北大附中海口學校國際部副院長 Roger Russell 博士
Featured Faculty: Dr. Roger L. Russell
Where are you from?I
’m from Texas, in the USA. China is 14 times larger than Texas but China has 50 times as many people!
I grew up in a town of less than 5000 people but upon immediately upon graduation from high school I moved to Washington, DC, to work in the White House for President Jimmy Carter. (Yes, I’m that old!) That fall I started college at The George Washington University.
I lost my job because President Carter was defeated in the 1980 election and decided to return to Texas. Plans change and life moves on. Ultimately, the rest of my education came from four different Texas universities where I studied Political Science and History (B.A.), Public Administration (M.P.A), Theology, (M.A.), and Education Administration (EdD). I also spent 10 years with my wife and three sons in Romania in Eastern Europe where I worked with a non-governmental organization involved in education and social work.
What is your interest in working in international education in China?
I want to make a positive difference in the lives of others and, just as importantly, I want to keep growing and developing myself.
I did my doctoral studies in education administration after living in Romania. I had become fascinated by how much I had changed because of that experience and a desire to understand the process more fully shaped my program studies and research. For my dissertation research I investigated transformation in U.S. university students catalyzed by their short-term study abroad experiences. This was a fascinating investigation and I was able to use Transformative Learning Theory and Constructive Developmental Psychology to gain a greater appreciation for exactly what that transformation process involves.
Why do you choose to work in China?
I was working with English as a Second Language (ESL) students at a college in Texas when I learned about The Affiliated High School of Peking University of Beijing (PKU Beijing). PKU Beijing’s International Academy has a very special education paradigm that weaves together experiential learning, independent research, and flexibility in course selection to cultivate transformation in its students to prepare them for the challenges of study abroad.
Immediately I knew PKU Beijing would be the perfect place for me to apply all of my own experience, education, and passion in the transformation of some of the best students in China. Coming to PKU Beijing would not only give me the opportunity to cultivate others to reach their personal potential and goals it would also give me the opportunity to continue my own growth.
What is your personal educational philosophy?
Based on what I’ve already said I think my philosophy of education shouldn’t be a surprise. I believe education (growth, development, or transformation) comes by “experiencing difference.” One theme that had been highlighted by my doctoral research was that “there is no reason for meaningful transformation within a person’s ‘comfort zone’.” A ‘comfort zone’ is a ‘space’ where you already ‘know the rules.’ It is ‘comfortable’ because your understanding of that reality or phenomenon is not challenged. Growth or development comes because of the need to understand something that doesn’t yet make sense. Ultimately transformation is the result of successfully resolving dissonance or dilemmas that had, prior to their resolution, provoked profound ‘discomfort.’
My goal, therefore, as an educator, is to balance challenging students with unknowns that provoke their need to grow with support for them during the process. I believe this balance of challenge and support is the heart of education. If the challenge is too great, the student will be overwhelmed. If the support is too great, i.e. if there is no discomfort, dissonance, or dilemma, then there is no need for growth or transformation.
How have you grown in your time working at The Affiliated High School of Peking University’s Dalton Academy?
How have you been grown since you worked in China?
This is a great question because one of the reasons I came here was to grow. I have grown and I’m confident of my continued opportunities for growth. I have grown because I have been stretched and challenged to engage students at a very deep and personal level during a critical period of their development. I have felt this as a HUGE responsibility. At times I’ve been concerned that I might fail them with poor advice, too much challenge, or too little support. Over time, as I’ve seen struggling or insecure students become capable and confident graduates, I’ve become more confident, not only in my ability as an educator but also in the resilience of our students.
I have also grown in my ability to collaborate effectively my colleagues. I work with some of the best educators I have ever seen and this is both exciting and challenging. Often, we create new courses, curricula, or experiences that are better than any of us had initially imagined. Now I’m growing more accustomed to the risk involved in trusting others in their specialty even when I may not completely understand it or agree with them. My growth in this area has come from changing my perspective on this process. In the past, I may have considered this type of collaboration to be an example of ‘compromise.’ Now, I’m coming to embrace it as an opportunity to ‘trust.’
A final area of growth has to do with language and connection with others. When I was in Romania, I became fluent in the language. Of course, it was hard work but it is a much easier language than Chinese and I also had a year of full-time language study. In China, I know the struggle to learn the Chinese language will last for as long as I am here and I will never become at ease in conversation. Simply knowing that I will never ‘connect’ with others as well as I would like in their own ‘heart language’ is something I am growing to accept.
How do you enjoy your new life in Haikou?
In some ways Haikou is like Texas. It’s HOT and not quite as crowded as Beijing. I love the big blue skies, clean air, and nice people.
We have had several meetings with different educators in the city and we are hopeful that we will see Haikou become known as a great center for education in the future. I think it is going to be great!