by Janet Schultz
At Tuesday's Lewiston-Porter Board of Education session Lew-Port music instructor Kevin Duncan presented the board with an overview of his 10-week teaching exchange to China.
Duncan taught music and some English at Lewiston-Porter's sister school, Tianjin No. 2. He explained that this particular school is highly competitive, as are most schools in China.
A typical school day in China is longer than those in the U.S. Classes are 45 minutes long with eight class periods. Once those periods are over, there are study periods the students participate in. They get an hour and half for lunch and there are about 15 minute breaks between classes.
"Most students are in school until 11 or 12 at night," said Duncan. "It's more lengthy than we are used to."
Each classroom has 45 to 60 students and classes are taught lecture style. The students take notes, memorize the material and then regurgitate it back. Another difference between U.S. schools and Chinese is that the students stay in one room and the teachers change.
They have no sports, music or clubs, so their socialization is found mainly in the classroom.
Going to school is an obligation and privilege that is taken very seriously by the students, Duncan explained.
"Chinese youth are expected to take care of their parents in retirement, and in order to do so they must do well in school," he continued. "This is a pressure that is put on them."
Students are told that if they don't do well, there are hundreds of others who will.
Duncan taught American folk music to seventh, eighth and 10th grade students. He also found his Chinese students were very tuned in to American popular music. However, they didn't understand the songs or what they meant or how they were produced, but that they "knew that song," he observed.
Duncan's experience living in China came as no surprise. He had visited the country last year and was aware of where he would be living, what his day would be like and what the food was. He was surprised at the number of Westerners living and teaching in China.
He also had the opportunity to travel and visited several cities, including Xian and Beijing. He saw the Terracotta Soldiers, Hall of the People, Tiananmen Square and the Fragrant Hills, where the Chinese go to see the leaves in the fall.
"I felt very safe just jumping on a train and traveling," said Duncan. "I had my translation book with me and headed head first into it."
Duncan explained that the experience was both life- and career-changing as it put the educational system in both countries into perspective for him.
It has also given him the opportunity to have open discussions with his Lew-Port students on China.
Later this semester, a group of students from China will visit Lew-Port for a week. Host families are needed for this exchange, said Lew-Port High School Principal Paul Casseri. Anyone interested should contact Casseri at the high school at 286-7263 or 286-7264.