|Type of paper:||Personal statement|
|Categories:||Learning Personal experience|
1. Please describe your impression of the United States and its secondary education system based on your own experience interacting with Americans or from literature, films or any other materials you have read and seen. Please state why and how you think this fellowship can help you grow both personally and professionally. [800 words max.]
I perceive the United States of America as a land of not only opportunities but also liberties that assert the potential of everyone to achieve their full potential in different field including academic, technology, social service, and many others. The concept of the American Dream that pervades the thoughts of every well-meaning American result in a community in which one can quickly turn challenges into significant innovations such as those that those that are found in the Silicon Valley. My conception of the United States of America as the land of liberty is not just because it has successfully established a fledgling democracy and robust criminal justice system but also a firm belief in freedom and equality which define the day to day of all Americans.
Education in the United States differs markedly with those in other parts of the world since it aims at a holistic, practical development of the child based on their areas of interest. The American education system makes it easy to identify the different talents and passions of every student using an overly practice-centered curriculum. In such a system, educators or instructors remain to expressly to facilitate the students in nursing their skills into full-blown careers. In specific, the education in America differs from that Asian schools. Whereas education is considered to be the transmission of knowledge in Asian schools, teachers in the United States regard it as the process of nurturing children to discover and develop their potentials. The American students are merely provided with a litany of courses offered, their requirements, and the relevant fields where knowledge derived from them can be applied. Based on this understanding, the student then makes an informed decision based on their passion and talents. Therefore, the American students can select what to study from a wide variety of courses. The students are provided with a conducive environment to engage in independent inductive learning. They are taught concepts, and their application then engages in inquiry using various approaches such as student-student learning or reading relevant literature to gain a comprehensive understanding.
As opposed to the Asian system where assessments in the form of continuous or summative tests are seen as the indicator of a student's intelligence, the American education does not use examination performance as the sole indicator of acuity. Instead, the non-curriculum lessons such as singing, dancing, poetry, drawing, curving and many others which are attached to individual student's talents are aggregated to reflect the student's intelligence. In essence, the abilities are deeply valued and harnessed in the American education system. Conceivably, this method results in a situation where no students perceive themselves as failures since they naturally have something that they are good at and which is accommodated within the mainstream education. Therefore, they remain more motivated to learn passionately with the belief that their courses will result in career establishment and growth in the future. The net effect is that there are a relatively high admission and graduation rates which are a show of the ability of the system to retain the students.
With a background of studying Chinese Language and Literature as my major in the university, I have experienced the typical life of a Chinese teacher in Hong Kong. During my studies, I studied phonetics and phonology in which I gained the knowledge about the origin of words, sentence structures, and Chinese culture simply and interestingly. Nonetheless, I consider it a different case stepping with this experience into a classroom of a distinct cultural context. I have always had the dream of being a Chinese teacher in international schools which would afford me the opportunity to popularize the sophisticated beauty of Chinese. This fellowship would be an excellent opportunity for me to teach Chinese as a foreign language and establish a strong professional foundation for my teaching career. Through looking into the educational policies and practices in America, I might also gain insights into my teaching methodology and pedagogy.
Despite the fact that I travel a lot and has joined various exchange programs before, this fellowship program will offer me the first experience of spending a year abroad. I believe this year-long fellowship will provide me with sufficient time to interact with the local communities, blend into the local cultures and thus inspire me about alternative perspectives on life choices and values.
2. Recall a language class that you have taken. +What were the teacher's goals for the course, how did the teacher pursue these goals, and in what ways were the goals met or not met by the students of the class? [800 words max.]
In the past four months, I have been engaged in learning French in Alliance Francaise. The teacher of the end of the A1 level impressed me with the way she appreciated the need to adopt a primary approach of teaching the new language akin to that used for kindergartens. In fact, at one moment she made me reminisce my first days at school where we were made to repeat letters, then words and syllables. She understood that learning a foreign language is just like writing in an entirely blank page hence the need to focus on the basics instead of assuming that adult students can quickly learn new things. She was also an enthusiastic teacher who always put a bright smile on her face. She believed that the only way to master a language is to make it part of the learners' daily life and make them fall in love with it. To create a vibrant language-learning environment, the teacher tried her very best to use French as the only medium of communication in class. Things were complicated when it came to the explanations of grammar and cultures.
