Some will find this hard to believe while others won’t be surprised. My family and I will be returning to America. And not just for the summer. Starting late June/early July 2015, we will be back for a while. We found moving back a necessary decision for several reasons, some of which I don’t need to go into detail.
1) My work: I work at a private Chinese school, and I don’t mind it. I used to really enjoy it, but some things have changed. Some haven’t. If you’d like to know more about it, just ask. 🙂
2) Caleb: Our son will be going through some pivotal years being almost 6 months old now. Thus, numerous questions have come to mind regarding his future, education, friends, influences, environment, and the list goes on, though I know there will not be a “perfect” scenario for him.
3) Our future: I will teach at another school. My wife will care for our firstborn (and maybe another in the next couple years), continue to guide our son and learn what we should do to best care for him, and finally support me. She’s such a blessing, and it’s been amazing to see how she has developed as a person in so many ways since becoming a mother.
We don’t know what else the future holds. What we do know is this next move, wherever it may be to, needs to last more than two years. We have sought out God’s wisdom in this matter. We originally thought God had called us to China long-term, but plans have changed for the time being.
What’s more important in this life is purpose. I believe that God created me and has made me for purposes, most unbeknownst to me. In the meanwhile, I am striving to discover the life He has intended for me and how I can be intentional with it for Him and with people.
Therefore, this will be the last blog written on the dscottinchina website. Thank you all for reading and discussing Chinese life and culture. If you’d like to read more of my professional/teaching blog, simply check out: mr5scott.blogspot.com
You may have heard that I went to China over my winter break (and I’m just now writing about it. Without the weekly update requirement like I had at NDFH, it’s easier for me to slack off! Plus, I didn’t have my computer with me half the time, which doesn’t help anything.) China isn’t a top winter destination – especially considering the big sights are absolutely freezing this time of year. My family and I went because my brother, Jon, is doing his senior year of high school abroad in Beijing (the big city outside of which I was at this summer), and we wanted to spend Christmas with him. So we did. Not everything went as planned, though…
After taking my last final exam at school on Thursday, 12/18, I finished packing and a lot of other last-minute things before I got on a plane – a direct flight headed to the…
When first arriving in China to teach EFL, the first year and a half was quite the ride. It was during the Chinese New Year of 2012 that I realized where my heart lies. Children with special needs and the time I spend with them does something very rarely other acts can do for me. It gives me unspeakable peace and joy. Therefore, when I was asked by a Chinese colleague what my passion was, I told her I’d like to be with the children sitting on the side of the road here. Provide food for them. Show them they have purpose. Guide them in truth and love. One experience left an impression on me. I was blessed to visit a school only for children hard of hearing or with developmental disabilities (see below).
I had one particular student in my 3rd grade class who other students looked down upon and didn’t regard any of her comments and actions with respect. I took time with her in class and outside of it, even if English was her L2. It was with these thoughts in mind that my wife and I returned to America for the 2012-2013 school year.
The year back in the US was very informative and helpful. I ended up having a caseload of 25 students who had mild disabilities, and I enjoyed growing with them very much. While working as a Special Services teacher, I learned quite a bit about differentiation, how to advocate, and little ways to make change. All of these qualities are vital for any teacher, but when we moved back to China in 2013, I had no idea how much had changed with the school, particularly in its struggle with some students. The student I had before had improved greatly, and she is now allowed by her peers to be more involved in academic events. The athletic ones still not so much. I have a few students currently in 2nd and 5th grade who require more support in their individual ways, and I love that my classes have these needs.
On the rise as of lately is one boy I’ll call Jay. He possibly has no special need, and I say “possibly” because I haven’t observed him. His mother was told by the school she has to come and observe him daily. I say “no special need” because of my collaboration with other special education teachers via Twitter, email, blogs, etc. The reason why Jay may have a “special need”? He’s different from the other 99% of the school. That indeed is an overstatement, but you get the picture. Jay is in an education system which heavily relies on culture and tradition. Students are demanded to sit up straight, fix mistakes in any subject (Chinese, Math, English) by the tens and at times hundreds, not touch their pencils while teachers are talking, look down and grunt in agreement with whatever the teacher or admin say, and pass standardized tests that are one size fits all. I know, I know…students looking down and agreeing with authority is cultural. But what if culture and tradition don’t know much about children with special needs? Our Chinese elementary principal has told me thrice she doesn’t trust doctors who say our students have “sensory issues” or “no problem at all.”
