Feature Journey: Siri Hulbert 2013
Siri Hulbert, Shorecrest High School, World Language, Grade 10, 2013
  • Journey Author
  • Tour Photos
  • Lesson Plan
  • Trip Diary
  • Author: Siri Hulbert
  • School: Shorecrest High School, Seattle WA
  • Subject: World Language
  • Grade: 10
  • Trip Year: 2013
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  • About the Author:
My interest in China was spiked when I was called to a meeting in which it was announced that there was an interest to teach Mandarin starting next academic year in our two middle and two high schools in Shoreline. I began researching and realized I needed to educate myself on China and those of Chinese descent in our community. We currently teach French, Japanese and Spanish. I’ve studied these three languages and have lived in the countries where they’re taught and their histories and cultures fascinate me. My education was based on Western culture, so the vastness, difficulty in the languages and history of China is intimidating to me…yet I’m living among Chinese-Americans and know very little of their “home country” or recent past. The opportunity to connect with others, coupled with my desire to expand my knowledge propelled me to apply for this opportunity. I will be the world-language teacher who interviews and helps orient our incoming Mandarin teachers. I will advocate for them and help our staff and students better understand the value of this addition in our schools.

From this wonderful opportunity I expect to open my heart to China and “things Chinese.” Along with that concept, I also expect that I’ll find some attraction to the foods, traditions, history, humanity or beliefs of the Chinese peoples and be able to share this with others. Through better understanding of China and the Chinese I expect I’ll be a better educator and colleague.

After traveling and living in various places, I chose Seattle for home as it is close to family, progressive and a beautiful place that attracts people diverse in origin as well as beliefs and practices. I started teaching in 1992 but have taught Spanish at Shorecrest High since 1996. I love my job. I still strive to find a balance between myself, my family and my passion for my work. I enjoy meeting and learning from others, playing with my language skillls, travelling, and reading…when I make the time. These things guide my discovery of who I am and who I want to be.
A Lesson Plan or Equivalent can take different forms, like in Siri’s case it had been designed to be a combination of multiple videos about how the Chinese language education program is designed, promoted (through her “Trip Diary” blogs, etc.), and implemented at her Shoreline School District.
Why learn Mandarin?
  1. China is one of the world’s oldest and richest continuous cultures, over 5000 years old.
  2. China is the most populous nation in the world, with 1.28 billion people.
  3. One fifth of the planet speaks Chinese. Mandarin Chinese is the mother tongue of over 873 million people, making it the most widely spoken first language in the world.
  4. In addition to the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is also spoken in the important and influential Chinese communities of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, and Mongolia.
  5. China is the second largest economy in the world.
  6. China is one of largest trading partners of the United States.
  7. Many US companies do business in China and have long-term investments there.

Local articles regarding the learning of Chinese, like:

Chinese and Taiwanese Languages/dilects
Had Qinshihuang (the First Emperor) not united China and enforced the one character set for writing, plus then the Han dynasty adopting the Confucius teaching as the core of “The Way”, China would probably have continued to evolve like Europe, with many countries, languages, social systems, and maybe even religions.

FUN facts on differences between English and Mandarin: In Chinese, there is no gender as in “he” vs. “she” or “him” vs. “her” when referring to another person. So one would often hear a Chinese speaker having to think about when speaking English (I sure struggled a lot when learning German on that front). The reverse is also true: in English, the word uncle covers many relations – while in Chinese the words are different for paternal vs. maternal uncles. Also in Chinese, there are different words for older sisters/brothers vs. younger ones. Now you can see how difficult it would be to introduce a relative. Not to mention the phonetic elements used – some are in English but not in Chinese, and vice versa.

The other fun challenge is how one answers a question posed as a negative, like “Is he not coming to the party?” In English the yes/no answer depends on the answer, as in “No, he is not coming today”. In Chinese it’d be the opposite – the yes/no is based on the question. So the answer in Chinese, translated literally, would be “YES, he is not coming”. You can see the major confusion this can cause. My advice to both Chinese and American friends are to never just answer yes or no in such cases – give the full answer like “He is not coming today”.

Recent POLITICS – out of Taipei, Taiwan – check out the “white shirts” - inspirational!
also search this movement on a search engine for videos and updated information.
Why learn Chinese?
"There is no bilateral geopolitical relationship that is more important to the course of the 21st Century than that of the U.S. and China,” John Robichaux, Senior Assistant Dean, Stanford University’s Stanford Summer Session, said in an interview. “The ability of our brightest students, as well as our countries' current and future leaders, to engage in meaningful, in-depth educational and cultural exchange is an essential component to the successful navigation of that relationship."

Dr. Chun Zhang, a Professor of Education at Fordham University's Graduate School of Education, tells TakePart that "there needs to be awareness of China, its culture, language, it’s people, and education in U.S. education.."

