Reflections from Director of Studies David Jepson: 2016–2017
Posted 05/25/2017 01:00PM

Director of Studies David Jepson has written an inspiring introduction to each Weekly Bulletin this year. His words of wisdom help frame various aspects of the TASIS experience and often provide context for an event happening on campus. Viewed as a whole, the entries below serve as a lofty compendium of the 2016–2017 Academic Year.

June 2, 2017

Believing in the worth of each individual and in the importance of enduring relationships...


– TASIS Mission Statement

Over the years, many have tried to account for what is so special about the “TASIS experience.” Probably no one has entirely succeeded because there is something in it that is intangible, something that is more than the sum of its parts. I would try to put it like this: TASIS does not educate individuals; TASIS educates persons. That may sound like a distinction without a difference, but some writers have explained that whereas an individual human is a single representative of a larger class (humanity), a person is known only in relationships. Strictly speaking, individuals may have intrinsic value, but persons have values, such as integrity, empathy, loyalty, and love. And these values can only be forged and strengthened in the crucible of relationship with other persons. At TASIS, with its small classes, family atmosphere, caring teachers, and beautiful environment, healthy relationships flourish. The strong and lasting bonds of friendship that are created here quicken the personal growth and development that beat at the heart of a TASIS education.

May 26, 2017

May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay
Forever young


– Bob Dylan

When our 90 seniors receive their TASIS diplomas in the Commencement Ceremony on May 27, they will be following in the footsteps of hundreds of previous TASIS graduates during the school's 60-year history. Like those others before, the students in the class of 2017 have had a challenging academic education; opportunities for travel, service, and sports; exposure to art and beauty; and daily involvement in an international community of young people. More than that—our graduates, like those others before, have learned the importance of personal responsibility, civility, compassion, justice, and truth. Fifty years ago, Mrs. Fleming asked the TASIS class of 1967 how they would be able to make the world a better place, and she answered her own question like this: "By walking erect through the crowd. By standing upright so as to be counted among those who have the strength to contribute to the rest of mankind. By taking courage from your own convictions. By being determined to lead rather than to follow. By being a lodestone for service to others rather than a millstone to society." She referred to these values as an "inner compass" that would guide the TASIS 1967 graduates, wherever in the world they happened to go. Mrs. Fleming's wise words have stood the test of time. They are just as relevant to the TASIS 2017 graduates as they ever were, and they are just as important for all young people today.

May 19, 2017

The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.


– William Shakespeare

When I was a senior in high school, nearly half a century ago, a friend of mine lost control of the car he was driving, smashed into a tree, and was killed. Of course, I was shocked. Young people, and the rest of us who are young at heart, tend to believe that we are immortal. But we're not—at least not in the way assumed by a youthful sense of invulnerability. Someday our active involvement in the human community on this earth will come to an end. Reflecting on this can be beneficial: We are reminded to be humble before the mystery of existence since we can never really know the meaning of the story of our life until it is over; and we are encouraged to relinquish transitory pleasures and pursuits, and to seek instead what is enduringly good and true. However, it is understandably difficult to bring students around to this perspective. Perhaps the best, and maybe the only, way to achieve this at schools like TASIS is through the study and contemplation of literature and art. These musings of mine are motivated in part by the upcoming finale of the 2017 Arts Festival this Sunday (May 21), when the all-school combined choirs and orchestra will perform the last half of Faure's famous Requiem. One of the most moving and beautiful choral works ever composed, the Requiem is based on the traditional Latin Mass for the Dead and is set to music of exceptional radiance. That Samantha Forrest, Jonathan Morris, and the other music teachers and conductors dared to dream this big, to "stretch" our singers and musicians like this, and to offer the school community such a profound aesthetic and spiritual experience speaks volumes about their genuine passion for excellence. Mrs. Fleming would have been—no, is—deeply impressed, immensely proud, and eternally grateful.

May 12, 2017

Beauty is truth, and truth beauty.

