities that we aspire to evoke in our students are those that I will endeavour to bring!” Tracy responds, without missing a beat. “Attributes such as creative and critical thinking, skills of collaboration, empathy and agility are all necessary for this role. I am a global citizen and I have travelled extensively, exploring different educational models around the world – in the US, Asia, Europe and Africa – and I have been involved in research on how these approaches and philosophies impact student learning, motivation and engagement.”
“I am a global citizen and I have travelled extensively, exploring different educational models around the world”
Tracy goes on to explain how communicating the school’s purpose and mission, and ensuring that each classroom reflects that mission, saying: “I have strong interpersonal skills and I am a ‘people-person’. What does this mean? I enjoy developing positive and purposeful relationships, as these are so important in ensuring that we realise our goal. Consequently, I can communicate our mission to all our stakeholders.”
The enormous experience Tracy has in founding innovative schools and in instructional curriculum design is certainly relevant, as Citizens transforms what is currently the dominant educational ideology into its own unique curriculum and educational approach. An important aspect of this will be the correct use of data and analysis. “Data is important to me, as a tool to provide insights into what we are doing, how we are doing it and our results. It’s a tool to ensure that we are responsive to what is happening in all parts of the Citizens eco-system.”
“It’s warm, inviting and purposeful. I absolutely love the Citizens School environment – it is a joy to behold that’s for sure!”
Nurturing Educated Citizens
As a Principal, of course, good leadership is vital, although that isn’t necessarily about managing. It’s about having a vision and being able to inspire people. It’s taking an idea or a concept and making it happen. Tracy’s approach to leadership is collaborative and creative. “I would like to think of myself as a transformational leader that innovates, inspires and influences, driving positive performance across the whole school. However, significantly, it is a team game at Citizens. There are a whole host of talented, knowledgeable and passionate leaders, mentors and staff who will make the difference and I’ve no doubt will create magic for all our children! As His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid highlights, “Determination, strategy and vision for the future are our real resources in the quest for excellence and success”.”
Citizens is undeniably a different type of school, and with differences, surprises can arise, so has Tracy been taken by surprise in any way since she arrived? “Everything has surprised me!” she begins. “Simply, the overwhelming drive to change the current educational landscape and provide a unique offer that places the child at the centre, personalising the educational approach through the use of new technologies and enhanced student agency. Real inclusivity and a focus on wellbeing are central to ensuring optimal conditions for learning. I love this part of the philosophy at Citizens!”
It does appear that Citizens has a different ‘feel’ from other schools, with Tracy in no doubt of what teaching and learning will look like, and how she is going to communicate that vision. “It’s warm, inviting and purposeful. I absolutely love the Citizens School environment – it is a joy to behold that’s for sure!
“The physical environment impacts the way children learn and behave. The Citizens architectural design has been created to enhance learning – it’s our ‘third teacher’. It offers our children the opportunity to collaborate, explore interests and experience learning together – outside of the usual classroom environment.
“Our desire to grow the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and global leaders is our North Star”
“At Citizens, we will re-imagine, review and redesign the traditional educational approach. Our new landscape of learning must be visible in every classroom. For example, students will collaborate on global issues and concerns using systems thinking, designing possible solutions, prototyping, etc. – having ‘real agency’ in their learning. I want to see that buzz in every classroom as students are engaged and motivated in the work they are doing. I also want to see that the skills and competencies that are being developed are evident to everyone. Our desire to grow the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and global leaders is our North Star.”
Naturally, Tracy has several key goals she wishes to fulfil in her first year, including, but not limited to:
- Providing a warm welcome to all founding Citizens’ families, children, mentors and staff, with the number one priority being to ensure all that children are safe, happy and love coming to Citizens School.
- To help the children find their passion and their purpose and provide the resources, tools and skills for success – in whatever they choose to do!
- To ensure that the school community thrives in its inaugural year
- To see the mission realised in every classroom
Extensive Global Education Experience
As the Founding Principal, Tracy could not be better qualified. She has, for instance, been involved in research with the Harvard Graduate School of Education Project Zero in the implementation of innovative pedagogy through teacher action research, exploring the creation of innovative communities within educational institutions. She has also been committed to student wellbeing and the correlation between wellbeing and academic performance.
Tracy is a published author on the IB Middle Years programme too, and was a co-founder of The Kindred Project; a unique NGO set up and led by students, supporting peers in developing schools in India, Morocco and Uganda. As a CIS inspector, she has also completed international accreditation visits at prestigious schools in Singapore, Moscow and Prague.
And if all that were not enough, she has a Master’s degree and Professional Diploma in International Education from the Institute of Education, University College London and an NPQEL in Educational Leadership.
That, though, is just the tip of the iceberg. We asked Tracy to conclude our chat by telling us a few things about herself that may surprise our readers. This can be a tricky question for some people, but not for Tracy. “I co-founded an NGO (Non-Government Organisation) in Spain, which was eventually led by school students. The NGO built two small residential homes in Goa in India and worked with a number of community groups in Morocco, in Asni and Chefchaouen, supporting several educational projects there, including a student exchange programme where students stayed with Moroccan families, learning more about culture and family life.
“In Africa, the NGO built a school in Uganda, on the shores of Lake Victoria, and our students and teachers visited the school two or three times a year, every year, teaching, building and adding to facilities, and generally serving the school. I believe that service learning is so important for children to participate in. One of the projects was providing solar-powered lights to Ugandan families so that the children could read in the evening without having to use candles.
“The schools in India, Morocco and Africa became satellite schools of the NGO. Whilst in Goa, I also supported the opening of the very first international school modelling new pedagogy – again helping the school to transition from a very traditional style of teaching and learning to a more progressive one.
“During this time, I also sang in a Spanish band called Toma! I was singing alongside a tree surgeon, a drummer, three guitarists and all our own children. The band played in a number of small towns across southern Spain. My favourite gig was in Gaucin, in the mountains of Andalusia in the province of Málaga, where the whole town, including the shepherd of eighty years of age, came to enjoy the free entertainment!”
It will be exciting to see how Citizens School evolves under Tracy’s leadership, and we look forward to following her in what is a very different and inspirational learning environment. Oh, and of course, we can’t wait for her first gig!