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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Beijing Teaching Blog - SU Students Study Abroad

SALISBURY, MD---Salisbury University education students, under the leadership of Dr. Patricia Dean of the Education Department, are teaching abroad this semester at the Western Academy of Beijing (www.wab.edu), a well-regarded international school in China.

Periodically during their travels, students and faculty collaborate on a blog chronicling their experiences.  The public is invited to share in those experiences through the blog below.

February 18, 2006

We have now been teaching at the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) for two weeks. It has already been such an amazing experience and I am dreading the day I have to say goodbye to my students and new friends that I have made at the school. I have a total of 21 students in my classroom that come from the U.S., Australia, Hong Kong, UK, Denmark, South Korea, Japan, and Canada! Nine speak English as their native language and the rest speak Japanese, Cantonese, Danish, Korean, Russian or Chinese.

This school focuses on the children being very independent and inquiry learners. The first day of school I was completely shocked to find that my second graders just get up and go where they need to go when the bell rings rather than having to line up in a straight line and be lead to their classroom. Also, when they have questions about certain assignments we try to encourage them to find the answer on their own. Other unique things about this school are the variety of activities. Students must take Chinese classes up to fourth grade and then they can take French, Dutch or Spanish classes. They also cook special Chinese dishes every Friday in the learning kitchen and they have a wonderful after school activities like Tai-Bo and paper cutting.

On Friday my students cooked rice pancakes in the learning kitchen. When it was time to mix the ingredients they all took turns counting to ten in their native language! It was something that I will never forget! Not only did the students feel comfortable using their native language, we all learned from each other and I can now somewhat count in Chinese! So far student teaching in this school is something that I will never forget. This is an amazing experience to be able to teach students from all over the world!

Posted by Kelly James

February 11, 2006

I am in my last 36 hours in Beijing and very sad to leave. The interns are well adjusted in their placements at the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) so I am confident in their wellbeing as I return to SU. The people at the school are very friendly and supportive and have already embraced Tisha, Shannon, Bailey and Kelly in their WAB family network.

The interns have been offered many invitations to continue to partake in festivities both in and outside of school. Their experience at this amazing school will help to shape their teaching philosophy in such a postive way. WAB is grounded in the Primary Years Programme (PYP), an inquiry-based philosophy that affords the students choice and ownership of their learning. Their are some schools in the United States that use the PYP, including Washngton, D.C.; New York (the headquarters) and Virginia. Upon my return to the states I hope to connect with these schools.

We had the privilege of visiting a Chinese Early Childhood school on Thursday. The Venus Kindergarten hosts children from the ages of 1 1/2 through 6 to their school. Seventy percent of the enrollment is from Beijing; the rest are international children. We visited the newest facility, opened in the fall of 2005, which is one of five sites in Beijing. The schools emphasize Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences. In the Chinese educational climate instruction opportunities are quite structured with an emphasis on skills.

This school blends the two, with structure seen in their work along with a desire to provide a wider variety of learning styles and opportunities. The materials available the classrooms as well as the art and music rooms were extensive. The goal of the Venus Kindergartens is to become a bilingual school. Now most of the teachers only speak Chinese but the children are offered a daily English class. The administration is looking to support English speaking ECE teachers who would come to work at the Kindergartens for a semester or a year at a time.

Earlier I mentioned that the New Year's celebrations were coming to a close. Actually, even though the business world resumed in 3/4 speed, the New Year celebration continues for 15 days. There are still sporadic fireworks and we will attend a Temple Fair today to see a lion dance and a dragon dance. Tonight we will celebrate Rianne's birthday (an intern at WAB from the Netherlands) at her Beijing home with her Dutch family and friends. After that we will walk through the park nearby to view the lighted red lanterns, a famous New Year experience. The actual close of the New Year will be tomorrow, Sunday February 12. There will once again be many grand finales of fireworks to entertain the interns in Capital Paradise, their temporary home.

