Happy Marathon Monday if you are in Boston! Mrs. Kapeckas, who is in Handan, China at her partner school, had an amazing experience today. If you are a student or staff member at Innovation Academy Charter School, you’ll be especially interested to read this entry. Even if you can’t go to China yourself, there’s a whole school there who knows about you!
Today, I was welcomed to No. 31 Handan Middle School at their weekly flag-raising ceremony, akin to the community meeting at Innovation Academy Charter School. I walked with Principal Wang from his home the 10 minutes to the school, passing many of his students grabbing a quick breakfast from a street vendor or pedaling their bikes along the way. Students arrive 30 minutes prior to their first class for the flag-raising ceremony and line up on the soccer field by class. Each class takes a turn raising the flag, and the national anthem is played. After, announcements were given, some awards were distributed, and a student read a speech on her dream to be an architect. Finally, I gave a short speech to the 2000 students and 150 teachers, thanking them for their warm welcome and giving a gift (a globe inscribed with a plaque that says “A gift of friendship from Innovation Academy Charter School 2013”).
After the flag-raising ceremony, I met with the members of the leadership team and some teaching staff to learn more about the school. I realized we share more commonalities than differences. For example, I asked what the biggest goals and obstacles of the school were. They are currently in the midst of an expansion and have major construction going on at the school, so they can serve more students.
A challenge is resources; currently 32 of their 150 teachers are “temporary” or unlicensed teachers, because the school could not afford to pay the salaries to have all of their teachers licenses. They also have a difficult time equipping their school with adequate materials, such as technology, books, etc. When asked what sets their school apart, they shared that they have a dedicated staff that puts students first and they value a family-like culture at the school. A school resource officer is at the gate to the school and assists the Vice Principal in discipline matters, especially when students are involved in a fight. I laughed out loud when the Chinese teachers asked if American teachers had to deal with “puppy love” in the classroom. They also shared that the Principal has amassed quite a collection of cell phones from teachers that have been texting during class. We agreed that teenagers are teenagers everywhere.
I am excited to spend some time observing classes tomorrow!