The Head of the International School of Hamburg, ALAN KNOBLOCH, takes the club! questionnaire and shares some of the things that make the city special for him.


  1. What was your main reason for coming to the International School in Hamburg?
    „I felt my skill set and experiences were a good fit for the needs and future direction of the school. The strategic plan for the school includes ensuring high quality teaching and learning; having all community members feel respected and valued; improving sustainability, and supporting students’ physical, social, and emotional well-being. I was impressed with the commitment and love for the school from the staff, students, and parents. I wanted to be a part of this community and to live in Europe.“
  2. Are there differences between working life in Germany and other countries you have worked in?
    „The biggest difference is in work-life balance. In many countries I have worked in, including the US, the head of school role can be 24/7 with pressure to work many nights and weekends. In Germany, there is an expectation that you will take time for yourself and your family. In the end, I think it makes me more productive as I have taken the time to recharge rather than working more hours.“
  3. Where do you consider home?
    „The White Mountains of New Hampshire, which is in the northeastern part of the United States.“
  4. What drives you?
    “The students. I love seeing their joy when they are happy and engaged and seeing them overcome challenges. As an educator, you never know the impact of your work until years later when a former student contacts you and shares how you made a positive impact on them.“
  5. How do you recruit for your school?
    “The first part is to retain our high performing staff members. I want them to feel valued and appreciated. To attract new staff, we use agencies specifically for international teachers. Another source of candidates is our current staff and community. International teachers are well connected and they are the best ambassadors for our school in the global educators’community. We also use social media to share the exciting things that are happening at the school. Prospective candidates will research both the school, the school administration, the city and facility but also what we are about, our mission and culture. Increasingly, staff are looking for places they feel they can connect to.“
  6. What is a typical day as Head of School?
    “Every day is different, which is what makes the role interesting. I start each day greeting the children and parents with a welcome, a smile or a high five. I want the students to be happy here so they can focus on their learning voyage. After drop-off, I will often have meetings with staff and parents. I have an open door policy, and the community will take the opportunity to give me information or ask questions. I try to get into as many classrooms as possible to see teaching and learning in action. An important part of my role is planning for the future. As a private school we have the flexibility to adapt to the world as it changes in order to fill our mission to prepare our students to become global citizens. Given the many global crises we face today, we need to constantly adapt and keep earning.“
  7. Apart from Hamburg, which are your three favourite cities worldwide?
    “Boston, London and Bangkok. I grew up in Boston, I love the history and theatre in London, and the food and weather in Bangkok.“
  8. What’s your favourite spot or favourite restaurant in Hamburg?
    “We love walking or riding our bikes on the Elbe and stopping for a coffee or beer at the many cafes on the waterfront. Our favourite restaurant is Zur Flottbeker Schmiede, between the Klein Flottbek S-bahn station and Jenischpark. The menu is amazing and the staff are very welcoming.“
  9. What’s the biggest difference about working in Hamburg?
    “The nature. For a large city, there is more nature and fewer large buildings. It is a very easy city to navigate with public transport, a bike or even walking. We have the advantages of living in a safe city while still having space, unlike my experience in other cities such as Dakar, Shanghai, and Singapore.“
  10. Did you have a mentor and do you mentor others?
    “I have two mentors who have helped me grow and develop as a professional, both very different in style and effective in their own ways. One was more lead-by-example, work hard, and closely monitored everything. The other focused on inspiration, gave his administrators freedom to create their own plans, and served as a guide. I have been a mentor for a number of aspiring and new heads of international schools.“
  11. Which characteristic do you value most in your staff?
    “We value characteristics such as finding joy from working with students, enthusiasm for their content area, desire to work collaboratively with their colleagues, and desire to learn and keep growing.“
  12. What appeals to you about working abroad?
    “My wife and I have lived and worked in seven countries, in many different parts of the world. Each place is so different from the others. We love meeting new people, exploring new places, and having different cultural and life experiences.“
  13. Are there any differences in teaching children here and in other countries?
    ”It is not so much about a difference between countries but a difference in terms of approach to education. As a private school we have a child-centric approach: We support the child’s needs as a whole and we challenge each child according to their ability. We are also an international school with families from all around the world. We follow international curricula. The aim is that families can find similar curricula in other international schools around the world so their child’s education is not disrupted by the move to another country. Finally we strive to adhere to best practices in international education as defined by the accreditation bodies such as the Council of International Schools.”
  14. What do you particularly like about Hamburg?
    ”Nature. I love how green Hamburg is, all the bike trails and parks.”
  15. What is your idea of a perfect weekend?
    ”A long bike ride through the many parks or along the river Elbe, some time in one of the museums, a good meal. The weekends are also a time to connect with my (adult) children who live on different continents.”

Head of the International School of Hamburg since 2022, Alan Knobloch has a 30-year career in international education, including schools in the US, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Until recently the director of the International School of Dakar, Senegal, Alan has
held senior leadership positions and is a sought-after education consultant and speaker.