school year, I noticed a request for applications from the Ohio Department of
Education and the Buckeye Association of School Administrators for Ohio
superintendents to take part in a first-time program called The China Exchange
Initiative. Administrators selected for the program would host an administrator
from China at their school for a week in the Fall of 2009, and then the
American administrators would visit their counterparts in China in April of
2010. I was excited about the possibility of our school becoming a partner with
a school in China, opening up a variety of possibilities for our students to
communicate with students from another country, perform projects with students
from another country, and perhaps even host or visit students from another
country. So I applied, and to my surprise and pleasure, I was one of nine
administrators from across Ohio to take part in the inaugural year of The China
Last Fall, we were fully prepared to host our Chinese administrator for a week during November. We had a great week planned. Not only would our visitor observe in many of our classrooms through the week, but he would have enjoyed many activities such as a welcome concert performed by our students, an evening at the Huber enjoying the concert series, an Amish meal, and a preview of the elementary’s musical, “Mulan.” Unfortunately, at the last minute, my Chinese counterpart was not able to make the trip. However, next Wednesday, April 7th, I will depart for China to visit Yiling Senior High School, located in the province of Hubei.
The China Exchange Initiative facilitates educational exchange programs between schools in the United States and China. It is funded by the Freeman Foundation. The leaders of the Initiative note, “Given that the United States and China will be the word’s leaders in the 21st Century, it is essential that the people of our two countries develop understanding and friendship in order to work together in the global economy and to build a more peaceful world.” The goals of the Freeman Foundation also note, “The next generations of students will need a different set of knowledge, skills, and perspectives than previous generations. They will be called upon to provide leadership on sustainable development, conflict resolution, social justice and human rights—issues that may be local in origin but whose impact is felt around the world. This is one of the most compelling rationales for creating school-to-school U.S.-China partnerships for students and teacher exchange and for infusing curriculum in international perspectives and skills.” My hope is that in the future, Hicksville Schools and Yiling Senior High School would be able to take part in shared distance learning projects and real time telecommunications conferences. Perhaps even one day, we can host students from China and our students can visit Yiling Senior High School. That would be my ultimate goal.
As I noted, I will be departing next Wednesday, April 7th and taking advantage of a few days of sight-seeing with our group before our “official” business begins. We will be flying to Beijing and then to Xi’an, where we will be taking a bicycle tour and seeing sites such as The History Museum, The Museum of Forest of Steles, and The Terra Cotta Warrior Museum. We will see various Chinese handicraft demonstrations, visit a village school, and have lunch at a local farmer’s house. All of these sightseeing adventures that are not part of the official trip are funded by me personally.
Then, starting Monday, April 12th, our group will take part in a week of seminars hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Education. Our Chinese visitors did much the same thing with the Ohio Department of Education when they were here to visit last Fall. Seminars will cover a variety of topics, such as Chinese Education and Reform; The Role of the Principal, Curriculum, and Examination System; Moral Education, and Mental and Physical Education in School; and School Finance.
On Saturday, April 17th, we will visit the Great Wall, which is the one sight I’m most looking forward to seeing. And then on Sunday, the 18th, I will travel by train to the Hubei Province to Yiling Senior High School, where I will spend the week observing their classes, meeting with their teachers, and meeting with parents of students. I have been told by my contact at Yiling Senior High that I will begin the week by addressing their 300 teachers. I’m a little nervous about that. At the end of the week, our group will gather together in Shanghai for a debriefing before heading back to the United States.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m thankful for the Freeman Foundation and the China Exchange Initiative for making this possible, and I’m thankful to the Ohio Department of Education for choosing me to be part of this trip. It will open up a new door for our school, our teachers, and our students that definitely fits into the global awareness necessary for a Twenty-first Century education. I plan to post a daily diary as often as I can via a “Wiki” (it’s kind of like a blog) that will be on our school’s home page. So please consider going to www.hicksvilleschools.organd keeping up with my adventure in China as I share stories and pictures of my trip. And upon my return, I will be putting together a presentation that I would be happy to share with any area group. In the meantime, I will be working on learning to say “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “What am I eating?” in Chinese.