Nehemiah Olwande

Teaching English in the Secondary School, what benefits do your students reap drawing from the three learning traditions that Keystone brings to its students?

• Promoting Chinese culture and identity in a world context

One of the aims of English Language Acquisition (ELA) is: encouraging and enabling students to gain proficiency in an additional language while supporting maintenance of their mother tongue and cultural heritage.At Keystone, ELA units, the topics, and teaching resources, accord me the flexibility of weaving aspects of Chinese culture into my lessons.For example, while covering the unit ‘Cultural stories’, we read texts on the old Chinese tradition of Foot Binding, exploring its origin, significance, factors that led to its popularity during the Song Dynasty between 960 ‐1279, and the values connected to the practice.Although obsolete, it is important that students know such traditions, which were part of Chinese culture, and understand that some aspects of culture evolve with time. Additionally, through the culture lens, some students learned an aspect of their culture they might not have known.

• Bilingual immersion in Chinese and English

The aims of the English Language Acquisition program at Keystone are aligned with IB’s Language B aims.This includes equipping students with skills to understand and use English in a range of contexts and for a variety of reasons; developing students’ intercultural understanding; and developing the competence to communicate appropriately, accurately and effectively in a range of contexts, and for a variety of purposes. To achieve this, students’ knowledge and understanding is developed through learning language; learning through language and learning about language (Haliday 1985).For instance, after learning topic specific vocabulary, students learn to apply the words in both oral and written communication. Through role-plays, students practice their spoken English and in the process, improve their communicative competency.We also use audio-visual resources and engaging topics to appeal to different learning styles and interests.

• Building character and community throughout our residential setting

There is a genuine synergy between Keystone’s residential life program and what happens inside the classroom.As a dorm parent, my knowledge of the norms and values of Keystone’s residential life program allow me to integrate them in my lessons. I deliberately use certain teaching strategies and texts to inculcate and reinforce Keystone values of Justice, Compassion, Respect, Honesty and Wisdom.For instance, through deliberate and purposeful groupings and activities, students learn to respect others and themselves by listening to them, respecting their views, taking responsibility for their behavior, using their wisdom to make the right decisions, and accepting the wisdom of knowledgeable others for personal growth.

Keystone’s residential life program is an integral part of supporting and preparing students for their college lives academicallysocially and emotionally. What has been a transformational moment in this regard for you as a dorm parent?

Keystone’s residential life program immerses students and teachers into a system of living and working in a culturally and academically vibrant community.Living with students and dorm parents from various backgrounds and cultures, having meals in the same dining hall, supervising study hall every Thursday from 6:30pm to about 10:30pm, and engaging in residential life activities that build character and community are all transformational for me.Coupled with daily routines like self check-in for breakfast, tidying up living quarters, academic support and lights-out, residential life fosters cross-cultural awareness and understanding, conflict resolution, time management, independence, good study habits, and healthy lifestyle.These are skills that are crucial in preparing students for their college lives.

In your duties, to what extent do you draw support from the core values that provide the foundation for community behavior and interactions of residential life at Keystone?

As a dorm parent and teacher, I draw support extensively from Keystone’s core values that provide the foundation for community behavior and interactions of residential life.Teachable moments and daily routines provide perfect opportunities for teaching, commending, reminding and reinforcing our core values of respect, honesty, compassion, justice and wisdom.

You recently accompanied the grade 11 students on their experiential learning journey through old Beijing. Can you describe and give your take on experiential learning in general and the program in place at Keystone?

Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” encapsulates the true essence of experiential learning; learning through reflection on doing.Learning life skills through experience has the propensity to engage students in that students not only observe and listen to experts but also get a chance to actively participate in learning through hands-on experience.

Keystone’s ‘Hot & Healthy’ Experiential Learning Program (ELP) was unique in many ways.This was my first ELP at Keystone and I was impressed by the level of organization, timeliness and relevance of the experience to our grade 11 students.In my view, the experience achieved more than its key objective in that besides learning skills such as preparing different healthy meals, students also engaged in adventure activities and team building challenges that tested and pushed them to think ‘outside the box’.For example, although many knew how to ride bicycles, they learned new rules and tips of safe cycling.They also learned how to make both Chinese and Western dishes.So while they learned how to prepare Western foods, they were also reminded of the importance of their Chinese heritage.

How would you describe the Keystone residential halls and academic buildings?

Residential halls: Safe and secure; home away from home; aesthetically pleasing, spacious.

Academic buildings: Well resourced, modern, appointed, comfortable, warm, secure.

Nehemiah Olwande
Secondary School, English Teacher