Beyond the Classroom; Stoningtons Mandarin Chinese Program Thrives
Laughter and conversation filled the air as English and Mandarin Chinese blended harmoniously. The enticing aroma of comfort food mixed with the delightful fragrance of homemade dishes emanated from Feng Xue and Elisa Suns home on a pleasant evening in Mystic.
To an outsider it might have seemed like a family gathering. In reality it was a regular language class – with a twist. Xue and Sun established First Han International School in their residence to ensure the continuation of Mandarin Chinese education in Stonington. Every ten weeks they organize a dinner where students and their families come together not to discuss their progress but also to immerse themselves in Chinese culture.
In the 2010 2011 year the Stonington Board of Education decided to phase out its Mandarin Chinese program. However than seeking opportunities elsewhere Xue – who holds teaching licenses in Connecticut and Rhode Island – took matters into his own hands by creating his own private school.
“Our goal is to provide an opportunity for those who’re eager to learn Chinese ” explained Xue.
The school opened its doors in September attracting groups of beginner and intermediate students ranging from first graders to sixth graders as well, as several adults.
In April Xue is planning a trip to China that resembles the one Stonington students embarked on summer. However this particular trip is not affiliated with any school but open to individuals who are interested in experiencing and learning more about Chinese culture.
Janice Marconi, who joined First Han International to enhance her business presence believes that having an understanding of the language can lead to different perspectives and a unique way of perceiving things. Marconi expressed her belief in the importance of Mandarin Chinese within the Groton and Stonington school systems while observing her students, including several of school age.
The students gather in classes consisting of a maximum of five pupils for one hour per week. They have assigned homework that is graded, allowing Xue and Sun to assess their proficiency levels. When asked about his thoughts on Mandarin language Sam Snediker enthusiastically replied, “Everything.” He further added his appreciation for the culture associated with it.
Snediker, who began learning from Xue as part of Deans Mill Schools afterschool program unfortunately missed out on taking Chinese in school this year due, to the board of educations decision to phase out the language program. The evening wasn’t just filled with laughter and delicious food. After dinner Xue had the students practice their numbers by asking the person to them about their age. She assured them that it was perfectly fine to share how old they felt if they didn’t want to reveal their age.
“We’re like one extended family ” Xue mentioned.
This sentiment resonated with the atmosphere of the gathering as well as with the students and their family members who participated in the program. Even Snedikers father, David casually mentioned that he would sign up for the lesson. It goes to show that while Mandarin Chinese may no longer be part of Stonington Public Schools curriculum it is still much present, in Stonington.