Cruise ships may be luxurious but it takes a lot of time and space to turn one around.
Sara and I have had the pleasure of working for and with principle Seamus Marriot and his super teacher wife Theresa in three different international schools. Shanghai, Cairo and Balikpapan, the first two being some of the bigger institutions that we have visited boasting thousands of students.
Well Pasir Ridge International School in Balikpapan, Borneo is no behemoth. The total student body hovers in the range of 60 pupils. While the place may be small in numbers it is big on learning. We had the opportunity to work in classrooms where sometimes the adults in the room outnumbered the students. Where individualized instruction is an everyday occurrence and the encouragement and safety of a close knit community allows students to risk a bit more than one would see in a more crowded environment.
It seemed to me that nobody gets lost in the shuffle at PRIS. There is no shuffle – instead there is room to sprint in circles, skip, or twirl to one’s destination. So instead of the Queen Elizabeth II steaming along and taking a battalion to change its course – this school is more like a ski boat skirting over the waves, turning on a dime. Fast and agile vessels can be a bit twitchy and one needs a steady crew who know when to lean which way to keep them afloat right side up.
The teachers here are a special lot. One needs to be a bit adventurous and self assured in the first place to come to Borneo and it is this type of confident individuality that enables success in individual instruction. In a small classroom successes are magnified but so too would be stumbles. Plus in a smaller institution instructors must take on multiple responsibilities. All the teachers we worked with have met and exceeded these challenges. Whether integrating tech into a social studies lesson, rallying a campaign to protect the sun bears, investigating the concept of freedom or comparing and contrasting ice cream flavors the teachers here are inspired, dedicated and entrepreneurial.
Thanks to all the stellar educators that let Sara and me invade their classroom not once, but up to three times during our stay and who made us feel welcome and appreciated during every bit of our voyage here. Extra special thanks to Brent – for being our guide to Balikpapan and for not letting me die on the mountain bike excursions.
PRIS – we will come back anytime you would have us.