– John Keats

Ken Kesey, an American author who gained a measure of recognition for some novels published in the 1960s, once wrote that he was appalled to learn that students in high schools were reading his books. Students shouldn't be reading his novels, he argued, but instead should be reading the works of Hawthorne, Twain, Melville, and Fitzgerald. In other words, they should be reading the classics. Why are classics of literature, art, architecture, and music so important for young people? What is their special educative potency? Put simply, the classics are what our culture collectively judges to be most beautiful, and beauty, far from being merely a subjective perception, illumines the meaning of our ways of life. My clumsiness means nothing to anyone, but a great dancer can teach us what it means to move in space because the way she moves is beautiful; that is, universal and ideal, not private and mediocre. The dancer's gracefulness has unlimited application and significance, like reason, and it reveals moving's worth. So it is with the classics of art and literature. Through their unparalleled universality and idealizing power, the classics are best at teaching young people to understand and appreciate what it means to be human on this earth. And, as Plato says, an education that centers on the love of the beautiful, as it does at TASIS, helps children, in time, to greet Reason "as an old friend."

May 5, 2017

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

– Thomas Jefferson

What is American about The American School in Switzerland? The classically influenced architecture of the campus, the emphasis on European art and history, and the importance of international students to our identity all seem on the face of it to point away from anything especially American. But maybe that interpretation is mistaken. Classical and neoclassical buildings can be seen all over the USA, especially, and perhaps surprisingly, in the small towns of the Midwest and South; America has some of the world's greatest art museums, symphony orchestras, and university humanities departments that all show great respect for the European canons of art and history; and despite the country's recently conflicted political passions on the subject of immigration, America has traditionally welcomed the peoples of the earth with open arms. More importantly, a commitment to equality and liberty is both at the heart of the American idea and at the center of the educational program at TASIS. All students are given the same learning opportunities and are treated equally fairly by their teachers, regardless of nationality, religion, race, or anything else; and students as they grow older are allowed to make more and more of their own educational and personal decisions, and they therefore learn the direct relationship between freedom and responsibility.

April 28, 2017

But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

– John F. Kennedy

As students in grades 8–11 are finishing up their course plans for next year, and while IB and AP students are beginning their exams, it is natural to focus once more on the academic programs at TASIS. From the Core Knowledge Program to the Italian Section, from American College-Prep to British IGCSE curricula, from International Baccalaureate to Advanced Placement exams, and from English as an Additional Language to Senior Humanities to Academic Travel, the TASIS academic program is second to none in its exceedingly rich programmatic complexity. Like John F. Kennedy in his "We choose to go to the moon" speech 55 years ago, TASIS does not look for the safer curricular options but the worthier; not the most comfortable choices but the most meaningful; not the easiest way but the best. In this, we are following in the footsteps of our founder, Mrs Fleming, who metaphorically moved heaven and earth to fulfill her dreams. The academic programs at TASIS contain so much variety because the young people of the world are so various; but all our programs point to one goal: to foster a genuine passion for excellence.

March 31, 2017

He journeys without a path
And the path is born behind him.


– Vasco Popa

The remarkable story of Mrs. Fleming's life and career—the highlights of which will be entertainingly on display this weekend in the production of the musical MCF: What a Life!—demonstrates just how far one can go with drive, grit, and zest, or in other words, motivation, perseverance, and enthusiasm. It's a lesson and an inspiration for us all. Mrs. Fleming followed her dreams, bounced back from difficulties, and maintained her joie de vivre—and so can we. The path of our lives between the dawn and the dark is no path at all, at least not one that we can see. We create our own path by the choices we make, the friendships we build, and the values we hold dear. Although none of us will ever found a school like TASIS, like Mrs. Fleming we can all stand up for what is right, we can all dedicate ourselves to truth, goodness, and beauty, and through our passion for excellence, we can all, in the words of Steve Jobs, aim to "make a dent in the universe." And when we make the right decision at the right time, the universe will open up and make everything possible.

March 24, 2017

What distinguishes the man who knows from the ignorant man
is an ability to teach.