Xie xie to all of the Beijing friends and their generous hospitality, and Zai Jian to China for now.

Posted by Dr. Patricia Dean

February 7, 2006

We have decided that some of the sights in Beijing have been a slight letdown due to preparations for the summer Olympics in 2008 and the smog from the local factories. However, when we went to the infamous Great Wall, it was absolutely spectacular. The skies were crystal blue and it was not nearly as cold as some of the days prior. This perfect day led to absolutely amazing pictures. The hike up the wall was not quite as amazing as the view.

I don't know about the other girls, but I kind of forgot the wall is along the top of the mountains and followed their natural twists, turns, ascents and descents. When you walk along the wall, you are walking on anything from the gentle slope of the path to the absolute steepest steps. To give you an idea of how steep they were, the distance between one step to the other was just under my hip. I am 5'5". I personally climbed to the highest point possible in the section we visited with one of the Australian interns.

Getting up to that point gave a sense of accomplishment with a breathtaking view. Well, we're not quite sure if it was the view, the wind from the altitude, being exhausted or any combination. In our ventures, we met a gentleman from Ireland. He was there with a school group of two other teachers and approximately 26 students. He made a comment about it being a mini UN. After we finished talking with him, it was time to walk down. Did I mention I am afraid of heights? I didn't think about that on the way up. When we approached the steps to come down, the steep ones, I began to wonder if they would send a helicopter to come pick me up. Obviously, everyone made it down.

After the Great Wall, we went to the Cloisonne Factory. Everything is made by hand with copper and some sort of paint. After seeing the process, we felt guilty bargaining for these items in the markets. We had the same feeling after we saw a lady painting little glass bottles...on the INSIDE. She had specially designed brushes that curved near the end so she could paint the sides. The detail in the paintings was amazing!

Our final excursions of the day were to the Sacred Way and the Ming Tombs. The Sacred Way is lined with stone animals, real and mythical, and people. There were four of each animal. The first two were kneeling and the second two were standing. It is one of those things that doesn't sound very interesting, but was pretty neat to see. It was the beginning of the path to the Ming Tombs. There are a series of tombs, but the one we went to was mostly underground and is known as the Underground Palace.

There were two empty chambers that were supposed to be used for the Emperor court, the chamber with the coffins of the Emperor and his two wives, and a throne room for the Emperor and his two wives. We later found out that the coffins were replicas and not the real things. People threw money all around the coffins. We are not quite sure why, but in the word of our Xi'an tour guide, "The Chinese are very superstitious. Yes, very superstitious. This is true."

Posted by Shannon Johnson

February 5, 2006

When first telling people about China, they mostly thought of how cheap everything will be there. They would all say, "Can you buy me something because I heard it is so cheap there?" This is true. For the most part, the markets in China will bargain with you. Though there are some products that work out to be even as far as price, most of the items I have purchased have been really cheap.

At first, I was hesitant about bargaining. I didn't know what to say, where to start, and how much to ask for. After much practice, I have learned that bargaining is a game. It is so much fun once you get the hang of it. My favorite story to tell about bargaining is when we were at the Great Wall. There is a road lined with several vendors selling antiques, knick knacks and clothing. From a distance, I had seen this hat, so I decided to go into the little shop and take a look. Once I saw the hat up close, I wasn't really interested in buying it anymore.

If you show any interest in buying, the people are all over you. They want you to come in, tell them which one you want and try to get you to buy more than one. The lady gave me a price of 120 yuans, this is about $15. When she gave me this price, I told her "bu yao," which means "I don't want." So she asked me how much I wanted it for. I gave her a price of 60 yuans and she wasn't happy about this. Once again, I told her I didn't want it. At this point I really didn't want it anymore and was no longer trying to bargain with her. As I stood there waiting for my professor to buy what she wanted, the lady went down to 80 yuan. I kept on telling her I didn't want it.

