Shot by Yan Jingyang. Edited by Zhou Shengjie. Subtitles by Yang Yang.
Wu Rongjin arrives at school with a photo of the “school full of love” posted on WeChat before 6:30 am and leaves after 10 pm with another image posted of the “long and long corridor of love”.
Yan Jingyang / SHINE
She greets students at the school door each morning, posts photos of them during the day, and says goodbye to them each afternoon.
It is a typical working day for the principal of Luwan No. 1 Central Primary School in Huangpu District, Shanghai. She knows nearly every one of the more than 1,000 students at her school and keeps her phone on 24 hours a day all year round, ready to answer parents’ calls immediately.
She is called “Cloud Mother” or “Cloud Principal” because she is an advocate of digital technologies in education. And now she has a new title – “Role Model of the Times,” an honor from the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.
A teacher of love
Wu, 47, became a Chinese teacher in 1994, but is now best known for her dedication to emotional education, which she has practiced in school for about 17 years.
It all started in 2004, when the school discovered that many students had difficulty expressing themselves. They didn’t want to say, or didn’t know how to say. Some were indifferent, impulsive and selfish, and were cold in the face of difficulties and setbacks.
The principal at the time, Cheng Hua, decided to start a course to promote the emotional development of the students, and Wu, the young teacher, took the initiative to start the pilot program.
“There were no existing models and we had to learn by doing,” she said. “It wasn’t just about teaching doctrines, but about guiding students in communicating, caring for others, facing challenges, adjusting to society, and living happy lives.”
Previously, the course was a short 15-minute lecture at noon, but now it is a formal course to address all kinds of issues that arise among students, such as anxiety before exams and conflict with students. classmates.
One thing that remains in Wu’s memory is the day a girl told her she was sad because she picked up 90 missed balls in a table tennis class while her classmates were still flying the ball. playing with it.
Wu later learned that her classmates teased her and called her “Lion King” because she had unkempt hair.
So, she talked about the importance of friendship and mutual support and encouraged the other students to shake hands with the girl. But the situation did not improve.
Then, one day after lunch, Wu brought a comb and colorful hairpins to the class and neatly braided her hair in front of the whole class. After that, the children changed their attitude towards the girl.
“You can only change them when you show them that you really love the girl,” she said.
Another impressive lesson came after a girl died from an illness. The empty desk and chair puzzled and scared the students.
Wu did not shy away from the subject of the death, but shared a story that the girl’s mother told him. After her death, the mother found a small box under her bed, in which there was a piece of paper where the daughter had written: “Mom, I love you. I will be fine in the future.
Wu and the students repeatedly read an essay titled “Rains and Leaves” written by the young girl.
“I wanted them to know that life is precious and that we have to cherish each person around us,” she said.
This year, the school admitted a student with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive disease of the nervous system that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. The school discussed with the family in advance what help they needed and made a tailor-made class schedule for the boy.
“This is not the first time that our school has admitted students with physical problems,” Wu said. “We don’t want to let any child be left behind. The school also benefits. We can teach other students. how to give care and love to those in need and the smiles and tenacity of sick children can also show other students how to stay optimistic in life. “
Every year, Wu would write a card for each graduate with her contact details and words like: come to “Cloud Mother” whenever you have any problems.
Graduates come back frequently to talk about their confusions and problems. Even the parents of some children who are not students in school are finding out about her exceptional skills in dealing with children’s emotional issues and turning to her for help.
“This is part of the reason why I stay at school so late every day,” Wu said. “Some people may say my family must be miserable because I spend so much time in school. .I have a lovely family with my husband and parents who support me all the time.
“My husband would come to school to accompany me after work and we would walk home hand in hand, just like we were dating. I always encourage parents to continue dating as a loving family. can feed a loving child. “
Yan Jingyang / SHINE
A team of volunteers
In Wu’s school, there is a team of volunteers with members averaging 10.2 years old to guide visitors to the former site of the Chinese Communist Party’s First National Congress, which is about 15 minutes away. walk from school.
Wu said she found that the students did not fully understand the explanations of the adult guides and was looking for a solution to help them have better experiences in museums.
Yang Yu, director of the advertising and education department of the former site of the CCP’s First National Congress, also discovered the same problem when she gave a speech at the school.
“They didn’t seem to grasp the historical context and asked me about minor details that I had never thought of, such as why there was no woman at the meeting,” he said. she declared.
The school and the memorial then cooperated to launch a program in 2006 to train student volunteers to explain the history and the exhibits. Now, they have developed a series of simple yet vivid congress stories and put them into not only Chinese, but also English, Shanghai dialect, comics, and Kuaiban (tap speech).
“It would be a tragedy if young children did not know the history of our country,” Wu said. “But education prior to history may not be very interesting for children. So we developed the team of volunteers to encourage students to do more research on history and turn them into interesting stories that they can tell to others in the language of their generation. Throughout the process, they can discover interesting things in the story and understand it better, and then help their peers understand. “
Over the past 16 years, more than 1,000 students have participated in the team.
The team has now been invited to other museums in the city, such as the former residences of Sun Yat-sen and Zhou Enlai.
Yan Jingyang / SHINE
A set of cloud classes
As “Cloud Mother”, Wu led the school to develop a set of digital lessons, ranging from regular lessons to reading, cooking, sports and exhibition to better understand student learning and develop individualized education plans.
For example, when students use a pen and electronic notepad for homework, their behaviors, including how long they stop at a question, can be recorded for analysis.
Two students can achieve the same scores in a test, but one can be distracted at the beginning and rush at the end while the other can do it regularly, Wu said. These two students need different instructions in their studies. further studies and the first student could be set up with sports lessons such as shooting to improve focus, she said.
Meanwhile, the school also has a “Cloud Kitchen” for teaching students to cook, “Cloud Watches” for monitoring student health cues such as heart rate and fatigue during physical exercise and “Cloud Exhibition” to show student creations, among other digital applications.
“Any use of technology must be aimed at helping to improve the effectiveness of education and the growth of children,” she said. “The technologies used in our school help us understand the strengths, gaps and interests of students and provide us with references to develop individualized education plans for them.”
The school’s smart education system attracted Apple CEO Tim Cook to visit its campus and share the experience at a conference.
With her success in education and school management, Wu has been tasked with helping to improve the quality of education in the Shanghai suburbs and remote areas, including the provinces of Qinghai, Guizhou, Shaanxi, Sichuan and Yunnan, as well as cities like Chongqing.
She has provided online training to over 10,000 principals and helped rebuild Tianma Mountain Central Primary School in Dujiangyan, Sichuan Province after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. helped saw their students progress in their studies.
She was also appointed principal of an elementary school in Jiading District for three years and made it a popular school among local families.
Wu said that no matter how busy she was, she would manage to stand at the school door in the morning greeting her students, saying, “I love children and I love to teach.”