– Aristotle

The old saying that the teacher is the person in the classroom who is learning the most has been misunderstood to suggest that traditional schools like TASIS are not student-centered enough. The idea is that if teachers are learning more than students, then something must be wrong, for a school should prioritize student learning. Like any good heresy, there is some truth to this. Schools that emphasize, for example, security arrangements or technological innovation or social experience instead of student learning are neglecting the real purpose of schooling. A school surely should be first and foremost a community of learners. But that does not mean that teachers are irrelevant. If it is true that teachers are the ones who learn the most, it is because they successfully model what it is to be a genuine learner. Robert Coe from Durham University has said that "learning happens when people have to think hard," and that is exactly what teachers do every day. It takes hard and ongoing thought and study for teachers to find the best ways of representing the content of their subject for young minds, and, as Lee S. Shulman from Stanford University has said, "Since there are no single most powerful forms of representation, the teacher must have at hand a veritable armamentarium of alternative forms of representation, some of which derive from research whereas others originate in the wisdom of practice." TASIS is blessed to have so many fine teachers who never stop learning.

March 17, 2017

What seems to you lastingly delightful in Paradise Lost?


– Examination question, Oxford University English Department

It is not hard to smile at TASIS. The talented, friendly, and well-mannered students and the stunningly beautiful campus situated amidst the magnificence of the Swiss Alps and lakes offer us an extraordinary environment for delight. But what makes our experience at TASIS more than just a transitory pleasure is the enduring joy found in learning. In T. H. White's enchanting Once and Future King, Merlyn gives the following advice to his young pupil, the future King Arthur: "The best thing for disturbances of the spirit is to learn. . . Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing that the poor mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting." Their knowledge and their skills of lifelong learning are what TASIS students will keep always, no matter what happens. People will come and go in their lives, success may be fleeting, and disappointment may too frequently intrude as an unwelcome guest; but their learning will be a source of lasting delight.

March 10, 2017

The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.


– Plutarch

Educational reformers like Sir Ken Robinson, who gave the keynote address at last week’s annual National Association of Independent Schools conference in the USA, often complain about the “industrial” or “factory” model of education. They argue that large numbers of students fail to flourish in today’s schools because the young people are not really engaged in their learning but instead are overly regulated in ways that emphasize conformity, routine, and obedience. Although Mrs. Fleming never spoke about “reforming” education, she probably would have agreed with this criticism. One of the most striking ways that TASIS honors her educational vision is through the Fall and Spring Academic Travel weeks, in which students engage in a variety of memorable educational experiences outside the classroom. When students are able to see new sights, hear new languages, explore new ideas, and meet new people in a context of safety and measured freedom, they are invited to expand their authentic personal knowledge in incalculable ways. As Dorothy in the Land of Oz might have said to Toto if she had ever attended TASIS, “I have a feeling we’re not in the factory anymore.”

February 17, 2017

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.

– Maya Angelou

Our headmaster, Mr. Rigg, concluded his stirring and profound address to the entire school at last Monday's opening ceremony of International Week with a quote from the American poet Maya Angelou, who said that "Love . . . penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." The subsequent Parade of Flags, with student representatives from 60 nations embodying their national colors, costumes, and symbols, and then the singing and dancing by the choir and cheerleaders left everyone inspired and—in a way—full of love and hope. The national pride that students felt, which was movingly evident during the Parade of Flags, was transformed by the end into something greater and grander: a deep sense of joyful belonging not just to the TASIS school community but to the world community that TASIS exemplifies. Mrs. Fleming once said that TASIS was "an attempt to create a world model," and International Week at TASIS demonstrates just how well she succeeded.

February 10, 2017

The ability of a group of people to do remarkable things hinges on how well those people pull together as a team.


– Simon Sinek

The highlight of many students' experiences in school takes place on the sports field or in the gym. The pride of representing one's school, the thrill of competition, and the joy of playing together with one's teammates constitute a heady mixture of emotions that is hard to find anywhere else. However, the chief educational takeaway may not be the strengthening of muscles or the improvement in hand-eye-foot coordination, but rather the development of teamwork and collaboration. In the future, students will be working with others no matter what career they eventually pursue, and those who can be valuable members of a team will have an advantage. Last month, the Harvard Business Review published an article that explored the factors most important in great teams. Team members' emotional intelligence and communication skills ("being nice" and "joining in") were near the top. Being willing to set aside one's selfish interests for the good of the group was another significant personality trait. The research suggests that great collaboration needs good people; and nurturing the growth of good people is what great schools like TASIS do.

