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What I Learned Climbing China's Great Wall | News

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What I Learned Climbing China's Great Wall
What I Learned Climbing China's Great Wall

Dr. Rosemary Henry, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Buffalo, was part of a delegation to China from Dec. 2-10, studying the Chinese education system. Her reflections of the trip, and how it applies to education here in Western New York, follow.

There I was, the ancient monolithic stone structure staring me in the face and challenging my every ounce of courage, “guts” and endurance to master it. The climb on one of our world’s wonders taught me many valuable lessons.

I learned to take one step at a time and to undertake the wall as a process. Along the way I had to adapt to the changing steep step formations, stone surfaces and blizzard like winds propelling me backwards on my not so sure footedness. Counting each step, somehow, offered me a sense of solace in a far away land bursting of beauty and intrigue.

So, too, this is applicable to education. As bold leaders we are called to support our teachers and to help them to understand the process required to produce excellence and to take small steps to improve teaching and learning. Confidence becomes the fruit of their labor.

I learned that knowing about a climb is not the same as doing the climb. Yes, the climb appeared formidable especially with the frigid temperatures and high altitudes.  From high above the landscape was punctuated with small images of temple roof tops and throngs of Chinese people wondering if they too would join the forces of this great wall. I experienced a sense of accomplishment unfamiliar to my life experiences.

So, too, this is applicable to education. As bold leaders we are called to guide our teachers to learn in context through professional learning communities and to meet the needs of all students through differentiated instruction. Knowing about successful students is not the same as nurturing and developing successful students.

I learned to not stop climbing but to pause at regular intervals to reflect. The reflection stage was important as I assessed the steps that I had conquered and evaluated my success. I prayed for the courage to continue. I tried to plan ahead and to determine how many steps were required before I could rest on the narrow landing. I attempted to strategize and to conserve energy as it seemed the higher I climbed the steeper and larger the steps became. I never lost my vision of the top, it was there: the past, the present and future steps were forever engraved on my mind.

So, too, this is applicable to education. As bold leaders we are called to support our teachers and assist them in new implementations and strategies. We provide guidance and direction in helping our teachers to pause and to reflect in an effort to monitor personal strides and student successes.

I learned that we need partners during the climb. Members of my delegation encouraged one another upward with assuring arm waving and thumb gestures At one point my pink treaded Sketchers slid off a very irregular steep step and a Chinese friend supported me from falling backwards. I was able to frequently stop for a short rest as many Chinese asked to pose for photographs with me. (It must have been the Russian hat I wore to keep the body heat form escaping).

So, too, this is applicable to education. As bold leaders we are called to help all to create partnerships. These invaluable partnerships between leaders and parents, teachers and parents, teachers and teachers, teachers and students, principals and principals, and the list goes on… provide a provision of support that ensures students to reach the top.

So it is, climbing the Great Wall of China was an experience of a life time. With every step I drew closer to the top. With planning, adaptation, persistence, reflection, forging of partnerships and unrelenting faith we join together to provide experiences for our youth to reach the top. 


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