As I started to walk away, the lady began to ramble out prices until she finally reached 20 yuan. I looked at my professor and said, "Did she just say 20 yuan?" This is about $2. She replied, yes. I had no choice but to go back and buy this hat that I didn't even want. How could I pass up 20 yuan for a bamboo hat? Now I have to figure out how I am going to get it in my carry-on to bring it home.

In the end, she tried to sell the hat to me for 120 yuan ($15), and I got it for 20 yuan ($2). The key to bargaining is to show you are interested, know a roundabout price that you don't want to go over and play the game back. If they don't want to give it to you for the price you want, walk away. If they can go lower with the price, they will call you back. If not, you can most likely try again at another vendor who may give it to you at the price you want. You can also use the trick of telling one vendor that you spent this many yuan at another vendor and they will most likely give you the same price. The experience of bargaining is one of the things I will remember most about China. I really enjoy it.

February 4, 2006

As the Chinese New Year festivities come to a close, we thought you might enjoy seeing a snapshot of the dragon dance at a local temple fair. The fireworks are subsiding and it is a little sad as the holiday ends and the people begin their everyday life once more.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we all plan on working together to prepare for our first day, Monday, at the Western Academy of Beijing. This is a prestigious school and we want to be as knowledgeable as possible about the philosophies and programs we will experience there. The next portion of our journey is about to begin!

Posted by Dr. Patricia Dean

February 3, 2006

We are all having an unbelievable time here in China. So many things are new to us (and the are some unexpected similarities too--i.e. KFC). Though it is hard to choose a favorite experience, one that tops the list for me is Muslim Street in Xi'An. We walked to the street at night after having toured other parts of Xi'An and were immediately taken aback by all the sights, smells, and sounds. The street was crowded with people.

Shops bring tables out onto the street to show you some of what is inside. Vendors sell meat on sticks and cook them right in front of you, rice cakes and dried fruits are also sold up and down the street. Among all the chaos of people and tables and meat sticks there was also the traffic of both modern times and old times. We saw a rickshaw (bicycle drawn carriage) almost collide with a two taxis; a Kodak moment I unfortunately missed. This street also gave us one of our first experiences with bargaining for the price we want to pay for things.

The following morning we walked to the same street to visit the Muslim Mosque. It was a diamond in the rough. We walked down an alley with a few street vendors and doors leading to houses and then suddenly came across a ticket booth to get inside. I was amazed by the amount of plant life around, most places have had few because of the cold. There were a couple rose buds and some small yellow flowers; not to mention the moss, and even some palm trees.

The beauty of it was really seen in its simplicity. Muslims walked about and worshipped near prayer halls not taking notice of the few tourists.

Posted by Bailey Laird

February 3, 2006 - Trip to Xi'An

On Sunday, January 29, we traveled by plane to another city in China called Xi'An. Once we arrived in Xi'An we were greeted by our hilarious tour guide. He took us to our hotel which was the magnificent Bell Tower Hotel and each room had amazing views of the city. Xi'An compared to Beijing is more of a fancier city similar to New York City. The city was decorated beautifully with New Years Eve lanterns and lights! After we checked into our hotel, we traveled to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.

The Terra Cotta Warriors were the highlight of the trip! They were founded in 1974 when a farmer was digging for a well. The following website is an excellent resource that discusses the historical information about the Terra Cotta Warriors: www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/shaanxi/xian/terra_cotta_army.

After visiting the Terra Cotta Warriors we ate dinner at a hot pot restaurant where you cook your own food. This was definitely a test for our chopstick skills! The restaurant was beautifully decorated for the New Year and the waitresses were dressed in gorgeous Chinese dresses. In the inside front entrance of the restaurant they had a unique pond filled with Koi fish. The pond went under the see through glass that you can walk on to look at the fish swimming.

