Texas Teachers Explore China to Enrich Classroom Instruction

Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: December 09, 2010

The best way to teach is to teach what you know. This summer, 13 Texas middle and high school teachers traveled to China in an effort to get to know the people, history and culture. The 31-day trip was supported by the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program and included teachers from all over the state. The excursion was led by Lynne Masel Walters, associate professor of culture, curriculum and instruction in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture, and Martha Green, program coordinator for the Office of International Outreach and Confucius Institute at Texas A&M University. "The purpose of the trip was to introduce educators who teach world history, geography, culture and Mandarin language to the real China," Masel Walters says. "The idea was to get a full understanding of Chinese education, history, culture and the landscape so that they could bring that back to their own classrooms." The teachers will prepare curriculum units for their students and make the units available on the web for other teachers at http://worldroom.tamu.edu/. They also will share their units at a workshop on Saturday, Dec. 11, at the University Center in The Woodlands. The Fulbright travelers visited a wide variety of locations across China, ranging from Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai in the east to Kunming, Lijiang and the Autonomous Region of Tibet in the west. They toured schools, attended lectures and visited numerous cultural sites. The National Academy of Education Administration, a Chinese organization of school leaders, planned the trip to share how the Chinese educational system works. Masel Walters says one of the trip highlights was visiting Shangri-la (formerly Zhōngdian) in the Autonomous Region of Tibet, where the group saw the 300-year-old Tibetan monastery Ganden Sumtseling Gompa. "They go out in the square at sundown and dance," she says. "Up on the hill is this huge prayer wheel. They sing and gather. It's just amazing." Any foreign travel, Masel Walters stresses, is important for aspiring and current teachers to better understand and relate to diverse classroom populations. "There's so much evidence that says an international experience makes someone a better teacher and a more self-confident, flexible person. I can't say enough about how international experience changes you," she says.