David Stobaugh remembers the feeling of isolation he had when traveling through Europe and being surrounded by people who spoke a language other than English.
“It’s kind of sensory overload,” he said.
Stobaugh, the assistant principal at Moss Middle School, said he expects those memories and experiences to be reignited as he travels to Beijing this week. He wants to use the experiences of his first trip to Asia to better relate to the isolation that many of his students who don’t speak English as a first language must feel.
Stobaugh will travel with a group made up mostly of Kentucky school administrators organized through the Confucius Institute at Western Kentucky University and paid for by the Hanban.
Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters is a public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education committed to providing Chinese language and cultural teaching resources and services worldwide.
Participants on the trip will focus on sharing their perspectives on and learning about Chinese practices for educational leadership. The Daily News will be documenting the trip in stories and photos.
Betty Yu, associate director of the Confucius Institute at WKU, said this is the first trip through the Confucius Institute at WKU that has brought school administrators to China as well as the first time one of the trips has been completely supported by Hanban.
Yu said she sees the trip as an opportunity for people from both countries to learn from one another.
In the United States, leadership education can start as early as kindergarten or preschool with intentional lessons on leadership, she said. In China, schools haven’t become as intentional about starting leadership education at a young age, Yu said.
“I think the main thing is, China wants to learn more about educational leadership in schools, and that’s a big focus in schools in America,” she said.
The trip should also help administrators who have Chinese teachers from the Confucius Institute at WKU coming into their schools better understand and appreciate those teachers, Yu said.
Moss Middle has almost 100 students who are considered English language learners and don’t speak English as their first language, Stobaugh said. Among those students, proficiency in English varies greatly, he said.
In addition to helping him understand the experience of Moss Middle’s English as a second language students better, Stobaugh said he wants to take the trip as an opportunity to network with other educators and to get different perspectives on educational leadership that he may be able to integrate into his school.
He also hopes to share some of the strategies that are working at Moss Middle to provide students with leadership skills, he said.
“A fresh set of eyes help,” Stobaugh said.
Moss Middle will head into its third full year using The Leader In Me program in the next school year, he said.
One of the goals at the school is to give students leadership opportunities ranging from being a row leader who helps other students with classroom work to being a member of the school’s Student Lighthouse Team, which this year planned a “spring fling” family event for the school.
Moss Middle also launched a Dragon leadership course in January that Stobaugh said is similar to ROTC but focuses just on developing leadership skills. Almost half the students at the school signed up for the class when it was offered and about 150 ended up taking it.
“We consider ourselves definitely a leadership school,” he said.
Charles Proffitt, superintendent of Cloverport Independent School District in Breckinridge County, said he hopes the trip will expose him to successful strategies that educators in Beijing are using with their students.
“We’re all wanting what’s best for our students,” he said.
The experience could yield knowledge to help expand the district’s vision for students, Proffitt said.
“I just constantly let people know that not one person knows everything,” he said.
Cloverport Independent School District has had two Chinese instructors working with students for several years and recently received a Chinese classroom grant from Hanban that it will use to set up a Chinese cultural center to offer courses and cultural events to the community, Proffitt said.
He said he hopes to begin courses by fall of next year.
Jason Marshall, an adjunct leadership instructor at WKU, said he hopes the trip will help him relate better to some of his students who come from China and become more informed about another culture.
“It’s very easy to be narrow-minded and assume that your culture is the best culture if you haven’t been exposed to others,” he said.
A knowledge of other cultures is important because things are becoming increasingly more globalized, Marshall said.
“The environment of business and education and everything is becoming global,” he said.
Marshall said he’s looking forward to having a first-hand look at the Chinese education system.
In the last course he taught, Marshall had three students from China. While Marshall encourages all of his students to challenge him, the Chinese students don’t typically do so out of respect for the instructor, he said. But eventually he had a breakthrough with one of those students, Marshall said.
“It was really, really neat to watch the progression,” he said.