Nighthawks welcome their peers from sister school in China
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Del Norte High students and their counterparts at their sister school in China spent two days learning about their similarities and differences.
The Yuanjì High School students’ visit was the first of what may become many between the schools in coming years, said Del Norte Principal Greg Mizel.
Last year Yuanjì administrators met with Mizel and toured Del Norte, which they learned about via the Internet, he said. At the conclusion, they asked Mizel if Del Norte and Yuanjì could be sister schools.
“It’s a great opportunity for our kids to be globally aware, experience the world and travel,” Mizel said. “It’s been great fun.”
Since Del Norte teachers have led student trips to Europe and Costa Rica, China could be possible in a couple years, he added.
Two-dozen students from Yuanjì High School in the Zhejiang Province of China, Vice Headmaster Cui Baofa and English teacher Wu Fuying spent Sept. 6 and 7 at the 4S Ranch campus. It was the last leg of the group’s U.S. trip that included Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Del Norte was the only high school they visited, Mizel said.
According to Cui, the delegation that came last year was “deeply impressed and very interested” in Del Norte. He said they wanted to learn more about American teaching methods, have students experience a classroom atmosphere and through comparison, improve their teaching methods. He mentioned noticing differences, especially when preparing for college entrance exams.
Another goal is to better understand American culture and develop friendships, Cui said.
“America is very friendly and nice,” Wu said, noting the scenery on the East and West Coast is very different.
Wu noted at Del Norte, “the classroom atmosphere is more free. Students sit in different ways in different classes.” In China students stay at the same desk all day since teachers come to the classroom for each subject, she explained.
She added reforms are coming to the Chinese education system. One example is giving students more options when selecting among non-required courses.
While that sounds like elective courses, Mizel said he quickly learned terms like “elective” mean different things in English and Chinese. To overcome the language barrier, he found it easier to take Cui and Wu to classrooms to show them what he meant. Among things they found interesting, he said, was Del Norte integrating special needs students in the general student population as much as possible rather than educating them at a separate campus. Chinese students take a test to determine the school they attend.
Chinese students were paired with Del Norte students taking Advanced Placement Chinese. For two days the guests attended and participated when possible in each class. The greatest similarities they noted were in math and science. They also attended a pep rally and football game.
Hán Tiānyáng, a 16-year-old junior, said he noticed more freedom in content instruction and found American lessons to be more exciting and not predictable.
Hán noted greater variety in school lunch choices, and while sightseeing was impressed with American drivers yielding to pedestrians, who have a button at intersections so they can cross with a signal. In China, he said pedestrians yield to drivers.
Lu Zijun, 16, said she was impressed with Del Norte teachers going over a lesson again for the entire class if a student did not understand. In China the teacher would have moved forward with the lesson. She also noted Chinese teachers rely on the textbook, but here incorporate additional materials.
Del Norte sophomore Roy Wang said having a student shadow him was “really cool” and he “enjoyed the mix of cultures.” His guest was surprised students get up during or at the end of class, because in China they remain seated throughout the class period.
Sophomore Patricia Kleist and her brother, freshman Daniel Kleist, said they could relate well to their guests because the siblings lived overseas, including China, for 11 years. This is the first time they have attended school in the United States, having moved here two months ago.
“Usually we’re the ones being led around campus,” Daniel Kleist said, noting it was “very nice” to be the one guiding newcomers and they had unique insight to being a guide.
“It’s great to hear their perspective,” Patricia Kleist said, explaining while they went to school in China, because it was for international students their educational experience was different from the typical Chinese student.
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