World Languages Mandarin Chinese - World: Guānxì Resource Center

Administrative Support - Administrators Talk

Speaking with Maribel Gavin, Principal, Hilltop Middle School, Sweetwater Union High School District

What are students saying about learning Chinese, to each other, to their parents, to you?

Students feel a sense of pride to be learning Chinese. It's not a language that is commonly taught in our district or county for that matter, so they feel different from everyone else in a positive way. Parents have also told me their students practice Chinese at home and they are amazed at how much they have learned in a short amount of time. Again, parents express how proud their students feel to be learning a language that is different and not part of the normal trend.

Can you talk about allocating resources for teachers, materials, curriculum planning, technology equipment, and additional support needed (scheduling, and so on) for the Mandarin language program?

The advantage we have at Hilltop Middle is that the Chinese class is part of the Foreign Language and Global Studies (FLAGS) magnet program, therefore, the teacher and students have resources and allocations that only go to them. We have funding from the district that goes toward classroom supplies, equipment, and other resources that may be needed for instruction. These funds also go toward field trips and enrichment opportunities for the students. We are also lucky to have a much involved Parent Booster Club that fundraises throughout the year to make up the cost of anything the program may need and that may not be covered by district funds.

How do you manage teacher observations, pedagogy, and curriculum (language vs. culture)?

Our FLAGS coordinator meets with our teacher regularly to walk her through the processes and other logistics that take place in our school. Ms. Zhao conducts classroom observations daily prior to teaching her two sections of Chinese. This gives her a visual of the classroom routines, instructional strategies, and the culture of the school.

What was key in getting this program off the ground? How has it grown and what do you attribute that to?

When I first arrived to HTM, the program had already begun, but we only had 14 students enrolled in the class. That was the first year Chinese was being offered. In year two, we had 28 students. In year three, we have 55 students taking Chinese 1/2 or Chinese 3/4. The number of students requesting Chinese as their foreign language doubles each year and this is due to its success the previous year. Students talk to one another and when they share how much they are learning and the fun they have while acquiring a new language, others want to join in. The counselors also do an excellent job of promoting the class and enticing students to take it.

How will you know when it's successful - what's your measure?

As in any other class, student success is measured by their learning. Their assessments, performances, projects, and overall work indicate the success of the program. I also listen for feedback from the students, parents, and teachers, and so far, it has all been positive.

How do you involve parents and community members to support Chinese education, and activities to generate excitement about the Mandarin program?

We involve parents by making them aware of what is being taught in class and inviting them to visit the classroom. When they see the enrichment activities and the learning that is happening on a daily basis, they are more willing to be a part of it. Our teacher also presents at the FLAGS parent meeting each semester. These parent meetings take place monthly, but the foreign language teachers present each semester to educate parents on what their students are learning in class and what they may do at home to support them. Again, parents are always pleased to hear from the teacher of Chinese and give support where they can.

Key Features of Successful Dual Language Programs From Research and Practice to Implementation Video

In a panel format, administrators discuss the success of the implementation of dual language programs.

Language Acquisition

How students reach competence in a new language to listen, speak, read, and write at high levels of proficiency.

Curriculum Development

Sample units for elementary, middle, and high school Mandarin Chinese classes developed based on the California K-12 world language standards.

Language Instruction and Student Engagement

Video clips and other information to illustrate best practices in language teaching, specifically demonstrating lessons in the WORLD: Guānxì curriculum units.

Administrative Support

Resources and information to assist school and district administrators in planning, implementing, and improving Mandarin Chinese programs.

Chinese Teacher Exchange Program

Interviews, information, and resources from a program in San Diego County with 18 years of experience hosting guest teachers from a sister school in China.
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