Evan Visits Partner School Chadwick International in South Korea

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Chadwick International (CI) in Incheon, South Korea. CI is USC Rossier’s first international school partner, so I was excited to meet some of the faculty, staff, students and even a couple of current Master of Teaching candidates doing their program field work!

Chadwick International, founded in 2010, is a sister school of the Chadwick School, which is located in Palos Verdes, California, and was founded in 1935. Throughout my visit, it was incredible to see how well the founding pillars are integrated into so much of what the school does day to day. Walking in the main entrance, I was immediately struck by the architecture. Songdo, where the school is located within Incheon, was swampland prior to 2005. In a massive push for industrial expansion, the area was transformed into a burgeoning satellite city of Seoul, and the design of CI’s building highlights spaces for collaboration and implementation of advanced educational technologies.

The main lobby is expansive, with open ceilings up to the third floor, and the main pillars are adorned with large banners highlighting the school’s five core values: honesty, fairness, responsibility, respect and compassion. In touring the school with Upper School Principal David Maher, we briefly observed a few different classes where these values were clearly embodied. In a middle school math class, all of the desks were pushed to the walls and in the center of the room stood a circle of couches and beanbag chairs. Students had their notebooks on their laps and were sitting comfortably but actively participating; their teacher sat in the circle, serving as a contributor and not a presenter. In another room, desks were arranged in clusters of three so that students had meaningful opportunities for collaboration and inquiry-based learning, where again, the teacher was not the focal point but a support.

Nina Keller doing yoga with her students at Chadwick International School

One of my favorite parts of the visit was meeting and touring CI’s village school with one of USC Rossier’s current MAT online students, Nina Keller. Originally from the United States, Nina previously worked for an after-school English program before becoming an intern at CI. With a desire to continue working and to earn her master’s and teaching credential, Nina chose to pursue the MAT in elementary education.

During our tour, we had the chance to meet some of CI’s passionate educators, whose origins and experiences are from around the world. We also participated in a makeshift science fair, where all of the fifth-grade students set up displays of various science experiments they had conducted, and second and third grade students explored the different booths, asking questions to their older peers and taking notes on what they found interesting. Seeing these students engage in such a meaningful way was exemplary and a true testament to the values that are being nurtured at CI.

Even though Nina is busy with report card time, and her students are frenzied with the countdown to spring break, she was able to answer a few questions about her experience so far. Nina is about to enter her first term of Guided Practice, our version of student teaching, and has already noted that being a reflective practitioner is paramount, both in her coursework and at CI. Here’s what we talked about:

Evan: Why did you choose the MAT program at USC Rossier?

Nina: I still have so much to learn about myself and the ideologies that inform my decisions and teaching pedagogy. The MAT courses have given me the tools to grapple with these very personal components of being a social justice teacher. My learning in the MAT is so compatible with the Chadwick curriculum and values. The concepts of inquiry learning and international mindedness at Chadwick connect closely with social-constructivist theories and culturally-relevant teaching as emphasized in the MAT.

Nina Keller leading a “How we express ourselves” session at Chadwick International

Evan: Are you using the things you learn in class in your day-to-day activities?

Nina: I definitely use content I learn in my classes every day. First, the development of my knowledge of both theory and of ideology has given me the tools and perspective to be critical and reflective about both my observations and my practices. When I walk into any classroom, I can immediately draw on the tools of various learning theorists to evaluate the interactions among teachers, students and content. The class time engagements and readings from my courses so far have really affected the way I reflect on my identity and my goals as a teacher. Secondly, the strategies and best practices modeled and scaffolded for students in the MAT are effective and valuable. The professors really “walk the walk” regarding high expectations and scaffolded learning. I’m looking forward to really practicing and engaging with these ideas in guided practice.

Evan: What surprised you the most about the program once you started taking classes?

Nina: I was surprised by the enthusiasm and encouragement with which my professors value collaborative learning. My previous school experiences have been mostly traditional in that there was a behaviorist approach to learning and motivation, emphasizing and rewarding the skill of recalling facts. As a result, sharing information and work was considered cheating most of the time. In my first course in the MAT, I suggested a collaboration among my colleagues to take notes on the incredibly large amount of authors we were required to read. The professor celebrated and praised the resulting compilation of shared thoughts and connections among my peers in that section. The collaborative nature of planning and discussing education reflects the best practices of Chadwick. While I was initially surprised about the positive reception of collaborative teaching and learning, I now cannot imagine it any other way.

Nina Keller leading a reading group focused on reading fluency and comprehension strategies.

Hearing her reflections, it struck me that a primary goal of choosing a program of study is to make sure that the program is relevant in the real world. Nina’s experience, and the experiences of others in the program, shows that the USC MAT program has real-life applicability.

If you are located in South Korea and are interested in learning more about our master’s degrees in education, please reach out to me at my email address or call 010-4883-0442. With upcoming cohorts beginning in May and September 2014, it’s a great time to get more information and be proactive!

Read more about Evan’s experience in Seoul in his last post, Expanding the Trojan network in South Korea!