Teacher Zhang Sheng has a new routine for his bedtime ritual — instead of reading a book, he corrects students’ homework with his smartphone.
Zhang has been a math teacher for nine years at a high school in Hohhot, capital of north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. His students are preparing for the college entrance examination scheduled in June.
For each homework, instead of giving scores, he will correct mistakes and leave a comment plus an emoji. “This has doubled my workload, but if it makes my students happy, I will do it,” said Zhang.
Amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, many Chinese schools have postponed the beginning of the new semester over safety concerns. To ensure that millions of students will be occupied with guided study at home, many schools have opted for online courses.
A desk and a laptop are all Zhang needs to teach classes via live-streaming or recording for his students. Without face-to-face interaction, the new teaching style is a challenge for both Zhang and his students.
“I try to imagine that I’m facing my students in the classroom instead of a camera at home, which helps me feel relaxed,” Zhang said.
At the very beginning, students could not watch live streaming lessons due to the busy website visits or poor network signal. “I try to talk slowly or record videos in advance for them to learn better,” said Zhang.
“The videos are very helpful. I can re-watch parts I don’t understand,” said Wang Qingshi, a student.
“No passion, no teaching,” Zhang said. “Teaching is a process of exploration. My knowledge, thoughts and teaching style should also be constantly updated.”
A podium and a “digital classroom” are not the only places where Zhang imparted knowledge to his students. He opened a public account on China’s popular social media platform WeChat in September 2017.
Most of his 325 posts are related to students — their campus life, essays and class meetings, as well as his individual reflection on teaching.
In his first post, he wrote: “we teachers not only impart knowledge to students but dedicate ourselves to enlightening them to discover and know themselves.”
In another post “Function and high school,” he wrote: “study is like a function, if you strive for a goal, under the right conditions you will get there no matter how windy the path is.”
“Writing allows me to observe and reflect,” Zhang said while reading one post about the snowy scenes of his school. “The photos remind you to slow down your life pace and reminisce about the past, no matter good or bad.”
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, a post has circulated on China’s social media, highlighting the fact that this year’s Chinese high school seniors are a special generation as they were born in 2003 when the deadly SARS epidemic hit China and they will take the college entrance exam in 2020 when COVID-19 spread across the country.
“This kind of atmosphere depressed me a lot at first,” said student Zhao Haixuan. “But it was not long before I realized that in such an ‘isolated’ environment of less social contact and entertainment, I can better focus on my studies.”
“The outbreak has put my students under a lot of pressure. I hope they don’t complain about adversity and that they take the chance to think about the future they want to have,” said Zhang. Enditem