The phrase “foreign exchange student” is fairly well-known. The phrase “foreign exchange teacher?” Not so much.

The phrase “foreign exchange student” is fairly well-known. The phrase “foreign exchange teacher?” Not so much.
For Carmen Zeisler and Jennifer Love, teachers at Roosevelt Elementary School, teaching abroad is a treasured experience. Both teachers traveled to China for five weeks during the summer as part of a group of 13 teachers from Kansas and California that helped Chinese students learn to work in groups.
Zeisler and Love heard about the opportunity from the superintendent of the Little River/Windom school district. They said they were nervous when they arrived because they didn’t know what to expect.
What they found was that Chinese students had more in common with their American students than they thought.
“They were like our kids that didn’t speak English,” Love said.
The language barrier was difficult. Love said their students’ limited English vocabulary was a struggle.
“The kiddos we taught mostly knew ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye,’ and we were trying to teach basic vocabulary,” Love said.
Zeisler said another challenge was China’s educational culture. She said Chinese students focus a lot on individuals, and she and her colleagues were trying to get them to work in groups.
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“You would have to get them to listen to ideas from other people -- not just listen, but actually consider it,” Zeisler said. “It's a society about individuals.”
Zeisler and Love also had to learn to work with their colleagues, who had different teaching styles than they did. Despite the challenges, both said the experience made them better teachers.
“I think it made me realize how important collaboration and different methods are,” Love said.
Zeisler, who has also lived in Mexico, said it's great being able to bring her foreign experiences into her classroom. When she teaches units about places she's visited, she's able to bring those places to life with her own experiences.
“I would hope my kids are going to travel partly because of class experiences, not just stay here in McPherson,” Zeisler said. “It's kind of a crazy thing to say, 'Let's go to China for five weeks with complete strangers,' but people should take advantage of those opportunities.”
Love said after five weeks, she came to love China and its people.
“We went there crying because we were terrified,” Love said. “We left crying because we didn't want to go.”

Contact Josh Arnett by email at and follow him on Twitter @ArnettSentinel.