Founding Director Alfonso Orsini says, “WISS will likely prove to be the defining experience of my educational life.” The vision set forth from WISS 10 years ago is to be a world-class institution with community as the foundation—a place “where children feel safe and welcome and known, a place they would run to each day.” Currently in Bangkok, Dr. Orsini shares with us why WISS is so special and gives us his reflection and encouragement for the future of our community.
As the Founding Director, I envisioned a school where children and young people face true intellectual rigour- not just memorization, but really deep inquiry, solving real world problems and using their creativity as well as their design thinking and the scientific method. I wanted to make a school that was a community where children feel safe and welcome and known, a place they would run into each day. I wanted us all to know that we were working every day each minute to nurture young people who would bring not just expertise and solutions and humanity into the world but goodness as well. A full IB school seemed the perfect way to achieve that, especially if we ALL, adults and children lived the learner profile.
And Mr. Jian and Tim (WISS owners) stood with us, never focused on profits but rather on having a school that they could be proud of. They found joy and wonder and they gave us more than an equal measure, when we asked each day, as one will, “For whom do I labour?” There was such an aura of love and joy in those early days and a close connection with families and kids and each other.
School should ideally be a place that kids want to run into each day. A place where they can find success and find (with adult guidance and peer inspiration) those pursuits which they love and which will last them a lifetime or transform into other pursuits. Life is pursuit, of knowledge, creation, solution, family, love, global health. We are not meant to teach students merely to receive factual knowledge (we routinely carry on our persons now the most powerful access to factual knowledge in history- our smart phones- if we can learn to use them properly). Instead for the world awaiting us all, they need to learn by thinking, analyzing, synthesizing, questioning, researching and yes, turning their learning into action. As great thinkers have pointed out, in the new age of work and innovation, we need to teach children not just to solve problems, but to look around them and see the problems that others have not yet noticed. When I walk around school I like to monitor how often I see kids (whether the littlest ones with their mouths slightly open and eyes wide, or the biggest with their usual coolness but their eyes focused on something far away) transfixed by a question or a problem. But in schools we must also learn to BE, to reflect quietly on the moments we are in and have been in among family and friends and as part of a larger community and world. Yes we want our children to achieve everything –EVERYthing-that they can and we want to be proud of our children’s university placements and then their life achievements, but if we do not send good people, self and other aware people, ethical people, into the world, we accomplish little. Back in the day, we aimed to make WISS a full IB school because of its vision of the people we want to inhabit the planet alongside of: thoughtful, caring, open-minded, problem-solving, collaborative people. More than ever the IB embodies our best hopes for educating an astute global citizenry. And deep understanding of other languages and cultures is a cornerstone to global education. None of this is possible without our looking carefully in each other’s faces each day and knowing each other well. Teaching and learning hinge first on carefully built relationships, between teacher and student, student and student, teacher and parent, teacher and teacher, leader and community, school and surrounding community. And we (educators, parents, students) must constantly ask, Why do we do this? What might we do instead? What can we do better?