Author Archives: murcha

A third day of learning with Beijing no 27


greeting students at the gate.jpgOur last full day at Beijing no 27 started again with breakfast in the school dining hall. Each day two students welcome and monitor people who enter the school.

The Chinese students are extremely studious. Many were studying or completing homework while we waited for breakfast to be served. Many go home at night time and put in a further 3 to 4 hours or more. This was an eye opener for our students.



One of our student’s breakfast trays

Instead of attending classes in the morning, we walked through the hutongs with Therese, the organising staff member, past one of the gates of the Forbidden City and on to Jingshan Park.


The weather was humid and hot but the pollution was thick. Some of us donned masks.


However, the gardens were cooling. It was fascinating to see the older Chinese citizens practicing tai chi, dancing, playing chess, voice shouting, singing, participating in clapping classes etc. Several older people were using water and brushes to write Chinese characters on the pathways.We climbed to the top of the hill to  see the Buddhist temples. A number of students and the adults enjoyed dressing in traditional costumes having their formal pictures taken.

As it was close to 11:00am we returned to the school to have lunch. At the end of lunch, one of the boys brought his hand made drone out into the school yard for students to have a go at flying. This was followed by a calligraphy class. Students were then given a test on their knowledge of Beijing geography, spoken language and chop stick skills.

The principal came in just before the test to bid us a formal farewell and to give our school a special gift – a beautiful handcrafted fan. John and I were taken into her office while students completed their test and again were given individual gifts – tea for John and a beautiful comb for me. On returning to the classroom, each of our students were given a number of gifts and souvenirs of their time in the school. As there are many after school activities, we congregated in the school yard watching students practice marching, fan dances and basketball. It was great to see our students starting to mingle readily with the Chinese students, practicing English, exchanging wechat id’s etc.

As our days came to a close at Beijing no 27, our students finally looked comfortable, mingled readily with the Chinese students, shared wechat id’s etc.


Day 2 at No 27 Beijing School

Day 2 spent at No 27 Beijing school was another day of learning about the Chinese culture and history. It started with breakfast in the Dining Hall, followed by formal classes in our allocated classroom.

Each class had a Chinese teacher and usually an interpreter. The interpreter was one of the Chinese teachers who taught English in the school. The first class of the day was a handicrafts class. Students were taught the importance of and history of Chinese knots. We were then provided with threads, pins, beads and a foam placemat and taught how to tie a variety of knots to produce a bracelet. Examples of beautiful handcrafted Chinese knotting were also displayed.

Martial arts in the playground followed. The weather was warm and humid and these were not easy skills to master. Whilst we were learning, other physical education groups were involved in marching activities in other corners of the playground. Lunch was then provided with a noon break for us. Paper cutting in the art room involved using stencils to cut out shapes. Students were then encouraged to create their own paper cutouts, then to cut out their Chinese birth year animal.

A favourite activity amongst some of the boys was the flight simulator. We were taken to a computer lab where impressive flight simulators were located, together with desktop computers with flight programs on. Most of us kept crashing our planes soon after take off!! One clever student had built his own drone and demonstrated its use.

After school we were treated to Chinese folk music in the auditorium, where we could listen to and see many of the traditional Chinese musical instruments. This was followed by an Evening Reception.






An evening reception


On the second night of our stay at Beijing no 27 school, hosting students, our students and staff, family members and several staff from no 27 were treated to a school evening reception. A number of welcome speeches were made.


The evening was hosted by the Secretary and chaired by Eric, a Mongolian student who also acted as interpreter for us all.

A selection of traditional Chinese musical instruments were demonstrated by skilled Chinese students.


Australian students were able to attempt playing the instruments. An evening banquet meal was enjoyed by us all.

Attending a Chinese school

Too excited to sleep well, I got up early to go for a short walk and bumped into John Ralph, our assistant principal who was the other supervising teacher. We decided to check out the street breakfast food, found a restaurant that looked clean and respectable and enjoyed a quick dumpling and green tea. As we were enjoying this, our students were actually being dropped off near us so we could say hi before they actually started the school day.

