Since 2008, students in the Early Childhood Education program have completed one-month study abroad internships at Regent International Preschool in the city of Suzhou, China. The value of their learning and working experiences at a Regent International
preschool are invaluable. Read their own words written for the Talk Back China project, an online diary.
Shanghai & Arrival to Regent International Preschool
Prior to the trip, there was much preparation needed for our Team – creating early childhood curriculum materials, email correspondence with our classroom Mentors in Suzhou, China, and preparing all necessary travel documents. It was a beautiful sunny
day when we landed in Shanghai, and we were extremely excited of what was to come. We were fortunate to be welcomed by 2 school administrators from Suzhou, and these women guided us during these first days in Shanghai. We started by eating dumplings
in a beautiful restaurant close to our hotel in ‘old Shanghai’. We visited the Shanghai Museum which turned into exploration of ageless historical artifacts. Historic carved jade, coins, mahogany furniture, calligraphy and
scenes from nature, Buddhist sculpture - every one of the objects/pieces was a crucial fundamental element to the Chinese culture. Afterwards, we toured the historic Yu gardens and instantly fell in love with the Chinese mother nature.
Every pathway, corner and architecture resembled a fairy tale made for children. After sunset, we viewed the ‘Bund’ – the modern skyscrapers of ‘new Shanghai’, which is viewed from across the Huangpu River, and walked
along the historical, colonial waterfront buildings - another exploration of architectural pieces of China. The rain and fog gave us this mystic feeling that felt endless throughout the night.
Making a 2-hour drive to the city of Suzhou, we were able to have our first day at the Regent International Preschool in our designated classrooms. The moment we arrived to the childcare centre, we were astonished by the warm welcome
from the principal of the school. After being exposed to the different classrooms, curriculum and staff, it was clear to us that we have found our ‘home away from home’. The children in each & every classroom were extremely welcoming and
also eager to learn about new things, & new language. The supportive environment in the Regent International Preschool created the right foundation for each of us to be a part of such a great program.
Huaduo ‘Flower’ Kindergarten Lab School & Tiger Hill
During the bus ride to a local Kindergarten lab school, I was wondering how similar or different their lab school would be compared to the schools in Toronto? When we arrived at Huaduo ‘Flower’ Kindergarten my mind was blown away! My
first thought was that the structure of the building was inticrate and the Principal was so welcoming in giving us a tour around the school. I noticed how they creatively use every space and corner, where children can play and build interesting creations.
The school plans play-based curriculum and a lot of real-life play that the children can use in their everyday lives. We were the audience for a demonstration lesson; we were seated in the Music Room, then 25 Kindergarteners walked in with their Teacher
and were taught a song. The Teacher used playful, repetitive methods and a Smartboard in teaching the song, which culminated in a performance with simple rhythm instruments such as dishes and cups to play the song’s rhythm. The children also have
opportunities to paint outdoors, cook, use a variety of blocks, and dramatic play. Their outdoor playground includes multiple dramatic play areas! - small play structures shaped into temples, greenhouses and little huts that the children could play
in. Both children and adults were very engaged in all the activities and were often working collaboratively.
After our visit, we went to historic Tiger Hill,
which has been a popular visiting site for centuries. Our hike up the hill included beautiful buildings, artwork, huge bonsai, calligraphy and gardens throughout. Through exploring Tiger Hill our group noticed how everyone respected the gardens and
did everything with such care. I felt like I was in an enchanted garden seeing all these beautiful plants and trees surrounding me. It felt nice to relax and take in the nature at its beauty. It felt surreal how detailed and beautiful the historical
sites were, and that we were sharing this experience together.
Mother’s Day Celebration
We’ve learned that Mother’s Day is important in China, and our Mentor Teachers worked to make the day as memorable as possible for the school’s mothers. On my first day of attendance at Regent International Preschool, I was told that the children practice
every morning for the Mother’s Day assembly – my group sang the “I Love You” song. Throughout the previous week, the children made hand-made cards where they painted handprints onto the front cover. In addition to the card, they strung personalized
bead necklaces with their mother’s name. During the Mother’s Day event, the children and mothers together decorated a keepsake tote bag, while listening to a specialized playlist celebrating family relationships. Additionally, mothers were invited
to their child’s classroom to experience the learning environment and play group games. Throughout these experiences mothers and children had fun and enjoyed this time together, shown through everyone’s’ laughter and interactions. It was a significant event for the Regent International Preschool
community – children, families and teachers.
A Life & Learning Experience
It’s been a little over two weeks since I have landed in China and each day has brought a positive, and unique experience. While being born in China, the memories of my short time living here have not been with me throughout my life. To be able to finally
go back- after years of telling myself, “I need to visit China”- I have finally accomplished one of my dreams.
Each day in China has been different. For a few days, we were all in Shanghai, enjoying the sight seeing and shopping in the shopping district. For the next couple of weeks in Suzhou, we have enjoyed seeing Tiger Hill, The Flower Lab School of Early Childhood,
the Pearl Market and most recently, Suzhou’s School of Early Childhood Education College. However, my favourite experience in China has been working with the children at Suzhou Regent International Pre- school.
I have been placed with the Kindergarten
class, who are ages 4-5 years old. The majority of them speak Mandarin, but there are a few Japanese children too. While the children are emergent English learners, they are grasping the language very quickly. I am learning that children make connections
between languages in complex ways - their Home Language, and the school curriculum which includes Mandarin and English. At school, the Educators plan play- based curriculum, while at the same time, provide structured activity lessons. The children
have 40 minutes of both Mandarin and English lessons, mostly based on different themes throughout the week. They also plan with the same curriculum Planning Webs used at Toronto-based George Brown lab schools. The curriculum Program Plans are posted
for families and colleagues to read, and are written in both English and Mandarin languages.
The school also focuses a lot on families, allowing for the families to be part of their community and building strong relationships between teachers, children and families. They celebrated Mother’s Day, and performed a choreographed dance for the families.
They also have a Christmas concert, Lunar New Years concert and even a graduation ceremony at the end of the year. While my time in China has been short, the memories I have will last forever.
College Education in Suzhou, China
When we visited the Suzhou Early Childhood Education College, we were greeted by the Director, International Division Hong Yu Cai. She ushered us into the school’s conference room to meet and greet the Headmaster, Deputy Secretary Researcher,
Yang Jian Laing. After the introduction, the Director proceeded with the brief history of the school. Suzhou Early Childhood Education College was established in 1976 as a vocational school, and in 2012, it became a college. In 2015, the school built
a new campus and offered free tuition for male students who are interested in the program, with an aim to balance gender representation in the field. At present, 20% of the students in the programs are male. Suzhou School of Early Childhood Education
College provides a 3-year degree program, and a 5-year degree program. The school also has 3 lab schools across the city where the students can go for practice teaching and internships. The Director gave us a tour of the campus and the classes, which
emphasize arts education and traditions. We observed students in the painting, drawing and piano classes; we observed an instructor give a demonstration on how to play the traditional instrument called ‘Pipa’. We were on time when we visited the dance
studio where the students in leotards and ballet shoes were practicing their dance moves.
We then were partnered with students for
lunch and for another tour of campus facilities. This was an opportunity for the GBC students and the ECE students of Suzhou to chat and to ask questions about each other’s school life. My partners then took me to their dormitory. Each dormitory room
occupies 6 people. This is where the students stay while they attend the school. To end the tour, we went to the library, they showed me the amazing story books that the students made. The school visit was such an extraordinary experience, that I
wish I could learn one of the specialized skills the school offers.