Saturday, February 26, 2011

Conference day 2

It snowed in Beijing today! After the gorgeous weather at the Great Wall on Thursday, it felt like winter again. It reminded me of home and that our time here is fleeting. Unlike the big fluffy flakes in Iowa, this snow had a man-made, pellety feeling because the snow was caused by seeding the clouds. If I could arrange the snow fall like that, no more snow days! Always out of school by June 5th would be great.

Some teachers and students at the conference marveled at the snow during breakfast, and then we started off running. Teachers were on the other side of the table today. They pitched their project idea to students and received feedback. We should do this more often as a part of best teaching practices. I’m not ashamed to say I took one of the rubric and question print outs at the end of the session. We pay lip service to feedback a lot more often than we really use it. Actually standing in front of someone makes a real difference.

I spent the afternoon with Wati Wardani from Jakarta, Indonesia. We worked on using Wikispaces, and I learned a lot. I consider myself an intermediate Wikispaces user, and Wati is a beginner. Walking through the features available with her really opened my eyes to some of the possibilities of Wikispaces. We created our first template together; with 150 students, Wati needs create a lot of pages fast. We talked about how using Wikispaces would help students learn technology and English skills.

At the end of the day, Andrew Chambers read the posthumous Dr. Suess book Hooray for Deefendoofer Day about a school where the teachers teach students to think. This conference helps teach students and teachers to think and improves our flexibility and opens our minds. I want to be the teacher who teaches smelling or yelling, who teaches students how to pass a test not because they have test taking skills, but because they have thinking and reasoning skills.

Lastly, I got a chance to walk around a little, which helped me feel like I’m really seeing Beijing rather than merely touring Beijing. We went to the Yashow Market, and while the others shopped at the hot, cramped booths, I wandered the nearby streets. I met a gentleman who reprimanded me for thinking you could get falafel at a Hal-al restaurant. Then he pointed out the Indian place down the street…too bad it was a beautiful sit-down multi-course restaurant. One of my favorite things to do in a new city is find a falafel shop so I can walk around with the hot, paper-wrapped goodness. It’s a wonderful way to window shop, people watch, and fills your belly at the same time.

After passing the restaurant, I crossed the street. This may not sound like a big deal, but crossing Beijing streets is an adventure since traffic rules seem optional. Okay, it really wasn’t that adventurous since I used the pedestrian overpass, but it felt good to walk and pass by the woman with her children, the Western man on his date with the Eastern woman, the couple walking the Chihuahua in a fluffy coat, and other regular Beijing people. I wanted to go on the subway we passed by on the way to the market, but after a few more blocks, I turned around and went back to people watch in the square by the mall. Unlike our trip to the Water Cube or at Tiananmen Square, no one wanted a picture with the American because, in this part of Beijing, foreigners weren’t foreign.

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