Children are more observant than we give them credit for!
I must say I am totally in love with the idea of triculturalism at Educare, for not only has for the presence of Spanish, English and Mandarin definitely added to the atmosphere and spirit of the school, but also has generated opportunities for us to reflect on how our ways of thinking are adjusting to the situation and evolving.
We are lucky in that sense for not many schools have the opportunity to offer Mandarin from year 1 to year 12 yet. I, as the head of the foreign language department, understand the challenge; but as a learner teacher, I appreciate the new learning scenarios that this new paradigm opens for me.
This week I spent some time in primary school, co-teaching with the Mandarin teachers and observing some of their classes, and I observed some of the most interesting conclusions children have attained. First of all, I was pleasantly surprised at how unafraid primary students are when they are being taught the sequence of the strokes for writing a character. It was quite interesting to see how they understand the process for ‘making meaning’, and how quickly they associate sounds to representations to understand the difference between 西 and 四 (west and 4) in terms of meaning, sounds and stroke order.
As the teacher mentioned that by combining characters we got new meanings as, for example we can use XI (西) to write Mexico. The A ha! moment came when a student asked: “when we want to write ‘Mexico‘ [墨西哥] in Mandarin, does it matter which character we write first?” and another student replied: Well, when you write Mexico in English you do not start from right to left with O, C, I, X, E, M, do you? So the order does matter. While for us, adults, this can be a very obvious conclusions, what would we think if I said that the student making this point was in grade 3?
While this observation and realization could have only stayed within my department, I felt it was important to share with my colleagues, for the WOW! moments in a learning experience can certainly help teachers of other subjects to see how ready students are, how they see things, and how they are able to relate new understanding to new ones. Thus, as I said at the beginning, we are truly lucky at Educare, for this kind of moments when we see how one child’s idea have an impact on the whole class (teacher included) is quite unique, and they must definitely be taken into account when designing learning experiences for which we might think students are not ready when they actually are!
To the stage artist, we nurture with applause; and to the teachers and learners at heart, we nurture with moments like this.