Intervju: Kara Barker-Åström

Intervju

Rektor VRG Odenplan

Kara Barker Åström

Kara Barker Åström är rektor på Viktor Rydberg gymnasium Odenplan sedan hösten 2020. Dessförinnan arbetade Kara som skolledare på VRG Djursholm och redan år 2005 började hon arbeta inom organisationen som lärare i Biologi och Naturkunskap på VRG Djursholm. Kara är en av organisationens många medarbetare som har engelska som modersmål.

Kara Barker-Åström

Fråga

How does it feel to be the new principal at VRG Odenplan?

Svar

It feels great! I have always admired VRGO’s commitment to providing a high-quality academic education, but since working here I’ve also discovered VRG Odenplan’s fun side. The student union works tirelessly to round out the academic part of school with fun activities. I am also lucky and honoured to be able to work with such fantastic teachers and students. An added perk of being principal at VRGO is spending every day in such a beautiful and historic building!

Fråga

What do you enjoy most with being principal?

Svar

I appreciate that I get to be a part of the learning process that happens every day at school. I also love working with the 16-19-year-old age group. Being around young adults every day means being a part of their positive energy, frustrations, enthusiasm and general exuberance for life. Generally speaking, schools are dynamic places where needs, resources and priorities change all the time. I find myself energized by trying to keep up and even stay a step ahead of the constantly changing variables.

Fråga

How would you describe a competent teacher?

Svar

A competent teacher knows their content and gets the information across to students in an efficient manner. A great teacher is also curious, self-aware, willing to be flexible, creative, collaborative, and interested in the students’ experiences inside and outside of the classroom. Just to name a few!

Fråga

Which of Stiftelsens ledord would you say is most important at VRG Odenplan?

Svar

One of the reasons I have chosen to stay in the Viktor Rydberg Schools Foundation as long as I have is that my personal values align well with what the foundation has always emphasized. “Tillsammans åstadkommer vi mer” is an important one. From a professional perspective, it’s important that teachers collaborate with each other for the best results in the classroom. From a student perspective, we know that the ability to cooperate and collaborate with others is a key skill for success now and in the future.

Fråga

How do you think the students at VRG Odenplan would describe their school?

Svar

I think students would describe their school as a place where there is a welcoming, international environment, and where the academic part of school is balanced with fun-loving traditions and a warm culture. I also know that students appreciate that their teachers are highly competent and invested in their learning. I think they would also describe that the academic culture amongst students is characterized by cooperation, not competition.

Fråga

How is the cooperation with the teacher union and the student union working out?

Svar

Both the teacher union and student union are engaged in creating the best possible environment for their members at school. The teacher union discusses issues that improve the school and provide a good working environment for all. VRGO’s student union has come up with a variety of activities and traditions that include something for everyone and they create a strong school spirit. I recently saw a list of all the activities elevkåren does during a typical year and it was very impressive indeed! The best part of cooperating with the teacher union and student union is that we all want the same thing: a great school.

Fråga

Do you work together with the other VR schools in any way?

Svar

We have a tight collaboration with VRG Jarlaplan since we share some courses with them. This has been a great way for us to open up as many “individuella val” courses as possible to both schools so that there is a lot for students to choose from. During the spring term, the four student unions from VRG organize “VRG kampen”, which is a competition involving trivia, sports, and a talent show. Our teachers regularly cooperate with their colleagues from other VR schools. They share tips and tricks, project ideas, co-assess student work etc. The principals of the VR schools are also in close contact with each other, sharing best practices and ideas.

Fråga

How is it to work in a bilingual environment?

Svar

One advantage our VRG students have is that they are exposed to a broader set of experiences from the very beginning, based on the fact that their teachers come from a variety of countries and bring with them a variety of perspectives. At the same time, being immersed in an English environment helps build students’ language skills which is very beneficial at university, whether in Sweden or abroad. There is a steeper learning curve to start with, but our teachers are experts at helping students along the way. We’ve been pleased to hear from our alumni that the English they learned at VRG has been a tremendous help later on in their academic studies and careers.

Fråga

How is the responsibility for a student’s learning and development shared between you as the principal, the student and student’s parents?

Svar

As an intermediate between teachers, parents, and students, my responsibility lies in fostering a healthy learning environment. Teachers and parents also play a significant role in supporting student learning by providing the encouragement that students need to stay focused on their academic and social goals. However, the ultimate responsibility for student learning lies within the students themselves. Each individual student needs to find strategies for staying motivated when tasks are challenging, as well as practise effective study skills and learn to communicate constructively with teachers. We are all united in wanting to facilitate each individual’s journey to the best of our abilities.

Fråga

What is your best advice for students that are about to choose gymnasium?

Svar

My best advice is to forget about what your friends are doing and consider what you want to be doing for the next three years. The three years you spend in gymnasium will help you polish your academic skills but they will also create the memories you take with you. Visit schools if you can, talk to students, and ask questions. Gymnasiet is what you make it to be, so whichever school you decide for, jump in with both feet!