Visiting Teacher Helps Young Women Understand Firsthand: The Culture and People of China

Article excerpt

Students will need a global perspective to meet 21st-century challenges

Did you know that the current educational model was designed in the 1890s to teach students to become factory and office workers? Today, we need to look beyond this antiquated model and prepare students to be successful in the 21st century. At Saint Joseph Academy in Cleveland, Ohio, we believe that there are four pillars in the education of our young women.

First, we must teach our students to become lifelong learners. Learning how to learn is critical for their future success and survival. Development of intellectual curiosity, cognitive flexibility and information literacy are crucial skills for tomorrow's world. Information is increasing available due in part to search engines like Google, but we have to teach students how to use information and what information is valid.

The second essential skill set for the 21st century is the passion and curiosity that make learning fun. We have to help students find their passion by igniting sparks in the educational process. World languages and trips to other nations to understand culture, language and business help to ignite that curiosity. Service and mission trips to serve others build character and integrity and also create a passion for service that will last throughout life.

The third crucial skill is one with which we are most familiar-to play well with others. Collaboration is the way of the future. Teamwork cannot be just a buzzword, but a required skill. Students will need a global perspective when they play well with others.

These skills and more are coalesced in a Chinese language program at St. Joseph Academy.

State Department Exchange Program

After returning from a trip to China last spring, academy principal Audrey Menard began work on a grant offered through the U.S. State Department to secure a faculty member to teach Mandarin Chinese for the 2007-2008 school year. The program enables secondary schools in the U.S. to offer programs in Chinese and Arabic with faculty from China and Jordan, respectively. Saint Joseph Academy is one of only 13 schools approved for participation from applications submitted from across the country.

Exchange teachers selected for this program must have at least the equivalent of a bachelor's degree and a minimum of five years teaching experience in their home country, in addition to speaking English fluently.

Xingming Tong arrived in Cleveland in mid-August to begin her teaching assignment. "We were very excited to have this opportunity for our girls. This is a unique chance for them to learn about the culture, the arts and firsthand about the Chinese people," said Menard.

Xinming Tong is from Changchun, in the northeast part of China, where she has been teaching English for more than six years. In June, she took part in the Teachers of Critical Language Program, an initiative of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs administrated by American Councils for International Education. After competitive tests and interviews she was chosen to be a participant.

"I am so lucky to have this opportunity. I hope to share the Chinese culture, customs and festivals with the American girls. It's a great honor and will be an unforgettable experience for me," remarked Tong. She hopes to take back the teaching methods she is learning at Saint Joseph Academy, put them into practice and share her experiences with her colleagues at home. She continued, "I think my experiences will benefit my Chinese students and my classroom teaching style. I hope that I will also bring something to the girls, the faculty and the staff of Saint Joseph Academy."

Early in the school year the students were learning the proper names of people in their families, like grandmother and grandfather, and of common objects. They learned to sing Happy Birthday in Mandarin and to count to 100 while sorting sunflower seeds with chopsticks. …