It wasn’t a typical Monday morning for the American elementary-aged students at Tacony Academy Charter School at 1330 Rhawn St.
This day was special for many reasons and because of that, students were prepared to experience this Monday differently than any other.
Rather than attending regularly scheduled morning classes, first- through eighth-graders gathered to welcome visiting principal Zhao Kuishu, of the XunZi Middle School, located in Han Shan District, Handan City, China. Kuishu was chosen to come to the school as part of the 2013-2014 U.S.-China Administrators Shadowing Project (ASP), a program whose goal is to build and support educational exchange programs between schools in the United States and those in China at the pre-college level.
Just after selected students sang Zhao Pengyou – a Chinese folk song - played waist drums and waved dancing flags, the entire student body offered a hearty “Nǐ Hǎo.” Responding with his own “Nǐ Hǎo,” Kuishu addressed his admiring audience of students, teachers and administrators with help from an interpreter.
“I am impressed with this warm welcome. I came here to learn about your school, your school’s culture and how you plan.”
Kuishu paused, offered a large, warm smile and continued: “I would like to become good friends and establish a partnership.”
That partnership, in existence because of the work of the Chinese Exchange Initiative, is one where Kuishu spends two weeks in the United States – one week in Boston experiencing professional development with other Chinese administrators and the second week shadowing an American host administrator at an American host school. In Kuishu’s case, those host schools are the Tacony Academy Preparatory Charter Elementary School and Tacony Academy Preparatory High School, both schools in the American Paradigm School’s charter network.
That host American administrator, Sterling Rayvon Garris, is the CEO of these two schools and in April of 2014, he will visit Kuishu’s school in Handan City and have a mirrored experience. According to Garris, this professional international exchange is multipurposed. Both administrators will be viewing the way the other creates and uses student assessments; observing language and other academic classes; and, in the case of Kuishu, observing and understanding the impact of the Caring School Community model that is used at all American Paradigm schools.
“As an educational professional,” Garris noted, “I’m hoping to learn even more best practices to bring back to our school.”
And, one of those already established best practices has been to offer Mandarin Chinese to students at both charter schools.
“Chinese was the only foreign language we were originally teaching,” Garris shared. “As [our students] are becoming global citizens, this is a great time to partner with a [Chinese] school.”
Kuishu got to see first-hand how the American students are engaging in the process of learning the Chinese language. Student tour guide and seventh grader Tatiana Montijo spoke confidently about her study of the Chinese language and culture.
“I’ve taken Chinese since the fourth grade,” Tatiana shared, “and when you are speaking it, you don’t use your tongue. You have to use a lot of muscles.”
That isn’t deterring her from learning more of the language and her desire to visit a Chinese school.
“I would love to go to China and go to one of their schools and see how they compare to us.”
This international partnering relationship is starting with the principals visiting each other. But, the ultimate goal is to be able to send students and teachers to partner schools to really embrace the other’s culture.
Kuishu expressed this in his opening comments: “I warmly welcome everyone to come to my school to learn about Chinese culture.”
And, just before he and Garris bowed to each other, he added, “I would like to become good friends and I warmly welcome you to come to my school to learn about my culture. ••