7a Packed and down for breakfast. Since we are touring different places in China almost daily, we will split our suitcases, leaving one in Beijing, and taking a small one on our travels inside China. I am dressed wearing my favorite black suit, complete with a Shakespearean history tie, but failed to re-pack my dress or tennis shoes. My green Crocs, which started out as my personal favorite walking shoes, have now become “my talked about,” calling-card.
8a We loaded two different buses. One to visit and tour an elementary and middle school. Ours to explore one of the providence’s best middle and high schools.
8:30a We arrived at Nanchang No. 2 High School in Hangutan New District. Nanchang No. 2 High School was original the Xinyaun High School, founded in 1901. As one of the country’s top 100 high schools, it is recognized as one of the best in the world. With four locations, this school has nearly 8000 students under the award winning principal, Ms. Wu Qin.
As we drove into this beautiful gated facility, a very nice marque welcomed our arrival. Furthermore, students and administrators lined up to greet us with handshakes and umbrellas.
8:40a Principal Wu Qin welcomed us and brought us to a huge model of the campus. The campus is laid out very similar to a small college, consisting of nearly 20 building, three skyscraper dormitories (one for each grade 10th-12th), sport facilities, science classrooms (each with their own mini museums), and a tech center that rivals our BTC in HEBISD.
9a Our very own Debbe Roslier presented a plaque and gift on behalf of our entire delegation to Ms. Qin.
9:10a We were given a walking tour of this beautiful campus, allowed to go into empty science, math and history classrooms. The classrooms are huge, usually with desks on one half and labs, libraries, or museums on the back half. The front has both a chalkboard and a touch screen projected white board. Tight rows of desks, grouped in twos or threes follow, with significate open space in the back of the room. Each classroom accommodated 40-60 kids, who sit quietly in much tighter “your in my bubble” space, than what most US students would be accustomed.
9:50a They split our group even further, as we were allowed to observe either a Chinese poetry or a physics class. I opted for the poetry and found a few students in class before class actually started. Note: As I walk, talk, and tour this wonderful campus, I am followed by a news paparazzi crew filming and taking pictures of my every move, step and conversation. I am not bothered by this development, but it does require me to over think each question, comment, stance, and observation. They are just as interested in us as we are them.
I was given about 10 minutes to talk personally with the class. I asked their “Favorite and least favorite class?” They are all very happy to be in this school. They feel they have too much homework. They enjoy many of the same music artists our teenagers enjoys. And most are considering university studies back in the States. A few have visited college universities in the US over the past summer. They are ALL well spoken and interacted respectfully with their teachers. I ended my Q/A session by allowing them to ask me anything. The kids queried me on teen music, movies, careers choices, dress and study hours of our typical American teens. In the end, their feelings and concerns were exactly the same as our kids.
Personal space is a luxury they clearly don’t have. They tend to sit, work and study in teams. Teachers develop a personal relationship with the students that may extended beyond the classroom. This accountability is maintained even after they have completed the class. Many of the teachers live on campus and their students grades are reflected as part of their teacher evaluation.
Much like our kids, most have cell phones. They are not allowed in class and on campus. Internet access is only granted to upper classman. When I questioned one student about online usage, he told me, “Internet can be a distraction that requires discipline training before use.” He went on to say that of those that live on the dorm, computers are not present but could be used in the lab or checked out as needed.
HEB ISD is a classy and respected district. We were able to present Texas flags or sometimes key chains to the kids, a Texas emblem to the teachers, and a HEB plaque with our logo to principals, dignitaries or any special guests of our choice.
Furthermore, we are constantly receiving gifts at nearly every school we visit. Here I was given an extremely nice China tea set. How exactly I am going to get these gifts home? I may be dumping laundry to make room. hehe
12:30p We loaded the bus and traveled to Nanchang No. 3 Middle School. The number system of schools in this providence is related to the order that the school was built. Thus the newest schools get the next available number.
2p I am observing an AP Calculus class. Much like our teachers, this dynamic instructor is teaching concepts, verbally giving them humorous and catch chants to aid in their formula memorization. At this school, students take classes from 8a to 4p, take a free time to play unorganized outdoor sports. Then they eat dinner then return to class from 6p-8p. After that, they go home or to their dorms and work on their homework for 2-4 more hours.
Now I interviewed several students from the AP Calculus class. Their schedules change from semester to semester, as does their hours in school. So for AP Calculus, they attend class for 50 minutes, from which it is mostly one directional lecture from the professor. During this time the students take scrupulous notes (usually in 3 – 4 colors). The instructor goes desk by desk to study and double check their notes. Then, as a class, he puts three problems on the board to work together in groups. Usually one student will go to the board to give the answer. After dinner, they meet again with the professor for another 30 minutes usually around 7p. Here they are assigned their homework which they will start in class but finish at home, usually in groups. Thus the professor performs a three touch a day approach of the same subject material. Interesting.
More interesting observations, all school we instigated have a “no procrastination policy.” Which means, all homework is due the next day. You don’t have to ask, it is a FLAT across the board standard. Thus the student learns to work on everything, every day. This is a learned skill, as term papers and massive projects, are concepts only for 12th grade. FYI, homework is graded in class and almost never counts towards their final grade. The students are assessed weekly on Friday tests and a massive end of course examination. Sound familiar?
6p We are once again bused to one of the nicest Chinese restaurants ever. The Sofitel Trilec Nanchang. Let me just end with this thought: My fellow school board predecessors lied to me. There is no way I am losing weight on this trip! I am bombarded with masses of buffet style food choices at every single meal. I have tried tons of different fish, sheep tongue, a list of vegetables I have never heard of, sheep, lamb, several variety of duck, and a list of things that tasted like rocks.
Images from Fred’s China Trip 11/12/2015