Just before the summer, Viori heard about the local school being in need of an additional teacher, but lacked the funding to pay for the salary.
The existing current teacher, Mr Yu, taught all the kids by himself and was heavily overstretched. Viori reached out to the local education department saying it was willing to sponsor the salary of any teacher who could help Teacher Yu out. Coming from Longsheng, Xiao Pan happily applied for the position, and is now back in her hometown teaching at the local school.
Having worked at the school for 2 months now, Viori sat down with her for a casual chat about her personal life, new job, longsheng's development and more. Hope you like it!
INTERVIEW WITH XIAOPAN:
VIORI: Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Hi I'm Xiaopan, originally from Longsheng, but due to better work opportunities in the city, I've spent most of my professional life outside of Longsheng. Before this position I worked at a school in the city of Nanjing. I had been engaged in early childhood education for over a decade. I really like my job as being with kids makes me feel happy and carefree.
VIORI: How did you hear about this opportunity? What made you interested in the job?
I heard about it through the school head, teacher Yu. It seemed really appealing to me as I've always been interested in moving back to my hometown where I can be close to family again. The job opportunity in the city is nice, but if I can have a job in the place where my family and friends live this is better of course. It’s much easier for me to take care of the family, especially my kids.
VIORI: How has the experience been so far?
So far it's been really good. I like working with the children and taking some of the pressure off teacher Yu's shoulders.
It's also been challenging at times, which is often related to how kids are raised here. Grandparents take care of the children, but since they haven't received any formal education and are often busy with chores, they have no ability to educate their grandchildren. This often leads to children forming some bad habits, but also lacking the attention they need.
I therefore try to treat all the kids like my own, so that they hopefully feel the warmth and love they deserve.
VIORI: Have you noticed any differences between your job in the city and teaching in Longsheng?
XP: There's a big difference. Like I just mentioned, the kids in the countryside are considered 'left behind children'. This means that their parents have left the house and live often far away in the city and only come back once or twice a year. This results in the grandparents taking care of the children. Although this has some advantages in terms of cultural transmission, it's mostly far from ideal. Grandparents are busy with house - and farm-work, and therefore often don't have the physical and intellectual capabilities to fully support the kid in their developmental needs. This isn't just a problem in Longsheng. It's seen across China's entire countryside.
I'm seeing this firsthand with my own eyes. Some kids clearly lack the warmth and attention that parents can provide. There has been one kid which really stands out in this regard. Every time when she came to school she didn't want to participate in anything and was very difficult to deal with. The only thing she wanted was for me to hug her, which I've been doing consistently for a while now. By giving her the warmth that she needed from her parents, she's slowly getting better and has been playing with other kids more. This really has been a very touching experience.
VIORI: They are very lucky to have you around!
XP: I'm grateful for having given this opportunity.
VIORI: Do you have any thoughts on how this problem of 'left behind children' can be addressed better?
XP: The government is aware of this issue and is trying to address it. Still I think more should be done. Apart from creating more economic opportunity in the areas so that families can stick together, schools on the ground should also get more support so that the teachers are less overstretched and can work better on creating a professional and caring educational environment for the children. Before I came, the head teacher had to do everything himself: cooking, cleaning, and teaching 2-3 different classes. This is why we're so grateful for the support Viori is providing.
VIORI: Thank you for taking on this important role. We're glad to be able to support the local education.
VIORI: Could you share a little about what kind of teacher you are? How would you describe your teaching style?
XP: I see myself as someone who is loving, patient and has a sense of responsibility, which I think are all important characteristics to have as a teacher.
I try to love all the kids, spend time understanding their family situation and always try to get better at the work I do. I see this job as something that is constantly in flux. Every day I notice some new opportunity to teach kids something new. At this stage I'm mostly teaching them about how to avoid any dangerous situation and how to simply have fun together.
VIORI: What contribution do you hope to make towards the future of these kids?
XP: I hope to teach them how to be responsible for themselves; how to respect certain rules and not cause any trouble towards others. I hope they realize that in order to have a future with more opportunities, they needs to work hard and steadfast, as I believe that in today's society, knowledge is very important for creating such new opportunities.
For the children that don't easily, or don't enjoy, acquiring knowledge, I'd like for them to learn how to be a friendly and caring person that can benefit society.
In the end, their future is up to them to create. There's only so much I can go about it. To my best ability though, I will help them cultivate these good skills, and do my best to accompany these left-behind children in order to make them feel loved and supported.
VIORI: Thank you for sitting down with us and for everything you do for the children and teacher Yu. We look forward hearing about more ways in which we can support the school!