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Contemplating Chinese Speed and English Time 欲速则不达,中西无不同

发表于 2019 年 07 月 19 号 目录 杂谈/Points | Contemplating Chinese Speed and English Time 欲速则不达,中西无不同已关闭评论

段玉佩按:这是一篇写于2018年年底的文章,标题来自我的搭档,Dr. Brian O’Hare在工作中常常说的一句口头禅。现在看来,文中的内容我个人也觉得观点正确,值得在任何一个中西方兼容的工作环境中注意。敝帚自珍,立此存照。

Authors: Yupei Duan (Danny), Brian O’Hare

“Danny, you know, this is another ‘Chinese Speed versus English Time’ issue also…” were the words uttered to me by my coworker one day as we were planning our agenda for the week. Since Brian is the International Academic Dean at the Future Leadership Academy, I accepted his remarks just like he would accept some suggestions from me. Brian and I learn from each other and work together closely. The concepts of “Chinese speed and English time,” as he put it, were definitely good things to think about as an international team was forming. These words, I would later come to find out, have become a very important lesson for anyone working in a bilingual environment with two very different cultural approaches to time management.


Before starting my current position as the Chinese Academic Dean in FLA, for 10 years I worked in an elite high school in Beijing. When I worked as a subject teacher there, in my opinion, teachers on campus were just like soldiers on the front line of a conflict. They all needed to be given instant responses to spontaneous incidents so that they could be better prepared to fight to win. I was trained to finish preparing an excellent lesson plan with a well-organized PPT within 40 mins in my college. My education reinforced the notion that work was to be finished before the deadline. My mentor in college once told me, “If you have time for your meals, then you have time for your lesson plan.” It became one of my common habits that all assigned tasks should be finished ASAP, and that I should say “Yes, sir” to everything asked of me on campus just like on an army base. Because I grew up on an army base it was a natural response for me to obey orders without question. Now, however, I would like to reflect on this response after finishing one semester’s worth of work with many international colleagues. Is this truly necessary? What are the real reasons for such a short time for preparation? Are there any better and wiser solutions?


At the beginning of the first semester, I held a meeting with all of the parents, students, faculty and staff to introduce the schedules, after school programs, facilities, etc. At the same time, I had planned to ask subject teachers to present a brief introduction at the meeting. When I shared this idea with Brian, he suggested that I write requirement in an email and to distribute the proposal to all teachers ASAP to give them more time to prepare. I expressed how I did not think it was very hard to handle an introduction for a subject teacher, yet Brian reminded me that it would be more acceptable if teachers received tasks at least 24 hours in advance. It was not exactly clear what was asking of them last minute, which then turned into a conversation about what kinds of introductions we wanted them to present. Should these introductions focus on their classes or other academic requirements? Or should these be presentations about the teachers’ experiences in and out of the classroom?  It became obvious that I did not think very carefully through all of the details. Later, we sent a message to describe all the details we wanted the teachers do, which led to a more effective and productive meeting in the long run.


Over the next few months, similar phenomena would happen. Gradually, I found a lot of advantages from jumping into something without thinking of all the possibilities more thoroughly. As a dean, I need to strategize ahead and think broader about certain topics than teachers and other staff. In this way, I must arrange plans and design blueprints ahead of department heads and coordinators. The more detailed the plans I have found, the better arrangement I can make for providing the best leadership and mentorship to all teachers. In hindsight, I would like to thank Brian who fist mentioned to me this notion of “Chinese speed versus English time”, which is clearly expressed by a Chinese idiom: More haste, less speed. (欲速则不达)


