Hua Sha (’11 Fellow, Fudan University) is currently a second year Fellow in Shantou, Guangdong. She was invited to share her reflections about her work and students at Teach For China’s 2nd annual Gala in Hong Kong on Saturday November 3rd, 2012. Her class tested above average for the first time in the school’s history. Below is a portion of what she shared with the audience that evening.
My name is Hua Sha. I graduated from Fudan University, and I am a Teach For China Fellow at Dazhai School in Shantou, Guangdong. When I first arrived at Dazhai, I saw nearly 70 students squeezed into tiny desks and benches in every classroom. I saw students sweating through their clothes because of the humid weather, I saw students running barefoot in the playground.
Most of my students’ parents are laborers and work more than 10 hours every day. They expect their kids to drop out of school and earn extra income for the family as soon as possible. Even though there are laws against child labor, over 50 percent of the girls in my class leave school every day to work in factories with appalling conditions for 2-5 hours to make extra money. The girls had never been encouraged to dream anything bigger than factory workers. Dazhai School has had the lowest scores in the county for over 10 years. But I told my students that I was confident we would reach our goal as long as we worked incredibly hard and believed in our ability to achieve.
I realized that to get my students excited about their work, we had to set strong goals. We had posters and bar graphs in the classroom of our trip towards the big goal, and every one of my students drew their own progress charts after each test. Day after day, I saw the changes in my students: they would loudly and proudly call our class motto “Never give up.” They would share stories in front of the class how they achieved a goal by believing in themselves and making efforts. My student 李泽玲 was not sure if she could continue school because she had 9 brothers and sisters in the family to support, and her grades were below the average. After several individual talks, she set a goal of 15 points progress for herself, and in fact increased her score by 20 points. I will never forget that during my home visit, 李泽玲 told her mother with a smile that because of her hard work she would definitely get into high school in the future. I was proud of her academic achievement, but more importantly, I was proud that she believed in herself.
Simply discovering their dreams was an impressive step for my students. But it was their academic progress that proved to me and to themselves that those dreams were possible. On their final exam, my class scored first in the school, and tested above-average in our county. This was the first time in school history that had ever happened. I knew my students were getting into 8th grade with a belief that they could achieve, and continue achieving. One of my students, Zheng Xinxin, wrote to her pen pal saying that, her English teacher has completely changed her view of learning in school. She now believes that even a girl, who was once at the bottom of her class, can achieve great things.
I am one Fellow at one school. This year, we have nearly 220 Fellows across Yunnan and Guangdong, reaching nearly 33,000 students. We believe in our students, and tonight, we invite you to believe with us.