Second-grade students from Kangding Middle School in Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province listen to a teacher from Chengdu No. 7 Middle School via the remote network. (Photo by Chen Haining)
It is 9:30 in the morning in Linyin Campus of Chengdu No. 7 Middle School. The class of Class 14, Grade 2 has just finished an English class. Some students are grabbing a cup of coffee to refresh themselves, while others are communicating with their teachers in English. The classroom walls are covered with English handwritten newspapers. This issue is about Harry Potter, and the last row is left for the students who are studying abroad.
At 9:35, the Chinese class begins. Chinese teacher Li Li (not her real name) put on a water drop microphone and said hello to students at the far end. Wang Liu, a student, came to the stage to share his appreciation of poetry — “To Pei Di” by Wang Wei. In a humorous way, she tells the story of Wang Wei and Pei Di becoming friends and living together in a villa in Wangchuan. The content of the formal class is Lin Daiyu into Jia Fu, how to interpret the public to see Daiyu, the students understand the seventh place, the teacher asked questions randomly, the students answer questions will consciously open the microphone on the table, in order to let the distant students hear.
This is an “ordinary” front-end online class in Chengdu No. 7 Middle School. There is an electronic screen on the blackboard to play the courseware. Behind the screen, more than 100,000 remote teachers and students are learning simultaneously.
This screen has and is changing the course of many children’s lives.
Turn left from moziqiao subway station, you will find linyin campus of chengdu seven middle school. Here the vegetation coverage rate is very high, spring can enjoy cherry summer can see fish, autumn see ginkgo winter smell wintersweet, everywhere scenery. The century-old school sends 70 or 80 students to Tsinghua and Peking universities every year, and the students of No. 7 Middle School are regarded as “excellent students” throughout the southwest region.
Nineteen years ago, a series of satellite signals started from here and were transmitted to classrooms in remote and ethnic minority areas. No. 7 Middle School regularly broadcast its original classroom teaching to remote schools in areas with poor education and ethnic minority areas. The teaching mode of “four simultaneous” and “four in one” has persisted till now. Full-time distance teaching has reshaped the education ecology of remote schools.
At first, this teaching method, which was later widely praised, was not welcomed.
Usually the teaching task is not light, and then to study how to grind classroom teaching more conducive to the spread of distant, many seven teachers on this model at the beginning of wait-and-see attitude.
Someone has to go first. Cao Yang, a math teacher who was then the deputy head of the mathematics teaching and research group, was among the first to do so.
There is no prior experience to refer to, no template, how to prepare the network class how to speak, Cao Yang can only “feel the stones across the river”.
For a veteran teacher who has been on the job since 1984, it takes Cao only 40 minutes to prepare a lesson on a normal day. But the night before his first live-streamed math class, he spent four hours preparing for it. “I worked almost all night on PowerPoint.” Later, this PPT, after several revisions and upgrades, has become the No. 7 mathematics teaching and research group teaching network class “unique secret”.
The second day formal class, Cao Yangke found that the four corners of the classroom are installed on the camera, he needs to wear a microphone in class, this teaching style “free” Cao Yangke is still a little nervous. After the whole class, from greeting students at the remote end to asking questions at the remote end, each teaching link became more standardized, and the first live class was dismissed smoothly.
In the first math exam, Cao learned that the average score of the distant students was only 40 to 50, and the scores of some students declined compared with those before the live class, and some students had the idea of abandoning school. When communicating with remote teachers, Cao Yang can give them encouragement and adjust the difficulty, pace and frequency of teaching. Three years adhere to come down, several far end students took an examination of Tsinghua University, the front of Cao teacher also used a few bad keyboard.
Leading a live broadcast class is like “starting a second business”, with teachers spending “almost all their time except sleeping”. There was the teacher pursuing a master’s degree who thought “you have to grow up faster than the students.” Some teachers broke through job burnout and found a long-lost passion for teaching… Of course, stress and accomplishment go hand in hand.
For the first time, the remote students in the online class felt “crushed” most strongly in English class. Many students in ethnic minority areas felt a little difficult to learn Chinese class, and the English class taught in English in No.7 Middle School was even like listening to a book.
In the English class of No. 7 Middle School, students are exposed to a large number of extracurricular materials such as current politics news and TED (technology, entertainment, design) speeches, and only in the third year of high school do they focus on problem-solving ability training.
English teacher Xie Chaofu has led three live-streaming classes. He is good at leading his students to read 21st Century. “At the beginning of my online class, the most difficult class was English class, and the most advanced class was English class, which is also the most suitable subject for live broadcasting. If I persist for a month or two, by the second half of the semester, most distant students will have adapted to it. Even when I tell jokes about British and American culture, students can understand where the punch line is.” Xie Chaofu said.
“Like a star, many students asked me for my autograph,” Xie said, recalling the first time he visited a remote school.
