For over 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 over 310 of them, thriving under the guidance of more than 45 foreign educators.
This connected community lives and learns in harmony in the metropolis of Tianjin, where TIS’s modern, safe, and secure campus is located. Packed with facilities, school grounds were designed to enrich the lives of those realising their passions, enhancing their abilities and changing their lives for the better.
Anything is possible with the right commitments. TIS believes transformations begin from within. By instilling qualities for a life of purpose, curiosity, discernment, connection, compassion, courage, humility, service and persistence, students will excel in learning, loving and leading with passion.
“Each month, TIS observes one of our Qualities for Life,” says Student Development Coordinator Andrew Sickler. “These topics are discussed in age-appropriate ways in the classroom, as well as during advisory and assemblies each week. Teachers use their own life experience to share stories and cultivate discussions with students to help them better understand these Qualities for Life and how developing these character traits can be beneficial for them.”
The campus is filled with examples of these traits — evident in just three of the many stops one could make when traversing the dynamic institution that is TIS.
The Elementary School
“Fun, caring and engaging” are three words Dani Beth Barsalou uses to describe TIS’s Elementary School. Here, the principal and her team provide a safe space for learners to grow in confidence and try new things. “I have a number of stories of students who have struggled upon joining — either they were shy or they couldn’t speak English at all,” Barsalou recalls. “However, they’ve all overcome their academic or social struggles to truly flourish.”
Their progression is always fun to witness. In the morning, educators greet students between grades one and five to find out how they’re 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. Co-curricular enrichment is achieved through Visual Arts, Physical Education, and Performing Arts sessions. A broad array of interest-building student clubs are available as well for learners keen on mastering crochet, robotics, chess, miming, and more.
An especially fulfilling offering is the TIS Spring Trip for Grade 4 students, where they build their own tents, roast their own marshmallows, and establish relationships that will last a lifetime. Grade 5 trips take it up a notch. Those fortunate to go will see collaboration and encouragement at its finest as students take on challenging rope courses and scale the Great Wall of China, cheering each other on throughout. “The focus of the trip is identity, helping students determine who they are before taking their first steps into Middle School life,” Barsalou explains.
Emotional or social difficulties are common in any academic setting — how they are handled is what matters the most. At TIS, every learner feels cared for and nurtured thanks to a dynamic team of advisory teachers and counsellors. Kitty Rong works with students of all ages. While some children need help building emotional resilience, others are focused on navigating interpersonal relationships or managing stress.
“Different age groups face different challenges,” says Rong. “My main focus is helping students express their emotions, think logically to make the right decision, and make peace with people who are involved. Then I will follow up and collaborate with them on making long-term plans for their social skill training, and self-esteem building. I conduct weekly check-ins to monitor their general wellbeing.”
The advisory team plays a pivotal role in helping middle school students prepare for the Student Led Conferences every semester, where they showcase their academic achievements to their parents and advisory teachers through a presentation. The opportunity helps them build skills in public speaking, self-motivated learning and stress resilience. Advisory teachers begin offering guidance six to eight weeks before the conference. “I am glad I have the Qualities of Life as guidelines to put vague concepts into words,” says Rong.
As student development coordinator, Sickler ensures high schoolers hone broad worldviews and mindsets for service. “I do this by equipping and empowering student leaders, through Student Council, to engage the student body in school-wide activities and celebrations. Another large portion of my role is coaching students through service projects where they use and develop skills to serve and benefit others,” he explains.
Once students have realised a calling by exhibiting the qualities of compassion, persistence, curiosity, and purpose; they are encouraged to participate in TIS’s internship programme, which offers guided hands-on experiences aligned with personal or professional interests. By setting their respective goals, they develop the courage needed to achieve them. This very trait is developed effectively off-campus as well — particularly through the two seven-day trips planned for secondary students every year.
“These adventures help them build better relationships with peers and cultivate relationships with teachers outside the classroom,” Sickler says of just one signature TIS initiative. “A big focus now is preparing material for our Senior Departure Seminar where we spend two days working with our graduating students to be successful as they return to their passport countries and attend university.”