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Dear Eds,

I am sharing this email with you as I miss you all and all the kids immensely. Writing this post to you helps me to remember it will not be long before I am home with all of you again.

It is Wednesday morning here and I am getting ready to go to my 4th day of the conference on the China – Canada reciprocal learning program. It is my goal in the next three days to find a school that Kingsville can be paired with so that we can create some connections with teachers and students from Chongqing, China. I have been listening to researchers and thinkers speak about how the work that the GECDSB has done with the program will impact the global improvement of education. I have learned so much in a short time. The project is a grand project spanning the last 6 years. The Reciprocal Learning Project really grew three years ago when the sister school project was developed. There are 4 layers to the work being done:

1. Student Teachers from both China (Southwest University) and Windsor (UofW) are invited to apply for a 3 month exchange program/practicum that brings them right into classrooms in each other’s schools.

2. Student Teachers from both areas attend each other’s teacher’s colleges for this time. Number 1 and 2 can be called the Teacher Exchange Network.

3. 6 Sister school relationships created pairs of reciprocal learning teams where monthly Skype calls (themed) bring teachers, students, administrators together to learn with, from and about each other. These relationships have attempted to focus in on pedagogical and curriculum based conversations. (ie. Glenwood has focused on Math conversations)

4. Data is collected (qualitative) by Graduate Students, Doctoral students and a team of global researchers and international advisors. The data is analyzed and major papers are written to share the findings with the world. To quote Dr. Ruth Hayhoe “There is no other study, no other project like this, with this scope anywhere in the world. This is ground breaking research.”

The work that has and will be done is under the leadership of Dr. Shijing Xu of the University of Windsor and Dr. Michael Connelly of the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education. The project is possible, financially, due to a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Yesterday we gathered in the Shi Yuan Lecture hall and presented our practical observations and feelings about being involved in the project. Researchers were thrilled to hear first-hand the experiences of the Student Teachers and the Principals.

Over the next three days I have the incredible opportunity to visit three schools that were paired with my former school Eastwood Elementary. I am so excited to witness learning first hand in these schools. Tomorrow I visit the Southwest University Experimental Kindergarten Program. This school is on campus and houses 700+ Early Years students primarily parented by the faculty of the University. I look forward to sharing images, quotes and learning from these visits.

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Lecture On Chinese teacher Ed.m4a

Today I was given an ear bud with three preset channels in preparation for listening to the Chinese to English Interpreters.

I am pretty sure there are teachers back home showing the kids sfuff that I am experiencing so I’ve included a sample to listen to.

There were 11 speeches (as they called them) 8 of which were delivered directly from the heads of Universities in China about the status of Teacher Education and Educational Outreach to communities in distant and remote places in the country. Serious planning has to be considered when you are a nation of 1.4 Billion people. On top of the population issue is the fact that China just announced (March, 2016) that the “One Child Policy” was abandoned and families can now have two children legally. Kindergarten teachers are in high demand. I understand from some kindergarten teachers here in China that they have updated the curriculum so that children understand what it means that their mothers are pregnant and expecting.

Anyway…..

The system worked seamlessly. There was one catch… Read the PowerPoint on screen…..

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Today was the first day of our work together as a group of 6 Principals at the Centennial Teacher Education Symposium & 3rd Annual Conference of East-West Learning in Education. We were gathered at Southwest University (formally the Chongqing Normal University) in Chongqing, China. I will save the conversation about what a Normal University is and why this is significant in a later post.

We were introduced in a room (I recognized the room from my first Skype call!) of over 600 people most of which were in-service teacher candidates or graduate level students. 100 of the guests were Professors or visiting professors called together to celebrate 110 years of the University’s history and 10 years of the University’s amalgamation as Southwest University simultaneously. This was somewhat coincidental as the conference date happened to fall on the April 18th celebration. The whole of the campus was buzzing with excitement. Education is a very serious endeavor and experience for the people of China. From my limited experience so far it is at the very center of their cultural experience and identity. Confucius is often identified as the origin of this cultural identity.

We sat among the many honoured guests today that included Dr. Ian Menter from Oxford (a school that celebrated over 1000 years lately!), Dr Ruth Hayhoe- OISE and China Education Expert, Dr. David Hansen, Columbia University and Dr. Michael Connelly from OISE with Dr. Shijing Xu (our sponsor and host for this reciprocal learning event). Dr. Connelly and Dr. Xu also happen to be the very reason for the Reciprocal Partnership Project’s existence.

To suggest it was a full day is a vast understatement. There were 15 keynote addresses, two “tea” breaks and a one hour lunch. My head was full to say the least. I heard so many perspectives and philosophies on the status of education, teacher education and the global experience. I would struggle greatly to identify and explain the varying perspectives I heard. There were themes however that I believe have impacted me to consider how I will continue my work as a lead learner and Principal in our Canadian / Ontario context. These themes hover mostly around the critical understanding of what Culture is and how education is an expression of that culture.

Figure 1, Dr. Ian Menter of Oxford University

Dr. Ian Menter challenged me to consider the role of education. Is it “designed for the greater good, the moral imperative of a nation and civilization or is it shaped to meet the needs of the individual?” His answer, among all the other dignitaries, seemed pretty clear. The global perspective on the human condition requires us to act in ways that improves the human experience and not simply that of the individual.

Dr. Ruth Hayhoe used the 5 Harmonies to illicit an image of education that was deeply rooted in Confucianism. At the center was Trust or Xin.

Dr. Connelly articulated that “watching school leads us to the understanding that school in and of itself is a cultural artifact, coming out of the narrative of history of that culture.” When experiencing different educational experiences it is far to easy to show the dichotomies of pedagogical practices and say “they do that kind of math this way here and that way there” and further suggest one is better than the other. Having contrasting narratives around teaching and learning creates tension that is necessary for learning not for polarizing the argument.

Finally Dr. Hansen spoke to his academic body of knowledge titled Cosmopolitanism. He described this notion in education as: a sustained readiness to learn from the new and different while being heedful of the known and familiar. It is a sensibility. It is the ability to be a person that his both leaving and staying “home” simultaneously. Cosmopolitan sensibilities allow the learners to become closer and closer apart while at the same time getting further and further together.

It was a full day. At the end of it I recognized that the themes embedded in the day jived with my strong conviction towards developing as a lead learner that respects life experiences, professional experiences as learning moments that combine with previous understandings. The themes of the day stemmed from cultural awareness. The themes of the day made none of us “wrong.” I have described teachers as facilitators of the flux. The flux being that messy place were questions are asked and the teacher has no intention of being the sole provider of the answers. It was a day that asked us all to never stop considering why it is that we chose to become students of teaching.

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Meet Pei Pei

So, Check this out! (I was asked to hold Mrs. Lamb’s class Flat Lamb.)

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