From June 22 to July 1, 26 of the 2011 NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence recipients are spending 10 days on an educational and cultural tour of China.
Our partners from the Pearson Foundation are helping us document the trip by sharing photos, videos, and daily excerpts about educators’ experiences and observations about education in China. The tour is designed and led by EF Educational Tours, and is sponsored by the NEA Foundation and the Pearson Foundation.Please follow us on the journey!
By Sarah Davis, Pearson Foundation
“Are we ready? Do we have the background to understand what we are seeing? Will we understand each other, our perspectives, our goals?” Maryanne Woods-Murphy, Spanish Teacher, Allendale, NJ
In less than two days, teachers who received the 2011 Awards for Teaching Excellence from the NEA Foundation (“ATE teachers”) will be heading to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong for a 10-day tour to learn more about China’s educational system. To prepare, they’ve started taking a professional development course on that educational system and on China itself. The beginning of the course contains an orientation; a historical and cultural overview; a session on geography, diversity and art; a session on current issues; and my favorite session, the forum, where teachers discuss readings, media and thoughts. The forum highlights teachers’ expectations and goals for the tour.
Below are selections from the forum conversations:
• “How do teachers challenge students and make subjects interesting… They have a student base that is expected to do well, but how do they incorporate fun and interest?” Brian Sievers, Physics/Math Teacher, Palos Heights, IL
• “Comments about us traveling to this expansive, intriguing place have ranged from ‘remember it is a communist country’ to ‘I hope you go to the markets’ to ‘the students won’t be like what you are used to’! Politics, economics and education – they infuse each and every conversation about this 21st-century power.” Debrah Calvino, Math Teacher, Montgomery, NY
• “The pressure on students, families and teachers for students to advance to higher education is real.” Joe Underwood, T.V. Production and Filmmaking Teacher, Miami, FL
• “ Many of [the Chinese parents] strive to see their children do their best. We need to do this more in our schools… Helping a student pass and be ready to enter the world has to begin at home.” Bob Gustas, Math Teacher, St. John, IN
• “While I’m sure there are many differences in the specifics, there are some broad-brush similarities between the scholar official and the role education currently plays for those who engage in our own political system. It is only through diligent years of study, high enough scores on certain exams and a certain ability to communicate clearly about one’s political ideas and ideals that one gains access to participate in the upper levels of government.” Sarah Sutter, Arts and Technology Teacher, Lisbon Falls, ME
• “We have developed a set of priorities in this country and our responses echo those priorities. I’m not saying these are wrong, just very American. The Chinese have a different approach to problem-solving than we do; remember, we’re an individualistic, very young, “manifest destiny” culture, and they have a group-centered, ancient culture. Those different cultural backgrounds, I believe, generate a different response to problems and a different creative approach.” Terri Vest, English, Social Studies and Psychology Teacher, Hardwick, VT
• “In China, many of the ethnic minority students, in spite of the same barriers that exist for my students, manage to beat the odds, go on to study at the university level and earn college degrees… How do these students manage to function effectively in a second culture using a language other than their native language?” Teresa McNeill, Algebra, Geometry, ESL Teacher, Greensboro, NC
My Goals and Expectations
We’ll all have unique perspectives on our experience: a former special needs teacher who is curious about how special needs are handled in China, a technology teacher who wants to see how technology is integrated in the classroom, a social studies teacher who wants to observe the “typical day” for a Chinese teacher and student, another social studies teacher who wants to see the role of women in China… My goal is to document it. Specifically, I’ll be “编写博客”(writing a blog). As a former Chinese major with a passion for cultural exchange who has had a blog “on the side,” I’m thrilled to be a part of this experience. I can’t wait to get started!