Singapore Educators Visit Charles County Schools

LA PLATA, Md. (Jan. 22, 2009)—East met west in Charles County's classrooms recently when six Singapore educators visited three schools to learn about staff development, use of technology and successful instruction.

Charles County and Singapore teachers and administrators shared ideas, experiences and culture in late December as part of a visit to the United States by the eastern educators during a global education conference. The Singapore visitors spent time at William B. Wade Elementary School, C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School and Milton M. Somers Middle School.

The visiting teachers observed classrooms and instructional strategies, and Charles County's staff learned about education in Asia. The Asian educators were impressed with the small class sizes and elementary schools that compare to their primary schools with student populations of more than 2,000 and average class sizes of 40.

Teachers also discovered common global practices. The visitors commented on the strong character education program in Charles County's schools that mirrors many of their efforts at home. "My team of colleagues is so impressed by the importance placed on character education in all of the three schools. We are most impressed by the culture of caring, respect and trust not only between students and teachers, but also from staff to staff," said Ranjit Singh, the team's leader and the vice principal of Temasek Primary School in Singapore.

The visitors were also familiar with the Smart Boards and technology used in classrooms, and Temasek, like Wade, is recognized for its high performance on standardized tests. While Charles County's students take the Maryland School Assessment (MSA), Singapore's children must pass the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

The Singapore visitors wanted to see how Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) provides staff development. Wade Principal Amy DiSabatino guided the visitors to a classroom where students were working during a multiplication staff development session. At Wade, DiSabatino embeds staff development into actual classroom lessons. Teachers prepare for a lesson by reviewing reading materials, and then observe a member of the Instructional Leadership Team model the lesson with the children in the classroom as teachers assess how it works and how their class responds.

"I am impressed by the sound leadership of the school leaders in championing staff development," said Singh.

Next, the Singapore teachers headed to Barnhart where Principal Kim Hairston invited them to see a three-year-old class, where a quality early childhood experience emphasizes literacy development. The visitors also attended a fourth-grade class where each student was using an Eee PC, a small, resilient personal laptop, as part of their daily literacy lesson. This, along with demonstrations of Smart Boards, provided a glimpse of how CCPS infuses technology into learning and the classroom.

Somers provided the visitors with a sampling of science, art and literacy at the middle school level. It was hard to pry the visitors from science teacher Jason Walent's classroom where a maze of wires competed with live critters for attention. Walent's approach to teaching mixes hands-on learning with technology and the visitors took the teacher up on his offer to show them a lesson on the Smart Board, but declined the opportunity to handle one of the many spiders, snakes or reptiles hidden in aquariums throughout the room.

Source: Charles County public school system

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