Teacher Talks: Xiaolin Lin, Upper School Mandarin Teacher

What does it take to learn a foreign language? Xiaolin Lin gives students authentic, purposeful experiences to help prepare the next generation of global citizens.

"I learned English in China through a very traditional approach, using isolated memorization or grammar drills. That experience inspired me to teach in a communicative and progressive way, so that students can truly use Mandarin to communicate with others and cultivate their voices in a new language.

Experiential learning is essential for foreign language acquisition– learning by using Mandarin in purposeful work. For example, students made a series of videos in Mandarin to introduce their high school lives. This type of project not only helps them review linguistic elements, but allows them to apply their language skills in authentic and personalized ways.

Xiaolin works closely with students in Mandarin class

I love Calhoun’s focus on using New York City as our campus. I took my students to Manhattan and Flushing Chinatown, where they engaged in Mandarin conversations with native speakers or practiced reading and writing Mandarin characters in real-life scenarios.  

Learning a foreign language can be nerve-wracking, but at Calhoun, we create a supportive space in which our students feel confident stepping outside of their comfort zones. Moreover, the meaningful relationships I’ve established with my students help them trust me and their own learning abilities.

When I teach my students, I always think about what kind of world I want for my childrenone that is cooperative and multicultural. This motivates me to teach my students to become responsible and thoughtful global citizens.

One of my students did her senior work internship for Congresswoman Grace Meng’s campaign, using her Mandarin skills to facilitate Q&A sessions with immigrants in Flushing. I’ve also had students teach ESL to children or seniors in Chinatown. These experiences have helped them not only polish their language skills, but also develop a sense of empathy and justice."

Teacher Talks is a series spotlighting the educators of Calhoun and their approach to progressive education.