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Chanting Voices of Reading Echoes In The Village Again


School Teacher LuiJun Jiang,
Guizhou Zhijin JiaLe Elementary School

How time flies! Before I know it, my first semester as a teacher at JiaLe Elementary School has come to an end. From a new college graduate full of enthusiasm but short on teaching experience, I have learned and grown to be a patient and pragmatic Chinese language teacher.

It all started from a phone call six months ago, when my family pled with me to go home and help out at JiaLe Elementary. As I struggled to resist the seemingly endless opportunities the outside world presented, my hometown constantly tugged at my heart.  Ultimately, I was pulled back to the now almost deserted JiaLe school, where  once houses 200 students had shrunk to less than 60 enrolled students with my uncle Principal Yang as the sole teacher (note: with some help from a few seasoned “teachers” on and off).  Jiale Elementary, where my father and uncle had been laboriously planting and nurturing their seeds of hope, was facing closure due to lack of teachers who didn't get paid enough to raise their families. How could it be true that the chanting voices of children reading loud would never be heard again? And how could we let the eager eyes of young students thirsty for knowledge disappear from the village forever? Determined to revive my uncle’s dream and his school, I joined JiaLe to teach 6th grade Chinese, as one of the school’s two faculty members.

At the end of August just as school was about to start, Uncle Yang and I scrambled  for help from all sources to find a few more teachers.  In the meantime, I visited village after village within 3~4 miles radius of the school, hoping to attract all school-age children back to JiaLe, including those who gave up or who had to walk long distance to school. After days of hard work with countless ups and downs, we finally hired two additional teachers and brought a total of more than 70 children to JiaLe.

Supported by the Overseas Chinese Education Foundation (OCEF), the new school year put to use for the first time: a newly constructed library, classrooms and new furniture, all from donations.  In the shining new classrooms, the children’s eyes spoke excitement and anticipation as they sat at pristine desks and chairs, read new books and learned from their green vibrant teachers.  Those fresh books in the library are their favorites  and they couldn’t put them down.  They love their brand new furniture and use them with great care.

As I stand in front of the classroom, every child’s cheerful curious eyes and every trusting call for "teacher" instill into my heart stronger passion and increased sense of responsibility. The pressure from my lack of teaching experience drives me to enrich myself to better fulfill my responsibility for the children as their front runner, just like a gardener nurturing his seeds of hope into fruition.

Over a semester of teaching and intermingling with the students, I saw my early apprehension dissipate and my enthusiasm gradually transform into composure, gratification and joy of giving.

Education as a profession demands a lot of experience, and is worth a lifetime to explore, digest and practice. I used to think Jiale is too small a stage for me to play.  I learned from the children that a teacher not only must have a child’s innocent heart and love, but also patience and perseverance to live up to this sacred career. Most importantly, a teacher must recharge his/her own battery and keep learning in order to disseminate knowledge.

The following is my experience of teaching this semester:

First, as an educator I should not just teach. I must know how to exchange thoughts and communicate heart to heart with children. Elementary school teachers face young students who are still essentially children. Teaching is not about mechanically transporting knowledge from one mind to the others, but rather touching the souls of children at every moment. I often run into teachers who routinely tube feed students with knowledge.  They speak highly of children with good grades and unforgivingly criticize those who score poorly.  The truth is each child has his or her strengths and we can’t simply categorize them into good or bad students. We should encourage students to do better when they are doing well just as much as we should guide and support them when they have difficulties. We should not be over critical of children because everyone has some fragile spots deep in their soul, all the more so for children.  As their teacher, I need to help children build up their sense of pride and dignity so that they can gain confidence from learning and appreciate the joy of growing. In the teaching process, however, for a teacher to control his/her frustration is easy said than done.

Second, as a teacher, I need to continuously enrich and improve myself.  A new teacher full of passion and high in energy, my idealism and lack of teaching experience soon got me buried in the daily teaching routine as I found myself fully occupied with preparing for lectures, managing classes, and doing my own housework. At a remote school like JiaLe, where training, seminars and information exchange are beyond reach, the library and random information from mobile phone network provide my main channels to gain knowledge.  Often times after hectic classes, I failed to take advantage of favorable time to enrich myself.

"To give students a bowl of water, we must have a bucket of water." I wish I had the opportunity to listen to lectures from experienced teachers and ask them to share their teaching experience with me to help me improve myself.

My teaching capability will be enriched with time, just like aged rocks polished in the river bed will eventually shine.  I want to accumulate more teaching experience to make my dream come true: to be a capable teacher with love, patience and perseverance.

January 10, 2012

 


They Can Do It. We Can Help.

Dear friends:

This year marks the 19th anniversary of OCEF. It offers a special occasion for reflection—to remember those who touched our hearts, to look forward to a major milestone for OCEF in the coming year, the 20th anniversary.

Mao Jialing, a high school student in Jiangxi, is one of over 40,000 students, whom OCEF has helped throughout the past 19 years. Perhaps similar to millions of other financially disadvantaged children in rural China, Jialing has encountered numerous obstacles before making her dream of going to school become true. Fortunately, unlike many others, Jialin has been able to attend school and continue her pursuit of education with financial aids distributed by OCEF.  She remains grateful and faithful for life, “Although my parents are disabled, they provide me a home full of love, optimism and wisdom.”

In a letter to OCEF, Jialing wrote, “Whether you are a brother or sister around my age, uncle or aunt who has a lot more life experience than mine, from the bottom of my heart, you are all my dear friends! Thank you very much for your help!”  It is your support that enables her to complete high school, take the college entrance examination, and look forward to a bright future.

Despite the recent global economic downturn, OCEF has received tremendous support in the past year, and proudly accomplished the following projects:

  • Financial aid packages for 2,499 grade 1-9 students, 1,031 college students and 135 teachers
  • 2 schools for construction development and infrastructure improvements
  • 18 brand new rural libraries and 10,885 books to 41 existing rural libraries

Behind the statistics, there are countless moving stories such as Jialing’s. OCEF programs have continuously demonstrated to be the education lifelines for thousands of people, including students, teachers and often times their respective family members.  We are honored to recognize you for playing a vital role in our devotion to rural China education.

Today, we wish again to have your generous donation, in any amount that you care to provide.

Thank you for trusting OCEF on making education assistance more accessible to students and teachers in rural China!

Sincerely,

Gan Liang, Ph. D.

President & CEO of OCEF

 

For more information and highlights of recent funding projects, please click here.

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