Out here, the sky is wide, the land is big and the interstate seems to stretch on forever. It’s easy to feel alone in the fight to close the achievement gap. In fact, around my third month of teaching last year, I was feeling sort of alone in general. I had fallen into an unofficial depression over teaching as characterized by my continuous crying, loss of appetite, and growing pile of un-graded papers.
Luckily, it was around this time that I received a mass e-mail from a former journalism acquaintance. She was promoting a new international nonprofit that one of her friends was volunteering for: Rural China Education Foundation. This group works to better the education of children in rural China so that they receive a well-rounded education that is applicable in every day life, not simply on school examinations. While much of the traditional curriculum in China revolves around test-taking, RCEF aims to complement it by encouraging students to develop their own interests, problem solving skills and community involvement.
Immediately I was intrigued. Sure, I’m Chinese- (and Taiwanese-American), I’m into education, and I work in a pretty rural place. But more importantly, reading up on RCEF’s mission was a knock in the head that other educators worldwide sometimes face far more dramatic issues in the classrooms. As cheesy as it sounds, it reminded me that so many of us around the world are linked together by the shared mission of educating children. It made me feel less alone. My teaching slump had made me self-centered and overly focused on my own struggles in the classroom. Reading about the work of this budding nonprofit forced me to step back and refocus my perspective on the world.
RCEF channels its mission through a variety of programs, including a 3-week volunteer teaching program in rural Chinese villages, the Native Soil Education Project, the Weekend Education Project, and Rural Education Innovation Grants.
I spent my first year not volunteering much, dedicating most of my time to my own classroom. But I still kept up with the group’s growth and influence from afar. This year, I was determined to contribute. I help develop the curriculum for the Web-based Volunteer Teacher prep program, and assist in coordinating the online Volunteer Teacher training.
And now for the real point of this entry: I am looking for teachers who have taught in China, particularly rural parts of China, who could offer anecdotes or teaching advice to the new Volunteer Teachers. All of the volunteers are motivated and dedicated to RCEF’s mission, but many do not have an official education background. As I help develop a basic teacher prep curriculum, I find that the best way to teach how to teach is to hear how people how taught in the past. If you are willing to answer a few questions about your teaching experience feel free to leave a blog comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The opinions expressed in On the Reservation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.