"I feel that Chinese people are ten times more interested in the U.S. versus us not showing much interest in China. Due to the number of people, it's growing influence, and the role China is playing in the world, our education needs to prepare a generation that will have a global interest, especially in China,." he says.

Academics aren’t the only ones who think so.

On January 24, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the 100,000 Strong Foundation as an independent nongovernmental organization. Previously, the initiative, started by President Barack Obama in 2009, was part of the Department of State. The Foundation’s goal is to have 100,000 American students study in China by 2014.

"Our engagement with China today deals with a wide range of the most pressing challenges and the most exciting opportunities,” Clinton said at the event. “And when we began looking at ways to make our exchanges with China more productive, we of course ramped up our diplomatic engagement."

Chinese is the third largest ethnic group of Americans, after Mexican Americans and Filipino
Day two, July 25: Tiananmen Square
After a lovely breakfast (many veggies lightly cooked to perfection, soup, fruit, fried bread, noodles – a feast) we joined the crowds at Tiananmen Square. During my preparations for the trip I had developed a fear of the reality of this place, but I was pleasantly surprised to feel similarly to visiting the Vatican, Eiffel Tower, Sagrada Familia, etc. – simply masses of people drawn to witness a bit of historical structure. I hope feeling those stones under our feet helps us remember what we’re capable of doing to our fellow people and that history be remembered in aim to improve humanity! It was already HOT, (it reached 100.4º later in the day) another blue sky as we walked to the van then the Forbidden City.

The Beijing West train station is better than any I’ve seen in Europe, Asia or South America (it was reported that one of the other stations is even better). In the “higher-class” overnight train vestibule there was free hot and room temperature potable water and although there were too many waiting travelers, there were many places to sit with cushy chairs and tables, even couches.

The night train was fancy, with lace details on the four beds and there were even pillows! On the other side of the toilet with sink, there was a wash station with three sinks. It was the best train ride I’ve had in over 550 hours on trains.
Day three, July 26
Overcast even a light rain later in the day, but still over 80. I walked up to the wall at a brisk pace with Stephen (one of our guides), but then left him to try to catch the others who had taken the chairlift. Four of us hiked far too far, up, and steep like the ruins in Tikal, Guatemala or those left by the Mayan in Mexico – I hadn’t expected that and was quite shaken by both the height and the rigor, expecting to simply stroll on the wall, I got a work out that had me bathed in sweat.

While I was alone I got some footage of teens speaking in English and Chinese for my “lesson.” Having this “task” has been a drive to reach out and talk to people. Each of the five of us has a focus and we’re all watching out for each other, collecting papers, photos and tipping each other off to a good opportunity when we see something for the lessons. It seems that Susan’s (“a day in the life of a Chinese kid”) and Colleen’s (“animals in China”, either as pets, art or other) are easiest to find or focus on.

I walked for over three hours at a quick pace, then five of us decided to also hike down, our knees giving out and promising ourselves cold water once at the bottom.
Day four, July 27
Legs extremely sore from the Wall hike.

The Summer Palace was packed with tourist by 9. Older people were ballroom dancing in what appeared to be a parking lot. Locals either buy year-long passes or if they’re over 65 they get free entrance. The result is that these places are like local parks – green, clean and safe. It is sad that they’re not accessible to all…have seen very few homeless people although there are people going through the garbage frequently, either eating the food or collecting the recyclables (great!).

The temple of Heaven:

What I want to remember, and what makes me want to return to China is watching people show tender moments in public. At the Summer Palace I saw three kids pile on their mother, knocking her over and the whole mass giggling on the cement. Then later, while we were waiting in line a handsome father was holding his daughter (3 or 4 year-old?) as she was sleeping, looking at her as a mother does an infant, not looking away but lost in time, entranced by the beauty and promise.
Day five, July 28: X’ian
We arrived by train this morning and rode bikes on the city wall (with sore legs). I went around twice, enjoying the breeze on the bike, but now I’ve blisters on my hands from standing up to avoid the rough brick “rode” – the seat was a bit small. It was good exercise and gave me an idea of the city as well as an opportunity to meet others. I’ve learned on the wall that I have more chances to meet and talk with locals when I’m alone because I ask them to take photos of me. When I’m with the group there is always someone else to do it, then also everyone else gets their cameras out and the whole process takes so long – I’m trying to carve out some “Siri time with the Chinese” alone each day now. Even just a 5-minute walk to the convenience store suffices.

We’re relaxing a bit – to give me time to log three days (!) then will meet for dinner. After that we’ll go to the Muslim street to check out the blend of cultures – it has been reported that the food there is amazing but that isn’t part of the tour, so we’ll do it without the formal tour part.