MD Secretary of State Visits TNCS!

On Wednesday, October 17th, The New Century School welcomed some very illustrious guests. Maryland’s Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith, Director of International Affairs Mary E. Nitsch, and intern Rosanna Mantova (Intern, International Division, Maryland Office of the Secretary of State) visited the TNCS campus to see the Mandarin Chinese program firsthand. Secretary Wobensmith met TNCS Co-Founder/Co-Executive Director Roberta Faux earlier this year, who told him about TNCS. Based on her description of how Mandarin Chinese is taught at TNCS, he was eager to see it for himself. As part of the Maryland Sister States Program, Secretary Wobensmith and his team find ways to promote the connection between Maryland and Anhui Province of China, and education is a key area.

Ms. Nitsch explains:

Anhui Province, China, is one of 20 Sister States that Maryland has around the world. It is also the state’s oldest Sister State partnership, having been established in 1980. The program was established to provide a forum for the promotion of international cooperation and understanding. Through broad-based citizen participation in a wide variety of exchanges in areas of mutual interest, like education, arts, and culture, and economic development, the Sister States Program offers countless opportunities to develop partnerships around the world.

Mandarin Chinese Program at TNCS

It was easy to showcase TNCS’s program, owing to the amazing teachers and students who participate. The members of the Office were met at reception by Ms. Faux, TNCS Head of School Shara Khon Duncan, TNCS Dean of Students Alicia Danyali, and staff member Monica Li. After a brief welcome, the group began a tour of the school, starting from the ground up with Donghui Song’s preprimary classroom of 2- and 3-year-old students. Song Laoshi’s class is immersive; students are spoken to in Mandarin Chinese throughout the day. They are expected to understand and respond with the appropriate action to instructions given in Mandarin—and they do so beautifully. Not long after entering the classroom for the first time, they begin speaking a few words and singing songs.

The group next visited Lisa Reynolds’ primary classroom on the second floor. At ages 3 through 5 years, primary students are no longer in an immersion environment but are taught both Mandarin Chinese and Spanish (in addition to the Montessori curriculum representative of the primary program) and have native-speaking assistant teachers rotating through the classrooms and conversing with and instructing students in their native languages. At these ages, students are not just responding to instructions but are rapidly increasing their verbal skills. They demonstrate perfect intonation and pronunciation. They begin to recognize Chinese characters.

They charmed the visitors, saying “hello” and “welcome” in Mandarin.

Hope to see you again!

The group continued their climb through building south, headed next to Pei Ge’s kindergarten/1st-grade classroom on the third floor. The members of the Office of Secretary of State were very impressed by what they witnessed here. The entire classroom was bubbling with eagerness, a testament to Ge Laoshi’s teaching skills, and their Mandarin is nothing short of amazing.

Throughout the tour, Ms. Faux explained details about the school and its approach. “It’s less about being a linguist,” she said, “and really more about becoming a global citizen.” Thus, culture is an important emphasis and taught alongside the target language. So the visitors could get the full picture, the group also visited Barbara Sanchez’s 2nd-/3rd-grade Spanish classroom. These students also learn Mandarin, but, at the mid-to-upper elementary level, core subjects are partially taught in the target language, so, in addition to Spanish Language Arts, Sra. Sanchez integrates Spanish into her Math and Global Studies lessons.

Ms. Faux gave a quick powerpoint overview of the school, including the background, history, and overall ethos, and then the group finished up their classroom tour in Wei Li’s middle school lesson. Li Laoshi led the 6th- through 8th-graders in a conversation in Mandarin, then had them write sentences using Chinese characters and finish by making a presentation.

The group wrapped up the tour in TNCS’s beautiful Union Box space inside building North, which provided a chance to talk about the history of St. Stanislaus Cathedral and the Mother Seton Academy, and how they became part of TNCS’s campus.

Said Ms. Nitsch in a follow-up email: “One of the nicest parts of my job is having the opportunity to personally experience so many of the wonderful international programs and projects that are taking place around the state. As a former ESL teacher, I truly appreciate how important multilingualism and multiculturalism are to our state and country’s future success. And, as a Baltimore resident, it’s inspiring to know we have such wonderful resources like TNCS here in the city.”

