Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day I - ATE group learns all about China!

Twenty-six teachers - all ATE winners - made our way to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and crossed over, through the biting morning wind, to the Art Lab.

There, we were greeted by Harriet Sanford, the President and CEO of the NEA Foundation, along with some nice, warm coffee. As we sipped the welcome morning beverage, Harriet reminded us that we needed to celebrate what we do as educators and she got us even more excited, than we already were, for the Salute to Excellence in Education Gala tomorrow night! She told us that the Gala will be at the National Building Museum - "one of the best spaces in Washington - and tomorrow, it's all for educators!"

Next, Sandra Reed, a witty and informative Pearson Foundation presenter, told us a story about why we could just call her Sandra instead of Dr. Reed.

Newly in her former job as a building principal, she heard two students talking, one referring to her as Dr. Reed.

Another boy who was in the office, commented:

"She ain't no doctor!"
"Yeah, she is. She's just not the kinda doctor that helps nobody!"

Sandra went on to give us an overview of the day and an introduction to the team that made the professional development happen.

George Stewart, from Education First, inspired us about the value of international travel.

The experience, he said, challenges us "at a skin level."

"Who am I? How am I like or unlike people? Do I run away or discover new ways of learning? Does it frighten me not to understand or be understood?"

We all grow when we are confronted with the sometimes daunting challenges of a totally new cultural experience. We don't have the keys of communication, don't understand the infrastructure and things seem to bother us more than necessary.

We walk around with a "fix it" mentality, wondering why people from different cultures don't seem to "get it" the way we do. For goodness sake, we don't even know what it means to be polite!

Next Sandra Reed came back and taught us all about how we can inspire our students with mobile devices. We wasted no time before we had a task.

"OK, get out your cell phones and text. Now, get to work."

Once we connected, what we saw was an image which we had to duplicate with a variety of items found in an envelope on our table. We were working against the clock, trying to "beat" the other tables to exactly duplicate the image on the cell phone screen. We collaborated and quickly accomplished the task.

"We won!" said my table, all in one voice.

"No," said another ATE winner, "your sweet and low packet is not in the right direction." This teacher was clearly a detail-minded person!

Sandra went to their table and theirs was right. Oh, no! We were NOT the first to complete the task!

Still, we all got candy for our efforts!

Next, Professor Ken Hammond, spoke to us about "The Return of the Repressed, Revivals of Traditional Culture in Contemporary China."

Ken and his wife are both China Scholars who have spent their lives breathing the rich and complex history of this land, at once ancient and modern.

Ten things I learned about China today, in no particular order:

1. Family is first. China's tradition of "ancestor worship" is not worship, but reverence.

2. China has 1.3 billion people

3. China has 5,000 years of history

4. "Encountering China is something that changes people's lives"

5. There is a great deal of linguistic complexity in China, but even though dialects are different, the writing is the same. Sometimes people who cannot understand each other from different regions will write what they are trying to say down.

6. Calligraphy is also a great aesthetic practice. The way people write, reveals things about the writer. One can express aspects of one's personality through the style and stroke work.

7. Imperial China had an exam system with a three-year cycle to win a spot as one of 300 administrators. 300,000 young men would take an exam and 90% would fail. Next, 30,000 would take the exam and 90% would fail, until finally, you'd test down to 300 winners of administrative posts. The "losers" still retained high status and the winners names were engraved in stone which still stands today.

8. Traditional Chinese society was patriarchal, though women retained spheres of influence in household management and through tutoring the young.

9. The 20th Century, saw China reject many ancient traditions which it felt were dysfunctional. During this time, many Western Traditions were embraced.

10. The 21st Century is a mixture of a fast-paced, modern culture that is also looking back to traditional forms. How will a new world learn to include old world traditions without losing such modern gains as gender equality?

I was really excited to discover that today was not the end of learning about China. We'll be accessing an online course by "Primary Source" via EF. This will help us create meaningful projects which will help our students learn more about China too!

We go to China at the end of June and we'll be bringing film people from Pearson and a videographer from E.F. There will be backpacks with flip videos and the chance to interview each other on site. We'll be documenting and sharing everything we do!

After our day, we went to a special dinner at Acadiana on New York Avenue. Get a look at my wonderful desert!

Some of the ATE winners are also State Teachers of the Year. Here you have a group of us: Tom Mead, Mary Pinkerston, Maryann Woods-Murphy & Stephanie Day!

Here's a terrific shot of Tom and Mary at lunch! What a background!

Tomorrow, we will learn more all day and at night - the Gala!!!

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