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Lynn’s teaching teachers from China

KIPP kindergarten students Justice Victoriano, left, and Jahnelix Pinales, right, work away as Alyssa Lai, a school principal from China, takes note of them during her tour of KIPP today. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Principal Sunny Liang flew nearly 8,000 miles from Zhejiang province in China to learn best practices from some of the Bay State’s schools.

Her first stop was Kipp Academy where she watched Joohee Baik at work. The kindergarten instructor used “The Three Bears,” the tale about friendly bears who return home to find a mischievous girl asleep in their bed, to teach words through pictures.

Liang was among two dozen Chinese educators in Lynn Monday to tour Kipp’s K-12 classrooms. They plan to spend the week in Massachusetts visiting a number of schools.

Baik asked her pupils if they knew or could read the name of the classic book. When none of the children responded, she promoted them with questions: “What do you see on the cover?” “Bears,” said one boy.

“How many?” she asked.

“Three,” said the boy.

It was the kind of instruction Liang had never seen.

“In China, all learning is done by memorization,” she said. “We need to have children problem solve and that’s where critical thinking comes in. But most teachers and administrators don’t even know what critical thinking is. But here it is, it’s real and I can now see how it’s done.”

Charlotte Xue, a principal from Qingyuan in the northern Guangdong province, said she was impressed by how Baik got the children to connect the dots through pictures and devise the book’s title.

“This is perfect,” she said. “I especially liked when all eyes were on the student giving the right answer. In China, classrooms are teacher-centered.”

Danny Xia, a principal in Wenling in Zhejiang province, said he hopes to bring back some new tricks to use in the classrooms.

“China has a reputation for good schools,” he said. “But those schools are in big cities, like Hong Kong and Shanghai. It’s different in rural areas where most parents don’t know why reading is essential.”  

Bowen Gao, business development director at Excelorators, a Cambridge education training company that arranged the trip, said the excursion was a way for the Chinese educators to see best practices and compare schools.  

“The cultures are so different,” he said. “The goal of the tour is to define the difference between the two nations’ schools and figure out how Chinese schools can be improved.”

Justin Davis, interim Kipp principal, said students are used to having visitors. But they are typically other teachers and administrators.

“This visit from across the globe is very humbling,” he said. “Our families and teachers work very hard and because of our passion, we are able to be successful and share it.”

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