ACCT: An Ongoing Experiement

The last days of our practicum I spent helping Dawei and Sunshine with the ACCT (American Culture Center Tour) actors. They were Nellie Sciutto (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0778533/?ref_=sr_1) and Henry Clark (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1693401/?ref_=fn_al_nm_6) – two very talented and intelligent individuals. The duo has spend the past six weeks touring the American culture centers in China, and last week it was our turn. They performed a piece written by Clark himself called “An Ongoing Experiment” at three schools for audiences ranging from 200 – 1200 people.

I thought that theater was a wonderful way to teach these students, teachers and community members about American culture and hope that the US Embassy will fund more projects like this in the future. Even if the students could not understand all the dialogue it was such a treat for them to see the performance and meet these wonderful actors. They all ran up for autographs and pictures after the performances and Nelly and Henry were extremely gracious.

Here is Henry’s description of the piece:

The theater is not a uniquely American art form, but the American Theater is unique. An Ongoing Experiment presents five exceptional scenes, and offers a brief introduction to some of the major voices and artistic movements that have shaped the American stage. Generations of playwrights and theater artists have dug into the fundamental themes of the American experience – our struggles for civil rights, the pressures of capitalism, and the phenomenal complexity of the American dream – and have left us an artistic and historical record of the nation. At its best, the theater is a voice for progress and a herald of possibility. In the 20th Century, and now in the 21st, the diversity of voices on the American stage has helped to shape and guide our national debate. The history of the American theater is, in many ways, the history of America itself.

SCNU’s PRT Conference

One of the final things we’ve been able to do is participate in a PRT conference for English teachers from around Guangdong province. PRT is an acronym describing a set of teaching methods and their implementation in the classroom. P stands for pronunciation, R for reading, and T for task-based learning. Many of the speakers used methods pioneered by Spencer Kagan to promote group collaboration and classroom efficiency. The speakers, who were English Language Fellows (ELFs) as well as long-tenured teachers in the US, wanted to introduce those topics to Chinese classrooms. The featured speakers, Jill Kester and Jim Radebauch were brought to SCNU by Alice Murray of the US Embassy Beijing.

The purpose of the workshop was to introduce about the cutting-edge teaching methods currently being used in the US, and we learned a lot from Jill and Jim’s sessions. We were also met and got to work with very kind, creative and talented Chinese teachers. Other ELFs from Guangdong province came to help out at the workshop as well. To read more about the program see Georgetown’s website: http://www.elfellowprogram.org/elf/.  The seminar attracted English teachers from all levels, elementary to high school, and their enthusiasm and desire to learn made the time pass by quickly. We thank them for their willingness to share with us and their desire to learn new things.

Center of Assessment and Intervention for Special Education

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Center of Assessment and Intervention for Special Education

This morning I visited yet another college in Guangzhou: Guangdong Teacher’s college. Professor Li Wenge from SCNU’s Special Education Department took me to see her new Center of Assessment and Intervention for Special Education. Professor Li previously taught at Guangdong Teachers College and they built this center for her to do research, assessment and intervention and family outreach. Guangdong Teachers College has an Early Childhood Education department with about 1,000 students, 200-300 of which will end up teaching in Special Education schools. When this center opens it will also serve as a learning center for these students. It will focus mostly on children with emotional and behavioral issues and will partner with local children’s hospitals.

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Center of Assessment and Intervention for Special Education

Last year South China Normal University began its’ Special Education program and Professor Li teaches both the undergraduate and masters degree students in the department. In her free time she helps with the development of the Center of Assessment and Intervention for Special Education at Guangdong Teachers College and plans to open another center at South China Normal University this summer. The two centers will collaborate and hopefully serve as a model to other Universities as the field of special education continues to grow in china.

After visiting the center and talking briefly with the Dean, Professor Li took me on a tour of the campus – which is the smaller of the college’s two campuses. I remarked that there were many more girls than boys at the school. She laughed, “In education colleges the boys are like pandas!” I gave her a baffled look. “You know, a rare national treasure.” Peabody, what?

I was impressed by Professor Li’s passion for raising awareness for Special Education in China. She directed Brad and I to an exhibition entitled Sea of Children: When I Met You at the Guangdong Provincial Museum, which promotes awareness and inclusive education for children with disabilities and special needs. We hope to have a chance to  visit this week! It is wonderful to see how special education is gaining more attention and funding in China. The fact that SCNU has added it as a major is a really big step that I hope more and more universities around China will make.

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Exhibit at Guangdong Provincial Museum

- Megan of the Guangzhou 3

Aside

A Fond Farewell to Sun Yat-Sen University

This Friday, we were able to say goodbye to our friends and colleagues at Sun Yat-Sen University, and we completed and submitted the report on international scholar satisfaction for them, which was one of our main ongoing projects while working with SYSU. Afterwards, we were treated to a wonderful lunch, where we were able to have a great conversation about our summer, as well as our plans for next year and the future. We were also very excited to hear about Ms. Gu Wenli’s promotion to deputy director of OICE. We wish both her and everybody else in the office nothing but the best going forward, and we hope that this was just the first of many interactions that we’re able to have with Sun Yat-Sen University.

