A Tale of Two Schools: Suzhou North America High School and Shanghai American School

By mphimes

Our third trip to Suzhou is coming to a close. With every hour spent with the leadership, students, and faculty at Suzhou North America High School (SNA), our belief in the importance and necessity of this project is reaffirmed. Today we had the opportunity to look ahead to the 2016-2017 school year with SNA teachers. As we discussed and shared ideas for our summer New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute (NLI), the faculty’s concerns for the upcoming school year bubbled to the surface. How can school culture embrace and honor Chinese values and norms while also preparing students for university life in the United States? How do we set, model, and enforce academic and behavioral expectations with students? How can we best support our students’ English language acquisition? How will classrooms be structured? Will there be reliable, consistent Internet access? What student and teacher resources will be accessible throughout the school? All of these questions warrant complex, nuanced responses, and we are looking forward to working with the teachers in August to develop the organizational structures and school capacities to prepare world-class SNA students!

We spent the second half of our day traveling to Shanghai and touring Shanghai American School (SAS) with one of the school’s instructional coaches acting as our guide. Shanghai American School has a history dating back to the early 1900s. Since our visit took place on a Saturday, we were unable to interact with students, but we did have the opportunity meet a couple of teachers – one of social studies and the other of drama. The school environment, classroom structures, and instructional approaches espoused at SAS are aspirational to our work with SNA.