By Wendy Liu, Ph.D., Middle and Upper School Mandarin
Tower Hill has a vision to design programming around curricular innovation and global engagement so that our students can find success locally and globally in the 21st century.
To support the school’s vision, I was privileged to participate in the Harvard Graduate School of Education Learning Think Tank on Global Education (2016), the Art of Leadership (2017) and Deeper Learning for All (2018). Those opportunities were eye-opening and heart-opening experiences that prompted me to bring the same level of inspiration to my students. We are teaching students of the future who are global citizens. Making those connections from local to global—and from self to the world—enables students to situate themselves in the fast-changing world and identify the role that they could play to make the world a better place.
I take the commitment of teaching very seriously at Tower Hill. I am determined to create an innovative learning environment where students are encouraged to be the thinkers, architects and leaders of their learning journey.
1) Students are paired up with same-age peers in China so that they can exchange language and cultural learning instantly with the aid of technology.
2) Community members who have personally and professionally engaged in traveling to and from China are invited to serve as classroom speakers to share their insights. Students have the opportunity to engage in research of the topics introduced by the guest speakers and dive deeper into areas of their own interest.
3) A critically comparative lens of viewing world affairs, social issues and history is encouraged as students use innovative tools to present their collections of information from different channels.
4) We take field trips to the Chinatown in Philadelphia and local restaurants so students can experience the culture and use the language beyond the classroom setting.
5) A project-based assessment system is introduced so that students can put into practice what they have learned in class and evaluate the impact and results.
6) An inquiry mindset is instilled in students, and various tools and learning platforms are introduced to students so they can continue to use those tools for exploration after school. Knowledge is not told but co-constructed constantly by the class in a collaborative manner.
7) Think cross-disciplinary approaches. For example, working with the Music Department to create the Jasmin Flowers show; working with the Visual Art and Design Department to compare art from the East to that of the West; working with the History Department to review historical documents in both Chinese and English to find commonalities and differences; working with a few international teachers to engage students in cultural studies through the lens of culinary art.
Within three years, the enrollment of the Mandarin program grew tremendously from 10 to around 100 students, from sixth to 12th grade. Nothing is more rewarding than teaching. The sparkles that I see in their eyes every day give me tremendous joy and energy to continue to do what I love to do.