On January 20-28, RCS superintendent Dr Robert Shaner, Executive Director of Elementary Education Michael Behrmann, Executive Director of Secondary Education, Carrie Lawler and Principal of Van Hoosen middle school, Dan Mooney, went to China to gain global awareness in hopes to bring back knowledge that will benefit the RCS program, as well as better prepare themselves for a trip that middle school Chinese language students will be taking over spring break. Global Awareness was voted one of the three tiers of the RCS strategic plan initiated in 2013 that is expecting to make the district a world-class educational system. This tier of the plan expects to expand the cultural awareness of students.
“The world today is much smaller than we think, and it’s necessary for people when they enter adult life and the workplace to have global competence,” Behrmann said. “The rest of world is just a stone throws away, and we’re dealing more and more with people from all over the world.”
RCS has also added language classes at the elementary level, skill that has never been as stressed as it has before.
“We are doing a service to our kids,” Lawler said. “The early elementary schools have added Chinese to the education in first through fourth grades, and we’ve never had a language at that level before. We’ve also added a class of Chinese at one of our middle schools when we had enough students interested to run the class.”
An exchange program has been created at RCS as well in hopes of expanding the cultural awareness and exposure for not only their students but for the students that are visiting their schools.
“We’ve added exchange partnerships from seven different countries,” Behrmann said. “Expanding their horizons beyond Rochester and Michigan and extending those horizons to the rest if the world. It will take time to build on these skills, but I’m confident that we can.”
The district decided to take a trip to China to give their students a unique and new experience that the district has never offered to students before.
“We picked China so our students can gain global perspective of a country that we don’t typically think of when we think of western culture,” Behrmann said. “It’s a bit different than a trip to Germany or France.”
The initial trip in January that the administrators served as a test run for the middle school trip. There, they were met with a lot of new things and ideas, as none of them have visited China before.
“We wanted to better prepare ourselves to help the kids going, because we’ve never been to China,” Behrmann said. “There, we made changes to the itinerary for the middle school trip. Everything is different there, from food to transportation to public bathrooms.”
In the past, students have gone on numerous trips to multiple counties such as Spain, France, Germany, Canada, and Costa Rica; however students have never been offered an opportunity to go to China.
“There are several trips going to Spain over spring break and France over the summer, but these trips are not RCS sponsored,” French teacher Elizabeth Arcangeli said. “The RCS Strategic Plan has a Global Awareness strand, part of which entails building relationships and exchanges between our students and students in other countries to enhance global citizenship.”
The students will embark on a ten day trip, visiting multiple cities, such as Shanghai, Hangzhou and Beijing, and engaging with the culture outside of their travel group. Mrs Arcangeli is also the World Language Curriculum Coordinator for the district and will be accompanying students on the trip as a chaperone. They leave on April 1st and return the 10th.
“We will visit several schools while in China and the students will participate in a homestay during which they will live with Chinese families and attend classes with their ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters,’” Mrs Arcangeli said. “We will be touring historic sites such as the Great Wall, in addition to experiencing local delicacies such as Peking duck.”
Overall, the importance of the trip is multifaceted. Administrators wish to further the partnerships between our district and those around the world to increase cultural awareness for students, staff, and families. China is just the first step in encouraging new values and new ideas that people in Rochester might take for granted.
“It’s important for our students to know how the Chinese value things like education compared to how we do here, particularly an American education,” Mrs Lawler said. “An American education is valued highly there and around the world and we want our students to see that.”