The goal of the Rural China Education Foundation is to promote innovative, community-based curriculum taught through student-centered methods for rural Chinese children. To achieve this goal, RCEF has supported for many years a group of dedicated rural teachers who grew up in the rural areas themselves and are intimately familiar with the unique challenges of rural students. The teachers currently teach in primary schools and community centers in Shanxi Province, reaching children in all grades. In these schools, they teach three types of classes: Storytelling Class (绘本阅读课), Mental Health Class (心理健康课）and Project-Based Learning Class (综合实践活动). After school hours, the teachers also conduct parent workshops and professional development sessions for local kindergarten teachers. Here, we present updates of the teachers' work from 2022.
Newsletter Winter 2022
Registration of local NGO
In the fall, the Yongji teachers successfully obtained registration as a nonprofit organization under the Civil Affairs Bureau. They are thrilled and are in the process of applying for funding from domestic foundations. Above is a photo of the teachers in their office, which is located on the grounds of the former Guan Ai School.
The teachers provided regular training for village kindergarten teachers on how to design reading classes that nurture children’s empathy, independent thinking, and self-expression. They conducted a survey to understand the teachers’ learning needs at the beginning of the year and designed their training accordingly, observing the kindergarten teachers’ lessons, providing timely feedback, and sharing picture book recommendations with the teachers.
They helped the teachers to understand the cognitive development of children aged 3 to 6 and how to teach storytelling class and supplementary arts and crafts activities based on children’s developmental milestones. The kindergarten teachers learned how to use rubrics to evaluate and observe each other’s classes and learned to read stories in more engaging and interactive ways, paying attention to children’s reactions, relating stories to children’s daily experience, understanding children’s age differences, and designing classes accordingly.
Teacher Wang leading other kindergarten teachers observing a teacher giving a storytelling class.
Mental Health and Life Skills Classes
The teachers taught classes to promote positive mental health to 200 third-grade students. They touched on themes such as “Understanding Emotions”, “Understanding Myself”, and “Making Friends”. Upon finishing the classes, in the evaluation, students were found to be less stressed and more capable of recognizing their own emotions.
The teachers also taught life skills classes to 160 fourth grade students. Catalyzed by a recent drowning accident of several young boys in the nearby Yellow River, the teachers wanted to facilitate the students to reflect on the value of life as well as how to protect themselves in various everyday activities.
Teacher Geng Ping teaching storytelling class.
Parenting Education: Reading Corners & Coaching
Recognizing that the quality of parenting and the home environment are crucial to students’ development, the teachers decided to launch two new programs to directly influence and support parents’ growth and understanding of their children.
n the first program, they taught a pilot group of village families how to set up “Home Reading Corners”: a quiet space in the house devoted to books where parents and children could build up a habit of reading with each other. The program provided new bookshelves and books to take home, and the parents and children put the bookshelves together and designed the space.
Parents attended regular workshops led by the teachers in which they learned basic child development knowledge and discussed techniques for reading aloud and improving parent-child communication. The teachers arranged for all the families to visit each other’s homes to give encouragement and get inspiration from each other’s reading corners.
The second program involved in-depth coaching of families who were struggling with specific challenges in parenting. The program provided regular group sessions to discuss recognizing and managing “emotions, family relationships, and parent-child communication problems. The lessons were grounded in the context of each family’s unique challenges and the parents felt that the pilot was very useful and valuable.
The teachers also organized outings for the families to hike in nearby mountains and visit local attractions. Parents were extremely grateful for these parent-child bonding activities and built stronger relationships of trust and mutual learning between the various families and the teachers.
The teachers saw how influencing parents is a sustainable and effective strategy for their work going forward and will continue to develop this model in 2023.