Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 


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Today is the last day of the last month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar. That means celebrations throughout China tonight, as tomorrow marks the New Year. Click here to read more about the personality traits of those born in the “Year of the Goat.”

I can’t wait to take my first trip to China.

In late April, Upper School Director and Assistant Head of School Lee Hark and I will travel to Beijing and Shanghai to tour four schools – among them the Experimental School attached to Beijing Normal University, from which thirteen Chinese 10th Graders came to spend two weeks on DA’s campus this month.

Our trip will be sponsored by the Chinese Cultural and Education Center (CCEC), founded by Dr. Jianli Wang and his wife Huaiying Kang. In recent years, CCEC has funded a variety of scholarships and programs (including with Duke University, Duke TIP, and the NC School of Math and Science) to connect American and Chinese students.

Reports from our pilot host experience were enthusiastically positive. Dr. Wang shared one of the many grateful messages he received from our teenage visitors.

I believe that I will never forget the experience of learning in Durham Academy. It is the most impressive learning experience I have ever had up to my whole life!  Today is the day to leave home-stay family, I never want to leave the Goldmans! They are really a family with harmony and love! Both Ethan and his little sister Abby are studying in the Durham Academy. When we had free time, we played pool and table tennis or the Wii. It was a really a great fun to live with them in this two weeks! They paid a lot attention on me, they took me to several kinds of restaurants, showed me American cuisine and took me to the game of GA Tech@Duke’s game. They are a friendly family as well as the first home-stay family that I had ever stayed. I still remember the day that I played basketball against Ethan, it was a great game and I will never forget it as well as their family!

Lee and I hope to select and approve a host school for DA student travel during the 2015-16 school year – a process that will be considerably more thorough, thanks in part to a two-day workshop by Lodestone Safety International that trained twenty DA faculty members in health, safety, and security interventions for student travel chaperones

In the coming months, we’ll be gathering advice and scouting assignments from our Mandarin Teachers Taylor Smith and Abby Finkel (both with extensive teaching and living experience in China) and any DA parents willing to share their Chinese living or work experience. 

Part of my preparation was reading and reviewing Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World. Author Yong Zhao (raised in China and now Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education at the University of Oregon), makes some compelling and controversial arguments about the system that creates academic gold medalists and top PISA scores. Click here to see my review.

As April approaches, I feel the same curiosity, trepidation, and excitement as our students as they venture out on DA travel/study programs in Spain, Nicaragua, France, England and – next year -- China! 

Posted by Michael Ulku-Steiner on Wednesday February, 18, 2015


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