First Impressions of China

It's hard to decide what has thrilled me most about my first experience with SABEH. I could write pages about traveling abroad for the first time, collaborating with teachers from across the world, and meeting new friends and colleagues in China. My hosts and travel companions have made this summer unforgettable, so choosing a single topic for a blog post is no small task. However, I can say a highlight of my time in China has been watching the teacher-learners in my class complete a Socratic Seminar. In my classes in the U.S., it's often difficult for students to participate in open discussion, even when they are used to doing so with their previous teachers. Therefore, I came to Fuzhou wondering how the learners might react to completing a Socratic Seminar for the first time: Would they enjoy conducting extended English discussions in front of their peers? Would they find the strategy useful for their classes? Immediately, it became clear that my concerns were unfounded, as the teachers launched into a fantastic discussion of the question, "What are the similarities and differences between Chinese and American education?" The discussion began with comparisons between Chinese classrooms and class sizes, but then moved to more critical analysis of the differences between Eastern and Western cultures. The discussion responses were nuanced and evidence-based, and showed a deep understanding of our classes from the previous two weeks. Participants spoke eloquently, listened attentively, and encouraged other responses with probing questions. It was a joy to watch our work culminate in a strategy in which the teacher-learners successfully integrated all Three Keys. Ultimately, the discussion group and observers came to agree that Eastern and Western education are more similar than different. After all, learning is a universal experience, even if some teaching strategies and methods are different. So as we return to our schools for the new year, I am excited for the teachers I met this summer to implement the new teaching strategies into their classrooms. I look forward to continuing to bridge our educational practices and cultures through the SABEH program!

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