February 3, 2017

Why can’t we replace the teaching of hate and fear with the teaching of understanding and respect for the dignity of all human beings?
The only way we can is through education.

The hour is late, but the need is urgent.


– M. Crist Fleming

For many years, service learning has played an important part in a TASIS education, and it is a graduation requirement in the High School. At present, the High School offers local service options, such as the Red Cross and Casa Elisabetta, and also Global Service Program trips to Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Morocco, Nepal, Romania, and South Africa. The concept of service learning is really a synergistic combination of two powerful ideas. One is that learning through experience can be especially effective. Although there is a role for traditional classroom learning in a balanced academic program, there is also an important role for first-hand experience. The other idea is that giving of one’s time and effort to others—serving others—has an immeasurable, intrinsic value. It may seem counter-intuitive to require students to serve others—after all, a school is usually seen to be a place where young people develop their own individual intellectual, social, and physical skills. But service teaches us to appreciate our mutual humanity regardless of another’s wealth, class, or nationality. It teaches us that at some level, we all belong to one another and are responsible for one another. It teaches us that in giving, we receive. Some 20 years ago, Mrs. Fleming said that the need was urgent for us to overcome hate and fear in our society with understanding and respect for others. It was true then, and it is even truer today.

January 27, 2017

To write well, one must be alive at every point of one's being.


– Richard M. Weaver

It is no surprise that writing is a skill practiced throughout the curriculum at TASIS. Students who write essays, research papers, lab reports, poems, paragraphs, journals, stories, or reviews are all learning not only how to communicate with a variety of audiences but also how to think. Writing clarifies one's vague impressions, it explains and simplifies complex ideas, and it gives the writer that invaluable experience of struggling to express the truth. There is much worthwhile to be gained in learning other academic skills; but the particular demands placed upon the student's intellect when he or she commences yet another "raid on the inarticulate" by putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) are rewarding like no other. Through writing, students learn to attend to details, understand causes and reasons, and appreciate the power of words. TASIS courses in all grades emphasize writing, for it gives shape and form to mental worlds; it unlocks the doors to imprisoned thoughts and sets them free.

January 20, 2017

The reason I founded the TASIS schools was my belief that our best hope of defeating chaos was through good education.


– Mary Crist Fleming

Sometimes it is good to remind ourselves of the purpose of education. It is certainly not brainwashing, social conditioning, or “thought control,” at least not at schools like TASIS. It is not even primarily training for a career, although that is one of its benefits. A TASIS education is what used to be called a liberal education—“liberal” not in the political sense, but in the sense of “liberate.” A liberal education is essentially education for freedom. It gives wings to the mind, it open doors to the future, it gives young people the confidence and capability to go anywhere and to do anything. But why then so much homework? Why all the tests and quizzes and academic obligations? Why such a contrast between this glorious goal and the hard work required to achieve it? The answer is that there is no contrast; the hard work is the goal. The 20th century writer Simone Weil argued that the purpose of studying in school is ultimately to develop one’s ability to pay attention. This rare ability to focus and sustain one’s powers of thought is itself that very freedom of mind which is liberal education’s purpose. And it is this light of intellectual freedom shining at schools like TASIS that will someday overcome the darkness of post-truth magical thinking which overshadows so much of the world today.

January 13, 2017

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.


– Henry Adams

Last month, the mother of my brother-in-law passed away at the age of 95. I only met her a few times and was not close to her; however, I felt that I got to know her a little better when I read the comments displayed on her memorial web page. Most of these comments were written by her former students, for she had been a high school teacher. Many of the comments related personal stories about how she had provided inspiration and support over 35 years ago. After all that time, these former students had remembered! And they still cared! Will your children still remember their TASIS teachers in 2050 and beyond? It's a rather staggering question, and the answer, of course, is: Yes. The 19th century English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley once argued that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world," which may or may not be so; but what is undeniable is that we never forget our favorite teachers.

