Teacher Q&A: Clara Greisman, Marin Country Day School, California

11 July 2011

Clara GreismanClara Greisman is a 5th grade teacher at Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera, California. After taking Primary Source's Changing China: History and Culture Since 1644 online course, Clara participated in Primary Source's China study tour this April. Read on to hear more about this California teacher's experience learning and traveling with Primary Source.

Primary Source: What were some highlights of taking the Changing China online course? How does online learning compare to a traditional face-to-face setting?

Clara: One of the highlights of taking the course was being a learner again. I haven't done that for years, and I found it to be a lot of work but very worthwhile. In terms of an online setting, I liked the idea of being able to learn on my own time. That was crucial for me. The sessions were extremely well organized and the course facilitator was always checking up on us, so there was also a personal touch. I find that very important. I liked the way we could communicate with all of the course participants.

PS: What inspired you to sign up for a Primary Source study tour to China?

Clara: To be honest, I was not that interested in China until I took Primary Source's online course. Latin America has always had a pull on me. I have studied Spanish, and I visit Latin American countries whenever I can. After taking the China online course, though, I became fascinated by issues in China. I teach a 5th grade global education thread throughout the year, and I got excited about the idea of going to China to learn more. As it turns out, I had an incredible trip to China and it was a very powerful experience for me.

PS: As an educator, what parts of the China study tour did you find most valuable?

Clara: The highlight of the tour was working in the Dandelion School, the first middle school in Beijing for the children of migrant workers from across China. It was a real gift to work with the students and faculty. It made me think a lot about my own educational setting and its pros and cons. I came back and shared my pictures and stories with my own students and some faculty.

The other major highlight was Weili Ye, the scholar on our tour. I loved hearing her share her story, and just walking and talking with her. She had so much insight on so many different issues.

PS: How has Primary Source helped you to bring international perspectives into your classroom?

Clara: In the simplest way, I shared photos and stories from my trip with my students. In a deeper way, I am working on how to bring the study of China into our global education studies, where we have created a curriculum aiming to strengthen students' understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. For the online course, my colleague and I created a VoiceThread where our students looked at different schools in China and made observations using the statements, "I notice…" and "I wonder...." It was inspiring to hear what they said. At the end of the year, the students did a reflection on what they learned through the global studies curriculum through an "I used to think…, but now I realize…" exercise. Some commented that they used to think all schools in China were the same, but now they realize that schools are different depending on where they are and that there is a lot of diversity.

PS: Why is it important that students learn about China?

Clara: Upon returning from China, I've noticed that China is in the news daily and there is almost always a front-page article on China in the New York Times. We are an interdependent world and what happens in China affects us, and what we do affects China— in terms of the environment, what our economy will look like in the future, and what we understand about Chinese culture. All of this is crucial to understand because we are all part of this global world.

PS: Why is global education important for your students?

Clara: Global education is empowering for kids. It helps them know they are part of a bigger world. They want to be part of the solutions to the world's problems. Here is what one of our 5th grade students said in her end-of-year reflection. I think this says it all:

"A global citizen is one who not only dreams of a better place but tries their best to rebuild it for the benefit of others. They believe that if we work together this world can be all we have hoped for. They believe they can make a difference, that we can be the change, but we cannot do it alone. They do not wait for someone to take action, instead they take action. They are willing to carry a small burden if it means a big change."







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