Chinese students visit meets school’s global focus
Newly-renamed Bessie Rhodes Magnet School entertained visitors from China this winter such Wang Ze Long, a sixth-grade Chinese exchange student, in line with its Chinese language studies. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 15, 2013 12:10PM
Sixth-grade Chinese exchange student Wang Ze Long and his new friend, Jesse Bond, an American student, worked side by side in Room 200 at Bessie Rhodes Magnet School of Global Studies on a recent Monday.
Long’s native language is naturally Chinese, while Bond’s is English. How did they bridge the gap?
“Google Translate,” Bond said.
The two had a common interest: “He likes math, I like math,’’ said Jesse, matter of factly.
Their meeting was made possible through a special exchange program.
Long was a member of a group of 10 fifth- and sixth-grade exchange students from the Huajiadi Experimental Primary School in Beijing, China, who made Bessie Rhodes their home in a visit from Jan. 19 through Feb. 2.
The Bessie Rhodes school community was selected as host for the students through a collaboration between the school’s Principal /Parent Advisory Committee and Adventures Abroad and Study Plus.
Adventures Abroad specializes in inbound and outbound student exchange homestays for students to countries all over the globe.
District 65 was “honored to be one of the only schools in Illinois to host such a program,” Superintendent Hardy Murphy said, reacting to the selection. “The way that our magnet schools have embraced their recently revised missions is helping to bring our students an array of very enriching experiences.’’
Bessie Rhodes interim principal Carlos Mendez said the visit was particularly well-timed with how it matched up with the school’s global mission and introduction of a Chinese laughing course two years ago.
From second-grade up, students at the school, located at 3701 Davis St., in Skokie, take classes in Mandarin Chinese.
Ideally, with the visit, he said, “Chinese students would come here, immerse themselves in the local culture – not only in the language, but how we liv – our customs, our activities.’’
The host families played a key role. Mendez singled out Wendy Woodward King, a parent member of the Rhodes Advisory Committee and active member and officer of the school’s PTA. Woodward King worked with Hannah Walsh from Adventure Homestays to coordinate the two-week visit, he said.
In her proposal, King stressed the opportunity for the visitors to take part in a day of community service and to play a role as ambassadors during the Martin Luther King holiday that fell during their visit.
As for host families, “everybody jumped” at the opportunity to house the students, said Mendez.
Bessie Rhodes students, meanwhile, had a chance to apply their evolving Chinese language skills, said Christina Lee, the school’s Chinese language teacher.
The program has really taken off, she said.
“I have 215 students – can you believe it? – and the students are very enthusiastic,” said the equally upbeat teacher.
With the program only in its second year, students couldn’t be expected to hold sustained conversations with their visitors, but they have learned enough catch phrases to bridge any gaps with their new visitors, she maintained.
“What food do you like, is a very basic one,” she said.
Meanwhile, the visitors noted a number of differences, said Liu Ya Jie, the Chinese exchange teacher and chaperone for the group of 10.
For one thing, classes in their native country are much bigger, she said, running around 40 students.
She said resources here are much greater for special education and more one-on-one attention.
Wang Ze Long said his classes in China are “very big.”
American students, “are very active,” he said, with his new friend listening in.
Favorite dish during his visit?
“Hamburger,’’ he said.
His impression of America overall?
“America is very beautiful,’’ he said.