Why I stopped to Become a Voluntary Teacher
This is the final blog in the series of
As the reasons for VT are stated in Why I became a Voluntary Teacher, I feel obliged to explain the reason why I don't want to be a voluntary teacher in a Chinese countryside after 4 months.
If you have read anything negative about Chinese countryside in any of my writings, please note I am only talking about my own little short experience. If you have read anything positive, it's generally true 😛
# There is Little I Could Change
There is little I could change in terms of studying. As an English teacher in a primary school in Chinese countryside. Though some students have improved their English skills, I don't expect they will remember much after a winter holiday without any homework. When the new English teacher sent by CNAEF(China Non-Governmental Aid Education Foundation)comes in the future, he/she might have to teach from scratch again, just as I did when I first came. As to how interested they've become after my teaching? I am really not sure as this is hard to quantify
There is little I could change in terms of upward mobility. Some students don't get why they should study English, or study in general. They live in an environment where they would follow their ancestors by sowing in Spring and harvesting in Autumn, where they could easily build a house with government's aid, where they value playing basketball over finishing homework. I have nothing against these conventions and I am tired of changing them, all I could do was bringing some interesting books and ideas into the the school and those who are curious would peek into them and say: oh, that's what's happening in the outside world and how we might lead a different life. Sadly, the curious exist, but few do peek, and fewer think different. During the time there, I failed to learn new knowledge due to slow Internet speed and unreliable electricity supply, but most crucial reason was I was "infected" by the lazy atmosphere and slow pace of life.
After all, there are quite a few smart and ambitious kids, but most are girls. Like countrysides in other countries such as India, girls are usually deemed inferior to boys and should marry asap. The normal age to marry for girls is 16 and similarly for boys, if not older. When I met kids in 6th grade seeking a relationship and couples showing off, I am not sure if it could be called "puppy love", as most of them will marry in a few years.
As obnoxious as the conventions may be, the smart kids will find their own way to live their lives.
# I Tried to Change Once
In retrospect, my way of eliminating the trash burning activities inside school had more negative than positive consequences. People in Chinese countryside used to discard used plastic bags along the roads. Afterwards, they burned them at the spot. Nowadays, some countrysides have trash periodically collected and transported to destructor plants, but not in the place I taught. What I actually abhor was the fact that almost everyone around me was unaware of the bluish toxic exhaust (hydrogen chloride, dioxin, etc.) from burning plastic. A local teacher literally told me, "Just bear with it for a moment and all is well afterwards."
After I was nearly asphyxiated by the arising bluish gas when playing ping pong close to the trash burner, I told myself: I will do whatever to stop it. I talked to the headmaster of DL central primary school. No response. Then I sent an email to CJ county ZF(government). No response. The next day I sent another email to CJ county ZF. They called in an impatient voice, "We will handle this. Meanwhile, please stop sending anything anymore."
Two days later, DL ZF send 4 people to the school, interrupted my class, dragged me into office and claimed indisputably, "We saw your email and we feel obliged to talk about the current situation: since the nearby destructor plants are still under construction and there is no usable one within a reasonable distance, instead of burning inside school, starting from tomorrow we will send a truck every week to collect the trash and send them outside village to burn. Is that good?" But I actually heard, "You happy now?" instead. Anyway, I could only nodded my head under their camera and authority. They then proclaimed in a commanding tone, "If you ever want to appeal to the ZF again, please just talk to the village head rather than the county magistrate. Thanks!"
They acted quickly and no bluish gas is ever seen when I played ping pong on the playground anymore. This is typical Chinese ZF: effective but authoritative, ruthlessly command to the subordinate but fawn over the superior, worrying more about official position than serving people.
But the local teachers held their silent grudge against me. They feared that their bonus might be deducted and ZF will find faults deliberately. I was pretty angry when I learned this fact, not because they had these thoughts, but they weren't sincere to talk to me about these worries.
Therefore, I can't ever appeal to the ZF again.
# Let There Be Light
Let there be light.
This scripture reminds me of Sunrise Also sprach Zarathustra in 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrik, my favorite foreign film director.
# Light over Rural Education in China
I don't see much right now. As stated in My VT experience, teachers do NOT earn what they deserve, so not many good teachers would come to insular places like TL primary school. Thanks to Steve Jobs, almost every kid I know in 4th grade and above has a smartphone and uses it mostly for games and streaming short videos.
This is a bad habit I had cultivated as a primary school teacher: repeating myself over and over in case students forgot, and they most likely do. For the last time, let me just the lousy excuse and hereby quote my aforementioned manifesto:
the smart kids will find their own way to live their lives.
If education is the light and students are a forrest, then initially light is uniformly distributed everywhere in the forrest. The ones who know their way would have few branches and focus on growing only in one direction: up, to compete for more light and grow faster, thus the positive feedback cycle.
I will quote what's later dubbed as Matthew effect from the Bible to officially end the VT series:
For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
——Matthew 25:29, RSV
But do you want to be given more in the first place?