The school also treated us to breakfast with a wide variety of dishes including rice, meats, salads, eggs, steamed buns (pork and custard), yoghurt etc. The yogurt poured out of the bottle just like our milk!!!

Day two of activities and learning at Beijing no 27 school included:

  • Breakfast in the dining room
  • Handicrafts class- Chinese Knots
  • Martial Arts
  • Lunch in the School Dining Room
  • Paper Cutting
  • Afternoon Excercise
  • Simulated Flight Class
  • Chinese Folk Music performance in the Auditorium

School Trip to China


Every second year our school organises a trip to China, as mandarin Chinese is taught as our second language. Part of this trip involves a four or five day visit to our sister school at no 27 Beijing. It is offered to students in years 9 and above.

I am fortunate to be one of the supervising teachers in attendance. There are 11 students, 2 staff and four adults who are related to the students. On arrival at the airport, we were met by Mr Wan who picked us up and took us by bus to no 27 school where we were greeted to our official welcome, early lunch and then attended classes. We were given a home room where most of the classes took place.

On that first day, our classes included:

  • Chinese – the historical and modern day importance of a name to the Chinese people
  • Geography – an overview of Beijing. Students then made models of the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and Tainmen Square
    Model of the hutong

    Model of the hutong 


Students were then greeted by their host familes who came to the school to pick them up and take them to their homes for four nights. This really pushes students outside their comfort zones as English may not be spoken by the parents or may be very limited. Their homes are tiny compared to our large Australian homes and most Chinese students slept on a couch so that our students could have a bed. The girls especially showed some nervousness about this. All but two families had one child.

The school then treated our staff and adults to a sumptuous meal at a local restaurant  where we enjoyed amongst other amazing dishes – the famous Peking or Beijing Duck. The duck was carved in front of us by the chef!



Successfully introducing classes of different cultures

name Sophie

When classes from two different countries and cultures connect or collaborate for the first time, it can be very difficult to determine the names and gender of the students involved.

My school had a Chinese language assistant teacher  from Shanghai for 12 months several years ago. She introduced herself as Wang Yi,so we called her Wang but after she had left we realised her first name was actually Yi!!! We had been calling her by her last name.

There will be differences in the order of names. In Australia we state our first names followed by our surnames (or last names). In China, students’ last names (or family names) come first then their first name. Some Indian citizens do not have even have a last name just their first name or name of their father which is carried down through generations.

When classes do connect and collaborate for the first time, it is essential for success that teachers share student details with clear headings for first and last (family) name. Pronunciation of the name using a audio would be useful. Gender should also be shared, as foreign names may not convey whether they are a boy or a girl.

If using webconferencing software such as skype, polycom videoconferencing, ghangouts, zoom etc, signs or printouts showing the name of the student (and pronunciation if possible) could be used as the student comes up to the camera.

What tips and hints do you have? How else do names differ around the world?

Outside our comfort zone


School families have been asked to host visiting Chinese students from our sister school in Beijing. Many are reluctant and all are rather nervous. Our community is geographically and culturally isolated so people from different languages and cultures are rare.

Parents are concerned about the following:-

  1. What to feed their visitors? What will they eat and what should they cook?
  2. How will they communicate effectively?
  3. Will the students be bored?
  4. Where should they take the students?
  5. If they go to their room early, are they upset?
  6. How should they fill in the time after school and on the weekend?
  7. Most can only take a single student as they would not be able to transport them in their family car.
  8. Will they mind sharing a bedroom?

This certainly pushes many of us outside our comfort zone? How did it all turn out?  Following are some comments from parents on our school Facebook page:

We experienced an amazing week both Max and Chen taught us so much we now have a greater understanding of their culture and country.

We had such a fantastic experience with Jing Jing staying with us. She is looking forward to seeing Chelsea again next month!

saying goodbye