After a restful evening at the hotel (we typically arrive at the hotels around 5:30, change clothes and meet in the lobby at 6/6:15 to spend the evening as a delegation, comparing notes and reflecting on our days), we packed up yet again before heading over to Yangzhou High School. This school is the one being assigned to Lovett, which means we will work with their administration on the Chinese American High School curriculum currently being developed here. We are greeted by Amelia, Xiu ZongYong, who is their international exchange director. Amelia is a name she chose for herself (most Chinese pick an American first name), and she has been teaching for years. Her husband is a professor in the university here, and her daughter is an 8th grader with the highest marks on the high school entrance exams in the district. (Note: Amelia said that although her daughter could attend Yangzhou High School, they could not afford the private tuition for the American High School program. They are considering sending her to boarding school in Singapore, and her daughter will apply for the many scholarships offered to Chinese students to study there.)
The campus is very large, feeling like a university campus rather than a high school campus. There is a large open courtyard with trees and walkways that connect a number of tall classroom buildings and an adjacent administration building and outdoor track/athletic facility. We went first to the board room for a signing (this time set up with the signers and Chinese on one side, and my colleagues on the other). I was very pleased to meet the principal, who is a master teacher of mathematics and, although he does not speak English, very warm in his gestures and thoughtful in his remarks. The school is the #1 school in the district (they all seem to be, and this often makes us wonder what measures they use and what they mean by district), and has had significant achievement in math and science. The school website indicates they are also very committed to physical education, something you do not see in all the Chinese high schools.
After the signing, the principal gave us a tour accompanied by Amelia, the assistant principal, and and an English teacher who could help translate. (Note: Amelia's English is excellent, and I am very excited about working closely with her.) We were able to sit in on two American High School classes (quite noticeable in that these classes have only 25 versus the standard 50 students in a typical Chinese classroom). The first was a physics class followed by an ESL course. Both seemed to be very didactic, although both teachers were using video to engage the students and engage in some interactive dialog (guided/supported by a lesson plan from the video). Although the teachers could move back and forth from Chinese to English, the classes were being taught in English for the most part with a heavy emphasis on developing vocabulary.
Amelia and the assistant principal hosted us for another celebratory lunch within walking distance of the school. Often these lunches are held in special rooms within the restaurant, much like mini-banquet rooms. As we walked down the street I noticed students who appeared to be from the high school. Amelia said that their school allowed students to have lunch off-campus. She said many actually went home for lunch, which is possible because of the student schedule. Schools in China have an 8-11:30 morning class schedule, followed by a two+ hour lunch break. They return to begin classes again at 2 and conclude the formal class time around 6. From 6-8 or 8:30, students stay on campus for study sessions. These are overseen by teachers from each subject area. It sounds like it is mostly a homework time with the opportunity for additional help from the teachers. Amelia said students will likely spend another couple of hours (or more) when they return home. She said it is a long day for everyone, and she acknowledges that there is not enough time for sleep and relaxation. However, much like all the people we spoke with this week, she said the Chinese must work hard in order to gain a better quality of life for themselves...and they do not complain about it.
Amelia accompanied us for our afternoon cultural tour which I found to be a highlight of the trip to China. Just north west of Yangzhou City is beautiful scenic water garden dating back to the 600's. Expanded during the Qing dynasty, Slender West Lake is a long, narrow "river" with willow trees, fruit trees, beautiful foliage, bonsai, and signature bridges and structures such as the Five Pavilion Bridge. We walked the length of the lake/river that is contained in the park area, and it was truly breaktaking. We had a young tour guide, who spoke impeccable English and is heading off to Cornell as a freshman in the fall. It was a great opportunity to get to know Amelia, as a parent as well as administrator and I am very excited about our school partnership which we will begin working on in earnest when I return.