Kai Vacher has been the principal of British School Muscat (BSM) for more than four years now and the 49-year-old approached our interview the same way he approaches his daily work – with an amiable attitude and a constant smile. Before moving to Oman, he worked for an education charity for nine years in the UK.
Despite more than 27 years of experience in education, his enthusiasm hasn’t waned one bit; if anything, it has grown. As he prepares for the new school year, he tells me of the school’s plans with the eagerness and exhilaration of one of his young students. “This is a very exciting time of the year for me and for the school as we prepare to welcome lots of new pupils, new colleagues and families. I am as enthusiastic about it as I was in 1988, when I first started teaching, we are also helping new staff settle, it’s a lot of fun.”
Vacher’s passion for teaching did not come about by chance, as he aspired to become a teacher ever since his days in secondary school. He wanted to bring about changes for the better in the system. “I think from being a teenager, I was very interested in education. I went to a very successful grammar school in Birmingham and although it was great, I wasn’t very happy there because of the very austere environment. There wasn’t much interaction between students and teachers, and I felt it didn’t have to be that way,” he says.
However, he had a major obstacle to overcome – his stammer. “When I was 16 or 17 and my friends asked me about what I wanted to do in life, I told them I wanted to become a teacher. They said I could never become one because I couldn’t talk properly, and they laughed it off.”
Despite such comments, Vacher was determined, so he completed his education and immediately took up a teacher-training course.
“Before my very first lesson at 22, I was terrified, more than even going to the dentist. I thought to myself if I can’t teach this first lesson, I don’t know what I am going to do all my life and if I stammer and the children laugh at me, my dream will be shattered.”
Amazingly, Vacher was able to put his fears to bed and deliver a successful lesson. His stammer didn’t seem to affect his speech when teaching.
Although Vacher enjoys being a principal, he doesn’t believe in staying behind the closed doors of his office. “I think one of the dangers of being a principal is that you do not have a daily interaction with students. When I asked the students what they wanted from a principal, they said they wanted them to be visible. I like to make my rounds of the school during break time, visit classes and give assemblies,” he tells me.
Vacher is a regular Twitter user and thinks technology can play an important part in developing education, but only when used at the right time and for the right purpose. “Technology is great for education just like pen and paper,” he says, “but it is also very addictive, so I would recommend that it is not overused.”
Being in Oman gives Vacher an opportunity to explore one of his favourite hobbies – exploring new and beautiful places. “I absolutely love Oman, it’s a great country to explore,” he tells me. “Last year I went with my family to Musandam for the first time and found it stunning. In February I went with my wife to Salalah and we both thought it was beautiful. Those are two places that I would like to go back to. I also went for a really exciting camping trip to Masirah Island a couple of years ago and that was amazing.”
Back at BSM, Vacher has some new developmental goals, which include expanding the facilities at the school, teaching new languages and introducing different cultures to those who study there, in addition to taking good care of the students and their growing needs.
Before we parted ways, Vacher had a message his was keen to impart to Y readers, he says: “If someone has got a dream or an ambition and if they are determined, they will be able to overcome whatever stands in their way. If my students had seen me stammer as a teenager, they wouldn’t believe that I could have become a teacher, but here I am.”