On several occasions, Riverside has been a host school for students, teachers, and administrators visiting from overseas. From the sister school exchanges with schools in Austria, Italy, China, and Japan, to the teacher and administrator visits from Denmark and China, we have been fortunate to exchange ideas about teaching, learning, and culture.
Today, we shared ideas and observations with a group of teachers from Qingdao, China. These teachers were selected from thousands of applicants to visit schools in our district, observing our teaching practice, the engagement of students, and the relationships between staff and students.
Having worked in Beijing, China for a year, it is easy to quickly recognize how different the models for educating children are between our two countries. Classrooms in China consist of 40-60 students, typically seated in rows. The teacher is the master, and students are expected to learn and replicate from the master. Socializing is typically prohibited as it is seen as distracting and demonstrating lack of focus. Testing is highly valued, so students are expected to study countless hours, often with tutors, after school to prepare for exams. The stakes are high for a country with over 1.6 billion people who are competing for jobs and seats in top universities in the country.
Here in BC, these teachers observed students working in groups, having the freedom to get up and move, drink water, eat a snack, ask for help, use technology, and demonstrate their learning through projects, presentations, and discussions. China is looking for ways to further engage their students in a global world where it wants to be seen as a top country economically, intellectually, and politically. What is incredibly rich in the exchange between these teachers and ours (as well as our students), is the realization that there is no one size fits all approach to educating children. What works in a class of 30 students here may not work in a class of 60 students in China. Each country has knowledge to share about the way we teach and learn. I appreciate the willingness of these teachers to search for new ways to educate children. It is this desire to share and learn from one another that will continue to push us one step further in finding new and innovative ways to engage our students and enhance their learning.