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Opening Doors for Children

November, 2007
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“Imagine a corridor, with many doors on either side, representing a child’s experience of Primary Education. All the doors are locked - but good teachers hold the keys to open them for their children. When, for example, the ‘music’ door is unlocked and opened, and the child is able to start participating in musical activities, s/he discovers there are a whole set of other locked doors in this music area. These are labeled ‘composition’, ‘playing an instrument’, ‘appreciating classical music’, ‘ world music’ and so on. And again, a good teacher has the ability to unlock these doors for the children and allow them to go through. Children may not feel a particular door is for them - but unless it is opened by the teacher, they will never know. How sad it would be if your child had the potential to excel behind the door labeled ’science’ - but nobody gave him/her a real opportunity to get through the door to find out!

This is repeated all the way down the corridor - doors opening into different areas that provide the possibility of enriching and developing whatever talents or potential a child has.

To Roger Fisher, the idea of being principal in an international school is quite an appealing one because the challenges and potential are so different.

For the past three to four years, Fisher has been coming to China many times while he was working for an education consultancy company based in the UK. His job was training Chinese teachers and staff in Beijing and doing external evaluation of the local schools.

“When we started the external evaluation program in partnership with Peking University, the first school we inspected is Beanstalk International Bilingual School (BIBS) three years ago,” said Fisher. “I know this school. But I didn’t know I would to be the principal here.”

In terms of being a head teacher, Fisher had three head chairs back in the UK, but this is Fisher’s first experience in an international school context. To Fisher, an international school is such an exciting environment to go into. Having 30 different nationalities among nearly 300 children at BIBS, he thinks it is a fantastic starting point to break down the bias of people.

“Here you have to learn to like Chinese or Japanese or Koreans, because they are your friends or classmates,” said Fisher.

After training a lot of head teachers in China before, the principal said it is time for him to prove that “I know how to do that job.”

“The demands from different cultures in terms of what education should provide are quite the same,” he said. “Although I have been here for a short time, I found the conversations between parents here are quite similar to the conversations I had with parents in the UK. Every parent wants the best or perfection for their child in the school.”

As a principal as well as father, Fisher said he truly understands how difficult the decision could be for parents to choose a school for their children. The reason for that, he explained, is pretty simple: Parents can visit the school and see the beautiful facilities it has on campus, talk to the administration and principal, etc. How good the principal or administration is does have important impact on the school; however, what has even greater impact is who the teachers your child will be with are. If your child happens to be with a poor teacher of a good school, it is not a good school for you or for him. Also, it may be even more important in a primary school than in a secondary school as children will spend most of the time with one person, their homeroom teacher.

“So to me, any judgment on the school is based on the teachers. What we can offer to the children is very important; well nothing is more important than the qualities of the teachers.”

The principal also believes that education attracts people who care about kids and want to do the best for them. Almost 100 per cent of the teachers he had the privilege of working with all wanted to do the best for the children. And the reason they may or may not do the best for the children is very often dependent upon opportunities for professional development, classroom support and so on.

“If you can provide the teachers with a situation where they are supported and encouraged, they can and will be the best teachers,” Fisher emphasized.

With the new Beanstalk campus opening at the Upper East Side compound this early December, Fisher said it brings tremendous difference to the school as well as to teachers wonderful opportunities to show their skills.

Apart from the bigger and brighter classrooms, there are special music rooms and lovely indoor sports facilities. In particular, having an indoor physical education facility, dedicated science and technology rooms, improved computer lab facilities and a wonderful library will greatly enhance many aspects of the school curriculum.

The spacious school library, as well as being equipped with internet access for the children to use for research, has several hundred new books in stock to extend its structured English reading program.

Meanwhile, Beanstalk has recently welcomed two new teachers to their staff, including a new music specialist from Canada, who will complement the Chinese specialist teaching already in operation. This is part of a plan to develop a comprehensive international arts centre on campus.

For the next school term, the principal also intends to start a brand new Parent Teacher Association in January, to open new after school curriculum enhancement activities, and to further develop its adoption of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program.

As a result of all of these developments and improvements arising from this move, the principal is looking forward to a significant growth in the number of students attending Beanstalk International Bilingual School, as they just opened up to Grade Eight.

“Beanstalk should be an excellent primary school,” said the principal. “Primary education should be about good teachers ‘opening doors’ for children, giving them a real insight into the whole breadth of education, so that they have the maximum possible opportunity to recognize and develop their own interests and abilities,

“This is what the teachers at Beanstalk are doing.”

By Xing Yangjian

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