Mt. Vernon High School (MVHS) is offering Mandarin Chinese to students this fall, bringing with it a Taiwanese teacher and direct exposure to the Chinese culture. This program begins a new international partnership with the Ministry of Education in Taiwan and the Indiana Department of Education to MVHS.
The Mandarin Chinese Teacher, Yi-Fan Lin, comes to Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation (MVCSC) from Taipei City, Taiwan. Lin previously attended the University of Missouri in St. Louis where she served as a creative writing mentor during her six month student exchange.
During Lin’s college stint she thoroughly enjoyed the culture, friendly people and American differences. When she returned to Taiwan she pursued additional exchange programs and sought out the MVCSC opportunity through the Ministry of Education. She aspires to continue to improve her English, learn the intercultural communication differences between the two school cultures, and bring back to Taiwan suggestions on how to improve their education system.
Lin states, “people are super friendly and helpful here. When I got off the plane there were people with signs welcoming me! I learned about Hoosier Hospitality! Many people at school have offered to help me. I am looking forward to experiencing all the different ballgames and holidays here.”
Lin brought calligraphy writing instruments for students to try their best at the challenging Chinese characters. Students can also look through Chinese books, comic books focused on China, as well as Chinese and English newspapers from Taiwan.
When asking Lin about her first few days at MVHS, she stated “I love the students. They seem adventurous, very diverse and open-minded. Some want to learn the language because they have a Chinese background. Some have grandparents in China and they want to be able to communicate with them. Some think learning this language will give them opportunities for future international jobs. I hope they can pronounce correctly the four tones and say them understandably. I want to teach the Chinese characters and components so they can recognize other characters in the language.”
Lin’s current exchange contract is to teach for one year; although all parties are hoping to extend it a second year. Lin is currently staying with the family of MVCSC Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins. The eventual plan is to find her a car and then her own apartment.
Taiwan’s education system is quite different than America. A typical day for a Taiwanese high school student starts with study hall from 7:30 - 8 a.m., followed by four classes lasting until noon. Lunch with the teachers is next, followed by cleaning school facilities, including classrooms, restrooms, or windows. The Chinese culture impresses on the students that it is their responsibility to keep the facilities clean. After cleaning the school, a 30-minute nap on their desk is scheduled where the entire school is quiet. Waking refreshed, students then have classes until 6 p.m. Tests are more given more frequently than in America for continuous measurement. After school is dismissed at 6 p.m., some seniors may have night school from 7-9 p.m. for additional instruction to prepare them for college.
MVCSC Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins had a previous connection with the Taiwan Education Ministry as he hosted several groups of Taiwanese students, teachers and administrators at his former school district, Northwest Consolidated Schools of Shelby County. Both Robbins and MVHS Principal, Greg Roach, visited Taiwan in June to interview teacher candidates, experience Taiwanese school culture, as well as to develop a relationship with a sister school. All goals were achieved as the Banqiao Senior High School and MVHS are hoping to begin coursework communication and share live video feeds. This will bring direct international exposure to Mt. Vernon students through these exchanges between Taiwan English classes and Mt. Vernon’s Mandarin Chinese classes. The partnership could turn into an exchange program for students, and eventually staff as well.
Dr. Robbins states, “I am pleased we are providing students with exposure to yet another culture. Learning the world is a bigger place than just their four walls is an important part of student development. This experience and partnership with Taiwan will enlighten our students how big our world is and provide additional resources to develop skills and opportunities for their futures.”
MVHS Principal Greg Roach initially surveyed the MVHS students last spring to see if there was enough interest in taking a Mandarin Chinese class and warrant the investment. The student response was similar to the initial survey to bring American Sign Language (ASL) to MVHS. Over 30 students replied they would be interested in taking each language initially, and now ASL has over 400 requests to fill 150 seats. Similar growth is anticipated with the Mandarin Chinese courses.
There are currently two Mandarin Chinese 1 classes offered at MVHS, as well as being integrated into the 8th Grade World Language course at Mt. Vernon Middle School. Mandarin Chinese is the most common dialect and the official dialect of the China. The Mandarin Chinese course will be a challenge for students to learn as the language does not have an English base, like many foreign languages do.
MVHS Principal Roach said, “we were looking to expand the world language options to provide students with more of a choice to achieve their chosen high school degrees. We are pleased with the expansion in the language department as MVHS now offers four world languages: French, Spanish, ASL and Mandarin Chinese.”