Shengliver’s Note: This trip was taken in the winter of 2006-2007.


Last week, I went on a trip to YHSN3 (Yunxi High School No. 3), together with 14 colleagues of mine.




This trip was part of the “School A Helps School B” scheme organised by the Municipal Education Bureau. The scheme stipulates that School A, an urban one, should aid School B, a country one. Our school and YHSN3 are a pair under the arrangement. Each semester a couple of teachers from my school go and teach in YHSN3. Apart from that, somewhere during the semester, some teachers are chosen to go and give a demo lesson in YHSN3 and to have discussions with the teachers there on any issue of educational interest. My trip was the second that my school had ever organised.




We started off Thursday afternoon by coach. I took my laptop and my briefcase along. It was quite some time since I had gone on a long journey, so I was a bit excited. This trip was a record-breaking one for me, for I had never visited that part of our area. The landscape here is rugged, for we live where two great mountain ranges cross – the Qinling Mountain Range and the Daba Mountain Range. Though I was familiar with the typical topography, I still longed to go to those unexplored terrains of my city. And this trip would give me an opportunity to do so.

 trip to yhsn3

We passed Yunxian, Dayan, Qingqu and Hejia on the way to the town of Yunxi, which is the seat of the Yunxi County government. I noticed the expressway linking Wuhan and Xi’an being constructed along the route we travelled. In a few years I will be able to travel to Xi’an safe and fast. What a fantastic idea!


The bus stopped over at Qingqu for one of my colleagues has his home village there. In fact his parents’ home is just by the roadside. He paid his parents his respects and said hello to his friends and neighbours there. The nicest thing was that we went to his family’s veg lot, pulled some radishes out of the soil and ate them raw, enjoying the sweetness and juiciness.


It was already dark by the time we arrived at the County Education Bureau. We stayed the night there.




After a rich breakfast at the County Education Bureau, we hit the road again. It is about 25 minutes’ bus ride from the county town to YHSN3, which is located at a smaller town called Guanyin.


I got there just in time for the second period of the morning. Upon arriving I started preparing for the demo lesson. I found the classroom and connected my laptop with the huge television set in the classroom. Everything went on well. The image on the screen was clear and the audio was on, too.


I did two things in the lesson. First of all I gave an introduction to myself in simple English. My first greetings of “Good morning” fell on deaf ears. No response came from either the students or the teachers. I tried the greetings once again and a number of bolder students responded with a weak “G’ morning”.


My introduction was done spontaneously. I spoke from my mind, loud and clear. Gradually I found the students were catching on, for they started to respond to my general questions with “Yes” or “No”.


The introduction lasted about 10 minutes, at the end of which I checked the students’ understanding with questions like, “Where was I born and when?” and “When did I start teaching?” Well they had followed me very well.


The next part was focused on helping them with the writing question in the NMET (National Matriculation English Test). I presented a writing question, the guidelines checking teachers follow and some pieces done by my students. By following the steps, the students saw clearly how to write properly in an exam and how to improve and polish their work.




I had a free talk with the English teachers of the school in their office after the lesson. Their feedback was positive. Some said that my handwriting was cool and clear. Some commented that the method was refreshing because they had never tried it before. All of them highlighted my speaking skills, saying attending my session was very enjoyable.


I tried to solicit some criticism from them but none offered any. Of course I was treated as kind of a guest and instructor, but I knew myself well. I was aware what could have been done in a different way.


The exchange of views was free and conducted in a cordial manner. I told them about the English speaking programme I initiated in my office and they were impressed. I wished they would give the idea a go themselves.


I remarked at the end that probably the native speakers would never imagine their English language being taught and learnt in such a remote corner of China.




The last meal on the trip was had at the school. Though the school was not financially strong, we were treated to a full-course Chinese banquet, with first-class beverages. I am not a drinker, but I really enjoyed the dishes and as usual felt guilty about such wasteful eating and drinking. The food was all the more delicious in that the school has firsthand access to produce on the local market. It is a country school, and probably the vegetables were picked from the garden just before we came.




We followed another route on the way back instead of retracing the way we came. I saw a few new small towns on the way – Jianchi, Jiangjunhe, Hujiaying and Huanglong. A large part of the journey was along the River Hanjiang. This should be the upper reaches of the river. A blue ribbon was flowing through the vales. Indeed here the river was clear and free of any industrial pollution. And some fishermen were working on the stream.




The school, YHSN3, located on a hillside, with a towering mountain in the background, and a creek going by in front, enjoys a very good position.


The school is located completely in the country, with farmers’ cottages scattered about and wheat fields stretching all along the creek.


The conditions there are much worse than those in my school. The student population is too large while the school area too small. The students do not have a proper canteen. They eat their meals in the open. When it rains, they do under a shed.


The lavatory was horrible. It was the traditional Chinese lavatory, no flushing.


I found the teachers respectable. Though working under such conditions, they stayed in good spirits. I expressed my admiration for the work they did. In one small room with poor lighting, ten teachers work. No walking space in the room, no air conditioning, but with an electric water dispenser. Outside the office was the street of the small town. People walked to and fro on the street. Noise from the street, if any, was heard in the office.


The biggest surprise on the trip was that I met one of my college buddies, whom I had not heard a bit from for 15 years or so. Both of us were overjoyed.


Given the condition of the school, probably it would be a good idea for the school to turn vocational. The majority of students in the school come from poor families. A preparatory education might send some of them up to a college, more often than not, an inferior one, but more problems will arise after the students are enrolled in college. Could their families afford the tuition fees? Could they land a satisfying job after college?


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