Thursday, April 19, 2012

...Xi'an School for the Deaf...

These 2nd graders all introduced themselves to me in CSL.  
Near the very top of our “Things to Do in China” list has been to visit a School for the Deaf.  This morning, thanks again to Xiaolan’s coordinating, Ben and I were taken to tour the Xi’an No. 2 School for the Deaf. 

This state run school has approximately 200 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.  The government provides free education to all Chinese students through grade 9.  After that, if the students test into high school, they pay tuition.  The students who complete high school have the option to take the college entrance exam.  We learned there is a special exam for Deaf applicants.  The Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts & Special Education College of Arts has many Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. 

After passing through the security checkpoint, the principal greeted us and introduced us to one of the main teachers.  This teacher, the principal explained, has won awards for her teaching ability.  The teacher, with Xiaolan as our interpreter, gave us a quick tour of the campus.  The main courtyard is well maintained and the wisteria vines drooping from the trellis in the garden smelled very sweet.  There is a basketball court, soccer field and a track area. 
Ben, Kelly, Principal, Star Teacher

In the preschool, little footsteps are a visual cue for the proper direction to walk up and down the stairs.

These 3 year olds and their teacher were very friendly. (by the way, the Chinese, both Deaf and Hearing, typically do the "peace V" when they are being photographed.  It is almost as integral as smiling.  The little boy beside me had looked to be sure I was ready to be photographed with my proper V hand position :)
First we entered the preschool building where children as young as 3 were sitting in classrooms.  These children have all received cochlear implants and were receiving speech and hearing therapy.  There were less than 10 students per room.  The teachers were using cassette tapes as well as children’s movies.  Some of the students greeted us with speech.  Although the teachers at this level do not use sign language, I noticed one little boy describing what he saw in the movie with what we call classifiers in ASL. 

Then, we went to other buildings where all the students were communicating in Chinese Sign Language (CSL).  It was wonderful to see their interaction with one another.  We were informed that today the students were taking mid-term exams, so we only saw the students during the brief breaks between their classes.   Ben and I went into a 2nd grade classroom and introduced ourselves.  The students enthusiastically greeted us and showed us their names.  All of them know the sign for “Americans”.  J  CSL and ASL have similar signs for “Teacher”.

There is only one Deaf teacher on the staff at this school.  The teacher giving us the tour was quite impressed to hear that I had many Deaf and Hard of Hearing teachers in college.  They asked several questions about Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education in America. 
The dormitories.
Ben and I noted that the campus and buildings are in very good condition.  In fact, the primary differences between the facilities at the School for the Deaf and Gaoxin Primary School No. 2 is that the School for the Deaf is much smaller. 

It is typical to bring gifts to school administrators here in China.  We presented them with an American Sign Language dictionary.  Additionally, I had prepared lists of websites that included OIC Movies, D-PAN, Kentucky School for the Deaf, EKU, NTID and Gallaudet.  All of these sites are accessible through the local internet access.  I hope we can continue to have email communication with the teachers at this school. 

The tour was very short and I would love to have spent more time with the students at the school.  However, it was explained to us that it is very rare for foreigners to be able to visit these schools (apart from special groups arranged by the government) and we feel privileged to have been allowed past the front entrance.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

...the wheels on the bus go round and round...

Dr. Henry and Bill on the 2nd level of Bus 608 en rte to the Muslim quarter.

Perhaps if I devote an entire post just to the bus system here, I will not have to bore you again with this topic.  I have no frame of reference for how the buses here compare to other systems, since this is my first experience utilizing this mode of transportation.  For any readers who are like me, I’ll offer the tutorial that would have been helpful for me:
1. Do your best to find a bus route map.  We have one from an English magazine.  However, be aware that these maps will not tell you where the bus stops, just which streets they traverse.
2. Always carry a few one yuan bills or coins.  Currently, one yuan equals about 16 cents (US).  So, for one yuan, you can jump on a bus, and it will take you all the way across town.  The buses here that have the letter K before the bus number cost 2 yuan.  These buses seem to have air conditioning and a few more seats.  Otherwise, they are the same as the others.  If you are here a long time, invest in a bus pass which you merely tap on the meter when you step on the bus.
3. If you are at Gaoxin High School, the best bus to know about is #608.  This double decker bus stops about a block from the school and goes all the way to the train station downtown.
Occasionally, there are enough seats to go around.  This photo was taken mid-morning.

The 608 bus stop one block north of the high school.

Other helpful hints (if you are like Kelly):
·         Enter through the door near the driver. 

·         Exit through the door at the back. 

·         Yes, there is a reason people are constantly pushing you toward the back of the bus…and yes, that computerized voice that says something that sounds like “ho” is telling you to move to the back of the bus.

·         Regardless of anything else, keep an eye on your group and make sure you push through whatever humanity is trying to stand in your way either getting on the bus or off.

·         Don’t worry about seeming rude.  It’s not rude.  It’s called common sense.

·         HANG ON.  Remember that different drivers have different ideas of what a smooth stop and start should feel like.

·         Personal space: what’s that?

Ben, near the back door, lower level, of bus 608.

The buses here have been a very reliable way to discover the city. We have never waited more than 10 minutes for a bus to show up. Most of the time, it is less than 5 minutes.

...on the job...

See the snapshots below for signs of the University of Kentucky student teachers on assignment.

Carrie Wheeler working on lesson plans at her desk in the teachers' office
at the international center here at Gaoxin No. 1 High School.

Ben McMaine listening to a student's comments regarding stereotypes.

Stacey Jefferson teaching first graders the song, "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes."

Monday, April 16, 2012

...Tang Dynasty Culture Park...

In addition to our classroom experiences, our group from University of Kentucky has learned a great deal about Chinese history and culture during a variety of excursions.   These are some photos from our day at Tang  Dynasty Culture Park and Big Wild Goose Pagoda.  Xiaolan and Dr. Henry coordinated a very pleasant day, complete with an English speaking guide who demonstrated Chinese calligraphy, to an evening performance of Tang dynasty era dance, folklore and music.  After an interpretative tour of the bell tower, drum tower, temples and art displays, we spent the afternoon walking through the poetry garden and enjoying the bronze statues that depicted both modern and historical figures. 
Tang Dynasty Culture Park Information

Stacey in the Big Wild Goose Pagoda

Stacey and Kelly, circa 618 - 907

Ben recognizes a few of the Chinese characters.

Joe Ratliff, our group's professional photographer.
Joe came for 2 weeks to complete his graduate work.
He works at Henry Clay High School, Lexington, KY.

Kevin at Big Wild Goose Pagoda

Carrie enjoying the historical tour

Statues representing the Chinese Zodiac

We thought these statues looked like ASL!

Xiaolan's son, Teddy, joined us at the park.  He manuevered his little truck like a pro.
Here, Bill offered him a hand up a long incline.

Bubbles always seem to delight children.

The cultural performance featured outstanding costumes.