Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Greetings from China

Dear Jane,

This is Rita Happy Ely writing from China. I participated in the Positive Discipline training at Park Lodge Elementary in Lakewood, Washington, for several years. These sessions by your capable trainers made a huge difference in my thinking and in my teaching methods.
I came to the teaching profession late in life after some four decades as a journalist/freelance writer/editor. Like most others who learn important skills at a more advanced age, I wished I had "known then what I know now." My parenting skills weren't awful, but they could have been much better with the kind of insight offered by Positive Discipline tenets. All I could do was apply the concepts to my own teaching--and share them with young parents I knew.

Now I have remarried and have come to teach university students in Qingdao, China, a port city of 8.2 million people on the coast of the Yellow Sea across from Seoul, Korea. These decisions came fast, leaving me little time to clear my old classroom and select a few items to bring. Two important components of teaching/learning that continue to inspire me are Positive Discipline and the very companionable Paideia training I received at Park Lodge. These respectful ways of conducting learning experiences work just as well with university students in China as they do with young students in America.

Thank you for your continued work in promoting the respectful treatment of students. Your concepts returned to my mind forcefully yesterday as I began the first round of oral English assessments at this university. The testing mentality of an ultratraditional educational method has left its mark on these young men and women. In spite of my assurances that our "assessment" procedure was not a "test" and that they had nothing to worry about, I met face to face with a few grown young men who literally quivered and trembled as they tried to talk with me. If this is what "high-stakes testing" does to college students, I can only imagine how terrified young children are when they face disrespectful learning environments.

That's my Christmas greeting to you and a thank you for your part in offering a better way.

Very sincerely,

Rita Happy Ely
Qingdao University
Qingdao, Shandong Province

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