Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sharing a common goal

So much has happened in the last two days that we have decided to break up our blog entries into three. So after you read this one, please stay tuned for more stories to come later today.

Yesterday, we conducted our second of two educator-to-educator symposia. This one took place at the Xi’an Jiaotong University affiliated middle school. This university is one of the best in Xi’an and in the country and has a full-sized middle/high school attached to it. It was so different from our experience at the Dandelion School in Beijing, leaving us with a more complete picture of education in China. When we entered the auditorium, we were greeted with the music of Pavarotti and roaring applause from a sea of teachers and students wearing navy blue suits and crisp white shirts. We were struck by the formality of the event and the beauty of this modern university facility.

After our presentation on K-12 education in the United States, we engaged in a question and answer period involving all of the teachers in the room. Our Chinese counterparts asked some intriguing questions: What is ‘No Child Left Behind all about?’”; “How many hours of homework do students have each night?”; “How do your elementary school teachers manage to teach all subjects equally well?”; “How do you handle the pressure of preparing students for college?”

From the Q&A time, we got the strong impression that much pressure is put on students to succeed. Our hosts explained that most of the pressure comes from each individual student, but it is compounded by high expectations from teachers, parents, and society as a whole. The teachers were shocked to hear how little time American students spend on homework and they were interested to learn about the college entrance process in the United States. Our counterparts shared our common concern for educating the whole student, but also felt the pressure to prepare students for state-mandated exams.

After giving a variety of professional development workshops, we each met our host that would house us for the coming night. Together we went to lunch at a local restaurant (with food from the Hubei region) and got to know each other before we were each taken to our host family’s home.

Today’s Interesting Tidbit: Primary Source teachers have conducted workshops for over 200 Chinese teachers over the past week.

Photos: 1. Sally L. and teachers in the Teaching Through Art workshop, 2. Teachers and their hosts at lunch.

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