One final picture together after lunch

One final picture together after lunch

That evening, we went to a going away party for Roxanne, our main contact at the US Consulate, which was hosted by Hong, the associate dean of our international department. We got to meet David, Roxanne’s husband, and Megan made jiaozi, traditional Chinese steamed dumplings.

She didn't actually make all of these. That would be a lot of jiaozi.

She didn’t actually make all of these. That would be a lot of jiaozi.

It was a wonderful dinner, and we’d like to thank Ms. Hong Wang for her gracious hospitality. We’d especially like to thank her students (including our friend Sunshine), who spent most of the time helping to cook (and making the majority of the dumplings). Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t thank Roxanne and everybody at the US Consulate, who gave us so many opportunities to reach out to people here in Guangzhou through speaking opportunities, both at the Consulate center and at other locations around the city. Our time here would not have been nearly as enriching without their help. So now we enter our final week here, and time has really flown by. We’ll be giving some final updates about what’s going on now, and then we’ll head out, on our own respective travels. It’s been an exciting two months.

 

-Brad of the Guangzhou 3

Vanderbilt Visitors and Pre-Departure Meeting

Yesterday professor Ren from the department of Epidemiology and Statistics invited us to a luncheon with three Vanderbilt professors visiting SYSU. This included Vanderbilt Department of Epidemiology faculty Wei Zheng, his wife Jirong Long, and Xiao Ou Shu. The three of them come annually to lecture at SYSU and are each working on a number of international projects and research.

Professors Zheng and Long have been working with SYSU professor Zefang Ren since he was a visiting professor at Vanderbilt from 2001-2005. Professors Zheng and Ren completed NIH-sponsored research in 2011, and are planning to submit a second grand proposal to the NIH for approval this summer. Professor Long also has a training program for Chinese researchers, and she hosts these scholars at Vanderbilt for a period of three months to one year.

In the evening we had our final engagement at the U.S. Consulate General of Guangzhou: a Pre-Departure meeting for students heading to the states this fall. A embassy representative spoke about the visa process, then a Chinese girl named Christine who is a rising Sophomore at Calvin College talked about her experience studying in the U.S. Our presentation was simply about college life in the United States and making the most of opportunities. We stressed safety, time management, and the importance of being curious and getting outside one’s comfort zone. As Brad and I both had really positive college experiences we very much enjoyed discussing all that U.S. higher education institutions have to offer.

P.S. This article from the Chronicle of Higher Education emphasizes the fragility of academic ties between universities in China and the United States. It makes us appreciate the strong and open relationship that Vanderbilt has with the universities we work with here in Guangzhou. From what we have observed here so far it seems that our strength lies in the fact that our center does not seek to impose American values. Rather, we work to collaborate with the Chinese universities on specific exchanges, projects and research. Check it out: http://chronicle.com/article/Academic-Ties-With-China-Face/139897/?cid=gn&utm_source=gn&utm_medium=en

SCNU’s Conference for High School Counselors

This past weekend, we were able to attend a three-day-long conference for high school counselors, sponsored by the US Embassy, SCNU, and the US-China Center. While we’ve been busy with a handful of other things, Dawei and the small army of interns he brought on were hard at work making plans for the event. Until about three or four years ago, guidance counselors were virtually nonexistent in China, simply because there was little demand for guidance. It was thought that scoring well on exams was the quickest and easiest way to get into college. With the growing demand for American higher education in China, administrators had to be more well-versed on the US application process, which is where this conference came in. Joining the 35 counselors from four local provinces was keynote speaker Mrs. Dickie Hargrave, assistant director of recruitment at the University of North Texas. What followed was a barrage of information, questions, conversation,  and a few raffles.

Emcee Dawei giving Megan her gift

Emcee Dawei giving Megan her gift

Our presentation was entitled “The Ideal College Candidate,” and it outlined the holistic application process. We talked about why universities want well-rounded students and what that meant for Chinese applicants. We stressed that students should identify and follow their passion, have focused extracurriculars, and that counselors should be guiding students, rather than directing them. Students need to be advised, not told what to do. All in all, we were told that our presentation was a hit, which was really important for everybody. This helped legitimize the still-new US-China Center, and it gave really important information to counselors in the hopes that they can help students complete their applications correctly. We’d like to thank everybody we met there for being unbelievably friendly and asking wonderful questions. We hope to hear from you again very soon!

Proof that we actually do make presentations.

Proof that we actually do make presentations.

-Brad of the Guangzhou 3

Brad’s Consulate Speech

This week Brad had the chance to present at the Guangzhou consulate. He combined his passion for college sports and higher education and lead a seminar entitled: Athletics vs. Academia: The conflict between college sports and higher education. The audience included a number of NBA fans who were impressively well versed in basketball trivia. Brad led the audience through a history of college sports and discussed pros and cons of sports at universities. He shared a number of stories of corruption which and scandal which have taken place in the United States with student athletes and athletic faculty.

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The Free Speech Room

Members of the audience explained to us that the (Chinese college sports association) is struggling in a similar fashion.  We were excited to see a number of familiar faces at the seminar – students from South China Normal University and people who had been at the consulate the week before. Next week we will be back at the consulate for one last time to help out with a pre-departure meeting for Chinese students heading to the states for the Fall 2013 semester.

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