December 14, 2010

Xi’an Day 2

Filed under: china,cross-cultural understanding,edtech,education — Candace Hackett Shively @ 7:22 am

I have only a few minutes left on my 24 hours of paid Internet, so I am writing quickly. I will add pictures if I have time.

Today we visited an elementary school ( they call it “primary” school) for grades 1-6, located in a village in the countryside of Hu County.  Most of the village is farmers (more on that later!). The school has 173 students and 16 teachers. They invited us into a grade 3 English class where students were learning numbers in English.The class had about 30 students (I think), aboy-recitessm.jpgnd they were very excited to see us, even though our group of 35 or so filled the aisles of their small classroom. You will see how funny we looked taking so many pictures while they worked when I post a picture. They kept their eyes on their papers and worked diligently in spite of such an interruption! We sang “If You’re Happy and You Know it” for them when their teacher asked if we would like to teach them a song. They surprised us m singing the same some back in Chinese! Apparently it is a universal song for kids.

We saw their school library, built by People to People, the organization that is running our trip. It is very simple with very few books, but it has a nice clean floor and walls. The other classrooms are kept clean, but they have bare concrete floors that are VERY cold. They seem to wash the floors with water which does not dry easily, and they were very damp and cold on the feet. Both teachers and students keep their coats on all the time. The outside was about 38 degrees F, and inside was not a lot warmer! Each classroom opens to the outdoors and has open windows letting in the cold air. They have small coal burning heaters in the rooms to get a little heat, but it is a little heat!

Things we learned:

Elementary teachers teach no more than three 45 minute classes a day. Those who worked at those school did not live in the village of 750 people, but lived in the neighboring town and ride bikes to work – a distance I would guess is about 5 miles. They must get quite cold on the ride! The school day goes from 8:30 to 11:30, breaks for lunch until 2, then runs 2 to 5 pm. The students walk back home in their village for lunch. The school has two computers: one in the teacher office and one in a classroom they share for watching videos and computer programs on two large TV screens. Both are connected to the Internet. The teacher very proudly showed us a PowerPoint they had made to teach area, perimeter, and volume in grade 6. I think the numbering they used for math was the same as U.S.,  but I will have to look at my pictures in more detail to answer the question left on my earlier blog post.

Chinese teachers teach one, two, or occasionally 3 subjects in the rural schools. In the city schools they teach only one, even in elementary.  They are certified to teach a specific subject, but there is a shortage of teachers in the villages, so some teacher teach something they may not be certified to teach.

The teachers told us they are allowed to try new ways of teaching, and they like to find new ideas. They were thrilled with the gift of some books that our delegation brought, including alphabet letters and easy English picture books. I told them about TeachersFirst, especially the English teacher, since she can read it. The curriculum is set at the county level. Students go to elementary for grades 1-6 (there is no Kdg). They go to a neighboring town for grades 7-9, then only some go on to high school– about 60% of those who go to this elementary. Education beyond grade 9 is not mandatory.

recess.jpgThe children were very happy and played outside at recess like any American children. We also saw some of them in the village later while they were home at lunch break. Our village visit is another story I will tell later.

Yesterday at the Terra Cotta Warriors museum I experienced the awe that most Chinese students have for Americans and the profound respect they show to teachers. I met a 6th grade Chinese boy who was there with his large group of schoolmates on a field trip from a school in a small city or town (not a farming village) somewhere an hour or two away. As we spoke, I was suddenly surrounded by at least 60 kids, all pressing close to say hi and to speak some English with me. When I said I was American, they were excited. When I said I was a teacher, they gasped and stepped back about a foot, being very cautious. I kept on talking and smiling with them, and they slowly closed in again. Their teacher videotaped our conversation (I guess to use in English class?). I gave them my email address and tried to act out the idea of sending me an email. I think they understood, but I am not sure. They gave the address to their teacher, anyway!

girlrecitessm.jpgBecause of that experience, I was not surprised to see the children today act very disciplined at school. They always stand up to respond to the teacher. The children in English class recited their numbers for us. We could hear other classes reciting together loudly many times during or visit.

Students have jobs at school, just as they do in the U.S. I saw some emptying the wastebaskets at recess. helpers.jpg

I have much more to share, but want to try to add a picture or two before my time runs out. Tomorrow we travel to Shanghai, a very modern Chinese city.

1 Comment

  1. What a wonderful experience for you! I am so jealous, but also grateful that you have shared this with all of us. Enjoy the remainder of your trip.

    Comment by Sharon Hall — December 14, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

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