Replaced or irreplaceable?
On the roof of the building of Kangding Middle School in Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, stand five “large POTS”, which are satellite devices used by the school at different times to receive teaching resources donated by state and local government departments, institutions or enterprises. Only one of the five cauldrons still has lights on, while the other four are “dormant.”
Cheng Yuanyou, an English teacher, often looks at these “cauldron” and thinks: since the 21st century, China has delivered high-quality educational resources to remote and ethnic minority areas. When the equipment arrives, how can high-quality resources be delivered sustainably?
In September 2002, Kangding Middle School entered the “era of live teaching” as one of the first remote schools to offer full-time telecast teaching. At the very beginning, teachers felt “a blank” for this mode. In terms of hardware, school equipment and software, many teachers, including network class teachers, did not know enough, school leaders did not pay enough attention to the network class, and no one supervised the network class.
When Cheng Yuanyou took over the live class, Kangding Middle School is facing a serious “crisis of trust”, teachers have doubts, parents do not understand, students are very panic.
Many remote teachers fall into self-doubt: “I have become a teaching assistant in the eyes of students who can only teach exercises”, “I have become a tool person in the eyes of colleagues who can” open the computer and start class “…
Cheng decided to give it a try himself.
In addition to the routine teaching tasks, Cheng Yuanyou was also responsible for the logistics support of the online class, such as printing the materials for class in advance and solving the problem of poor signal. He climbed up to clean up the “cauldron” on the roof of the school, which was covered with snow in winter. Every day before the live broadcast class, he opened the live broadcast software to test whether the signal was unblocked. He did everything by himself.
When he became an English teacher, he adjusted a set of methods to catch up with the teaching progress of No.7 Middle School.
“There’s only one secret: multiply your effort.” Cheng Yuanyou said.
Kangding middle school every day for 25 minutes of morning study time, English and Chinese cross-reading. There will be 20 minutes of English listening practice from 13:00 to 13:20 every day. Every afternoon, there is one more lesson than in Chengdu No. 7 Middle School. Political Geography History is reduced from the original two lessons to one lesson.
“The front-end teacher said, ‘Take out your tablets,’ and we said, ‘Take out your notebooks,'” Cheng said. Thousands of miles apart, the same painstaking meditation, the same painstaking writing.
The success of full-time distance teaching mode depends 80% on remote teachers.
“The moment of becoming a remote co-teacher is destined to change the identity of a remote teacher: from the speaker of knowledge to the participant and helper of students’ learning, to become the mentor of students’ growth.” Cheng Yuanyou said.
In the past 19 years, the live broadcast classes of Kangding Middle School have grown from one high school class to 19, and the number of students entering the undergraduate program has increased from less than 100 more than a decade ago to 539 in 2018. Mao Xin, a 2012 high school online student, became the first ever student from Garze Prefecture to be admitted to Tsinghua University.
Seven years to cultivate excellent teachers
Distant synchronous education brings the dawn of educational fairness to students, and the light also covers the distant teachers.
In October 2018, Zhang Yu, an English teacher from Luding Middle School, and Xie Chaofu, an English teacher from Chengdu No. 7 Middle School, presented on the same stage in the Sichuan High School English Classroom Demonstration Competition hosted by Sichuan Academy of Education Sciences. Finally, they both won the first prize in Sichuan Province. They also have another identity, one is a remote teacher is a front-end teacher, “net friends” with the same stage.
How many years does it take to train a good teacher? The most creative period for a teacher is between seven and twenty-five years, and full-time telecasting reduces this period to seven years.
Zhang Yu, an English teacher at Luding Middle School, spent seven years from her first job in 2011 until 2018, when she shared the award with Xie Chaofu.
Zhang Yu’s relationship with live teaching began when she was a student.
In 2003, Zhang Yu, a senior high school student, was very curious when she heard that a live-streaming class had opened next door, where she could follow teachers from Chengdu No. 7 High School. As the students of parallel class, in addition to not seeing the screen, they can also enjoy the treatment of live class, the same courseware, the same teacher, parallel class is in a sense the remote teacher’s “practice field”, the innovation of teaching methods learned in the network class, after digestion and absorption, put into practice in parallel class.
After graduating from college, Zhang joined Luding Middle School as a remote English teacher.
Compared with distant schools, Chengdu No. 7 Middle School has a high starting point, a high difficulty, a fast pace, and a lot of content. Many distant students have a strong sense of inadaptability when they take classes for the first time, and the state of “too difficult” and “confused” can be seen everywhere.
Some students even spent three years in high school adjusting to being constantly crushed. Many students described the pace of class in No. 7 as “autistic”. Just a term, one after another exercise book, one after another test paper oncoming, in class, the knowledge points swarmed, so that the far end of the students “no resistance”.