The course encompassed learning various competencies associated with building strong language skills. At the introductory stages, the teacher scribbled a few first French words and helped us to pronounce them. Subsequently, she challenged us to use the many words to build sentences even if their meanings were not comprehensible. Through the formation of group discussions, were would interestingly challenge each other on the word sounds of such and even communicating in French as a way of reinforcing what we had already learned. The teacher also gave us simple question every day which provided us with the best opportunity to develop the language. Furthermore, these assessments challenged us on a daily basis to not only be able to write the new words but also talk, think, and explore our knowledge of the words. These tests were not necessarily to be marked but acted as a basis on which the teacher would know the capability of every student and offer support for us to develop the language and learning strategies which were necessary to overcome evident challenges. The outcome was that we progressively became more articulate essential to articulate and extend our interactions with more new French words.
After developing better competency in writing and reading the French words, the teacher encouraged us to embrace storytelling sessions every day. She asserted that language development is better attained through participation in writing, listening and speaking it. Through such meetings, we were also able to interact with each other as students and with the guidance of the teacher. Each of the storytelling lessons focused on achieving a particular aspect or skill in language development. For instance, we were able to develop vocabulary through the practice of listening, speaking, reading and writing. We would also read loudly through written texts of one another to facilitate our ability to comprehend new words and develop a clear understanding of their use in different contexts. It was based on the appreciation of the fact that just like any other language, the same French word may have various meanings depending on where and how it is used written or verbal communication.
The teacher not only framed the objective of ensuring that each one of the students could fluently speak in French but also nurtured in all of us the need and strategies to do so. Active participation through written or verbal texts was a critical approach towards achieving the goals of French language competency. It became so impressive that the teacher would come into the instruction room and challengingly greet us "Bonjour" meaning good morning. From the onset, this was a challenge that we had no option to be aggressive at learning the language for better outcomes. Through insisting that after introductory lessons then French was going to be the de facto language of instruction and communication among students, we had just to improve our skills in French. Some of the ways that I was increasingly embracing French was when I would listen to French songs, watch French movies, and change the language of my mobile phone into French.
3. Recall an experience in a wholly unfamiliar environment. How did you adapt and what did you learn? [800 words max.]
One of the periods where I have been in a unique setting is when I traveled to Japan for an exchange program. As opposed to the carefree and casual nature of interaction in the western countries, the Japanese were overly strict and reserved. The people there have well-established customs and regulations to which everybody must respect. Even as a foreigner, I was expected to act within such dictates lest I face the ridicule and reprimand of the public. I had to be very sensitive about virtually everything that I was about to do. Despite the fact that some of the Japanese customs are not apparent, I had to embrace the traditions there which merely implied that each of the expectations would apply to my case. In response to this, I had to not only remain sensitive to my speech and actions but minimized the interactions as I first sought to know the most common restrictions so that I would not be a victim of public outrage. One of the strategies I used is that I identified a hospitable local who introduced me to the day to day customs including the nature of communication between adults and younger people, behavior when eating, and how to exchange pleasantries.
Initially, I thought that the restriction was just too much to the extent of curtailing my sense of freedom. Nonetheless, I later learned that the customs include just simile things as refraining from eating while walking, talking loudly over the phone, spitting in public spaces or smoking in undesignated areas. Since these issues touched on virtually every aspect of public life, I had to always give my actions and decisions an afterthought for fear that they may not be compliant with the prevailing trends there. I had to just concentrate on learning the fundamental aspects of the Japanese culture just like an anthropologist would do. Furthermore, I became emotionally flexible and resilient to accept corrections from the locals without feeling offended.
The Japanese were also very formal in their communication and respected hierarchy. It meant that I was not only supposed to know such facts theoretically but also to have the first-hand experience with them. For instance, I visited social places such as restaurant and hotels from where I became keen on observing the cultural trends among the people so that I would be able to replicate them in my interactions. I decided to participate in various activities i...
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