Overall our trip to Xi'An was amazing! We thoroughly enjoyed our intelligent and very entertaining tour guide. He spoke excellent English and we were shocked with the number of facts and information he knows about China, the U.S. and other countries! I recommend everyone to travel to this wonderful city.

Posted by Kelly James

February 3, 2006 - Acrobat Show

Ni Hao! On Thursday, February 2, we went to an acrobat show in Beijing at the Chaoyang Theater. The acts were absolutely flawless and amazing! We had excellent seats that enabled us to view every performance with amazement.

Most of the acts demonstrated extreme strength and balance. After each act we would turn to each other and say "that was my favorite" and then the performers would do something completely different and even more difficult that shocked us all. With out a doubt this show was definitely worth going to see!

Posted by Kelly James

February 1, 2006

Nihau!

Our journey in China continues to inspire and amaze. There are so many little cultural items that constantly make me realize how differently the East and West cultures developed. One example, and the one we notice the most, is the crowd issue. There are so many people that in a crowd, they just bump into you to go where they want to go. It is not rude here; it is a necessity. Also, the Chinese are very spiritual and superstitious. We watched a woman in a little fenced in yard walk backwards around the perimeter over and over.

Another major cultural difference is the traffic! Oh my! Many times we just close our eyes. It is hard to believe how they drive and have so few incidents (I have only seen one car so far that has shown signs of a fender bender). The drivers just GO. They merge into a lane within inches of each other. Incredible. At first this was quite the hair-raising experience, but now it is just an awestruck moment that no one collides. Pedestrians and bicyclers, watch out! If the horn blows, take cover! Our Australian friend says that it is partly due to the fact that the general population has only been able to own a car within the last five to eight years. It really seems as if they make up their own rules as they learn. They wouldn't last 10 feet in the US without getting a ticket!

We have met some of the Australian students who have been teaching at the Western Academy of Beijing (where our interns will start on February 6). Vivienne and Amy will leave on Saturday. Vivienne, from Melbourne, has traveled with us on several occasions. It has been such a pleasure learning about educational procedures and philosophies and other cultural similarities and differences between our countries.

The Chinese people are so friendly and nice! They always smile and say 'hallo' or nihau. Sometimes if we answer in Chinese then they think we can speak it and begin a long passage that we don't understand. It is still such a friendly gesture and the people make this trip so worthwhile and meaningful.

The Salisbury University interns that are on this adventure are of the highest integrity. They are already planning how they will get their work done when they are at WAB (Western Academy of Beijing) and when they will be able to get on WebCT to complete their seminar requirements. They each are planning a cross-cultural legacy project and when we are out and about they are always looking for things to add to it. We have had so much fun and shared so many deep, meaningful learning experiences together. It is amazing how compatible we are, with five of us tucked together in a three-bedroom apartment, sharing groceries, apartment chores, and more. I am so fortunate to have this experience with such dedicated, adventurous and free-spirited young women.

Posted by Dr. Patricia Dean

January 31, 2006 - Happy Chinese New Year!

Nihau!
We are safely in Beijing and enjoying the new culture. Fortunately we are here during Chinese New Year, and have had the thrill of watching (and hearing) fireworks every night since we have been here. As I write there are some popping and painting the sky outside our window.

The air has a festive mood. On the New Year's Eve we were entertained by two hours of nonstop fireworks in any direction we looked. Our apartment has a huge front window and a back balcony, both perfectly situated to provide us with a first rate view of all of the beautiful, colorful explosions that fill the sky.

Today we went to a Temple Fair and saw a dragon dance. The street was closed and people were eating the vendors' foods; the smells and sights were new to us, some exhilarating and some a bit more curious.

We visited the Western Academy of Beijing on Friday and later had dinner with the host teachers who are from all over the world and have taught internationally. The atmosphere is so positive and energetic. Without a doubt these interns will gain so much from this experience.

We are off to the Great Wall tomorrow.

Posted by Dr. Patricia Dean



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