UCPS educators have the “experience of a lifetime” during cultural exchange trip to China
Since 2010, dozens of Union County Public Schools (UCPS) teachers have traveled to Nanjing, China every summer to teach English to students. The annual trip -- which is the result of a partnership among Marvin Ridge High, the High School affiliated to Nanjing Normal University and the Asia Society's Confucius Classroom Network -- is an opportunity for UCPS staff to increase their global awareness and appreciation for other cultures.
So when Western Union Elementary Assistant Principal Kate Anderson learned about the opportunity to participate in the program this summer, she jumped at the chance to go.
“I just believe in learning, growing and traveling because the more you learn about other cultures, the more you grow as a person,” she said. “I was hoping to learn more about their educational system, but more than anything else, being a global person helps give you a better perspective on everything.”
After spending a few days touring China, Kate and her colleagues spent two weeks teaching English to students in fourth – ninth grades at the Sino-American Bilingual Summer Camp.
Teaching in two 90-minute blocks to the camp’s youngest students, Kate said most of her lessons were spent reviewing very basic English. Many of her students had taken one class of English for only one year, she said, and this was their first summer camp and their first time being away from home.
“I had to learn how to say ‘stop that’ in Chinese because they didn’t understand it in English,” she said. “So we worked on things like, what is a picnic basket or what is a sleepover? If I want to name a fruit, can I name it in English and Chinese and not just Chinese?”
Although the rising fourth graders spoke very little English, Kate said, having the opportunity to build a bond with them was the true opportunity of a lifetime.
“My favorite part about the entire trip was the relationships you make with the kids,” she said, adding that she cried when she left her students. “In China, they say the teachers are soul-shapers. And that’s exactly it and that’s exactly why we do what we do. Having that bond – hopefully they can take that back and remember the teachers from America they met.”
As she prepares for the new school year, Kate said she plans to look for ways to incorporate some of her experiences into lessons with students. With Western Union Elementary implementing a global initiative this year, she will have the opportunity to talk to students about her trip.
“It doesn’t have to be based on the school part of my trip. I can talk more about the cultural exchange,” she said. “They learned from us as we learned from them.”
Indira Soto, a Splash Language Immersion teacher at Western Union Elementary, said her experiences in China provided her with an opportunity to reflect on the importance of her culture, language and behavior in comparison with another culture. When asked what kind of impact she hopes she made on the students in China, Indira said she ultimately hopes the Chinese students understand the importance of being bilingual.
“I wanted them to learn from me that you can make your dreams come true,” she said. “I am proof of that.”
Want to learn more about what the teachers did during their trip to China? Check out Weddington Middle Assistant Principal Brian Gray’s blog about their time spent overseas.