WISS Today Article


Yining Wu is a Secondary Chinese Teacher and has inspired many students to learn to love Chinese culture and language at WISS. Having been raised in the traditional Chinese educational setting, Yining has an interesting point of view when it comes to IB teaching and learning. Yining is a shining example of how WISS’s commitment to a balaced curriculm comes to life in the classroom every day.


Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became experience in your subject area?

Born and bred in Shanghai, I received the traditional Chinese education until college. Up until then, I was a science major graduate who never thought about teaching as my life long career. It changed when I got a chance to volunteer in the public schools in Connecticut, United States. The way teachers and students interacted, and the relaxing atmosphere of the classrooms opened a new world for me. Knowledge was not taught, but gained by students through guided exploration. Ideas were not told, but generated by students through talks and discussions. Everything looked different from what I have experienced in my school years. Everything was much more interesting and meaningful. That’s when I changed my focus of study from science to education for my postgraduate years, and became a teacher.

After working in the States for two years, I came back to Shanghai in 2013 and joined WISS as a Chinese co-teacher in PYP. I then sharpened my focus of teaching and was repositioned as a Chinese subject teacher in Secondary.


What are your personal teaching philosophies?

I am a firm believer of Multiple Intelligence and individuality. We are all “smart” in one way, and the best teacher would be the “Bo Le” (Chinese: a good judge of hidden talent). I believe that every student is unique and “one book covers all” would not work. In my class, curriculum content is never fixed. Even for the same grade level, different groups of students enjoy different topics and benefit from different ways of instruction.


 Why have you chosen to work within the IB curriculum?

When I first encountered with IB, the word “inquiry” cast a strong impression. It reminded me of my childhood moments when I asked “whys”, and the exciting moments when the “whys” were answered through my own investigations. IB classrooms are full of these exciting moments.

Another appealing idea of IB is to be a world citizen. While all international schools are marketed for their international-mindedness, IB’s focus on international-mindedness and cultural awareness was immersed in every aspect of the curriculum. In language acquisition class, for example, students’ goal is more about cultural awareness than to acquire an additional language, because the most original and ultimate purpose of learning another language is to understand each other, to clear the gaps and resolve the conflicts.


Tell us more about the importance of your subject area for students overall growth and development?

Living in Shanghai, Chinese language is not only a communication tool in real life, but also a channel to meet the locals and to connect with the local culture. Whether it’s Chinese language and literature or Chinese language acquisition class, Chinese lessons at MYP and DP levels offer students chances to know and to understand the Chinese culture, to make comparisons between their own culture and the Chinese culture, all for the purpose of raising students’ cultural awareness. For example, in the “Dining Out” unit for Phase 3 learners, besides the language basics about food and eating, students would also learn the table manners in China and investigate the traditions of which. The lessons also provide an opportunity for the students to reflect on their own family or cultural traditions, and thus develop further understanding and embracement for differences.


Tell us what you have enjoyed most working at WISS?

WISS is a truly international family. From the colleagues to students and families, I get to interact with so many wonderful people and get to know their unique cultures. It’s like world travelling without stepping out of the country. WISS embraces different cultures and the events throughout the year are amazing ways to bond the big family. Sundowner, WISStival and International Day are always the highlight moments of every school year.

Another wonderful thing is collaboration in the WISS community. You are never alone in the classroom. From my PYP co-teaching experience to the current Secondary Chinese instruction, you can always find support from your leaders, your colleagues, and even from your students. Outside the classroom, numerous WISS wide projects happen every month: Saturday School, Giving Tree, Book Week, Explore China trips, etc. All of these are the results of the whole community collaboration, leading to a more caring WISS family.


What aspect of your class do students seem to enjoy the most?

It probably would be democracy and autonomy (democratic autonomy?)I invite students to make decisions and share the responsibility of the class. For example, every year I would share my overall yearly plans with the students, and they would share their interests with me. If a particular topic outside my original plan is voted with high interest, I would happily design a new unit as long as it fits the proper level of learning. Voting for assignment formats and feedback form happen all the time. Every person in the classroom is a decision maker, a practitioner, a supervisor, and a judge.


Any exciting projects for the WISS community to look forward to?

This year Secondary Chinese department are planning to explore local adventure opportunities for students to get closer to the Chinese language and the Chinese culture. We are looking forward to field trips in the local area for different language and cultural explorations.