Airline worker wins her wings as teacher at remote school

2019-10-29 China Daily Editor:Mo Hong'e

Students throw model planes with a volunteer teacher from Air China in Zhaoping county, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, last year. (Photo Provided to China Daily)

Chen Xiao held a bag stuffed with textbooks and homework high as she waded through knee-high muddy water to her school in a remote mountain village in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

It had only been a month since the 26-year-old ground-staff member of Air China had volunteered as an English teacher in Jiangkou village - a five-hour drive from Guilin.

Torrential rains had flooded the narrow road to the school, and her parents - concerned both by news reports about the bad weather and her new job far from her Chongqing home - had asked Chen to stay in touch.

"My parents were so worried about me that they insisted on having a video call with me every day to make sure I was all right," she said. "But not a single student skipped class due to the horrible weather, which made me more determined about my choice to come here."

Chen began her semester of volunteer work teaching English at the school in May, under Air China's corporate social responsibility program.

She had always wanted to teach in the countryside, and joined a volunteer association at the Civil Aviation University of China in Tianjin while she was a student. But she was unable to realize her dream of teaching.

"When I heard the company was offering opportunities to teach in Guangxi, I signed up without any hesitation," said Chen, who was then working at the flight check-in counter.

It took eight hours to get to Jiangkou village traveling by plane, bus and on foot, and Chen vividly remembers her first impressions of the school. To her surprise, there were no dilapidated buildings or broken tables and chairs, as she had imagined. Sliding blackboards, ping-pong tables and a basketball court made it seem far from poor.

"The only, and most important, problem was the lack of teachers," she said. "There were no English teachers. And children there could barely recite the 26 letters of the alphabet, let alone conduct simple conversations like kids of their age in the cities."

Chen wasn't welcomed by the students in the first two weeks and they showed little interest in their English studies. They didn't hand in their homework and chatted during class. Chen has always been supported by her family, some of whom are teachers, and they put their heads together to come up with solutions.

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