Headmistress shows her class through leading by example
Realizing that patriotism education had to be tweaked to become more engaging for children, Wu Rongjin, a primary school teacher in Shanghai, took it upon herself to evoke change.
For her efforts, Wu was honored as a Role Model of the Times by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on Sept 16 for her patriotism and dedication to work.
Wu's efforts started in 2004 when she began working as the headmistress of the Shanghai Huangpu District Luwan No 1 Central Primary School. After noticing that her students were largely uninterested during an excursion to Party sites, where staff shared facts and stories about the country's history, she set out to survey the children, asking them their thoughts about the experience.
Most of the students said they could barely understand the narration provided by the guides, which explained why they were inattentive during the trip.
To solve this issue, Wu established a team composed of 15 pupils which, in 2006, started providing narration of the Party and country's history to visitors at the Memorial of the Site of the First National Congress of the CPC in Shanghai.
"The children got to learn about the Party's history better by understanding and memorizing the narration and by sharing it with tourists, especially the youngsters, through the use of relatable language and expressions," says Wu, noting that the children wrote the narration script themselves.
According to Yang Yu, head of the publicity and education department of the memorial, that was the first time children had created a narration script for a patriotism education base in the city.
Over the years, the narration performed at the site of the First CPC National Congress has become part of the syllabus for pupils at the Shanghai school. All students have to learn how to narrate in Mandarin, English and the local dialect. Outstanding students are drafted into the official narration team.
The youthful narration team has evidently been a hit, often drawing applause from visitors to the memorial, especially the elderly. "The eyes of elderly tourists often glitter when these students narrate. I believe that they see in these children a hope for the future and that the red spirit is being passed down from generation to generation," says Yang.
Wu's contributions to society also extend to the care of her students.
For more than a decade, her school has been holding weekly sessions, during which students get to share their feelings about recent events and issues in their lives, while teachers offer them help to deal with emotional challenges.
To Wu, the school should not simply be a place of education, but also one of love. She leads by example in this respect, personally greeting the students at the school gate almost every morning.
She also makes it a point to walk the premises three times a day, covering all five levels of the building to check on the students and take notes about those who look disinterested in class.
Her dedication has even led to personal sacrifices. According to He Chunqiu, a teacher at the school, Wu once stopped drinking coffee for around 400 days in a bid to help a student quit a bad habit.
"Wu made a commitment to the student that they would quit what they were addicted to at the same time. The child was very much encouraged and finally gave up that bad habit," says He.
Most recently, teachers visited the home of a new student who struggles with spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic disorder that affects muscle control, before the start of the new semester on Sept 1. During the visit, they inquired about what the school could provide to make life easier for the wheelchair-bound child, and Wu promptly made the necessary preparations.
"This is not just about showing love to the child. I also see this as an opportunity to educate our staff and student community about the importance of caring for others," she says.