For his part, Secretary Wobensmith declared himself “totally smitten” with TNCS. “Your enterprise. . .  is a remarkable effort, and it struck me that you have done it exactly right in all aspects. Congratulations!” he said. When he asked Ms. Faux about the possibility of expanding to other locations, she thought for a moment and then replied, “We have built a very strong community here, and that might be hard to replicate somewhere else.” It’s true—that foundation of families, teachers, students, staff, and everyone else who is part of the TNCS community is integral to the school’s continued success.

The visit by the members of the Office of the Secretary of State will not soon be forgotten. TNCS will cherish the memory of this great honor!

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TNCS Visits Schools in China!

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2015 Chinese Bridge–American School Principals’ Trip to China Forum

This month, The New Century School was pleased and honored to be part of the 2015 Chinese Bridge Delegation to China. This annual 9-day educational program aims to help K–12 schools strengthen their Chinese programs and partnerships. School visits, cultural activities, and educational workshops comprise the itinerary for this very special opportunity.

The delegation is hosted by Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters in China in conjunction with The K–12 College Board. Hanban is the executive body of the Chinese Language Council International, an organization affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education of China. Hanban’s mission is to “[make] Chinese language and culture teaching resources and services available to the world, to [meet] the demands of overseas Chinese learners to the utmost, [and] to [contribute] to the formation of a world of cultural diversity and harmony.”

The 250-member delegation comprising school representatives from all across the United States arrived in Beijing on November 10th and from there dispersed into smaller groups to visit respective provinces. TNCS had the good fortune to visit Tianjin, a bustling port city of ~15 million residents in northeastern China. Tianjin’s mix of traditional and modern architecture is quite renowned, perhaps only slightly less famous than its cuisine. In Tianjin, guests are traditionally welcomed with all manner of noodle dishes and bade farewell with an equal variety of dumplings. But the most well-known Tianjin delicacy is “da mahua,” or 麻花.

Despite all of the amazing sights Tianjin had to offer such as Wudadao (Five Great Avenues) and the surrounding historic districts, however, the real purpose of the visit was to tour schools. TNCS was very warmly welcomed by Kunming Road Primary School and Weishan Road High School, with whom friendships were made and future partnerships proposed.

During the school visits, the delegation met with Chinese educators, observed classes, and interacted with students. The graciousness with which Principal Li and Principle Wen welcomed the delegation into their respective schools was wonderful to experience. It was clear that they were striving to impress the delegation in the hopes of establishing meaningful partnerships with U.S. schools.

The Tianjin visit culminated with a very special tour of Tianjin International Chinese College, which hosts students from abroad to learn the Mandarin Chinese language and be immersed in several facets of Chinese culture.

After a few days, the delegation in its entirety regrouped in Beijing to visit one more primary school, network with U.S. colleagues, attend presentations on best practices, and gather resources to build and support Chinese language and culture programs. TNCS will soon reap the benefits of this incredibly productive visit to China from increased idea exchange and resources as well as personal contacts.

Everywhere the delegation went, they received four-star treatment . . . and lots of entertainment in the form of singing, dancing, and more. TNCS students might just recognize this lovely song . . .

感谢您阅读! Gǎnxiè nín yuèdú!

News for Startalk at TNCS!

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TNCS’s wonderful Chinese staff work hard to make learning Mandarin Chinese fun!

Last month, The New Century School hosted its closing event for the Summer 2014 Startalk Program. That program, “Let the World Be Filled with Love,” ran for 3 weeks in the summer, but to keep participants engaged throughout the year, receptions were held at regular intervals, and a periodic newsletter kept them abreast of Startalk happenings.

The final reception was extremely celebratory in mood, for several very good reasons. First, Startalkers enjoy getting together and chatting in Chinese! Second, the Chinese New Year was fast approaching, and that’s always exciting. Third, this reception took the form of a potluck, and the beautiful variety of dishes was delicious. Fourth, the entire group was eagerly anticipating the results of TNCS’s 2015 grant submission, which they were days away from learning. But we’ll spare you the suspense—will TNCS be hosting Startalk this summer?

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The final Startalk reception was held in TNCS’s multipurpose room, and everyone contributed a lovely dish!

Yes! It is true! Shì zhēn de (是真的)! TNCS was once again awarded funding for a Startalk Summer Program! This year’s 3-week session will run from July 6–24, 2015.

