November 6, 2018

No one will ever mistake me for a linguist. O.K., my 58-year old memory still, mercifully, functions well enough. I can, and do, memorize and learn to use new Chinese vocabulary words each day of my tenure as Principal at Xiangjiang International High School. Enough to be understood when I attempt to speak in four-tonal Mandarin? Nah, not happening, and, I suspect my polite Chinese colleagues are secretly grateful I’ve dialed back my attempts.

Oh well, half the citizenry of the U.S. outside of New England can’t understand my English pronunciation either. Afterall, I dreamed of celebrating with ‘chowda’ and ‘lobsta’ after the Sox clinched the Series last month. Remind me to write again to convey what it was like to watch the 18-inning epic from a bistro in the suburbs of Guangzhou City---I’m still searching for the characters to translate the ‘in-field fly rule’!

What I do know something about is international education. For the last 36 years I have pursued inter-cultural understanding and promoted inter-cultural education as a history teacher, department chair, director of curriculum, instruction, & assessment, high school principal, technical center director, and currently, over the last two years, at Xiangjiang International High School. From the cumulative perspective of this experience, I know SPIRAL to be a qiao (bridge)---actually a da qiao (big-bridge)---from all across the fifty states to the country and culture of China today.

I write against the backdrop of Sino-American relations stressed and strained by trade tensions, global power dynamics, political hyperbole, and the weight of history. The simple fact remains, however, that there exists no more important relationship in our world than the one between the United States and China. So much of our planet’s shared future as a species, to say nothing about all the other species under our care in the natural world, depends upon the success of this relationship.

SPIRAL, or, Special Programs for Intercultural Relations And Learning, is uniquely structured to build the bridges necessary to nurture and sustain positive, productive, conflict-free connections between the Chinese and American peoples. Government actions and policies are beyond the control of the citizens of both countries; but, we must maintain dialogue, discussion, and contact between leaders, teachers, business people---and, especially, students.

SPIRAL’s long list of programs does just this work. Adult and student exchanges, curriculum programs, professional training, international school development, travel opportunities, and much more publicized in this website compose the framework of SPIRAL’s ever-growing network of da qiao! I invite you to help SPIRAL continue to build those bridges. Sign-up for a SPIRAL program today! Xie Xie

(Editor’s note: Jeff Maher is Principal at Xiangjiang International High School, in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China, a Spiral partner school. XJHS also recently hosted a group from Bellows Free Academy in Vermont. Also, learn more about this group on the Spiral website here.)