Falcons, Giraffes and Dragons

Falcons, Giraffes and Dragons

by Liz Andrews, Secondary School Principal

As I write this I am reflecting on my first week here at YIS and my school journey across four countries.  My  travels began in Australia as a Science and English teacher of 33 boisterous boys at an inner city school in 1990's Melbourne. I quickly learned that setting lab work in everyday science and providing audiences for young writers resulted in engaged boys who wanted to challenge themselves – they chose to learn.  Moving to Thailand gave me the chance to lead the early development of the MYP at an international school where I could see what inquiry learning could look like in a Gr. 6-10 environment.  Eleven years in Tanzania taught me the impact of challenge, service and inclusion. As both a Grade Leader and later Principal, I listened to young people describe their resilience when climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and being humbled by the entrepreneurial innovations they saw in their local community. Now I am in Japan and seeing the value placed on community and unity . These experiences remind us that we are stronger because of our diversity and our community is stronger when we are inclusive of all learners.

Throughout my international school journey I have been intrigued by the animals schools choose as their mascots. They represent the spirit of the school and can serve as a focal point for our students when we come together. I have previously been a falcon which is swift and powerful with a wide vision of the world.  I have been a giraffe which is a creature of unique beauty, grace, speed, vision and unexpected strength. Both these mascots reflect what we hope young people can be: visionary, nimble learners who are resilient in the face of challenges and able to draw on the strength both of themselves and their community. When we choose a mascot, we are choosing a symbol of the values of our school and what we believe is important in our community of learners. 

So, now I am a dragon and I wonder what this means for learning here at YIS.

For the Irish poet W.B. Yeats, the dragon is a guardian of life.  In east Asia, dragons symbolize power, wisdom, strength, and hidden knowledge.  They are adaptable and can change shape as needed. They often guard treasure that can be both physical and symbolic, such as knowledge. They protect, provide power and see alternate possibilities and outcomes.

This is who we are in an international community - we draw on the combined knowledge of our diverse experiences, protect and support each other and our community, adapt to new situations. In being a dragon we see that we can be more than we initially think we are capable of. We can shift our perspective and through our experiences grow into the people we want to become.