Unfortunately, being efficient cannot overstep the dignity deserving of all staff at FLA. For example, one night at an online meeting that included some administrators and myself, I had still wanted to express an idea when the meeting organizer abruptly ended the meeting by saying goodbye and hanging up the call. My sentence was interrupted and the meeting was finished, yet because I felt it was not right to occupy others’ time in such a manner, I could accept how the meeting ended. I personally believed that it was my fault for the curt behavior since I had extended the meeting time. The next morning, a colleague who attended that meeting told me that she felt sorry about how I was interrupted during my final statement. She did not think it was polite and wanted me to feel better about the situation. In actuality, I did not think anything was wrong at that time because of the idea of “Chinese speed” was one of my working philosophies already. Therefore, I could understand and accept this abrupt behavior. When another colleague found me to talk individually to explain his thoughts about that encounter, and then later, a third and fourth colleague came to comfort me separately, I began to realize something was amiss. Finally, I received a written apology from the meeting organizer. Several days later when we had another online meeting, he again apologized. These apologies left me confused again. Why would my international colleagues value their time and yet act differently when I had disregarded it? My understanding of “English time” with all of its rules and regulations is still something I am discovering the more I engage with the international staff.


In ending, I now understand that the school is more like a garden than a battle field. We need to be patient and detailed gardeners in order for the flowers and trees to grow. This requires us to nurture ideas, and take more time to make sure the quality of the word is not lost for the sake of speed. We do not have to be brave warriors who do know how to finish the work on time, but who do not know how to say “No” to decision-makers even if there are apparent flaws in their plans. As leaders, we need to keep the lines of communication open more, then we will be able to find out the real problems across various departments within the institution. By trying our best to avoid making mistakes, we can see the big picture when the problems regarding “speed” and “time” are really related to quantity versus quality. Before I became dean, I thought I partly understand this concept of “Chinese Speed versus English Time,” and I now know that I have a lot to learn from my international colleagues. The same goes for them as they learn to work in a different culture that sometimes moves at the speed of light, and I hope that we can learn to balance our quality of time and quantity of speed together.

段玉佩 吴炳琨
“段,你知道吗?这又是一个有关于‘东方速度,西方时间’的问题……”这句话来自我的搭档,外方学术主任Brian O’Hare博士, 当时我们正在制定学术部的周日程,我接受了他对我日程修改的看法——就像他也常常会采纳我的建议一样,合作融洽的我俩常常分享一句话,“东方速度,西方时间”——这是Brian在发现东西方教育工作方式的不同时,常脱口而出的一句话。同时,在国际教育团队的熔炼过程中,这也是非常重要的一个话题。在我们共事的过程中,我逐渐发现在多文化交汇,双语言使用的国际学校中,对这个话题的深入思考,是非常必要的。
在我成为未来领导力学校的中方学术主任之前,我曾在北京某精英公立中学工作了10年。在为师的历程中,我一直认为教师就应该像前线的勇士,他们需要对瞬时发生的事件作出即时和有效的反馈,这样才能获取战斗的胜利。在大学时代,我被训练在40分钟内完成一节课的高质量教案和演示文档。在我曾工作的学校,所有的老师都知道“课比天大”。我的导师曾对我说过这样的话:“你如果有时间吃饭,你就有时间写教案。”“按时完成任务”在潜移默化中成为了我的工作常识之一。无论什么样的任务布置给我,我的第一反应都应该是像军人那样回答“是,好的。”对于从小在军营中长大的我来说,这是司空见惯的事。 不过,在国际学校环境中与文化多元的国际化教师群体工作了一段时间之后,我觉得自己之前的做法和想法可能有些问题。很多事情真的有必要做吗?很多事情着急要做的真正原因到底是什么?还有没有更好的选项呢?


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这两位政界和商界的领袖,对于“教育即未来”有着跨时空的共识。并不奇怪,无论是从经验来看,还是从理论出发,一个国家教育的发展都对本国的经济有着强大的促进作用。美国斯坦福大学胡佛研究所的高级研究员埃里克·哈努谢克(Eric. A Hanushek)和德国慕尼黑大学经济学教授卢德格尔·沃斯曼因(Ludger Woessmann)共同撰写的研究报告《经济发展中由学校革新带来的关键影响》The Role of School Improvement in Economic Development[2]不仅从国家教育实施的“量”上,还从“质”的层面上得出了教育革新对于国家经济发展的具体助益。他们以一个国家教育对于“认知能力培养的效果”作为指征,探索了它的提升对于国家GDP提高的强大推动性。


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