Economics and Philosophy T'15
Current PositionAcademic Coordinator, International School in Guangzhou, China
My given name Tai represents the hometown of Confucius, and perhaps through some mysterious cosmic force of my namesake, from the time I was born, I was drawn to philosophy and education. Working with Bass Connections and Project Bright IDEA was a unique experience in that I was taken away from my textbooks and confronted with real world issues.
Project Bright IDEA looked for an alternate gifted and talented curriculum for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. The idea is simple: treat every student as if they were gifted and talented. In the United States, there is a huge achievement gap among students of different backgrounds (ethnic, socioeconomic, etc.). But most academic studies show that up until the age kids enter preschool, their intelligence and performance on various tests are about the same regardless of background. The difference in their testing scores start to grow as students progress through school, where African American and Latino kids score significantly lower than their white and Asian counterparts on average.
People are all born equal, but their circumstances growing up cause the difference we see in society. Hence, the most important question for educators and policy makers is how to shorten this gap. For Project Bright IDEA, this responsibility ultimately falls on educators and the quality of instruction. Our team’s project was evaluating its effectiveness and finding a way to implement it across more schools.
My team visited classrooms in many schools in North Carolina and saw in action just how breathtaking this whole Project Bright IDEA is. In conversing with the students, we saw that they were much more advanced than their peers from similar classes in other schools. For example, the first and second grade students under this project were read stories but were also asked critical thinking questions about their perspectives. There was an inherent emphasis on how to think for themselves, not simply what to think. I believe when I was at their age, I was still not allowed to handle glue or scissors. This is one of many qualitative observations my team had throughout our visits and teacher training sessions that highlight the project’s effectiveness. The quantitative data collected also support this conclusion, showing that Project Bright IDEA students score significantly better than their peers in every measure of standardized testing.
Working with Bass Connections and my team has given me invaluable interdisciplinary experience. No longer was I bound to my Plato and Confucius wisdom on education, and instead I saw a tangible vision of education and what it takes to build a program. After graduating, I have pursued a career in education and specifically building international high schools and kindergartens in China. I’ve incorporated the valuable knowledge and insights from Bass Connections into my work. More importantly, the core principles I learned from my project team and peers, such as the gravity of the impact an educator can make on students and the human potential at stake, has inspired and guided my professional and personal life.