Tuesday, December 8, 1998

This being a group of educators and somewhat of a working trip, today will be spent visiting the "Experimental Primary School of Beijing Normal University." After a short bus ride and a little confusion about how to get into the school, we arrived close to the main entrance. We were met by a guide and escorted to a conference room which became our base of operations. There we met the local teacher who arranged our visit. Because of the size of our group, we broke into smaller groups to visit our first classroom. My group went to a second grade math class that was studying addition and subtraction of double digit numbers. At a call over the intercom system the students stopped their work. Following commands over the intercom and guidance of class leaders the students began massaging acupressure points around their eyes. It was explained later that this was for the health of their eyes and is continued through the elementary grades. Following math class the students joined their classmates outside for P. E. This period was a structured exercise program led by the student class leaders. One of our party caused some excitement when she joined in. We retired to the conference room for a short break, and then my group went to visit an art class. The teacher was using repetitive border designs to show color coordination and interaction. As a special reward for those who did their work well, they were allowed to display it on a board at the front of the classroom. After art class we visited a music class where children were practicing a skit in song. One of our group recognized the song and asked if she might do the English version for the class. Our next stop was lunch. We were served a vegetable and tofu medley in a sauce with white rice followed by a type of cabbage soup. The meal was eaten with, if you haven't guessed it, chop sticks. That turned out to be a challenge for some who resorted to spoons. For all that, it was a rather good meal with no reason to leave hungry. From lunch we were taken on a tour of the school museum. Displayed there was the history of the school, its prominent faculty, and many awards. We again retired to the conference room, this time to meet with the head master. Similarities and differences in teaching styles and the handling of students were among the topics discussed. Gifts from various schools in the Mobile area were presented by members of our group to the head master for the school there. The time had arrived for one of our teachers to showcase our teaching methods. It had been arranged for her to teach an English class for a class of upper elementary students. As happens on some occasion Murphy ruled and, as she prepared in the classroom, one of the students remarked that they had already done that lesson. With this revelation in mind, she took the same material, applied a new slant and proceeded to teach the lesson. At the close of the class period, the students went from one to another of us asking for autographs. It was quite a thrill to be treated like a celebrity. To close the day, we were treated to a program of poetry, music. and skits performed by students of the school. Our thanks go to the teachers and staff of the "Experimental Primary School of Beijing Normal University" for allowing us to visit their school and unavoidably disrupt their day.