Sunday, January 1, 2017

Mandarin Kids Tutoring

I teach Mandarin classes to early learners and their parents. I offer small hands-on classes that engage children with each other, allowing them to become familiar with the Mandarin tones connected with familiar everyday items. We use the simplified Chinese version, yet we expose the children to the written Chinese characters as well. We have been using My First Chinese Words from because my goal is really to prepare pre-immersion kids for eventual matriculation to immersion. I also use "Integrated Chinese" ( for middle school and high school learners that are ready. Some kids do ultimately move up to the Zhongwen series, but it is mostly for students living in Chinese speaking homes. Initially, we begin with fruits, colors, shapes, animals, familiar daily household objects. We fully synchronize to what the kids are currently learning in their own natural progression. We try to create a varied, playful interactive atmosphere where Mandarin introduced is very natural and logical.
For more information about lessons, please call me--Joanne Hall--at (408)733-1893Or email me at

I have also contracted with preschools to teach Mandarin. Contracting for 6-12 week sessions (for an hour 2-3 days per week) offers schools flexibility, and lets them also introduce the Mandarin option to their students, which is appealing to many parents. The key with alternative immersion is shorter exposures more frequently.

Ideally, children learn faster when they have a chance to be immersed in a language. Unlike many other Chinese language schools in this area, most of our students do not come from homes where Chinese is spoken. If it is it's not spoken very much. Since Mandarin is a major 21st Century language of international commerce and human affairs, basic exposure lets young children become relaxed and familiar with the language, which will help them with later, more rigorous formal training, should they choose to do so. Learning any second language will be a real benefit. When parents learn Chinese with their children, it makes practicing during the rest of the week much easier and results in more effective learning as well. But parent participation is not a necessity for good results--it simply adds to the mix. We consider our approach "pre-immersion." And indeed, many parents decide that being here in America they prefer a middle ground, a non-full immersion approach because they want their kids to acculturate better and avoid potential enclaving.

For preschoolers and early readers we use varied texts and a varied lesson plan approach. We also use the concepts of learning center and circle time. "Transfer learning" is a concept that recognizes that young students that study English and the long-term are better able to learn German. All learning is inter-related.

We also teach level 1-3 students, and have a migration path for them as well. We work closely with a group that specializes with intermediate level middle school students. And I also teach middle school students. I have also worked in tutoring AP Chinese. One text we currently use is the Cengage Learning Asia series text, "Mastering Chinese Language and Culture" by Wang Shuang Shuang. We have also used the "Go! Chinese" text series by Julie Lo and Emily Yih. (see: We continue to examine and explore new texts and new approaches, and opt for best practices...and best results. We are also now using the Cheng-Tsui "Integrated Chinese" (Levels 1 & 2) for Middle & High School students.(See: Cheng-Tsui publishes a variety of texts.)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Digital Learning

There are a number of new sites that may help some students, in addition to live teaching. Here are a few I have found:,,, Also,, but it's only free with a trial. Some of these use a video method to assist independent learning. There are many many sites and books available for young learners. We tend to focus on what we know works. But we are always open to new resources, and we stay up to date on what's new.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Class Assignment

I visited the Circle of Inclusion website ( It is a University

of Kansas Project site for early childhood service providers and families of young children. The

site explains, “As early childhood educators and special educators we recognize the value of

including young children with disabilities in classrooms with their typical peers. We believe the

benefits for all children are considerable and that children from birth through age eight are at

formative period for getting to know each other.”

The site offers information about best practices for inclusive education programs for

children from birth through age eight. I reviewed the site for approximately two to three hours

and found it very useful. It offers four different languages, but not all features work now. The

site has eight overall features: 1) Why inclusive services? (It offers five topics in support of the

importance of inclusion); 2) Choosing an inclusive program (A list of programs to

evaluate to meet your needs; 3) Method and Practice; 4) Interactive Lessons. (case study and

slide show); 5) Accommodation, Accessibility & Awareness ( testimonial of an individual

teacher’s experience); 6) Downloadable Materials; 7) Link to other sites; 8) Contact info (listing

all who worked in this program and how to contact them.)

The thing I liked most about the website is that it has a link to a real life story called,

“All Children Should Know Joy”. Three examples convey the value of including disabled

children with mainstream kids. The stories are powerful and touching.

I also liked the slide show in feature four--Interactive Lesson. The show gives a picture

of an urban elementary school, which has disabled kids with regular kids in one classroom.

It shows what an inclusive class looks like, how it works, how teachers interact with
disabled kids, and how regular kids interact with disabled kids. It also includes parent

comments. The depiction is vivid, real and makes so much sense.

This site also uses teacher examples to instruct how to promote communication

between disabled and other kids. For example, how to respond to questions from other

children about the children with disabilities. All the examples are from actual, practical

cases. It makes you feel that you are part of their classroom.

After researching this site, I realized why inclusiveness is a sound practice. Most

parents do not have a disable child at home. So they do not understand their needs. We

typically think these kids need “special programs,” or special classes—to be isolated with

other kids with disabilities. But in fact, most disabilities do not represent any cognitive

impairment at all. Some parents may feel uncomfortable with their disable child attending a

program where therapy care is not available; they may fear that their child will be made fun

of, or harmed by other children. Teachers may feel a lack of training to teach kids with

disabilities. So, inclusion represents a kind of revolution in educational theory and

practice. All children should have access to the same quality education. All children should

have relationships with other children. It’s part of the learning process. The benefits of an

inclusive classroom are that children with disabilities are provided opportunities to develop

friendships with peers. The film, “My Left Foot” exemplifies the importance of

inclusiveness and the real advantages to be gained by non-diabled kids. Also, non-disabled

children are provided with opportunities to learn realistic and accurate views of individuals

with disabilities. They are provided opportunities to develop positive attitudes toward

others who are different, which is what maturity is about. They are also provided role

models of those that have successfully faced real life challenges. And finally families with

disabled children feel less isolated from community. Overall, it’s a good web site. I now

have a better understanding and I would definitely encourage others to use this site because

it is useful and easy to understand.

Classroom Observation

Elementary Classroom Observation

(1) Feb. 23. Today I did classroom observation at Stocklmeir Elementary, Cupertino Union, first grade, Room 17. My eye was initially drawn to the decoration of the windows. The children made a lot of animals with heart shapes. Some were caterpillars, fish, butterflies, single hearts. On one of the doors it said, “We make a better school.” Beneath the words were 21 fishes with student names on them. On entering the classroom, to the left is a cabinet and sink. To the right are shelves for backpacks. Next to the shelves are windows. Above the windows on the wall are
ABC letters. Each letter was attached with a string with words starting with that letter. Underneath the window are cabinets with all different posters on their doors. Some are nouns, adjectives, shapes, and number charts. Some are just labels describing what is in the cabinet. Low book shelves stand against the wall. Some of the books are in the plastic boxes. Books are categorized, and also arranged by order of reading level. There are two fish shaped carpets in front of the bookshelf. Six chairs shaped like basketballs are over at that area. There are some wall posters at the reading area such as “What is a good reader?” and “How to use reading clues,” etc. A few stuffed animals are on the bookshelf. The area looks comfy and cozy. Next to it is a chair for the teacher and a large carpet of kids to sit down at the center time. There are two big white boards on the wall by the carpet. One board has a calendar and weather chart.

The other has some rules written on it such as “what a good listener does.” There is a TV in the classroom, not a computer. There are twenty desks. Four desks are arranged together into a big square. Some spaces exist between each big square. The teacher’s desk is in front of the square with a projector on it. In front of that are another two big white boards. On the corner of the board are two flags (state and national). Besides the posters on the wall is student art work. Children’s self portraits, snowmen, mittens. A salute to our President. There are birthday listings with pictures of each kid. Also there is a star of the week poster made by the kids with the picture of the birthday kid and information about him or her. There are five different shapes in different colors dazzling on the ceiling. The whole class looks very colorful, alive.

(2) Teacher Amy is in room 17. She is young. She stands at the door and smiles. She says, “Hi” to every kids and shakes hands with them. Inside class she speaks in a soft gentle but firm voice. First she tells the kids what they are going to do in general. She then has two kids take the attendance report to the office. Once they return, everyone stands to sing the National Anthem. First activity is journal writing. Topic: five things you did during the break. She repeats the rules. Everyone writes quietly no discussion. They raise hands for help. They jot down the main idea, which doesn’t need to be in a sentence. When the kids start to write, the teacher walks around to make sure everyone knows what they are doing. Once the students start to talk and are making noise the teacher repeats classroom rules again. Students catch themselves when they hear the rules. Also many rules are already posted on the wall. The teacher gives attention to individual kids. For example some kids are stuck during journal writing. The teacher will suggest ideas: Movies, Juggle, Chuckie Cheese--she tells them only to write a few word ideas rather than a sentence. She will have kids sound the words out to help them spell. At story time, she wants students to listen--if they have questions they need to raise their hands. Also when they answer questions they need to raise their hands, too. For example, she read a book about seasons. She asked, “Why is spring muddy?” Many raised their hands. She allowed all the kids that raised their hands to answer. The message is: different perspectives are good. One kid said “Because you plant a flower.” The teacher said, “Good guess. You used the picture clue.” Once students start talking, the teacher places her finger at her mouth, and raises her other hand above the head and makes a v shape, similar to Cub Scouts. All the kids mimic the teacher. The whole group becomes quite again. After reading the book, the teacher said that a season is part of a cycle. “What else is a cycle?” she asks. Kids all give different answers, such as environment,
plants, water, butterfly, 7 days of the week and so on. Kids are really involved in story time.

During the first 20 minutes a room parent was there--to help the children sign the birthday card for the teacher. She also helped light candles and sing happy birthday. The teacher repeated the etiquette of being a good listener before leaving the center. “Eyes on the speaker, lips closed, ears listening, sitting up straight, hands and feet quiet.” She emphasizes this because later the teachers will switch to read books to students in a different classroom. Overall teacher Amy controlled her class pretty well. Children respected her. They understood what was expected of them. Teacher and students interacted well with each other.

(3) Students are attentive and full of energy especially after a one week break. During center time, the kids are very interested in math. Some kids update the calendar, while the rest checked to see if it was correct. A few kids went outside to check the weather; they then came back to fill in the weather chart. All the kids read the weather chart for the whole of Feb. and try to discover the weather pattern. The math they are learning is about coins. Teacher asks about
the value of a penny, nickel and dime. Which do they like to carry? Five pennies or 1 nickel, 2 nickels or one dime? All raise their hands to answer and share. Some kids are counting how many days they have been in the school. They line three pockets next to each other. Each pocket stands for the one column, the ten column, and the hundred column. Feb 23 is the l09 day of school so far this year. After math center, children will go back to their desks to finish their journal. Before they do the teacher turns on the music to let the kids move around inside the
classroom. They have to do what the music says. Sometimes they must hop, or wiggle, or tiptoe; sometimes they do arm-in-arm turn around. To use the restroom or drink water they use a sign to ask permission. Journal time is when students work independently.

Most kids don’t have any difficulties. Only one or two kids get stuck. The teacher will go
to them and ask questions to find out what they did during the holiday, such as movies, jungles, trips, naps, etc. Then she says, just write it as a single words rather than a sentence. The kids who have finished writing can go choose a book to read but no talking to each other is allowed. Overall the kids are very engaged in all the activities. They follow the rules pretty well although they do need to be reminded here and there. Each day’s schedule is pretty much the same. Center time talking is about calendars, weathers, math, greetings, workshop time, then reading time. At 10:00 students have a half hour break. Some days they have library, computer lab and P.E. When one activity transitions to another the teacher will claps her hands three times in a rythm and that is the signal; the kids clap their hands in the same rythm. If they switch from the desk to carpet they move their chairs under the table, then tip toe to the carpets. Then they sit
“cross-cross applesauce.” The transitions seem very smooth especially when they understand what is taking place. The teacher also tells the students that first grader need to be flexible. She has trained kids to be flexible. Some days the kids are focused and

ready to go--other days they need more time to wiggle. The day I did my observation was

not as planned because teacher Amy had forgotten that there was school-wide shared

reading that day. So, there is flexibility in the daily schedule. If something doesn’t get

done it will be postponed to the next day. I realized that there is no time scheduled for

individualized instruction. But she does give individual attention to students when they

need it during class activity. Basically it is a teacher centered class.

(5) The teacher informed me that this year, many parents signed up to volunteer in

the class. They signed to help in the computer labs, the library, for book orders, to correct

math home work, to chaperone field trips. Also a room parent collects money for

classroom events, such as parties, Teacher Appreciation week, etc. Some parents signed

up for school walkathons, to help fund raise, for book fair, to book read and so on. The

teacher has two conferences each semester--students are encouraged to participate in the

conference. The first is about goal setting. Every parent participates in this conference.

Teacher will allot either 20 minutes before or after class. Also parents are welcome to

email teachers. A teacher usually reponds within 24 hours.

(6) The community is highly supportive of the school. They do fundraise for

the school. During the school year, kids see plays at the Community Center. The school

has performances at its library. Also kids go to carnivals organized by the community.

Children are encouraged to join the contest sponsored by the community such as fire

safety contest. Cupertino school district has 16,000 students. Stocklmeir has 33 classroom

with total of 900 kids. The school population reflects the same ethnicity as the

surrounding neighborhood and is highly diverse. The teacher feels supported by the

school administration especially by the principal. She feels she can count on them

whenever she needs them.

Mid-Term Essay - (McKeithan's Class)

Mid-Term Essay

1. Describe the importance of games in middle childhood. Identify ways that games help children with all domains of development (physical, cognitive, social/emotional), as well as what developmental milestones are required for different types of games.

Games are important in middle childhood. Playing games with rules dominate children’s
activities during the school year. Playing games allows children to: (1)develop peer
relationships. They learn to compete, cooperate and negotiate. They innately want to win;
they follow preset rules and use strategies and learn from each other. (2) learn to regulate
social behavior. They learn to be patient, to take turns. To respect others and handle
his/her behavior correctly when they lose—they learn ‘how’ to lose and accept loss, and
maintain relationships. (3) develop physical, cognitive and socio-emotional skills. (4)
understand fairness, honesty and morality (as well as unethical behaviors).
Piaget believed that games are like a mini society that teaches children real life skills.
Children decide rules together when they play games. They innovate as they go, and
follow rules, which in the future will be rules of school and society. It allows them to
learn how to navigate.

Games help children with all domains of development, in example physical development.
Hop Scotch games help children learn how to hop on one foot while keeping body
balanced. Jumping rope helps children develop motor skills. Dribbling a basketball helps
eye hand coordination. Many board games help cognitive development. Chutes and
Ladders teaches counting, and up-down spatial concepts; Candy Land teaches colors.
Some games teach letters and shapes. Games help social and emotional development.
Children interact with each other, build relationships, build self-esteem and learn to
manage loss and frustration.

Different types of games require milestone development. For example, basketball not
only requires ball handling, running, jumping, etc., but also requires eye-hand
coordination in order to shoot the ball in the hoop. Monopoly requires not only
recognizing pictures on the board, but also reading words, and math skills. These are all
milestone developments.

2. Discuss the role of gender in middle childhood. What social differences do we see as children grow, and what can we do to reduce the impact of gender stereotypes?

Gender stereotypes play a different role in society and are embedded in a child’s mind
early on. Men are instrumental. They are independent, aggressive and powerful. They
have traditionally been bread winners. They deal with the wider world and wield
authority. They are doctors, scientists. On the other hand, women are expressive. They
are sensitive, nurturing. They are caretakers, nurses, teachers. Men are strong, women are
weak, dependent and subordinate. Parents, teachers, etc. treat boys and girls differently.
Boys are encouraged to play rough, and not to cry easily, girls are encouraged to play
gently, and speak in mild tones.

As children grow (1) boys like report talk which is providing information. Males hold
center stage when public speaking, story telling, joking. Girls like rapport talk and
conversation. It establishes connection, negotiation and relationship; (2) Boys like to play
with boys in large groups. Boy’s games have a winner and loser. Boys boast of their skill
and argue who is the best at what. Girls tend to play in small groups. The center of the
girl’s world is often a best friend. They sit and talk, concerned more about being liked by
others and building intimacy relationship; (3) Boys and girls are all aggressive. Their
aggression is expressed differently. Boys are more physically aggressive. Girls are more
verbal aggressive. They use relational aggression. They spread rumors to try to make
others dislike a certain child; (4) Boys are more likely to hide their negative emotions
such as sadness. Girls more easily can express their emotions such as sadness,
disappointment, shame and guilt; (5) Girls are better at regulating and controlling their
emotion and behavior. Boys show low cooperation and low self-regulation, thereby
showing behavior such as teasing others, over reaction to frustration; (6) Girls engage in
more pro social behavior than boys.

In order to reduce the impact of gender stereotypes, we should start at home and
school to not put boys and girls into different categories. We should treat boys and girls
the same way and talk to them the same way. We should encourage them to play the
same way. We should focus on the individual as a person, not as boys or girls. Gender
neutral. We should rear our children to be competent individuals.

3. Describe the three parenting styles identified by Diana Baumrind. What are the characteristics of each, as well as expected outcomes?

The three main parenting styles are: authoritarian, authoritative and permissive.
In authoritarian parenting style, parents don’t show much warmth or nurturing and exert
high levels of control. Parents make decisions, children do what parents ask them to do.
Children are discouraged from questions or challenging. Children of authoritarian parents
tend to achieve well academically. Yet they were more apprehensive about doing things.
They did not fair well socially. They exhibited more hostility and aggression in stressful

Authoritative parents are warm and nurturing, exert a high level of control, and
boundaries. Have reasonable expectations. Child is given some room to make decisions
and choose. Children of authoritative parents were found to be most competent
academically and socially.

Permissive parents are warm but exert little control and have few expectations, no
boundaries. Children do what they want. Children of permissive parent exhibit less self-
control, less self-reliance, do poorer academically, less skilled in social situations.

4. Compare and contrast Piaget’s cognitive development theory with Erikson’s psycho-social theory in middle childhood. What are the stages of middle childhood? How do the stages of each theory differ from each other? How are they similar

The Piaget’s cognitive development theory in middle childhood includes concrete
operational thoughts. Concrete operational thought are made up of operations. Mental
actions allow children to do mentally what they have physically done before. It is a
reversible mental action on real, concrete objects. Concrete operations allow the child to
coordinate several characteristics rather than focus on a single property of an object.
For example the comparison of a piece of clay rolled into a round shape versus the same
clay rolled into a bigger stick shape. The concrete operation thought focus on the way
children reason about properties of objects, the ability to classify or divide things into
different sets or subsets and to consider their interrelationships. An example is the family
tree. Another is understanding relations between classes including seriation, which is the
ordering of stimuli along a quantitative dimension. For example placing sticks in order
according to their length. And transitivity, which involves the ability to logically combine

relations to understand certain conclusions. For example: A>B and B >C, so A>C.

Erikson’s Psycho-social theory in middle child hood is industry versus inferiority. At this

stage children become interested in how things are made and how they work. When

children are encouraged in their efforts to make, build, and work, their sense of industry

increases. However, if parents who see their children’s efforts at making things as chaotic

or as mischief or making a mess, children will develop a sense of inferiority. In this way,

permissiveness and encouragement lead to better outcomes.

Altogether Piaget’s cognitive development theory has four stages; concrete

operational thought is the third stage. Altogether Erikson’s psycho-social theory has eight

stages; Industry versus inferiority is the fourth stage.

Erikson’s theory refers to psychosocial. The motivation for human behavior is social

and reflects a desire to affiliate with other people. Developmental changes throughout

the human life span is comprised of eight stages. Each developmental task confronts the

individual with a crisis that must be resolved. The more successfully an individual

resolves the crises the healthier development will be. His theory emphasizes the

importance of a child’s unconscious thoughts. Erikson was a follower of Freud.

Piaget’s theory emphasizes a child’s conscious thoughts and the ways children

understand the world, though assimilation and accommodation. He believed we go

through four stages in our understanding of the world.. It is the different way of

understanding that makes each stage more advanced than the previous.

Both theories are about childhood development. Both believed in the importance of

nurture. The environment has a big influence on how children will develop and who they

will ultimately become. Parents, peers, school, society have a huge influence. If a child is

raised in a healthy nurturing environment he/she will have a good disposition toward the

world, and likely become a better person. Both theories believed in the importance of

experience. Children learn and develop by doing, through experience. Piaget’s and

Erikson’s stages all emphasize discontinuity. Development is gradual and discontinuous.

Each stage is qualitatively different than the previous. The later stage derives from the

previous and is more advanced. Both emphasized the importance of cognition. With

cognitive development, children understand the world better; they grow more mature,

more competent in all different areas.

One of My Adolescent Photos - Personal Note/Class Assignment

Looking back to when I was twelve, in middle school, I had my best self-esteem during that period. I had a very round face, and I used to joke that my nose was the center dot of a circle. I had long black hair. Most of the time I tied my hair up as one or two pony tails or sometimes pig tails. I had a lot of hair clips which came from Hong Kong. Every one who saw these clips would say they were cute. I paid quite bit of attention to how my hair looked and I tried to catch people’s eyes. My eyes were black, and I had a single layered eyelid, which means something to Chinese people. It was traditional type we usually called a phoenix eye, like Eqyptian hieroglyph. I had a medium sized nose. The tip of my nose was round but not too meaty. I had a small mouth like a cherry. We say that people with small mouths are good at talking. My ears were not big. Chinese like big ears because all buddas have big ears and big ears are supposed to bring good luck. I have fair skin compared to many Chinese. I was told the benefit for fair skin is that you look good wearing any color. I remembered at that time, during the Mao Cultural Revolution era, we didn’t have much color for the clothes we wore. The most common was blue. I was chunky and short. I always wore baggy shirts to cover my body fat. I also didn’t want anyone to see the change of my breasts. Most of time I wore long loose pants. We didn’t have jeans at that time. By the way I always wore shoes with a medium heel to look a little taller. I really felt good at that age because I was becoming more mature. Learning seemed easy for me. I received high scores in class during middle school. I was elected Student Study Monitor, which was basically a teacher’s helper to correct papers, lead morning reading and so on. My parents started to give us an allowance so that I had freedom to choose what I wanted to buy. I spent more time with my close friends, and we would walk together to and from school.
Each day during lunch I would listen to popular music, and kept track of these singers, and I also started to collect pictures of movie stars from movie magazines. Each Friday there would be the top music hits on the radio. I had two wall posters, one of Brook Shields and of French movie star, Alain De Long. Weekends I was allowed to go see movies with my friends. At that time we had a lot of Mexican movies and spaghetti westerns. My goal was to one day go overseas. I wanted to experience life in a foreign country. I started to learn English by listening to radio courses such as “New Concept English”, English 900, and Linkphone. At that stage, I was somewhat “dreamy” and didn’t understand the intensity or pressures of life. I had few worries. Only during exam week did I feel intensity. Usually we had 6 major subjects, two big exams during the school year, two subject exams each day during exam week. I remembered I always had to stay up for test nights. Since I was the youngest I didn’t have responsibility to care for my older sister. My responsibility was simply to study well, turn homework in on time. Sweeping the floor and dusting furniture twice a week, and folding the beds were my usual chores. I grew a lot during this time compared to when I was in elementary school. Parents started to treat me like an adult.We talked about family issues, about what we hoped to be when we grew up; how to go overseas; which countries we would like to visit. Many of our relatives lived in Hong Kong, which is one reason we wanted to go abroad. I pictured of my future life as very different from the world I lived in at that time. Life was exciting and challenging. I never really liked the way I looked. I wished I could have been slimmer and taller. Probably the best was that I looked so young. I looked sweet and na├»ve, too. The least I liked was that I was too chunky. I tried to control how much and what I ate. I walked a lot. I connected rubber bands to form a jump rope—and I jumped a lot in efforts to grow taller, but it didn’t really help. At age twelve, I didn’t pay attention to boys yet. I still thought they were naughty and mischievous. I really appreciated that stage of my life. You start to dream of your life, and think everything is so ideal. Fortunately I haven’t experienced any of life’s bitter taste yet.

Book Reflection Notes

After reading the book entitled, “How To Run Your Preschool,” I felt I gained a clearer understanding of what constitutes and how best to establish a high quality preschool. The book covers seven areas which include the teacher-student relationship; class size and teacher-student ratios; teacher professional growth; safety and health; working together with the parents; support for the teachers; and quality evaluation.

The most interesting area to me is the teacher-parent relationship. When my own children were entering preschool, I never felt comfortable talking to the teacher. And the teacher really didn’t try to seek a way to reach me. Of course I went to parent-teacher meetings, open house, did volunteer work here, and there. But I never had deep talks with any of the teachers. One likely reason is that English is my second language, and I lacked a certain confidence in discussing learning. However, since I am very tuned-in to my own children’s needs and how they learn, I think I could have found a way to reach out more. Still, I felt a big gap between me and the teachers. I always agree with teachers, my culture style has been to follow rather than challenge. The other thing I’ve realized in communicating with teachers is, basically, I’m afraid of them. And this dates back to my early student experiences in Maoist China, which was very authoritarian. Whenever preschool teachers have initiated talking to me my first reaction has been to assume there is a problem (i.e. that my boys have not behaved well). My approach has been that less means all is going well. After reading the chapter on working together with parents, I realize how important it is to build a good working relationship with the teachers inasmuch as education is about partnership. Kids gain when they see their parents involved in school, and working together with their teachers; the children will have positive altitudes towards the school, the teacher, authority and the community in general—a relationship based on trust and communication, a shared interest in improvement (as stakeholders), versus one based on fear. This encourages children to be more willing to learn. This aspect is also positive for parents, because we gain knowledge from teachers about child rearing generally. Schools also gain by having involved parents because schools can be more effective. When teachers better understand these a child’s family background it makes them more effective.

My goal now is to become a better preschool teacher. I will definitely reach out to parents as much as I can. I am interested in other cultures and open to multi-cultural parents, and taking the initiative to talk to them. I can only hope that parents will not have the same feelings I’ve had with respect to their view of teachers. I want them know that we are on same team, and need to support each other for the benefit of their children. Our shared purpose is to serve the family and their children better.

Another insightful area was the chapter that addressed a teacher’s relationship to the children, in particular a teacher’s role. In China, I did not attend preschool. In my view it was a top-down system, not interactive or communicative, but instead very formal and authoritarian. Teachers taught from the book, by the book. Children listened, followed instructions, obeyed without challenge, and practiced drills. Children were passive recipients of information disseminated by the teacher. We were afraid of our teachers, because teachers could punish students who did not listen. Conformity was an implied value taught to us. Teachers never wrote notes to parents telling them how well your child is doing. Good performance was expected and taken for granted. Teacher didn’t pay attention to building firm relationships with children at all. This book affirms that children do not learn until they have built good relationship with their teachers, until they feel they are loved, cared for, and safe: these are preconditions for the efficacies of learning. In order to build good relationships--as teachers--we must interact with children, talk to them, pay attention to them, find one-on-one time with each individual student each day, be it meal time, snack time, play time, circle time or reading time. Attention to our children, and a focus on their good aspects [not just negatives] are critically important.

Children are constructive learners who learn by doing, not just by listening to teachers or doing drills. While there are many various approaches, the fact is teachers are facilitators: we use “scaffolding” to help children learn. What we teach children should derive from life not just from books. The book mentioned the Montessori teaching style, or using questions to direct children. My own experience with my son in Montessori preschool would tend to affirm that the book makes a good suggestion. I will definitely apply some of these methods in my own teaching career.

Finally, the book stresses the importance of a teacher’s education and continuing education. Most do not view ‘preschool teacher’ as a bonafide profession, and this is true even of k-12 teachers. Many initially think preschool teachers are similar to babysitters.

The book makes clear that to be a qualified teacher, there is much to learn and keep learning, including foundational theories, strategies, and practice. Lifelong learning never ends. Society is ever-changing, children’s environments are changing, context is changing, new theories are added, old theories amended, and as teachers, we need to upgrade our knowledge to suit our developing children and new environments. ‘Preschool teacher’ is definitely a profession, valuable and worthy of respect. In the chapter about teacher support low salaries, and high turn over are noted. This is a common problem in the U.S. now. In China teachers are well paid. (Of course, higher ed and university level are the best paid, like here.) There is a national teacher celebration day. Teachers are eligible for discounts at many different stores. Teacher is a respectable job. In order to have a high quality preschool, high quality teachers are needed, which means a high level of teacher respect and good pay as conditions. The book suggest some ways to support teachers, such as giving them freedom to practice their theories, better communication among staffs, and ample time for curriculum preparation. If I were a director, I would apply these suggestions in developing my program.

Overall, the book gives a good outline for how to run a quality preschool. It is easy to read, with many examples. It is handy and provides many forms for teacher to use.