Principals swap ideas at East-West School

East-West School of International Studies Principal Ben Sherman (l.) watches as Feng Qui, principal of Hangzhou No. 14 Middle School in Zhejiang, China, writes her name in Chinese. Photo by Connor Adams Sheets
By Connor Adams Sheets

East met West at the East-West School of International Studies in Flushing Tuesday afternoon.

The occasion that brought the two hemispheres together was the arrival of a principal and social studies teacher from the institution’s new sister school, Hangzhou No. 14 Middle School in Zhejiang, China.

The representatives met with East-West Principal Ben Sherman, faculty members and Chinese language students in order to exchange ideas about teaching and learning as well as to get a feel for one another’s cultures.

Hangzhou’s principal, Feng Qui, told Dorothy Woo, a member of the East-West advisory board, that the visit was informative as she believes the Chinese school system can be greatly improved by incorporating aspects of American education and vice versa.

“The principal told me they sometimes have trouble communicating with parents, and sometimes the parents’ behavior is very selfish, and they just want their own child to do the best and they ignore other children,” Woo said. “So that’s one reason the school is here — they want to learn from the United States how the parents should act and to learn how to teach our students to study like their students.”

Sherman said East-West will also reap great benefit from the partnership, which came about through its participation in the Asia Society Confucius Classrooms Network, which links 60 schools in the United States with 60 schools in China. This is the first sister school for East-West, which opened in 2006.

“We are preparing students for a world in which Asia is growing in importance,” Sherman said. “To our guests from the Hangzhou school, we are looking to build this relationship so that principal to principal, teacher to teacher and student to student we can learn from each other …. This kind of cross-cultural pollination, like the coming of spring, helps to re-energize our schools.”

One-third of East-West students study each of the following: Chinese, Japanese and Korean, and they learn to understand the cultures in the country whose language they learn while at the school, which serves sixth- to 12th-grades. The Flushing school has a diverse student population.

Richard Timothy, a senior at East-West, studies Chinese at the school and sang in a group performance of a Chinese language song to welcome the guests to his school. He said he dreams of visiting China and that he is excited about the partnership with Hangzhou.

“The entire exchange of ideas will give students a hands-on touch to learn about how China has a different feel on the world and how it is different than the U.S.,” he said. “Having a sister school will help me learn more about the world.”

Qui said through a translator that students in China and America have different goals and that finding a happy medium between the two may be the best way to educate students.

“In China, there is the outside motivator that everyone wants to go to this good college,” she said. “But here it is more individual, and students have their own goals and focus on lifelong learning.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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