Editor’s note: In July 2016, OCEF organized the 4th Summer Teaching Camp in the village of Gongfeng in Huining County, Baiyin City, Gansu Province. Huining County is on the national list for poverty support due to its harsh, arid natural environment. Despite the challenging setting, 45 volunteers from all over the world gathered here with the same purpose: sharing knowledge and caring for children in poverty. Before setting off for Huining, one the volunteers, Zhu Wei, contacted a dentist who lives near Gongfeng Elementary School. The dentist not only joined the summer camp as a volunteer to teach the children about dental health, but he also recorded his memories from the experience, including the following.
The 2016 OCEF Summer Camp was short but memorable. It concluded today at Gongfeng Elementary School and the kids got very emotional towards the end. With hugs and tears, they thanked the volunteers for touching their hearts with hard work and sincerity. I was also very moved to see the kids performing a chorus piece called Little Village, which the teachers had worked late into the night to arrange.
Thank you, the OCEF Summer Camp team! You gathered in Gongfeng from all around the world for the children, and opened for them a rare window into life in other countries as well as the culture and history of those countries, which will leave a profound impact on them for years to come. I hope there will be another opportunity for us to have you in this small village; the kids will miss you. Hiking, dancing, the games, and all the smiling faces…this summer is forever captured in the pictures and the memories of the kids.
Editor’s note: In western China, many schools have to rely on “substitute” teachers as it is very hard for them to recruit qualified regular teachers due to less desirable locations, low wages and uncertain job security. There are about 600,000 “substitute” teachers nation-wide, carrying out education for at least 12 million students. In order to improve the quality of teaching in rural places, the OCEF Teachers Program has arranged for 1-on-1 communication between volunteers and teachers to share experiences and discuss issues. Below is an abridged monthly summary from a teacher in Shandong Province. To read the full article, please visit the OCEF Forum. If you are interested in helping the teachers grow, please join our Teachers Program.
On June 6, Teacher Wang went out early in the morning to get the books donated to us by OCEF. The principal opened one of the boxes and I picked up the first two books that popped into sight,Sister Sunshine and Who Is Mozart. After reading the Mozart book I had a lot of thoughts and shared them on my blog. One of my friends responded: “You may not think much of what you have done in the past 35 years, but you have cultivated 35 Mozarts.” While I know that statement is exaggerated, I feel very delighted for the opportunity to be a teacher in my life. My 5th-grade son finished reading Sister Sunshine and could not wait to read the other five books in the series, but I could not satisfy him because the principal told us to delay circulating the books for a few days. It was the busiest time of the year for the farmers, and he wanted the parents to participate in the book-passing ceremony and help the kids learn to appreciate.
Finally, it was time to distribute the books. The principal prepared the books in person and every teacher took part in picking books for his or her class. I selected illustrated books suitable for the younger kids in my class and read the book I Love You to the students during class. I was only half way through when the class was over, so I told the students to read the rest by themselves if they wanted to know what happened next. That book went from one kid to another throughout the day. I remembered the day when we distributed the books. The ceremony started around 2:30 p.m. on a sunny day, and the temperature was a very hot 33 degrees Celsius. Everybody was sweating—parents, kids, and teachers—but nobody seemed to care.
Both the parents and the kids were eager to open up a book and read, and everybody was smiling. The parents of one kid told me that he suffered from ADHD-like symptoms and could never calm down. They had taken him to doctors as far away as in Beijing but the doctors had insisted that there was nothing wrong with him, which left them very frustrated. When they saw him sitting still reading a book, they could hardly believe it. His favorite book was No, David. I recommended Not My Fault for the parents and the kid to read together. Another kid’s grandfather asked who those good people were that donated the books. He wanted to make sure that the children would take good care of the books, so beautiful and so expensive to buy, and study hard to do the books justice. The teachers got into it as well, and all were busy picking books for themselves and their own children to read. I found a book on education that Teacher Sue (OCEF staffer—editor) had recommended, expect that Teacher Niu had beaten me to it, only to “lose” it to the principal who wanted to read it first.
On June 28, there was a routine inspection by the county education department. I had to spend a lot of time to prepare for the inspection, and then there were two days of exams for the students—two more days when we did not have time to read. Finally it was over and today I got to lead the students in reading a book call Run-Run Town. After we read about how a cat and an eagle crashed into each other and become an owl, and how a black bear and a polar bear did the same to become a panda, we did an interesting exercise to see what would happen if Chinese characters crash into each other, and what new characters they might make. Once we finished that book, it was free reading time, when the kids would form groups and read books by themselves. They liked reading so much that the bookshelves always looked disorganized no matter how hard I tried to keep them tidy. I thought to myself: That's OK, we'll just tidy up the books once a day. This mess reflects how much they love to read, so it’s a good mess.
Every day when you can read books, it’s a great day.
(Li Qiaozhen, Huhai Elementary School, Dingtao, Shandong; June 30, 2016)
第26期（2016年8月）/No. 26 (August 2016) 组稿：杨敏 翻译：何雪炀 编校：汤柏 Compiled by Catherine Yang Translated by He Xueyang Edited by Tang Bai