Now our school leaders don’t know what to do. Thus they’ve decided to weed these students out before accepting them. Say what?! I know, I thought the same. Because of “not having the resources or the team,” future 1st graders have to attend a few subjects on a Saturday in a classroom setting to see how they do. From there, the admin and teachers observe to see from their perspective who may have a “special need” and can’t fit our bill.
This breaks my heart, but I understand why the school has done this. There are a myriad of reasons that would take more posts to delve into, but again, it breaks my heart. These students, children…are misunderstood. How would you feel? What would you do in my situation? Comments from teachers and parents alike would be great! I’m all ears.
The morning of meeting our Chinese elementary head, I went to a Chinese-English teacher for advice. This was a continuation from a day earlier when I told him that I believe our elementary leadership had one feeling toward integrating technology tools, fear. What he said yesterday morning has stuck with me since. He said that, though he is in strong support of what I’m doing, he has the same fear because of a situation that happened last year. A student published information on QQ publicly for his peers to read on a topic not appropriate for their age. It’s stories like these and countless others that have me as a teacher strongly believe that we as educators should be guiding the youth in a direction of positive use of the tools they’ll need to operate for professional and personal reasons.
Thus, Thursday afternoon this week, the head of our elementary and I firstly went over the vision of the school taken from the school website.
“We strive to provide a holistic education by uniquely combining national and international curricula with character building and cultural experiences. We endeavor to help students recognize and fully develop their optimum selves spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, physically, aesthetically, and socially so that he or she may become lifelong learner and responsible citizen who can influence our society and community positively for the long term”
We quickly got into details because I asked how we were providing “cultural experiences” and carving our students into “responsible citizens.” We talked specifics and then I was able to emphasize how our school admin could be using WeChat, Weibo, and/or QQ for branding and a for a reason Eric Sheninger always says. “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will.” This, along with a few other points, were well worth mentioning because of cultural differences in education. Though this was the case, I made it a point to draw her attention to the fact that obtaining the tools necessary for better, more improved student learning is a worldwide issue because “the Internet age” (as one of my student’s dubbed the present) is much more global than it ever has been. It’s not just a US problem.
Now, for teacher-to-teacher communication, the stumper came when I asked how we teachers are able to still actually get on the internet even while there is no wifi. She didn’t know. Our elementary director said she hadn’t thought of that before so I had to tell her because it happens daily. It’s the reality. Yes, students will possibly work ways around sites blocked and other mumbo jumbo, but funny enough, so will teachers. And we do. If we want it bad enough, we’ll get it. Thank you, 3 and 4G. 😉 What to keep in mind is how things may work top down in China. The Firewall likes to keep certain past events sensitive, and for the case of our admin and not to get kicked out of the country, I respect that. This had me understand why she as our leader came off with a slightly controlling manner when we spoke briefly last week. It also has me pondering how the school admin will respond in the future. This is where the key to unlock possibilities lies. We cannot, at a private Chinese school, have Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) on our computers and devices and use American IP addresses. The government and Internet won’t work that way. What we will have to do is coordinate collaboration & communication through avenues different from that of the norm, Twitter and Facebook. Whatever it takes, right?
How will this happen?
Remember how I said I met with teacher who said things I would keep in the back of my mind? That convo continued to an idea he had. Back during the Revolution, Deng Xiaoping put into action the idea of starting new economic ideas in a small contained environment called 特区, or Special Economic Zones. There were many cities like this around China at that time, but for our case, it will probably be just one. One classroom, or “special zone,” will be where we test out for teachers to integrate tech with simultaneous student usage. And as former Chairman Hu Jintao said on the 30th anniversary of the SEZ, these areas need to “be bold in reform and innovation in their roles as “first movers.”” I totally agree so I plan to quote Chairman Hu to our school admin and hope that there will soon come a time when Chinese teachers can collaborate with one another and use mobile learning tools to guide students while admin can be mouthpieces for the school and the students will learn with 21st century education and skills in mind. To my surprise, the Chinese elementary head agreed with all of this and more because she knows our students are growing up digital natives. Now, she said, it will take convincing the rest of the admin and putting much more focus on improving our resources. But we need to start somewhere and starting with a “special zone” will be best since we currently have weak signals and connections as well as just one tech worker for a K-12 school with over 600 students.
Up to this part in the journey, I cannot thank enough people for your support, but I shall start my list now since I know the resources and encouragement come from around the globe and the team is ever-increasing. In no particular order: