Lemonweir Elementary School received visitors from the Orient on Monday.
Thirty-six teachers from China observed classes and asked and answered questions about the education systems in the United States and China when they visited Lemonweir as part of the Kingstar Nanjing Foreign Language School Program and XuZhou Kindergarten Teachers College, which partners with the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Nicki Pope, Lemonweir principal said the purpose of the trip is to learn best practices for education and how classes are conducted in the United States.
The educators from China visited Lemonweir because of its 45-15 school year. They were curious about everything from how classrooms are set up and designed, how teacher contracts are structured and the daily schedule, Pope said.
“It’s interesting,” she said. “It’s fun to watch the students excited to see and ask them questions. So it’s been a good experience.”
The day began with a tour of the grounds and building, followed by classroom observation.
Danielle Wu decided to participate in the program to learn about professional development and educational reform. She has taught 10th and 11th grade students for the past five years in Nanjing City, China.
“I wanted to know actually how the American system is different from our country’s system,” she said. “I did study in Australia, so I know everything there is to know about the Australian system, but I don’t know much about the American system. I hope that if there is a way that we can get to know the advantages of the system and try to apply it in our own system. I know it’s hard, but maybe we’ll be able to do it and at least make some changes.”
Glade Tang participated in the program to become a better teacher and to learn about the education system in the U.S. She was a college professor for three years before transferring to teaching high school-level students for seven years. He now teaches sixth grade in Nanjing.
Tang said he changed from high school to middle school because it’s where he can make the biggest impact in students’ lives.
“I changed my career just because I find kids need more help from the teachers (in this age group),” he said. “The most important thing for me, I found, is that I just want to try to help kids, especially those from six to 12 years old. At those ages I really want to help them. I enjoy being a teacher just because I feel that I’m helpful and I can do a lot of things for the kids. I really enjoy doing it, being a teacher.”
Wu said she chose the profession because it’s her passion, which she learned from her father, who is also an educator.
“I guess there’s something in me that I think I was born to teach,” she said. “When I was a young girl and when a teacher was somehow absent from class, I would be the surrogate teacher, not as an official (one), but I will walk up to the front and start telling students what to do. Somehow I just knew that I would be a teacher; I think I would go great at this job.”
The great thing about being a teacher is all of the different students she gets to see, Wu said. It’s what she enjoys about her job.
“You get to see lots of different faces every day. I don’t get stuck in a (rut) and I get to see a lot of young faces,” she said. “I think the most important thing is that I think there is change every day, and also with every year. Every year I make my work a little bit better than what I did last year, I think that’s improvement. I can see myself improving every year, so maybe that’s one of the best things. But I’m still exploring, I’m still trying to find out what I love about this job.”
The trip to the U.S. has been educational, Wu said, and she has observed some differences of the education systems.
One difference is the break between morning and afternoon classes. China’s lunch break is longer. It lasts about an hour and a half, and students have the opportunity to nap before afternoon classes.
Schedules are also different, Wu said.
“I think especially for students in middle school, I noticed that students here they can go to one class after another to pursue different studies,” she said. “But in China students are mostly stuck in one class; you don’t get to choose. If a student is excelling in math or other subjects he or she is stuck in that class. But in America you can choose. For example, if a student did really poor in English but really good in math, he or she can go to a higher-level class. That is not optional in China.”
The trip to the U.S. has been fun and beneficial, Tang said.
“I really enjoyed being here,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot, and it will help me go further with my teaching in China.”