Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Terry Lowry from Wakefield School reports on her first day in China as part of an education delegation.
On my fourth day here in China, we traveled from Xuzhou to Taizhou to attend the Jiangsu International Forum. I traveled with Grace, Madame Chen, and another visiting educator from the UK, Geraldine. I learned that principals in China are held in even higher regard than I originally thought – Madame Chen is provided a car and a personal driver which she kindly offered to us for the trip.
Our arrival to the forum was marked by a flurry of international introductions and networking. As everywhere I have visited, everyone was very welcoming. We arrived in the afternoon, giving us time to rest up before dinner. The hotel is amazing – incredibly well-appointed and luxurious. Dinner was yet another incredible spread. I’m not always sure exactly what everything is, but I’ve enjoyed the adventure of trying it all. I will be lucky if I am able to still fit into my clothes after this trip. During and after dinner, I met more amazing educators from California, Australia, the UK, Canada, The Netherlands, and Finland, just to name a few!
The actual forum was held the next day. It was a very impressive affair. I was expecting something like an educational conference. That was NOT what this was. It felt more like something one might experience at the United Nations, complete with our own earpieces for translation purposes. There were many speeches from local and regional officials, everything was carefully orchestrated, and all was well documented by dozens of official cameramen. The only active participation piece of it was during our assigned panel discussions. We were broken into four groups and assigned various topics for discussion. My group’s topic was “Cultivating Key Competencies in the Internet-Age.” The discussion was, again, well-orchestrated, somber, and well-documented, but I truly enjoyed hearing the opinions of other educators from throughout the world.
I think my key takeaway from the forum was that there are many more similarities between all our educational systems than there are differences. Initially my discussions with other educators from around the world led me to believe that our educational goals varied greatly, primarily regarding rote memorization and testing vs. higher level thinking. As the forum progressed, however, it became increasingly apparent to me that our underlying goals were virtually indistinguishable. I was delighted to discover that the overwhelming emphasis amongst all of us was on the importance of teaching higher level thinking and problem solving in our ever changing world. We all recognized that, with information just a click away, what you know is every bit as important as how you came to have that knowledge as well as what you plan to do with it. As Alvin Toffler stated, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” And that was a common theme at the forum—making sure our students acquired the skills they needed to be successful in today’s world.
This is my last entry for my trip. Tomorrow I head back to the airport and then on to home. I hope you have enjoyed traveling along with me. It has been an amazing ride and I am grateful to have had this opportunity!
Board director Terry Lowry is Director of Technology Integration and Curriculum Coordination at Wakefield School located in The Plains, Virginia. Terry serves as the chair of the VSTE Awards Committee. Find her on Twitter @tekkieteacher.