Sunday, November 23, 2008

School visits in Beijing

Friday, October 24, 2008

We visited the teachers’ room at the Dandelion school. In China, teachers do not have their desks in the classroom, they each have their own desk in the teachers room. This is where teachers who teach the same subject can meet during their planning periods between classes, and work together, share information and plan lessons.

Dr. Zheng showed us a chart that the students made as they discussed qualities that woul lead to success for themselves and for their school.
Our last two days in Beijing, we had a wonderful opportunity to visit two schools: one elementary and one middle school. Both schools are for children of migrant workers. Both schools are extraordinary, and each is led by a school director and staff of teachers who are all committed to the mission of their school and their work with the students.

We posed for a picture with staff at the entrance to the Dandelion School.

The art teacher at the Dandelion School paints a student-designed mosiac at the entrance to the school.

Lucy, Dr. Zheng (school founder and director), Alicia. The painting artwork all around the school has been designed and painted by students!

We visited the Beijing Xingzhi New Citizen School, an elementary school for migrant children, and the Dandelion School, a middle school, also for migrant children.

Migrant means moving from place to place. Migrant workers are people who must move from place to place to find work to support themselves and their families.

In the United States today, migrant workers tend to be agricultural workers who move from place to place as the seasons change, based on the harvest time of certain fruits and vegetables. Almost 1.3 million U.S. citizens migrate between states to work and earn their living in the agricultural industry (PBS website, link below).

In China, migrant workers are typically people who leave their villages in the countryside to find work in the cities doing construction. They are considered migrant because they have left their home community, however, they may actually stay in the city for a much longer time. In Beijing, almost one million migrant workers live in Beijing, and built most of the tall new skyscrapers and the beautiful Olympics buildings that you saw on television this past summer.

In China, people have a hukou (hoo-koe), or residency permit, for the area where they live. The hukou allows them to find a house or apartment to live in, medical care, and schools for their children. Unfortunately, when people move from one place to another to find work, the government does not give them a hukou for the new city.
We could see that the schools that we visited, which are especially for the children of migrant workers, play an important role in the lives of the families. Some of the children live at the schools; at one school, both teachers and students live in dormitories. Both of the schools also had students who had been displaced because of the earthquake in Sichuan province. At one of the schools, the Director was sponsoring a young student from Sichuan province who had been orphaned.

For more information and background on migrant labor in the United States, check out the PBS website at

Also look for stories of Cesar Chavez, Black farmers, and others for literature connections on the topics of agriculture and migrant workers. A good children’s book is Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan.

Language mini-lesson:

In Chinese language, the word for “study” is 学. In pinyin it is written “xué,” (shweh).
According to the site, an explanation of the visual meaning of this character is of hands reaching down through a roof (covered mind) to teach.

From this one character , we get:

学 校
xué xiào: school

学 生
xué sheng: student

xué xí: study
同 学
tōng xué: classmate, schoolmate

Here's a different, but important word:
lǎo shī: teacher

Students stay in their classrooms and teachers come to them. Students had their own desks where they can keep all of their books and supplies.

Left: Lucy poses for a picture with a student in a Math English class. His jacket says "40 Acres and a Mule Productions" - Spike Lee's company!
Center: Boys in the class wanted to know our favorite sports. Theirs!
Right: We posed for a picture with the 8th grade class.

The Library at the Dandelion School is brand new, and has been supported by donations from teachers who have traveled to China with Primary Source in Watertown. The picture here shows an entire bookshelf full of books donated to the school by Boston teacher Kevin Freeley.
At both schools, students work together to run many parts of the school; they help keep the school clean and beautiful by designing and painting murals; they cook and serve lunch together, they run the library, and participate in other activities that keep the school going.

One school got a recent donation of computers, and these are being set up in a separate computer space in the library.

Mr. Huang, Director of the Xing Zhi School gave us a brief introduction to the founding of the school.

Mr. Huang has been commended in the local newspapers for the work of his school.

Students start the school day with group exercise: marching to music.

Alicia and Lucy march along!

At many schools in China it is common for students to wear uniforms, but at these two particular schools students do not wear uniforms.

Student work was displayed in lots of places; one school had the “Wall of Peace” , a sort of graffiti wall, where students express themselves freely; here students write words and pictures that tell of their hopes and dreams for the future.

"I hope....." (wǒ xī wàng....)

Both schools had their own art studios, where students had an opportunity to create their own art. Both art teachers we met are also artists, and devoted to teaching their students. We saw students learning paint, using many different techniques. They used regular and colored pencils, watercolor, sketchbooks, and large paper. We saw students work that included many practice sketches with pencil, and finished works that represented scenes from students’ lives and experiences.

A young artist with her painting in the Xing Zhi school art studio.
One day we hope that some of our students from Boston can visit China, and these schools - then you can write a blog and tell us about your experiences and new friends!
zài jiàn! (see you again!)

Lucy and Alicia


Chinese Tools said...

Some more chinese lessons here (with audio)...
Good luck!

Nancy said...

Lucy: Good job! I hope I have your permission to show this blog to my comprehensive Chinese class. We are studying the Chinese history this semester. I will tell you more about it when I see you.
I will use your blog as first hand resource.
Thank you! Nancy