We sat down with Dr Geoffrey Fisher, our newly appointed Head of School, so the B.D. Somani International School community could get to know him better. Here’s what he had to say.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I come from a long line of educators. My father and grandfather were both heads of school. 2019 marks my 26th year as a Director of international schools in a variety of settings around the globe. I’ve worked on every continent except North America and Antartica. The geographical and cultural diversity of my career has made me a citizen of the world. B.D. Somani is my third directorship in India, following Kodaikanal International School and the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad. I am enjoying getting to know Colaba and the school.
Leigh and I have been married for 37 years and have three children. It was Leigh who introduced me to India many years ago. My son Charles has two children and is a lawyer in Melbourne. My other son James is married and an engineer in England while my daughter Eleanor is studying Environmental Science at East Anglia University.
I have a great affection for cricket without ever having played the sport. While I have an eclectic taste in my musical choices, I am a bit of a traditional jazz and R&B aficionado. My favourite singers include Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. Stuck in the 60s and 70s Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and the Beatles also get play time.
What made you decide to come to B.D. Somani?
I believe B.D. Somani has a culture of striving to getting everything right. The school is an excellent example of a ‘vertical’ school in an urban setting. The academic and learning quality is at par with the finest schools across the world, and the sense of aspiration and development for the future is palpable. I particularly appreciate the relationships between students and teachers which have created a wonderful environment for learning. I look forward to playing a role in the school’s next phase of evolution. The demands on education require us to try to guess the future and what the needs of the next half century might be. Such a task is always difficult but must be undertaken. It will be vital for our students that they are being prepared for the demands of their future. B.D. Somani has always been at the forefront of educational development and needs to continue to assess and change to be fit for the future.
What do you hope to accomplish in the short (and long term?)
I want to get to know the student and parent community in the short term. As far as the long run is concerned, I hope to build productive and sustainable relationships with teachers, students and parents. I hope these relationships will become the foundation of the next phase of evolution at B.D. Somani.
What changes should students and parents expect?
The Head of School role is a new one at B.D. Somani. I am also new to the school, as is the Secondary School principal. That’s enough change in itself I would think. (laughs). The important thing right now is to maintain continuity. We have to continue the good work of the past and build on that foundation. Any change that comes will flow from changes in personality and experience but must be based on strong, trusting relationships with students and parents. The school has been blessed with a past full of strong, expert and experienced leaders. My challenge will be to shape that past and guide us towards the future.
What should parents know about you?
I am the product of a family of educators who had a global view. My father worked in three continents well before the concept of ‘international education’ became real. My birth, in Africa, upbringing, in Europe and Australia, combined with my work experience, all around the world all combines to allow me to live as an example of a global world but to also celebrate the family and cultures which has nurtured me. I hope that the parents will find me accessible, open, caring, expert, personable and able to apply my experience productively on behalf of the students of B.D. Somani and India as a whole.
What should students know about you?
I aim to be very student-focused. There is an immense reward in engaging, thoughtful relationships with young people. I have moved from being a parental figure to a grandparental figure in my approach to student relationships (laughs). I hope I can make a difference in their lives so they are empowered to make a difference in the lives of others.
What are your initial observations about the school, faculty and students?
B.D. Somani has one of the best student-staff relationships I have experienced anywhere in the world. There is a true partnership between students and teachers. Teachers here facilitate the process of learning rather than merely ‘educate’. Students enjoy coming to school and clearly enjoy the learning that is open to them.
What are your expectations from students, parents?
I think the strength and degree of love in the extended Indian family is a beautiful thing. There is an interlinking of generations that is quintessentially Indian, and you don’t experience anything quite like it anywhere else in the world. Indian families are interested and passionate. I’ve seen this manifest across all aspects of the Indian experience – even in schools where parents and even grandparents take an active interest in their child’s school experience. I expect the school to be treated as part of this extended family and hope we can build on this to create a strong foundation of personal learning and growth, especially in the context of today’s digital world.
What is the role teachers should play in today’s world?
Education is pretty much the only industry in the modern context still built exclusively on human relationships. Being a teacher is so much more than being an expert in the delivery of your subjects. Teachers in today’s world must be mentors and coaches. Teachers at B.D. Somani are exceptional in their subjects, and they are deeply caring nurturers. It is said that if a student has four outstanding teachers through their school career, it makes a positive impact on the student and their world. We must ensure that each student here has more than four outstanding teachers during their time here.
What role should alumni play?
I would encourage our alumni to retain contact, visit often, talk about us, maintain the friendships that they have made here. Alumni can be important advocates on behalf of the school, they can give back, advise and build connections that help foster school spirit while developing our future. I hope to create several opportunities that will engage our alumni in the years to come.
Tell us about your relationship with Bombay
I have been privileged to call Bombay my second home for the last 37 years. The first time I came to India was in 1982 in the middle of the monsoon season. My wife Leigh was a Rotary Youth Ambassador to Bombay Main Rotary Club in 1977. She formed a very close bond with the families she stayed with, and when we were married, I also became part of their extended family. I particularly love living in Colaba, with its charming old-world architecture. It’s good to be back here.