Daisy Xie has been at the heart of the preparations to make Huili ready for its inaugural year, having helped shaped the Chinese curriculum alongside her dedicated department colleagues while bringing plenty of fun and enjoyment into the classroom.Early teaching career
I graduated from Shanghai International Studies University with a major in teaching Chinese and a minor in German. I am also a child and adolescent counsellor. I have worked for around 12 years teaching Chinese in primary schools and took the responsibility of chairing Chinese departments for many years. Before coming to Huili, I received many prestigious awards, such as Prominent Teacher of First-Class and Certified Chinese Teacher (IPA). I participated in the revision of Chinese textbooks, as well as compilation of Chinese teaching materials including Chinese Language and the relevant exercise books. It would prove to be an extremely useful experience in preparing me to help build Huili’s Chinese curriculum from scratch.
Coming to Huili
Plenty of schools in China claim that they are bilingual, but all too often they only focus on the language element, not the real vision of bringing two educational cultures together. At Huili integrates the best international education philosophies while promoting native language and cultural curriculums. This ethos, with all its exciting new structures and ideas, appealed to me greatly – this is what led me to decide to come to Huili.
While I loved my time at my former school, I am confident tackling an entirely new set of challenges in the new school! I had already heard of Wellington’s long history and outstanding reputation, so I knew that this was the right group to bring that ambition to life.
Shaping the Chinese department
The Chinese department has nine teachers and two teaching assistants, with an average teaching experience of over 10 years. While most of us are from the Shanghai area, collectively we represent a wide range of experiences, backgrounds and educational perspectives. Working with the team has been a great pleasure from the moment I arrived here, when we quickly built an atmosphere of friendly and courteous cooperation while developing the curriculum together.
We are very open with each other and everyone is willing and eager to share their ideas and learn from one another. We often enthusiastically debate the merits of a particular exercise or a classroom activity. Our professional, open and friendly discussion results from our common goal, which is providing superb teaching facilities and engaging teaching methods for Huili pupils.
Developing Chinese curriculum
Chinese is not just about teaching the language or giving our pupils a communication tool. We must train the pupils in our care to express themselves, question things, communicate with their teachers and peers, think critically and be creative. Meanwhile, it is essential that we help them to keep developing their understanding of their own culture, identity and traditions throughout their entire lives. This is the Huili way of educating children and it is right at the heart of my vision for how we teach Chinese.
Rearranging and elaborating learning objectives
We use unified compiled textbooks of the Ministry of Education at Huili. Based on the abundant articles included in the textbooks, we rearranged the knowledge and skills taught in every unit while defining the assessment criteria and tools of each unit and each lesson. This kind of meticulous and quantitative evaluation is more common in maths, physics, chemistry and other science disciplines. It is rare to find any such cases in liberal arts learning. As big a challenge as it was, our Chinese department spent plenty of time successfully preparing for it and carrying it out. Before delivering lessons, teachers are required to have a thorough comprehension of textbook content, assessment criteria and level of difficulty over the academic year. When we teach every unit, we have a timely and dynamic recording of pupils’ progress according to their homework and classroom performance. We also ask teachers to revise their teaching plans and methods promptly, based on pupils’ learning attainments.
Reading with joyfulness
There is no shortcut in Chinese learning. If we are asked to find one, then the key to learning Chinese, without doubt, is reading. Reading is a process of thinking, absorbing and enjoying. The new teaching textbooks attach great importance to cultivating a habit of reading. From my perspective, reading ability is more likely to be developed through years of persistency.
Currently, the Chinese department systematically conducts various reading activities in all grades, such as ‘reading with parents’ in the lower grades, ‘thematic reading with notes’ in middle grades and ‘circular reading journal’ in Junior High. Further promotion of reading activities remains one of our key curriculum design priorities. We hope that pupils can truly enjoy reading while developing their critical thinking skills.
Listening to pupils' voices
In local Chinese schools, there is a strong emphasis on developing a solid knowledge and understanding of each subject, while adhering to a strict code of conduct. Here at Huili, we want our pupils to take a leading role in our classes, rather than passively accepting static knowledge. No matter whether we are conducting presentations, group discussions, debates or lectures, we are eager to hear pupils’ thoughts and ideas, instead of merely delivering model lessons by ourselves.
Admittedly, this proved to be a difficult adjustment for the children right at the beginning of the year. Initially, many pupils wanted to ask questions and speak openly, yet they were unsure how to start, often worried that they would make a mistake or not give enough information. However, within the first couple of weeks, pupils grasped the idea that asking questions was encouraged, that communicating openly and confidently was the way forward, even if they didn’t have a ‘perfect’ question or answer in their mind.
When I compare how things are now to when the school first opened, the level of change is remarkable and entirely positive. Children gradually learn to talk to their teachers and classmates in an open, friendly yet still respectful way. Pupils, with the ability to think creatively and independently, can express themselves and question boldly in a new type of pupil-centred classroom. I believe that this is particularly vital for pupils who will go through international exams and education in the future.
Encouraging a love of Chinese culture at Huili
Again, learning Chinese goes beyond understanding the language. We want our pupils to know their own cultural identity and enjoy exploring it as much as possible. Apart from Chinese lauguage learning, we also offer a sinology curriculum to all pupils. Due to the specific characteristics of different grades, we select relevant classics for them based on diverse cultural themes.
Huili pupils of all ages have already been engaging with Chinese culture. From the study of classical Chinese texts and poetry such as Disciple Gauge and Three-Character Essay, to the teachings of Confucius, we are always allowing the children to explore Chinese culture in an analytical manner. We encourage them to think critically, to always make comparisons. We never think: “traditional is always good, it is always the best”, as we want the children to think for themselves, to see what they like and value about their own heritage. They also have the opportunity to compare Chinese culture with various Western cultural concepts, for example, different tea ceremonies and dramas from China and various other countries around the world. This will no doubt help the children broaden their minds about the concept of culture in general, instead of merely appreciating their own culture in isolation.
This first semester has gone by extremely quickly. We have built an excellent foundation for Chinese at Huili and I would like to thank the pupils and teachers for all the hard work they have put in since the first day. Similarly, I would like to thank our amazing Huili parents for their understanding, enthusiasm and unfailing support. While we still have plenty of new and exciting things to do together in the coming months and years, this has been an exceptionally positive start and I am very much looking forward to continuously developing our Chinese curriculum and seeing what we can achieve next.