But back to the reception, it started off with a Chinese Immersion refresher class that focused on celebrating and welcoming the Year of the Sheep. (or Goat. Or Ram. You decide.) As students watched in complete absorption, the Chinese teachers gave a mini-lesson to get them back in the swing. Parents lining the side wall got to see first-hand how Startalk works and even picked up some Mandarin Chinese themselves! Startalk operates on the principle of doing, that is, active participation—in this case, doing is talking. Start talking.

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Startalk 2014 participants avidly follow Xie Laoshi and Lu Laoshi as they deliver a mini-lesson on the Chinese New Year fast approaching.

Watching a lesson unfold makes it easy to see why the program is so effective. Teachers pronounce a word or phrase while demonstrating what it represents, repeat their verbalizations continuously, gesture, point, and keep talking the while. Understanding dawns quickly, and the students are expected to put it to immediate use.

 

 

Another Startalk tenet is that content should be meaningful to the students. Why make them learn something they aren’t interested in applying or are unlikely to have a context in which to apply it? Thus, the day’s lesson would involve something that people everywhere would be discussing: Chinese New Year, a celebration full of color, music, firework displays, and plain fun for kids.

The Chinese dragon even made an appearance, a very good omen for TNCS’s 2015 Startalk Program, “China in Baltimore”!

Very special thank-yous go to Startalk Director and Head of Mandarin Chinese Language at TNCS Xie Laoshi, her devoted assistant Lu Laoshi, and to the other caring and committed Startalk staff members. They worked tirelessly to make Startalk 2014 a monumental success and to land the 2015 grant ensuring that TNCS remains at the forefront of Mandarin Chinese instruction in Baltimore. We look forward to an amazing Startalk 2015!

Would you like to learn more about Startalk at TNCS? Here is a link to download the most recent continuing education newsletter in pdf format: Start Talking v1n3. It provides recommendations for practice apps and websites to supplement the Chinese stories and idioms that are also included.
Earlier newsletters can be downloaded below:

Meet TNCS’s Newest Chinese Teachers!

On August 8th, 2014, The New Century School welcomed two new teachers from China, Cong (a.k.a., “Grace”) Jun and Fan (a.k.a., “Fiona”) Hongtao, courtesy of the Confucius Institute. Our new guests will remain with us for 1 year to fulfill their contract with the Confucius Institute (which hosts teacher-training programs for teaching Chinese as a foreign language) and are rooming together in Fell’s Point in a TNCS apartment used to accommodate out-of-town staff. The teachers have been in Baltimore exactly 2 months now and have settled in nicely, so this is a great chance to get to know them better! In their words, this post “is a great channel for more parents and staff members of TNCS to get to know us.” This is the first visit to the United States for both of them.

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Cong Laoshi, from Shandong Province, will be teaching and volunteering at TNCS for 1 year.

Cong (pronounced “tsong”) Laoshi is from Liaocheng city, in the Shandong Province of China. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Liaocheng University. Before joining TNCS, she worked as an educator for more than 20 years and has won many awards and accolades for excellent teaching. She is now very interested in primary education, which she believes is the most important period in a person’s life. She has been exploring interesting ways to teach children. Cong Laoshi plans to share Chinese art, culture, and cuisine with TNCS’s community.

When asked what she is most enjoying about being here so far, Cong Laoshi replied, “I like the children here, and I like the teachers. I especially like the parents—everyone is so friendly and kind. Everyone cooperates so well together—perhaps our school is famous for this?” You are indeed correct, Cong Laoshi! TNCS is very big on community building :)! This is her first time in the United States, and she is enjoying this trip. She plans to travel when she can and has already visited Washington, D.C. along with Fan Laoshi, in addition to Baltimore. Her favorite food so far is the iconic American hot dog, which she eats as often as she can.

The Confucius Institute connected Cong Laoshi to TNCS. After a series of tests at progressively larger levels (i.e., local up through provincial), she came out on top and was selected by the institute to become a teacher/volunteer in the United States. When she interviewed with Xie Laoshi (a.k.a., “Jewel”) via Skype, she says that the type of education TNCS offered appealed to her very much. Moreover, “it was a good chance for me to learn about the real America,” she said. “I will have a chance to communicate with many educators.” She laughed when she explained the irony that she had been teaching English in China for the last 10 years, then flipped and came to the United States to teach Chinese!

