For more than 35 years, Tianjin International School (TIS) has kept its doors open to ambitious young learners in need of age-appropriate development and cultural enrichment. Today, there are more than 310, flourishing under the direction of more than 45 foreign educators.
This connected community lives and learns in harmony in the metropolis of Tianjin, home to TIS’ modern, safe and secure campus. Filled with facilities, the school grounds were designed to enrich the lives of those who pursue their passions, enhance their abilities and change their lives for the better.
Anything is possible with the right commitments. TIS believes that transformations start from within. By instilling qualities for a life full of meaning, curiosity, discernment, connection, compassion, courage, humility, service and perseverance, students excel in learning, love and direction with passion.
“Each month, TIS observes one of our qualities of life,” says Andrew Sickler, Student Development Coordinator. “These topics are covered in an age-appropriate way in class, as well as in consultations and assemblies each week. Teachers use their own life experience to share stories and cultivate discussions with students to help them better understand these life qualities and how developing these character traits can benefit them.
The campus is filled with examples of these traits – evident in just three of the many stops one could make while traversing the dynamic institution that is TIS.
“Fun, caring and engaging” are three words Dani Beth Barsalou uses to describe TIS Elementary School. Here, the director and her team provide a safe space where learners can grow in confidence and try new things. “I have a number of stories of students who struggled to enroll – either they were shy or they didn’t speak English at all,” Barsalou recalls. “However, they all overcame their academic or social difficulties to truly thrive.”
Their progress is always fun to watch. In the morning, educators welcome students between the first and fifth grades to find out how they are feeling and how they can help them learn effectively. A typical day covers the crucial topics of language arts, history and social studies, math, science, character education, and Chinese. Extracurricular enrichment is achieved through visual arts, physical education, and performing arts sessions. A wide range of stimulating student clubs are also available for learners wishing to master crochet, robotics, chess, mime, and more.
A particularly rewarding offering is the TIS Spring Trip for 4th graders, where they build their own tents, roast their own marshmallows, and build relationships that will last a lifetime. Grade 5 trips kick it up a notch. Those lucky enough to go will see the collaboration and encouragement at its best as students take on challenging rope lessons and climb the Great Wall of China, cheering each other on throughout. “The focus of the trip is identity, helping students figure out who they are before taking their first steps into college life,” Barsalou says.
Emotional or social difficulties are common in any academic setting – how they are handled is what matters most. At TIS, every learner feels supported and nurtured by a dynamic team of mentor teachers and counsellors. Kitty Rong works with students of all ages. While some children need help building emotional resilience, others focus on navigating interpersonal relationships or coping with stress.
“Different age groups face different challenges,” says Rong. “My main goal is to help students express their emotions, think logically to make the right decision and make peace with the people involved. Then I will follow them and collaborate with them to develop long-term plans for their social skills training and self-esteem. I do weekly check-ins to monitor their general well-being.”
The advisory team plays a pivotal role in helping high school students prepare for student-led conferences each semester, where they showcase their academic accomplishments to their parents and advising teachers through a presentation. This opportunity helps them build skills in public speaking, self-motivated learning, and stress resilience. Counseling teachers begin offering counseling six to eight weeks before the conference. “I’m happy to have the Qualities of Life as guidelines for putting vague concepts into words,” says Rong.
As student development coordinator, Sickler ensures high school students hone a broad worldview and mindset for service. “I do this by equipping and empowering student leaders, through the student council, to engage the student body in school-wide activities and celebrations. Another big part of my role is to mentor students in service projects where they use and develop skills to serve and benefit others,” he explains.
Once students have made a call with compassion, perseverance, curiosity, and determination; they are encouraged to participate in TIS’ internship program, which offers guided hands-on experiences aligned with their personal or professional interests. By setting their respective goals, they develop the courage to achieve them. This very trait is also effectively developed off-campus, particularly through the two seven-day trips provided each year for high school students.
“These adventures help them build better relationships with their peers and cultivate relationships with teachers outside of the classroom,” Sickler says of a single TIS initiative. “We are now focused on preparing material for our senior departure seminar where we spend two days working with our graduating students to be successful when they return to their passport countries and attend college.”
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