Chen Chuanxia, an exchange teacher from Chongqing, China, is one of many ways Victor schools are connecting with students in Asia.
Class sizes, student wardrobe and the length of the school day are different. Other than that, kids in Victor aren’t too much different from those in Chongqing, China.
So says Chen Chuanxia, who is observing the similarities and differences of the two educational systems firsthand as an exchange teacher in the Victor Central School District. Chen, a teacher at Verakin High School of Chongqing, is spending four months at Verakin’s sister school in Victor, teaching about Chinese culture, cooking and language.
“I wanted to experience a real English-speaking country’s life,” she said.
Chen said the curriculum in her school is pretty much the same as that in Victor, but that “most students in China have a higher level in math and physics.”
A Chinese experience
The Victor Central School district will hold a program called “Focus on China” from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, at the Victor Intermediate School, 953 High St.
The Chinese Choral Society of Rochester will provide performances from a zither player and a vocal ensemble accompanied by Ching-Han Yang, a 5-year-old piano prodigy from the Eastman School of Music. There will also be demonstrations of Qi Gong exercises, a visit by a therapist from the Qi Gong Institute of Rochester, kung fu and tai ji demonstrations by the U.S. Masters Academy of Canandaigua, souvenir photos with a panda mascot, brief Mandarin lessons, and Chinese games and arts and crafts. There will also be an exhibit by Karen Bradley, owner of the Penn Yan-based business Sassy Scrubs and mother of two daughters from China, whose “Blankets for Babies” program became an official project of the Chinese government earlier this year.
The event is free to the public. For more information, call (585) 924-3252, ext. 1407.
Verakin High School is a boarding school in Chongqing Province. There, Chen said students have longer school days and sleep in dormitories five days a week. Rules are stricter at her school, she said, noting that in Victor students can color their nails, wear earrings and dye their hair.
She said Chinese people also do things together more often. They take public transportation, live closer together and spend more time with family and friends.
“The people here, they are more individual, and Chinese people are more collective,” she said. The open spaces in Victor feel to Chen like the remote countryside. The population of the urban area of Chongqinq is over 4 million.
At Verakin, Chen has 45 students in her junior-high class, compared with 20 in a class she taught in Victor last week. After seeing a photo of Verakin High School, set near a mountain with a lake in front, one student remarked that it “looks better than ours.”
Chen said there are some things the Chinese could learn from Americans. In Victor, some classes are divided into groups based on ability level. In China, struggling students are helped after school.
Grouping children by ability is “useful — it’s fair to each student,” said Chen.
In both schools, Chen said students are polite and respect their teachers.
Fifth-grader Hannah Bogart, who has taken Mandarin Chinese about once a week with Chen, now knows about 20 words in Mandarin.
“It’s a cool language,” she said. “It’s different, it’s kind of hard, but it’s fun.”
Chen’s visit is part of a districtwide interest in the country and Asia in general. In February 2006, the district held a summit on “The World Is Flat,” a book by Thomas L. Friedman that deals with globalization and progress in the 21st century. Friedman writes of a trip to Bangalore, India, where he realized globalization is changing economic concepts. He says that the world is “flat” because globalization has leveled competitive playing fields between industrial and emerging-market countries.
In July 2006, Superintendent Tim McElheran and Dawn Santiago-Marullo, director of special projects and programs, went to China with school administrators from across the United States. There, Santiago-Marullo said, administrators got to see their students’ future competition up close.
As a result of the trip, the district made goals to improve digital skills, math and science and multicultural literacy.
Santiago-Marullo said Chen’s visit provided students with an insider’s view of a different culture.
“I’ve got a lot of feedback from the teachers saying it has been a good opportunity to have someone from China in their classrooms talking to students,” she said.
Chen leaves in December, but Victor’s partnership with Verakin High School will continue. A student pen-pal program has been started, and there’s talk of the district sending a teacher to Chongqing.
Stephanie Bergeron can be reached at (585) 394-0700 ext. 255 or firstname.lastname@example.org