Claire Psillides joined ASIJ as our inaugural Director of Service Learning in 2022. Originally from the UK, Claire has lived most of her life overseas as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) and international school teacher. Her career has taken her to Qatar, Cyprus, Egypt, China, Malaysia and Singapore, where she spent the last 11 years. Prior to her move to ASIJ, Claire was the Head of Service and Head of Environmental Sustainability at the United World College Southeast Asia (UWCSEA).
Having a Director of Service Learning at ASIJ will enable us to work together to design, build and implement a N–12 service learning program that is inspired, student centered, empowering and impactful. This will enable us to deepen student’s learning about the world around them; at school, in the local community and beyond. A goal will be to raise capacity and agency as change makers, so that ASIJ students can create positive impact, in a reciprocal manner, with their service partners. Service learning teaches students so much about themselves, as well as building empathy and partnership with others. It is humbling and reflective (inward facing) as much as it is community building and problem solving (outward facing). I’m excited to support students and teachers as they embrace complexity, think in systems, look for leverage points, develop service partnerships and take action for sustainable development in line with best practice in service learning and the UN Global Goals. In my experience, service learning can become the heart of a community, bringing people together with a sense of shared purpose and agency, and I’m excited to come to ASIJ and find out what everyone cares about, what action they would like to take, and to support teachers and students to develop an informed, purposeful and impactful pathway towards making a difference. Service learning and sustainable development have an ever evolving language, pedagogy, toolkit and culture, and I think having a Director of Service Learning at ASIJ can build on the service work already at the school, the powerful sense of care and kindness that exists in the community, and help co-create a program that is strategic, intentional, sustainable and carefully curated to fit the needs of your community, curriculum and context.
There are so many opportunities for service learning in a diverse and multicultural international school setting like ASIJ’s. The myriad of perspectives, personal histories, world views and migration patterns, the stories of each person within the community builds something of a mini United Nations — the energy, knowledge, respect; those differences and similarities, are very powerful. Harnessing the global citizen inside a person and connecting that to the global movement for “better” empowers people to draw value from their story, brings strength from their experiences, and adds confidence to their voice. Feeling needed is a powerful driver. Students in an international and multicultural environment are all unique, they are all special and their voice matters all the more because of this. They are also uniquely placed in an environment that is well resourced, has prioritized service learning, and has created systems to enable them to develop their changemaker toolkit and be a force for good. They have a responsibility to do so. This combination of grit, skill and drive is a fabulous springboard into activism. The education for students at ASIJ calls for them to become responsible global citizens and there are many opportunities for them to leverage their school environment to do so, one of those ways being through service learning, but there are many more.
Boots! How I have dreamt of boots! Having four seasons again is incredibly exciting...spring blossom, fall colors, snow, rain that (hopefully) isn’t strong enough to knock you over! I’ve had a look and spotted the hot, humid, rainy season...which is my every day...and I think I’m ready for something else now, after nearly 15 years in the tropics. A “good hair day” would be nice once in a while. But seriously, getting out into nature, connecting with nature, exploring the beauties of the landscape, climate and culture of Japan is super exciting for my family. Singapore is amazing … and TINY … and flat. Mount Fuji encased in clouds, meandering rivers, parks, bike paths, ancient villages, weather, huge skyscrapers, snow ... so exciting! I expect I’ll be perpetually lost, wearing the wrong clothes and generally amazed for the first six months, so have patience, please!