December 9, 2016

Joy to the world.


– Isaac Watts & G.F. Handel

At this time of year, when lights sparkle in the streets and gifts are exchanged among family and friends, we are reminded of the singular image that gleams at the heart of Western civilization: that of a young mother and her infant child. It is an image of innocent love enveloped in vulnerability, trust, and compassion. Our busy lives, full of pressure and deadlines, tend to shut out such images. Normally, our attention is drawn towards the turning world and to those in their mighty towers who dominate the media channels. We are encouraged on every side to compete, to wheel and deal, to win; we are told that happiness is the result of wealth and power. Anger, resentment, and anxiety seem to be everywhere. But now at the start of winter, the world slows down a little, schools go on vacation, and families spend more time together. Our lives take on a different rhythm, and we notice things anew. We hear the caroling choirs, we see the smiling children, and we may even begin to sense something like hope in the frosty air. For a blessed time, we are reminded again of love and joy.

December 2, 2016

First who . . . then what.


Jim Collins, Good to Great

There has been a good deal of discussion in the education and business worlds during the last several years about how to get the right people in the right seats on the bus, to use the metaphor introduced by Jim Collins. With the right people on board, he argues, the journey will be great, and the intended destination might even change to a better one. In schools, this means hiring the teachers and administrators who will best support and promote the school's mission and values. They are the ones who will make a lasting difference in the lives of students through their wisdom, passion, character, and commitment. The TASIS community with one voice has welcomed the recent announcement that Christopher Nikoloff has been chosen as the school's next headmaster, for he seems exactly the right person to be taking over the wheel from Lyle Rigg. There is a sense in our community now that we have turned a corner, that we have crested a hill, and the sunny vista ahead is filling us all with confidence and hope.

November 24, 2016

 

The common cognomen of this world among the misguided and superstitious is 'a vale of tears' from which we are to be redeemed.
What a little circumscribed straightened notion!
Call the world if you please 'the vale of Soul-making'.


– John Keats

In 2014, The New Republic magazine published an article that stirred up more comment and controversy than any before in its 100-year history. Entitled "Don't Send your Kid to the Ivy League," the article expounded on the dubious value of the USA's elite universities and argued for radical change in the higher-education system. But what was possibly more striking than the wide-ranging criticism was the paragraph in which the author raised the question of the purpose of education. He answered that it was not preparing students for a career, or training students for leadership, or even teaching students to think like a successful professional—education's purpose, he said, was "building a soul." As odd as that may sound, it might be a good way to sum up the TASIS Mission Statement, with its cascade of phrases like "passion for excellence," "pursuit of knowledge," "love of wisdom," "appreciation for beauty," "development of character," "service to others," and "the values of personal responsibility, civility, compassion, justice, and truth." As we pause this weekend to honor the American Thanksgiving holiday, let's be thankful for this unique opportunity to share this place and time in a school that knows, believes in, and is committed to the real purpose of education.

November 18, 2016

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.


– William Shakespeare

The story goes that before Mrs. Fleming began her career as an acclaimed educator, she wanted to become a professional opera singer. Of course, the music world's loss was international education's gain, but this might explain why TASIS throughout its history has always put such a premium on the performing arts. Whether it was in staging Shakespeare's plays during the summers across Europe or on London's Southbank, or whether it was the tradition of producing magnificent plays, musicals, and musical events during the academic school years, TASIS has long been well-known for being in the forefront of theatre and music education. And why not? The performing arts emphasize the development of problem-solving, collaboration, creativity, and communication, which are the very skills that employers in the 21st century and in every century have been looking for in young people. I hope that many of you will take the opportunity to attend this weekend's High School production of The Servant of Two Masters as well as next month's all-school Christmas Concert, along with the other plays, musicals, recitals, and performances offered at TASIS throughout the year.

November 11, 2016

But something is happening here
And you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr Jones?


– Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate for Literature 2016

Just as in last June's predictions about the UK's "Brexit" vote, the polls in the USA's presidential election were spectacularly wrong. President-elect Trump's surprise victory demonstrates yet again how inadequate our conventional ways of knowing seem to be in the face of social and political sea-changes like the ones currently underway. These large-scale failures of understanding encourage us to listen carefully, not to the everyday chatter on TV or social media, but instead to quieter voices with something to say. On April 4, 1968, when Robert F. Kennedy was campaigning for the Democratic nomination for President, he learned just before going onstage to speak that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed. He abandoned his prepared speech and announced the sad news to the shocked audience. At the end of his impromptu address, he quoted the ancient Greek poet Aeschylus (yes, there was once a time when American politicians quoted classical poets in times of crisis): "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom by the awful grace of God." Especially in these days of bewildering change, it is good to be reminded that at schools like TASIS, some things remain enduringly essential: honoring the past, appreciating beauty, respecting one another, and cultivating the wisdom of the heart.

October 28, 2016

The readiness is all.


– William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Several years ago, a report by the US Department of Education made a distinction between being prepared for university and being ready for university. Preparedness meant being academically qualified; readiness included behavioral aspects of student performance, such as time management, persistence, and interpersonal skills. TASIS, like other good schools, not only seeks to prepare students academically for university by offering a strong, varied, and challenging curriculum; we also aim to help our students grow in character and conscience and so be ready to face the assorted pressures and trials that will come their way. Our small classes, advisor program, after-school sports and activities, service learning, and travel programs all provide opportunities for teachers to offer guidance to students above and beyond what is necessary for academic success. Our aim is to help students to be ready for university and ready for life.

October 21, 2016

My most fervent dream is that every young person who goes forth from TASIS carries with them a sense of beauty, of magic, of wonder, and a desire to throw their light far and wide.


– Mary Crist Fleming

We are delighted to welcome all parents who will be able to join us for Family Weekend on Friday and Saturday. It will be a wonderful opportunity for parents to learn more about their child’s academic progress, to meet the teachers, and to experience something of what makes TASIS such an exceptional school. What is so special about TASIS? It is the dedicated, experienced, and caring faculty; it is the marvelously diverse, well-mannered, and talented student body; it is the loyal, long-serving, and hard-working support staff; it is the stunningly beautiful campus located in a magnificent natural setting; and it is the spirit of our Founder, whose vision continues to inspire us today. We look forward to sharing TASIS with you this weekend—or any time!

October 14, 2016

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.


– Robert Frost

Showing respect for others is promoted at TASIS in the classroom, playing field, dormitory, and in all aspects of its educational program. Students are encouraged to show consideration for the views, expressions, and feelings of others and to accept that, in the words of the International Baccalaureate Mission Statement, “others, with their differences, can be right.” It is a large and important lesson to learn, especially since our students come from so many diverse nationalities and backgrounds. It may be normal to prefer people who share one’s own customs, language, and beliefs, and so it follows that there may also be an instinct to keep some distance from those who are different. It is natural, in a way, to put up a wall. But as the poet suggests, there is another force at work in the world: an impulse to be welcoming, to unite, to be open to new experiences and relationships. The origin of the word "respect" literally means to look back or to look again. We might say that it means to look more deeply; that is, to lower the walls of pride and fear and to recognize another's common humanity beyond the outward appearances. In today's intemperate, polarized, and even poisonous political climate, it is good to know that schools like TASIS teach students to respect others and, accordingly, to respect themselves.

October 7, 2016

But thy eternal summer shall not fade.

