I don't even know where to begin today! It has been a very busy and informative day! I guess I'll just go in order of occurrence. So first off, in language class I received my Chinese name, Qiao Xuewen, which means snow, pure, and innocent. Apparently it is a very pretty name given to girls. Our teacher took a lot of time translating our English names, looking at the meanings and I think we are all happy with our new names! :) My vocabulary is increasing by the day and I am excited to learn more! I have also integrated into society and I now have a QQ account which is like Facebook for China. I can communicate with my new friends now! 

In the afternoon we visited our first school. We visited a high school which boards 2/3 of its 5000 students! It was like visiting a college! There were three dorms for the students to stay in, two cafeterias, many basketball courts, soccer fields, and other areas for activity. They have one large high school building and one large middle school building with many levels. When we arrived they had Tai chi classes going on and children were shooting hoops (such a contrast!). We were able to observe in a 10th grade English class and a 7th grade interpersonal skills class. 

There were about 55 students in the English class and it was taught by one teacher. I can't imagine having that many students! They were reading passages and answering questions, summarizing, and going over vocabulary while we were there. The desks were filled with books and small containers to hold belongings for more convenience. Students have lockers but like to keep everything by their desk so they have easy access as the students stay in one classroom for their lessons. The teachers are actually the ones who rotate through the school which is opposite of American schools. The classrooms contained a reading corner, projector, tv, rows of desks, and a few decorations on the walls. The students were really well behaved! They barely looked away from the teacher when we walked in! It was interesting and I was very impressed that the class was taught in all English with very little Chinese. Students were bashful at first but eager to talk when we approached them. They spoke in English very well!

In the 7th grade class, the students were learning how to interact with each other and to work cooperatively in groups. Apparently like most middle schoolers they don't have much experience working with the opposite sex, they like to segregate and often like to be alone. This class is designed to help them gain interpersonal skills. They were playing a game similar to Jeopardy and had to risk money in order to answer questions. They worked in a group and each member had their own job to do. Everyone clapped for each other and were very excited to play. It seemed to be a popular activity! We were swarmed by the students at the end of their class. They were eager to ask us questions and practice their English. Once again I was very impressed with their skill level! My throat was parched by the time I managed to squeeze out of the classroom! 

On the way out we witnessed part of the school's basketball competition going on. It was fun to watch the students interact and cheer! I think it is good that they have time for fun because a lot of pressure is put on Chinese students to be successful in school and to work hard. There are characters on the lawn that translate to "make your country proud" and "study hard." Students who don't board at the school can leave at 5:00 pm and those who stay have class until around 9:20 pm. They have very long days and are preparing for their very important college entrance exam. 

This evening we were invited by our language teacher to attend his class with his education students. The class was very welcoming and anxious to exchange ideas. We went in expecting to listen to his lecture on what makes a good teacher but were soon in the middle of deep discussion and conversation on the comparisons of the Chinese and American education systems. Jessica and I were able to exchange questions with the students about our two contrasting systems. Students surrounded us eager to ask questions and very engaged in what I had to share! Jessica talked to a group of about 15 students and I talked to the other of about the same amount. It was an awesome class and I hope to go back! It was interesting to learn that: 
- teachers are highly valued, their position is repsected above all other careers
- their is little to no parent involvement 
- mainly whole class instruction with occasional small discussion groups; teacher mainly stands in front of class and lectures while students take notes
- they said they would have liked to have the option of studying a foreign language or not, and which one to study; they think they had bad foreign language instruction (yet they spoke very well! ) 
- the education major students learn more about the theories of education and content rather than how to teach
- they only student teach for 6 weeks and are only in the schools a few times before that; their first visit was during their junior year
- they only teach one subject 
- evaluation of the teacher is based on grades and performance of the student, they can receive bonuses
- each class has a monitor, which is a student chosen by classmates to represent the class and lead, they are often called on to speak for the class

During part of the class we took a break and talked about some of the stereotypes of Americans and Chinese people and compared the two cultures. This was another fascinating topic! 

Some things about the culture:
- food and drink is always served hot or warm, coldness upsets their stomachs
- when at a party they stand in a circle, represents harmony 
- Grandparents watch the children 
- they don't want to be tan, lighter skin is better (umbrellas are used to block the sun) 


Barbara Goodwin
05/23/2013 7:54am

What a really interesting post! Thanks for doing such a good job!


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