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Mandarin Teachers Gain Training at UCLA

Instructors travel from China to L.A. campus to learn U.S. classroom culture, reports UCLA's student newspaper The Daily Bruin.

By Kylie Reynolds for The Daily Bruin on Aug. 2, 2010

From July 20 to 29, UCLA hosted a training program for 122 guest teachers from China who moved to the United States for one purpose: to teach Mandarin.

Developed by Hanban, which is also known as the Office of Chinese Language Council International, and the College Board, the program allows school districts around the country to request a guest Mandarin teacher for a one- to three-year period.

The instructors, who teach English as a foreign language in China, were trained for more than a month in China and then came to UCLA to gain additional training before being sent to their respective states.

During their 10 days at UCLA, the guest teachers were taught what to expect in a U.S. classroom, including how to manage classes, incorporate technology into lesson plans and properly assess students’ work, said Susan Jain, executive director of UCLA’s Confucius Institute, which co-hosted the program on campus with the College Board.

“Classroom culture in the United States is very different from classroom culture in China,” said James Montoya, vice president of the College Board. “American students expect a different level of engagement and interaction, and a lot of time is spent with teachers just preparing them for cultural differences in the classroom and different expectations that students have.”

Ong Ding, a teacher in the program who has already taught in Connecticut for one year and came to UCLA to mentor the guest teachers, said his teaching experience was similar to what he expected as a result of the training, even though some of his colleagues had trouble adjusting to their classrooms.

“A lot of us don’t have much experience teaching in the U.S., so it is crucial for us to know what the U.S. education system is like and how it works,” he said. “During this program, I learned a lot, which turned out to be quite useful in my teaching in my year here.”

Previously held at Stanford University, the College Board moved the training program to UCLA this year for both the Confucius Institute and the pure beauty of the campus, Montoya said.

“The Confucius Institute is a very important support system for the building of Chinese language and culture in Southern California, and we felt that it would be a wonderful opportunity to strengthen ties with UCLA’s Confucius Institute,” he said.

Through the Confucius Institute, the guest teachers were able to work with local school districts, hear lectures from professors in UCLA’s Asian language departments and School of Education and receive more practical Chinese-specific services, Jain said.

In addition, as it was the first time many of these educators had ever visited the United States, UCLA served as a beautiful venue for their training.

“(The College Board’s) biggest concern was that the Chinese teachers would find it so lovely that they would be disappointed when they go somewhere else and leave Los Angeles,” Jain said.

While a few of the guest teachers stayed to teach in Los Angeles, a majority of them were sent to school districts in more than 30 states.

In those communities, the teachers will have an impact as they will often be the first educators of Chinese descent, which will allow them to expose middle school and high school students to the Chinese language and culture, Montoya said.

“I am a firm believer that every student, whether they are in a rural school or an urban school or a suburban school, should have the opportunity to view themselves as a global citizen, and this program contributes to that,” he said.

Although Ding said leaving the comfort of his home and his loved ones was the most difficult aspect of the program, becoming a part of the Connecticut community and teaching his students made it an experience that he wants to repeat for a second year.

“These are very highly respected teachers from China; many of them have left families, either a child or a spouse back in China,” Montoya said. “They are doing this to invest in the future, so I thank them for the investment they are making and for building stronger bridges between the United States and China.”