After a long period of observation on students’ class behavior, Zhang Yu became a microexpression catcher. She knew which microexpressions the students understood, did not understand, and did not seem to understand. The key points of after-class review were also delineated in these microexpressions.
Zhang Yu not only guides students to prepare and review, like Cheng Yuanyou, but also pays special attention to the accumulation of British and American cultural materials, which is inspired by the front-end teachers of Chengdu No. 7 Middle School. “For example, before talking about the US election, I would collect some background materials to help students prepare for the topic.” Over time, Zhang’s students gradually gained a broader perspective in their English learning.
At the beginning of each semester, the remote teachers will receive a semester plan from the teachers of No. 7 Middle School, which is the essence of the long-term “grinding class” of the teaching and research group of No. 7 Middle School. It is specific to the content of each class every day. When many remote teachers saw this plan, their first reaction was “not strong in operation”. However, they did not expect that after following the plan for a semester, the subject they taught could even become the dominant subject of the whole grade. Reasonable arrangement of classroom content, accurate grasp of classroom knowledge, expansion of extra-curricular knowledge and high quality test questions all reflect the front-end teacher’s professional quality.
Zhang Yu’s rapid growth is the result of her long-term adherence to “following the class” seriously. “As a net class teacher, every time you find the teacher in the seven new things, can not help but fear, had to force themselves can not stop learning.” Alyson says.
Cloud mentoring system
Sichuan is a large inland province with many ethnic groups. The education foundation in ethnic minority areas is weak and the development is relatively backward. Before the government implemented the “two-foundation” policy in the western region, more than 90% of the counties in ethnic minority areas in Sichuan had not yet made nine-year compulsory education universal.
It is urgent to improve the structure and quality of teachers in minority areas, especially the serious shortage of English teachers.
The full-time remote live teaching mode in No. 7 Middle School makes the former remote teachers form a learning community. “Cloud Mentoring System” not only shortening the growth cycle of remote teachers, but also endowing them with hematopoietic ability.
2002 ~ 2019, accumulative total more than 50000 person-times distal teachers with chengdu 7 became the “mentoring” relations, stability of the three years of full-time remote live teaching of “double division” of collaborative teaching “pairing with post training” can achieve “from tacit knowledge to tacit knowledge” process, make cooperative members of the school teachers gradually realized that the department of outstanding teachers “tacit knowledge”, and internalization, develop their own personalized “tacit knowledge”.
Information technology amplifies the “wisdom circle” of teachers in the front section, and the more far-reaching influence brought by teachers in the front section to teachers in the far section lies in the change of vision, philosophy and attitude of educators.
“Full-time distance learning is essentially a supply-side structural reform of education,” says Jeff Zhang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Education Sciences. This kind of supply-side structural reform breaks the original natural distribution of the wisdom resources of excellent teachers in China and is equivalent to a revolutionary redistribution of the wisdom of excellent teachers.”
In addition to bringing fundamental changes to teachers, full-time telecast has reshaped campus culture.
Chengdu No. 7 Middle School and remote schools held “three minutes before class sharing” and “ten minutes between classes” simultaneously, and also jointly held theme activities and recreational and sports activities. Under the influence of the culture of No. 7 Middle School, Distant School carried out various clubs and competitions, and many distant students participated for the first time, reshaping their values and emotional world.
Yuan Zhenguo, deputy director of the Office of the National Education System Reform Leading Group, put forward the concept of “hidden educational inequities” in 2016. “In addition to explicit educational inequities, there are also a large number of hidden educational inequities, which are not regulated by the system, documented, invisible or even unconscious…”
Gender discrimination, discrimination against underachievers and other phenomena show that differences in school management may produce a wider range of inequality.
Yi Guodong, principal of No. 7 Middle School, introduced that the output and internalization of advanced management culture is a process of “breaking” and “establishing”. Once the full-time distance teaching mode is implemented, it will break the original school management mode, the same schedule, the same classroom teaching, the same exam… In the same way, it is required to integrate the educational behaviors of remote schools and synchronize them with Chengdu No. 7 Middle School. For remote schools, they have to go through the pain of reform in the early stage, and the management culture and educational behaviors of the school need to be rebuilt, so as to finally form the “education chain” between front-end schools and remote schools and eliminate the hidden unfairness of education.
Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, famously asked, “Who knows where genius will emerge?” Genius may be hidden in the rich plains of Chengdu, in the villages of the Tibetan Plateau, in the barren soils of the Daliang Mountains, or in the vast mountains of the Qinba Mountains.
Rather than “change destiny” screen, the screen is more like a window, let the students of countless, remote areas and poor areas through the window, see the world outside the classroom more broad, the possibility of life is how rich, their potential originally so deep, spurred him to forward them to a higher, more distant ideal, encouraging them to bravely breakthrough yourself, unlimited life.