Monday, July 28, 2014

Taking Readers & Writers Workshop to Public Schools in China

So,  this is what I did last week---introduced some of Panyu's best English teachers to the Columbia readers and writers workshop model as an approach to literacy instruction.  It was interesting, to say the least.  These are Chinese middle and high school English teachers, and 30 of them were chosen from over 12 school districts in the Panyu area to take part in a 3-week course taught by faculty from Brigham Young University.  I was lucky enough to be included as part of the faculty team for the course.

My part was just one of the approaches presented by the various professors, and we all worked together to present a wide range of methods and approaches to these local teachers.  Two of the professors are from the Linguistics Department and they focused on Language Acquisition pedagogy, Vocabulary instruction, and a variety of other aspects of foreign-language instruction.  Another professor focused on the use of journals and the variety of approaches to writing a teacher could take.  My focus was literacy, and I introduced the workshop model structure for both reading and writing, and focused on the power of read-alouds and making connections to our reading, as well as student conferring and giving feedback during writing as highlights.  The professor who came in the week after me is from BYU's Education department. She is having the students look at an aspect of their teaching that they would like to improve upon and making an action-based research project out of that goal. She is looking at bigger issues in teaching, asking the teachers to reflect on what brought them to teaching and what kind of teacher they really want to be.

I feel that the teachers are receiving an excellent course.  It is a lot of information for them, but overall, they seem to be doing well and for the most part, have been very open-minded about trying some new approaches or tweaking others.  I have learned from them as well. We emphasized that the course gives them some ideas, but that they will need to apply the things they feel they can use in their local context.  Most of them have 60 students in each of their classes and they are required to use certain textbooks and prepare for important tests. Therefore, of course, they will need to modify some of the methods we presented, but this gives them a broad overview of several different approaches that they can add to their teaching toolbox.

It was a pleasure for me to work with such wonderful professors from BYU, and to be a part of this teacher-training activity.  Thanks to Ellen, Peter, Ray, Bobbe, and Stefinee.  It has been a pleasure working with all of you!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Guest Post by Annabelle Qian: Hawaii Highlights

Aloha! In Hawaii we saw some very big sea turtles! They were huge! Since sea turtles are endangered, many people came to see them.  There shells were a meter long! 

We also saw some beautiful scenery of the beach and other places. I enjoyed watching the sun set over the waves.

                                                 me and my family had fun in the sun!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain

Two of my friends recommended I read this book.  I'm glad they did.  I'm almost finished with it, and I can tell you that it's definitely worth your time.  It should be required reading for educators and business people, but really, every parent---every person---should be at least familiar with the basic ideas presented in Cain's book.  It will make you think about yourself, those you love, and those you interact with.  It will make you question some of your own deeply-rooted perceptions.  It did for me.

Some of the people I love most in the world are "quiet" types.  They prefer to let others take the spotlight, they are more concerned with doing things right than getting credit or recognition, and they like to work, problem-solve, and create....alone.  They don't need collaboration to come up with their best ideas but of course, they can participate very successfully in these things.  It's just not where their best work happens, or where they feel most at peace. 

Some of the world's greatest thinkers and creators are this type of person---introverted.  Yet, our society seems to put those of a more extroverted nature on a pedestal, as if that personality were somehow superior---something we should all be working towards.  We are highly focused on collaboration and group work, which have their place, but as Cain's research shows, those are usually not the contexts in which great ideas actually come up.

Both types of people are needed and of course, there is a huge range in between.  Susan Cain gives a wonderful example of how both types are needed when she discusses Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.  Rosa was more introverted, yet her "quiet" action was world-changing.  I'll let you read the chapter on this, but she goes into quite a bit of depth on this subject, and it definitely made me think.

Cain tackles all kinds of issues related to personality, leadership, learning styles, cultural perceptions of success, creativity, and how we perceive (or have been trained to perceive) others based on how introverted or extroverted they are.

I don't know where I am on the spectrum.  I'm out-going, but I definitely get re-charged by quiet time, as well.  I am definitely a "fill the empty conversation space" person, though, and I've noticed that, again---some of the people I love most---are okay with silence. They feel no responsibility to "fill the air with words" like I sometimes do.  Is this an introvert/extrovert thing?

Oh, another epiphany for me is that being introverted is not the same as being shy, nor is it the same as not being confident.   Some of the quietest people are busy doing the best thinking and taking the most meaningful actions.

This just made me think, particularly as a parent and as a teacher.  Do we honor those who prefer to think on their own, who don't need to verbalize every thought they have?  Do we give that type of thinking the credit it deserves, or are we constantly trying to shape people into the out-spoken type?  I don't know the answer, but it makes me think.

Anyway, those are my random thoughts on this book.  It's much better than I can articulate here, so just read it.  Enjoy!