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Establishing a Sense of Community in Two Languages

Establishing a Sense of Community in Two Languages

May 14, 2019

“Community” is at the forefront of everything we aim to achieve at Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School. Our vision is to create a diverse community of learners, grounded in intercultural understanding and respect, who are confident in their abilities to read, write, and think in both Chinese and English. Yu Ying works towards this vision through the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP) curriculum framework. Equal emphasis is placed on both languages and the support, collaboration and input of students, staff, and parents, who all have a voice at Yu Ying.

Yu Ying’s Inquiry Credo: Fostering Multilingual Lifelong Learners, sets guidelines on community behaviors that will support our vision. It encourages the community to take ownership of learning through strong thinking and communication skills, collaboration, responsibility of self and others, embracing diversity and taking action. All aspects of the credo are built into our program through the IB PYP. At its core, the PYP allows students to use their voices by shaping their learning via inquiry— giving them the tools to develop deep conceptual understanding through exploration, multiple experiences, and skill acquisition. As early as pre-kindergarten, students are learning about bugs and their effect on the environment. In 3rd and 4th grades, students learn about rights and responsibilities and engage in community organizing. By 5th grade, for “Exhibition,” the culmination of their PYP learning, students research social justice issues and come up with solutions for local and global issues alike. Community members are invited to participate in student learning by visiting the kindergarten marketplace, attending the 2nd grade inventors fair, 4th grade’s living museum, and 5th grade’s PYP exhibition.

Yu Ying is a caring community, where we strive to know each other deeply and support each other. We see this each morning when students and parents are greeted by name from school administrators. It is evident in the carpool lane when families of various races and socioeconomic levels pick up each other’s children after-school and arrange playdates on the weekends. Yu Ying has engaged in a partnership with Kindred, a local nonprofit, to help Yu Ying families build trusting relationships between parents from different backgrounds and support families to work with our school leadership team to achieve equity within our school and community.

Teacher collaboration plays a role in developing a sense of community and continuity for students. At Yu Ying, students alternate daily between Chinese and English classrooms, thus, Chinese and English teachers who share classes meet weekly to ensure sequential learning. At the end of each school year, Yu Ying holds an educational summit to reflect upon best practices, lessons learned and discuss ways to improve in the upcoming school year.

Parents are key players in shaping our community—they are asked to volunteer 20 hours of their time each year to help our community. They perform this service by volunteering in the school library, running the annual Yu Ying Gala or accompanying students on field trips among other activities.

Yu Ying understands the importance of community buy-in at all levels. We encourage all stakeholders to use their voices to participate in reinforcing and strengthening the community. Just as students shape their own learning via inquiry, teachers, staff and parents can weigh in on issues that may concern them. Bi-monthly administrative coffees and monthly parent association meetings provide opportunities to build a stronger school community through two-way communication.

Finally, our emphasis on equal learning in Mandarin and English contributes to the uniqueness of Yu Ying’s community. Morning announcements are read by the students in Chinese and English to create a sense of unity for the day. Yu Ying’s Chinese teachers are quick to point out the “if you have to speak English, please whisper” signs to adults who are visiting or observing in the Chinese classrooms. Staff who speak Mandarin are always encouraged to speak it with the students in the lunchroom, on the playground, and in the hallways. Chinese speaking parents will often serve as “mystery readers” in the Chinese classrooms. Students engage in internal Chinese speaking competitions and attend the Chinese Bridge Competition at the University of Maryland’s Confucius Institute. We have a dedicated Chinese Cultural Committee that promotes Chinese cultural events such as the Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year to ensure they remain vital to our community. At our core, Yu Ying cherishes our community bonds and reflects on ways to strengthen them each year.

Sarah Perkins is the program development and grants coordinator at Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School.

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