Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho, said it best “Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbor is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions”.
The National Children’s Center recently welcomed a Korean delegation comprised of 23 ladies represented by school directors and principals throughout their country and two translators, to our Early Learning Center (ELC).
The purpose of their visit was to examine how program centered schools operate and to observe the day-to-day operations of NCC. Their end goals are similar to those of NCC, to improve the quality of living for disabled students in their country, in addition to increasing the equal rights of all children in South Korea.
Their visit started with a welcome from our CEO, Jesse Chancellor, who stated, “Welcome to Washington DC during our country’s birthday”. He went on to say, “We are excited to be sharing with you, and you sharing with us”.
Nationalism and sharing of cultures seemed to be the overall theme of this trip during the beginning of our nation’s birthday weekend.
Chancellor then introduced our tour guides and the head of operations at the ELC, Hilda Compton (Director), Lisa Peters-Simmons (Curriculum Specialist), Tiffany Phoenix (Clinical Director); our COO, Patricia Browne and our communications consultant, Dr. Keena Blackmon.
The students greeted our visitors with high fives and smiles as they walked into the first classroom of their tour. Courtney Shakur who teaches Pre-K talked to our visitors about her class activities, field trips and day-to-day tasks in her classroom as her students created their own American flags.
The Korean delegation looked in awe as they snapped pictures and observed the students’ artwork and assignments throughout the room posted on the bulletin boards.
Ms. Priscilla’s class was having story time as we entered their class during our tour and the kids were so engaged that the visitors didn’t startle their focus. You would think a group of 25 new faces would steal their attention, but no!
Our next stop was Ms. Brianna’s class who were also having story time. The kids stayed quietly seated as our guest observed and took pictures. Like Ms. Priscilla’s students, Ms. Brianna’s seven students sat in a circle fully engaged in the reading of “Secret Agent Splat”.
As we walked down the hall to the next class we could hear the sounds of Ms. Shanette’s class singing, “The Wheels on the Bus”. Their energy was infectious as our guest joined in on the fun. As a group we sung, “I’m A Little Teapot”, “Baby Bumble bee”, “Row Row Your Boat”, “Itsy, Bitsy Spider”, “The ABCs” and “If You Happy and You Know It”. I found myself clapping my hands and singing along to some of my favorite childhood tunes. It was so interesting to see that although there was a language barrier, everyone was able to understand the entertainment and enjoyment that comes with sing-alongs.
In the middle of our tour our visitors were so fascinated by what they were witnessing, that they could not contain themselves and wait until the end of the tour for the Q&A session. They began asking questions because the presence of inclusion that was apparent in the ELC classrooms were both interesting and enlightening to them. Tour coordinator, Han, informed us that although the kids in Korea learn together, it is not welcomed in the way that they noticed at the ELC. The education system is very difficult in Korea in regard to inclusion and many parents complain about the inclusion of students with disabilities.
Our tour continued with a visit to Ms. Strickland’s class of busy bees who greeted our visitors with a sign on their door that read in Korean, “Welcome to Classroom 124, home of the Busy Bees”, it was an instant hit!
Our last classroom visit was Ms. Marty’s class where we were welcomed into the “Little Tykes Playground” where they danced with colorful scarfs around the room. After stopping by the therapy suites it was time to reconvene in the cafeteria for our Q&A session.
Our panel of ELC teachers: Marty, Dee Dee Cooper, and Jackie along with Hilda, Lisa, and Tiffany took questions from the Korean delegation.
There were an array of question topics like, tuition government assistance, teacher’s educational level, our building structure, U.S. education system, school hours and teacher work load, our waiting list, class ratios, teacher upward mobility, teacher retention (turnover ratios).
The crowd was taken aback when Jackie revealed that she has been teaching for over 31 years.
The panel and guest also discussed their biggest challenges as a whole in education and how teacher’s pay is not substantial to the work that they do across the board.
The visit ended with a group photo in front of the ELC, but most of all it ended with a new relationship for future discussions and projects. This visit was one step closer to bridging the cultural gap, for a worthwhile cause and to get a better understanding of inclusion and equality for all children.