Bridging Cultures in a Third Space: A Phenomenological Study of Teaching Chinese in American Chinese Schools
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This study explores the lived experiences of Chinese teachers in American Chinese Schools. Max van Manen's methodology for hermeneutic phenomenological research provides a framework for the study, and the philosophical writings of Heidegger, Gadamer and Derrida guide the textual interpretations. Pedagogical voices of Aoki, Pinar and Greene, and cultural journeys of Hongyu Wang and Xin Li reveal possibilities for understanding the experiences of Chinese teachers, as I address the question: "What is the meaning of teaching Chinese in American Chinese Schools?" Seven Chinese teachers engage with the researcher in a series of open-ended conversations. These Chinese teachers teach Chinese in different campuses of Hope Chinese School or other Sunday Chinese Schools around the Washington D.C. area. They are all women who have between 3 and 15 years experience teaching Chinese in American Chinese Schools. In addition, they all have similar teaching or other educational experiences, as well as having studied in Normal Universities in China. Their conversations illuminate the experience of teaching in American Chinese Schools around three main themes. The teachers tell of being shocked by the cultural and pedagogical differences when they land in a foreign place. They speak of the struggles and challenges teaching in-between two different cultures and pedagogies, creating a third space. Finally, in following the metaphor of Chinese knotwork, they reflect on splitting and splicing the knots through changing and adjusting their way of teaching as they strive to become good teachers. The study suggests a need for Chinese teachers in American Chinese Schools to participate in on-going professional development to bridge the pedagogical differences in which they find themselves. It is also suggested that a teacher preparation track be developed in Chinese Normal schools for teachers who plan to teach Chinese in the United States. Finally, the study suggests a need for Chinese teachers, administrators and parents to be open to change as east and west cultures are brought together in the Chinese Schools where teachers seek the Tao of teaching Chinese in American Chinese Schools.