Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Week With Fellow Educators...

Well I recently returned from another student activity night.  We taught the students a bunch of different traditional field day activities, most of which included water.  We even had a water balloon fight.  It was a blast!

Extra points if you know who the statue in the photo is honoring!

My real focus for this post, though, is going to be my week spent with the  teachers.  Honestly, I'm a little glad I waited to write this post.  It has given me some time to really digest what occurred last week.  Just to clarify, the main reason SABEH comes to China is to build bridges with educators abroad.  In Hangzhou, we spend a week with teachers of Greentown Yuah private school.  

China's educational hierarchy is actually similar to ours.  The government dictates what is to be taught in schools, similar to our standards.  The schools and teachers take these standards EXTREMELY seriously for two reasons.  1, they want rigorous work for their students, and 2. the standards prepare the students for the Gaokao.  The Gaokao, pronounced gow cow,  is an integral part of growing up in China.  It is their famed college entrance exam.  Now you may be thinking that we do the same type of preparation for the SAT in the states, which is true, but the Gaokao is infinitely more important than the Gaokao.  Their college entrance exam is the one and only item universities in China look at for admission.  Grades, sports, arts, voluntarism....all meaningless when it comes to college acceptance.  Since this test can, and does, determine each student's future, teachers begin preparing students for it the first day they set foot into a classroom.  I bring this up for an important reason.  Greentown is a private school, but their students will still take the Gaokao.  While the teachers have more freedom here, everything always comes back to this exam.  Even in this posh private school, we battle some resistance to change, especially when it comes to mixing curricular subjects for a more rich learning experience, even after the principal spoke in the opening ceremony, to the educators, how important it is for the teachers to learn from us.  He is able to see the benefit of creativity in the classroom, whereas many of the teachers have not made that jump yet.

Parents waiting as their children complete the Gaokao

This is what I love about working here.  These teachers enter our classrooms skeptical, but leave after a week with a new bag of tricks for reaching their students and broadening their teaching style.  Now it's not like that for everyone.  I did still have a teacher write on my end of class evaluation that teaching math with a story won't work.  Her ability to see the importance of activating prior knowledge and building background was still not quite developed....but for the most part all teachers left with at least some new skills.  

This was my second year working with primary math teachers from Greentown.  I have to say I was much more confident teaching this time around.  I went into the situation already knowing what to expect and what the teachers were really looking for.  My lessons were catered toward creativity in the classroom.  Surprisingly, the teaching methods are quite similar.  They even use bar models!!  What the teachers struggle with is going off script to make the learning more meaningful for their students.  That is where I came in.

The teachers knew just during our meet and greet the first day, that they were about to learn some drastically different teaching styles.  For our short time together this first meeting, I had them 'Save Fred'.  The Saving Fred activity is a brilliant way to increase thinking skills and interactive skills, especially for a first meeting.  For this activity, I walked the teachers through the story of how Fred the worm was stranded at sea after his boat overturned, trapping the life preserver underneath, and leaving him on top of the boat.  This is, of course, all a story to build up to a team building activity.  The teachers had to save Fred by getting him into the life preserver, using only paperclips to move materials.  I am happy to report that all groups were able to save Fred!


An activity like this was so far beyond what they do in their classrooms.  I was very pleased that they seemed to acknowledge the benefit of such team building activity, though,  When asked at the end if they would see themselves using Save Fred in their classroom, all of the teachers were extremely enthusiastic about what we done and definitely saw a use for it with their students.  I considered day 1 a success!

With so much to say about such a wonderful week I am going to  leave you here and return in another blog post to describe more from this spectacular week with the teachers.  

By the way, the statue is of Confuscious, from whom the following quote, which speaks to me right now, was spoken:

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."


  1. Love the new blog and enjoying the descriptions of your travels! Did the lifesaver challenge with third graders this year...was a great challenge and encouraged teamwork. Glad to see the activity occur with a different age group. Enjoy the balance of your travels. DN

  2. So glad you have been reading along! They had a blast with the gummy worm activity.....definitely a winner!

    Hope you are enjoying retirement!!