The School of Education hosted a delegation of kindergarten teachers from China last week.
The educators passed through Buffalo as part of a wider national tour that included stops in Long Beach, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC.
Wendy McLeish, lecturer in the Elementary Education and Reading Department, coordinated the group’s site visit to two local elementary schools, Windermere Boulevard Elementary and Bennett Park Montessori. The teachers visited kindergarten and first-grade rooms, observed English-language-learner sessions, and spent time in universal pre-kindergarten classes.
“One of the highlights for the group was meeting a young boy from China at Windermere,” said McLeish. “He arrived here last year speaking very little English. The boy is now quite fluent and wrote a six-page story which he read aloud.”
At Bennett Park Montessori, the visiting educators went to classrooms for 3-5 and 5-7 year-olds and also toured several upper-grade classes. The teachers were surprised to see instructional activities taking place in playful learning spaces, like activity tables and on the floor, far different from the structured format to which they are accustomed.
“One teacher said, ‘This would never happen in China,” said McLeish. “Class sizes are much larger there and the students sit at desks with their hands folded.”
However, part of the visiting teachers’ agenda was to observe alternative education methods, such as learning through play, to take back to their own schools.
“Apparently the parents of younger children in China are looking for change in the education system,” said McLeish.