– William Shakespeare

The nights are cooler now. Even though the afternoons can still feel warm, the sun's intensity is less than once it was. Early mornings are crisp, and the bright stars blaze in the deep purple sky. Autumn has come to Montagnola with a brilliance not seen in other parts of the world; yet, any day now the clouds could move in and the chilly breeze could blow. It is a changeable season. The seasons themselves remind us of change, of impermanence, of our inability to stop the arrow of time as day flows into day, month into month, year into year. But the mountains surrounding us speak of something else, something still and unshakable. And much of what students learn is of a similar invariable nature. Mathematics, scientific principles, and historical facts are what they are, always and everywhere. So, too, are the values at the center of our community, such as courtesy, compassion, gratitude, and respect, which might be expressed differently by different people in different situations, but nevertheless remain constant in their importance. So, too, are the ideals at the heart of our humanity, such as truth, goodness, beauty, and love.

September 30, 2016

The Archangel loved heights.


– Henry Adams, Mont-Saint-Michel & Chartres

Our location on a mountain in the heart of Europe is no accident. TASIS was founded to offer students a heightened perspective, a rock-solid vantage point in a fast-moving, ever-changing world. A great abundance of European history and culture lies on our doorstep and surrounds us wherever we go. High School students can experience first-hand some of the world's most wonderful works of art and architecture, from Mont-St-Michel to Michelangelo's masterpieces, as well as less well-known gems, like Torno's 12th-century Romanesque San Giovanni Battista church (pictured above) on nearby Lake Como. Even though we may not all identify with the beliefs and ideas of those men and women whose creativity and hard work made Western Civilization what it is, spending these years of our lives amidst such magnificence cannot help but give us an unparalleled view.

September 23, 2016

I need a miracle every day.


– John Perry Barlow

As we reach the end of the third week in the 2016–17 school year, the atmosphere on campus is generally sunny and cheerful. Old friendships have been rekindled, new acquaintances are being made, the routines of classes, sports, and meetings are being established, and the days are marching by in orderly formation. But the appearance of unruffled regularity in the daily schedule might be masking what is really going on. There is no “routine” in our experience at TASIS. Every single day is a big day. Every day is an adventure. The learning taking place, the relationships being forged, and the growth of character and spirit occurring within our students are daily wonders. Words fail to express just how miraculous it is to find ourselves today, and every day, in a community with such remarkable talent and in a place of such extraordinary splendor.

September 16, 2016

It's up to you to go where others fear to tread,
It's up to you to lead where others must be led,
It's up to you to clear a path and forge ahead,
It's up to you, it's up to you.


– Todd Fletcher

Our inspiring Founder's Day assembly on September 15 included two songs from the musical MCF: What a Life!, written by former TASIS faculty member Todd Fletcher, along with speeches by Headmaster Lyle Rigg and IB Coordinator Howard Stickley, two short videos, and a presentation by theatre students. Once again, we were reminded of how much we all owe to the vision and energy of Mrs. Fleming, who in 1956 founded TASIS as the first American boarding school in Europe. And we were encouraged not only to be grateful but also to follow her example. "Leadership—that is what education is all about, that is the mission of education. That is why TASIS and other good schools exist," she once said. Being a leader for Mrs. Fleming did not necessarily mean climbing to the top of the corporate ladder. It meant undertaking the responsibility of serving others and of helping them find meaning and joy in life. This is just what she did in her long and remarkable career, and she dares all of us to do the same today.

September 9, 2016

What we are doing, or at least attempting to do, is to create not international schools but international human beings, men and women who are capable of moving easily in any society and any civilization on the face of the earth.


– Mary Crist Fleming

You will have heard about or seen some of the new security installations and procedures around campus this year. Although these measures have been costly and have changed some of our accustomed routines, no one doubts that it was necessary for TASIS to respond prudently to today's heightened concerns about safety. But one thing that has not changed is the school's commitment to Mrs. Fleming's vision when she founded TASIS exactly 60 years ago. Recently, we have heard the noisy claims of some political leaders that countries should withdraw from international engagement and that walled borders should protect the fearful populace. But TASIS believes in and stands up for a very different outlook on the world, a "shared vision that the world is really one big family," as Mrs. Fleming put it. There are citizens of 50 countries in the High School this year, and every one of our 388 students enriches the experience of the others as we collectively embody Mrs. Fleming's dream. A TASIS education gives its students the ability to rise above prejudice, intolerance, and narrow-mindedness. A TASIS education prepares young people to live without fear.

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