Teaching and being taught in Beijing
EDITOR'S NOTE: Throughout the summer, ASU students studying abroad will be writing back to the states about their overseas adventures. Fostering international student experiences is just one part of ASU's commitment to making a global impact.
The program that I’m in, the Field Studies program, is part of the Associated Colleges in China, and run by Hamilton College. There are fifteen students in the program, including me. For the past two weeks we’ve been studying at Minzu University in Beijing. I’m taking two classes – the first is a course about rural education in China, the problems it faces, and how it compares to education in China’s urban areas and the U.S. The second is a more hands-on course that prepares the other students and me for the field work that the program focuses on. We’re working on presentations which we’ll be giving at an education conference later this month, and we’re also working on developing and improving the classes that we teach to elementary school kids.
The presentations are about aspects of U.S. education and every student has picked a different area to report on. My topic is foreign language education, and how recently there’s been a big push for re-orientation toward communication and cultural understanding in that area. We practiced for the first time last Wednesday by giving our presentations to Minzu University students.
As for the teaching, each student has two subject areas to teach. Mine are astronomy and art. In the astronomy class I teach kids a little bit about the eight planets and the solar system, what kind of things are out in space (like stars, planets, galaxies and so on), and constellations. In the art class we look at a few famous works of art from different cultures and the kids learn about where each one came from, who made or designed it and why, and any interesting history behind it. After that we break into folding, coloring and flying paper airplanes.
For our first teaching experience, we went to a school in a village outside Beijing. I taught astronomy in the morning and art in the afternoon. At lunch we played sports with the kids for a while. I had a lot of fun, and the kids seemed to have a really good time as well. My understanding is that the school was definitely spruced up a lot for us, and the teachers were less strict with the kids than usual, but the kids seemed genuinely happy and well educated for their grade level. Many of them are not from Beijing – their parents came to the city from their hometowns to work and the children were fortunate enough to come along and attend the school.
Later this week we’ll go north to Heilongjiang Province and Inner Mongolia. We’ll go through a couple of different areas and have our teaching activity there, then go to the city of Harbin for the conference, then go through a few more places to teach, then come back to Beijing.
Jason Loose, a sustainability and Chinese major, will be a senior this fall. He is studying abroad in China this summer.