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Fan Laoshi, from Liaoning Province, will be teaching and volunteering at TNCS for 1 year.

Fan (pronounced “fun”) Laoshi is from the Liaoning Province of China. She was an English major in college and is now an Associate Professor of English. She says she has always had a dream to come to the United States and that, for many Chinese, coming to America to pursue their dreams signifies their diligence and is a symbol of excellence. For Fan Laoshi, the United States shares similarities with her homeland and also offers differences. “The local people are so friendly; this was my first impression of America,” she said. “I was also pleased to find that the climate here is very similar to what I am accustomed to in the Northeast of China. Baltimore has a clear division of four seasons, just like we do,” she said.

Fan Laoshi also connected with TNCS via the Confucius Institute. In order to advance in her career, she says, she needs to work at least 3 months in an English-speaking country, but she also wants to “broaden her horizons personally,” she said. “The teaching environment at TNCS is so different here from that of my local university. I get the opportunity to perceive the local culture, the American way of life, and the American way of education. This is the biggest achievement for me.” She particularly wanted to work at TNCS, she says, because she has a 7-year-old daughter in Grade 2 in China and wanted to be in a comparable stage in an American elementary school. The parental point of view on education is also something she is enjoying studying.

Fan Laoshi is amused by how independent even the youngest TNCS students are and how they assert themselves. She attributes this can-do attitude largely to the Montessori approach and says she hopes to employ some of it back in China. “We should learn to give our children more freedom, more space,” she said. She feels very lucky to be working at TNCS and respects the educational style.

Our two teacher/volunteers alternate mornings and afternoons in Mr. Warren’s and Mrs. Lawson’s classrooms, immersing the primary students in Mandarin Chinese (they speak only Chinese within the classroom). Both find American students to be admirably self-motivated, and especially so at TNCS. “In our country, we help our children a lot, but, here, they are very independent. They know a lot and can do a lot of things by themselves!” said Cong Laoshi.

The Confucius Institute at Maryland (CIM) is TNCS’s primary vehicle for interaction with the Confucius Institute overall. CIM’s mission statement is: “Established with support from Hanban, also known as the Office of Chinese Language Council International (CLCI), CIM promotes the understanding of China today through the study of Chinese language, culture, ethics, and philosophy.” At TNCS, we are grateful to have our Chinese ambassadors, Cong Laoshi, Fan Laoshi, and all of our other Chinese instructors both past and present, to acquaint our students with the rich Chinese culture and help teach Mandarin Chinese.

Welcome, ladies! We hope you have a wonderful year at TNCS!

TNCS Performs at Confucius Institute Day!

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The Confucius Institute at Maryland celebrates 10 years!

This has been a week of anniversaries for The New Century School! With the publication of this very post, Immersed turns 2. The Confucius Institute at Maryland (CIM), however, who supports TNCS’s Mandarin Chinese program in multiple ways, hit double digits!

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the University of Maryland hosted Confucius Institute Day at the College Park campus, and TNCS kindergarten and elementary students took a field trip to participate in the revelry. It was a gorgeous fall day with warm temperatures and a blue sky, just perfect for a field trip and an outdoor event.

Established with support from the Office of Chinese Language Council International (also known as Hanban), CIM “promotes the understanding of China today through the study of Chinese language, culture, ethics, and philosophy.” CIM also provides many of TNCS’s Chinese interns and teachers and is a sister school with Xiamen University in China.

The festival opened with the Lion Dance—something the lucky TNCS students in attendance will not soon forget! This dance that mimics a lion’s movements by dancers sharing an elaborate lion costume is performed during Chinese traditional, cultural, and religious festivals; special celebrations and ceremonies; or to honor special guests.

 

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To show their appreciation for CIM’s invaluable support, TNCS students and language staff put on a show. Each division—K/1st, 1st/2nd, and 3rd/4th—did a musical performance for the crowd of hundreds. The audience was charmed. In fact, K/1st teacher Teresa Jacoby overheard some high school students expressing their amazement that such young kids were so clearly proficient with the Mandarin Chinese language. They certainly work hard!

TNCS students got their share of Chinese culture at this event. Dances, acrobatics, opera, and music kept them awestruck all day. The first field trip of the year was a huge success, thanks to TNCS Chinese staff! Xièxiè xiè lǎoshī! 谢谢谢老师!

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