Teacher exchange offers benefits on both sides
Things were a bit chaotic Monday afternoon in Xing Bei's classroom at Rosemount Middle School. Students chattered to one another. Some speaking English, others Chinese. At one point, a group of girls broke, unprompted, into a Chinese song.
It's a big change for Xing, an exchange teacher from China who is at RMS this year through a program sponsored by the United States College Board and China's Hanban Institute. She's used to teaching high school students. Her classes in China, where she teaches English, are larger but the students are to be much quieter. More focused on the task at hand.
Getting used to the noise and energy of an American classroom has taken some adjustment, but Xing is enjoying the experience.
"It's fun to be with American students," said Xing, one of two Chinese teachers working in District 196 this year. "I can do something that I've never tried before. I can move a lot. I can group them a lot."
Xing said students at RMS are livelier than she is used to teaching, and more energetic. She said she likes the enthusiasm she sees.
The exchange is good for Xing, and it's good for the district, which is slowly expanding a Chinese program that began when it launched its international studies magnet school. RMS and Scott Highlands Middle School are in their second year offering Chinese. The program will expand to the high school level next year, though it's not yet clear where.
The district currently has 150 students in its middle school Chinese program. That's tiny compared to more established languages, but it's growing.
"It's gone very well," said Shane Schmeichel, the district's magnet school coordinator. "Having two teachers in our district from China definitely increases both the visibility and the importance of the language ... and definitely gives students a learning opportunity that they wouldn't typically be able to do."
Schmeichel said as China becomes more prominent in the world it is increasingly important for Americans to know Chinese.
The experience has been good for Xing, too. She signed on because she wanted to experience American culture -- she calls the United States her favorite country -- and because she wants to help share her own country's rich cultural heritage.
"I feel it is my duty to spread it to the world," she said.
Xing has jumped right into Minnesota culture. She arrived just before Leprechaun Days and took in the parade. Along with her host family she has explored the Renaissance Festival and the Minnesota State Fair. She is finally watching live the American television shows she was only able to see online.
She'd still like to see an NBA basketball game while she's here, and she'd like to travel the country as well.
Xing, who comes from an area near Shanghai in eastern China, is enjoying her stay in Minnesota. She has an opportunity to stay for up to three years, if she wants to and if RMS wants her to stay. She's still trying to figure out if she's interested.
"It depends on how cold the winter is," she said, laughing. "I don't think I can survive."