My amazing opportunity to visit Qingdao this past weekend ended with a scenic tour of Qingdao’s most famous monuments and architectural structures. The May 4th square pictured below, represents a political movement in China’s history. A political movement, ignited by mass student demonstrations ultimately led to influencing the Chinese government’s decision not to sign the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. This refusal brought both China and Germany to the table ultimately allowing both countries to later sign on agreed upon terms.

After learning the history of this port town, as an education entrepreneur, I am forced to then think about how we as educators are preparing and developing American students that are prepared to lead, change and impact our American Democracy. Are we developing not only students that are able to think critically, but students that are able to analyze and galvanize themselves to change our world? Are we giving students the space to develop into free thinking citizens in preparation to participate in civil disobedience?img_6503

Based on our recent PISA data, our American students are scoring far below Asian American students in cross-curricular assessments that test their ability to think critically. Hence, as educators we are tasked with the mantel of creating critical thinkers that can not only compete globally on the PISA exam with Korea, Chinese and Japanese students. But moreover, if our students are able to compete on these assessments we can rest assured that they will safely lead our country in times of political unrest similar to the Chinese students in the May 4th movement.



Speaking of Culture…

When Classroom Management Trumps Language Barriers……

In a language immersion school, where students are forced to abandon their native tongue and take on that which is foreign; levels of frustration for scholars and staff can often reach a tipping point. Now, couple the language immersion with the already daunting task of venturing where many have not gone, into the waters as a first year teacher. This is the plight or the undertaking of many first year teachers at the AMERI-CAN International Academy in Weifang, China.

As the Assistant Principal and school leader, I have the responsibility of supporting staff through these often frustrating scenarios and circumstances. The role of a first year teacher is extremely difficult alone and downright frightening when adding in the foreign language immersion students are required to embrace.

So the question remains, does the language barrier prevent adherence to classroom behavior expectations and norms? Are high performing charter school behavior expectations insurmountable in these circumstances? Can children comply at a rate of 100% even when they do not understand 100% of the teacher’s instructions that are foreign to their native tongue?

The ANSWER is a resounding YES!!!!!!

As educators we still must ask ourselves, do I require 100% from 100% of students, 100% of the time. Or do my expectations fall secondary to a language barrier?

The answer is NO!

Classroom cultural norms and expectations are a universal language that can be understood no matter your country of origin or native tongue.

When faced with the task of assisting this teacher, I immediately implemented a Classroom Management Improvement Map. In utilizing the Improvement Map, simplicity is KEY. Focusing on merely three teaching techniques for implementation, improvement is clearly visible. Focusing on best practices utilized in the Teach Like a Champion taxonomy, will support new teachers in making classroom management techniques tangible and real. Techniques utilized to improve classroom management may include; “Be Seen Looking,” “Least Invasive Intervention” and “Do it Again.” Within the language immersion context, these techniques all require little or no use of words. Meaning, students can be re-directed and focused without a common spoken language.

Not to be confused with the arch nemesis of the entire profession; a PDP. The Improvement MAP is in place to help the teacher specifically visualize which techniques would garner improvement in their classroom and not only compliance but student investment. Going granular is the key to sustainable change.  Observations and feedback rounds are then used to hone in and perfect those changes. As opposed to a laundry list of areas for improvement, the Improvement Map makes those areas very clear for the teacher and we are able to implement, observe, discuss and fine tune. This map can be altered based on the specific instructional needs of an individual teacher.

Enduring Understandings

Respect for the learning environment and student investment goes beyond language barriers. Teachers are nevertheless able to set expectations without the luxury of a common native language. Implementation of the Teach Like a Champion taxonomy and the instructional Improvement Map will yield tangible improvements in classroom management goals.