Chinese Educators Visit Sturgis (Fall 2011)

Brown University Selects Sturgis as Host Site For Chinese Delegation of Teachers

by Marion Weeks  

In 1798 at the youthful age of fifteen, William Sturgis signed on as a greenhand aboard the Ship Eliza for the first of his three rigorous voyages to China.  213 years later, on October 5, 2011, a delegation of 23 Chinese teachers from the Shenzhen Teachers Institute reversed the long trip to Hyannis to visit the school that bears his name.

Brown University – Shenzhen Education Bureau Teachers Training Program selected Sturgis Charter Public School as one of twelve host sites in New England for the delegation to visit.  The Chinese teachers are exploring new and innovative teaching methods being developed in U.S. K-12 schools. The Brown-Shenzhen Summer Institute is one of Brown’s first programs to partner internationally with a K-12 urban school district, according to Kenneth Wong, the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor in Education Policy and UEP director. “Brown is committed to contributing to solutions for global challenges and urban education is certainly one of them,” he said. “How do you best organize a high-functioning, high-performing school when students have a range of readiness levels? How do you best assess teachers? How do you address student motivational and behavioral problems? These are common challenges globally and this is our way to engage in that global conversation.” [1]

A range of public, private and charter schools were selected as host sites, including Hopkinton and Boston Latin.  Sturgis was the only school selected on Cape Cod.  Jennifer Yan, Brown Project Coordinator, said, “We chose Sturgis specifically because of your school’s high performing students and the very distinct motto of ‘IB for All’. Also, since China is in the process of reforming their education system, visiting Sturgis, an extraordinary example, will open their eyes to the world of possibilities provided by charter schools. “

The Chinese teachers spent the day at Sturgis visiting a variety of classes.  During lunch in the library, they met with faculty and had a chance to ask questions about educational philosophy and techniques.  At the end of their visit, the delegation met in the library for a final Q & A session led by Associate Director Paul Marble. Mr. Marble won the hearts of the group when his first response was translated into Chinese. He turned to the translator and said, “It sounds so much better when you say it in Chinese.” The delegation burst into laughter and a lively exchange followed of wide-ranging questions and answers concerning IB curriculum, student discipline, school finances and administrative policies.

In appreciation for their day at Sturgis, the delegation presented a beautiful painted scroll entitled “Tree Peony.”  Sturgis teachers were surprised and delighted to learn the scroll was painted by Zheng Zhiang, a fifteen-year-old middle school student.

Although many years separate William Sturgis and Zheng Zhiang, it somehow seems fitting that the stories of two fifteen-year-old boys, one a Chinese artist and the other an American sailor bound for China, should cross paths during a meeting to promote cross-cultural understanding.

[1] “Comparing classrooms: Brown hosts Chinese educators training program” http://news.brown.edu/features/2011/06/china accessed 6 October 2011

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