Bali holds a special place to when most people first visit the island, regardless if their trip was for leisure or business.
The idea of moving to Bali with your loved ones, working according to your passion, and creating beautiful excerpts of life is a dream. As an international educator for over twenty years, Ben Voborsky left the deserts of Dubai to the luscious green landscapes of Bali to make his new, additional home.
Ben is the Head of Primary School at Canggu Community School, Bali. He believes that partnerships with parents and involvement with the community will help children evolve. Indonesia Expat had the chance to ask Ben about the different approach the school has to offer, as well as, most importantly at this dark moment, tips for parents during this period of home study.
Ben, please tell us about yourself.
I am originally from Wisconsin, USA. Nakusp, British Columbia, Canada is my “home” with my family when we’re not in Bali. My wife, Sarah, and I met while teaching in Korea in 2000. We have been in the International Curriculum and American Overseas Schools, and travelling ever since. Our son, Winston, 9, joined us in Sudan, and Marley, 4, in Dubai. We value our family time and getting our third culture kids some grounding by heading back to Nakusp every summer. We spend our July holidays there, outdoors on the lakes and in the mountains with no internet or television. We moved to Bali from Dubai last August, and it has been a fantastic change of pace and scenery for our family. Outside of the realm of education, I enjoy biking, trying to surf, and photography.
What brought you to Indonesia?
Canggu Community School brought me to Indonesia. My wife and I have been international educators our entire career and first visited Indonesia in 2000. When an administrative position opened up at Canggu Community School, I applied immediately. My first visit to Canggu Community School sealed the deal. The warm and welcoming community, supportive vibe, and a focus on wellness and putting kids first was a perfect fit. Not to mention, I traded in my suits for Batik as my daily work attire.
Has anything surprised you since you first moved to Indonesia? And what have you grown to love?
We have visited Indonesia every few years since our first trip here in 2000. There really hasn’t been much in the way of surprise as we pretty much knew what to expect and wanted to be living in Indonesia. We continue to love the pace of life, the kindness of the Indonesian people, and the vibrancy that encompasses daily life.
Living in Bali is quite as efficient as an expatriate. But what do you think makes it different from your hometown or any other cities in which you have lived and worked?
I think the biggest difference from our life in Dubai is the pace. People really appreciate personal connections and taking time to enjoy the scenery. After a decade in the desert, I still step out of the house every day and am in love with the landscape and have enjoyed the rainy season, as our lives have been voiding of rain for almost ten years. We appreciate all that Bali, especially Canggu, has to offer. Between all the delicious dining options and the activities, we really maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. We are exploring all that the region has to offer and coming from a town of 1,500 people in Canada, the options are mind-blowing.
What are you busy with these days?
Aside from finishing up my doctorate, there has been a lot to do with school closures, and my partner and I both being educators means we work all day designing lessons and engaging with parents, followed by trying to educate our children. I have a very good understanding of what home learning looks like from a parental perspective and how educating your own children is not ideal.
As the Head of Primary School at Canggu Community School, what do you find so special about the school?
The reason I joined Canggu Community School is the family feel. My son would say all the people are nice and you get to collaborate with smart people. I like the fact that I get to greet each child at the entrance every morning and check in with them at break and lunchtimes, then give a high five at the end of the day. Coming from a school in Dubai of 2750 kids, Canggu Community School is small enough that you know everyone but big enough for kids to have so many opportunities.
What does Canggu Community School have to offer to the students, parents, and faculty members?
Canggu Community School offers everyone an experience which is engaging and unique because of our location. Community members get involved in the local and global community. This perspective gives our students an opportunity that is truly unique and integrates the soft skills students need to succeed with the content knowledge that grounds their education.
Coronavirus is spreading across Indonesia now. How is Canggu Community School holding up? Are there preventive measures taken by the school?
As a leadership team, we did what we felt was in the best interest and safest for our students and school community. We have been preparing for online-based home learning for some time, watching and learning from school closures around the world. Canggu Community School has always focused on partnerships with parents, and now that focus is paying off as parents become more vested in the partnerships with educators; especially with our younger learners who are not as independent.
President Joko Widodo, during a press conference, urged citizens to stay at home as much as possible, meaning everyone should lean on working and studying at home instead. How does the school ensure optimal education to its students?
Canggu Community School has online digital platforms to ensure high-quality learning continues. The challenge at this point in time is being able to differentiate for what students and parents need and be able to meet as many of those requirements as possible. We announced home learning early, so we could do our best to try to ensure our families are safe and that we were prepared to deliver quality learning experiences from a distance.
Do you have any tips that can help parents during this “study at home” period?
As a father of two children, the tips I would have is to be patient and try to promote all the authentic learning experiences you can. Put down your devices and just be with your kids. Let them cook with you, let them play, and take this moment to truly spend time and engage with your kids. The “study at home” time has shifted us to really spend time with our kids and be the role models they deserve.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an educator?
Being an international educator and leader for over twenty years, I have learned that the collaborating, communication, and intercultural skills children are learning will serve them well in the future. The experience and education that they are having are very different from my childhood in Nothern Wisconsin.
Give us three words which describe you best.
Approachable, collaborative, adventurous.