According to the Tao Te Ching, written by ancient philosopher Laozi, teaching is like spring rain, which moistens everything silently. This is a kind of wisdom, a kind of pursuit, and a kind of state of being.
The wisdom, pursuit, and state of teaching are difficult to describe, seeming invisible and silent, yet there are traces to follow. In teaching practice,each ordinary yet extraordinary incident records the experiences of a teacher emerging from confusion; demonstrates the wisdom of a teacher who addressed a problem intelligently; or presents selfless enthusiasm or compassion for teaching.
Today, fickleness and luxuries prevail in the city, and the pursuit of money and material gain dominate people's so-called values; people are faced with various temptations. Considering this, many people think that the RTVUs’ teaching philosophy (to serve as a ladder for ordinary people to progress, champion educational equality, and refuel individuals on their life’s journey) is a flower of hypocrisy, mawkishly vulnerable. But in my opinion, enhancing and outgrowing one's previous way of thinking, spirit, morality, and mind is the most beautiful blooming flower, growing from the silt yet not imbrued. Even if it blossoms during only one season, it is the most beautiful scene in a whole lifetime- that suffices!
I recall it was a Sunday in the spring of 2010. We went to the computer room early, preparing to teach the Entrance Guide to Open Education, a foundational course for all future courses. In class, the tutor utilized computers and a few platforms to explain and demonstrate to students how to log in to a computer to study, post topics and communicate with tutors via the online platform, register with the China Central Radio and Television University (CCRTVU) assessment system, do homework online, and so on. That day, I had a class of undergraduate finance majors of the Class of 2010. The students sat in front of the computer, full of great anticipation. I carefully checked the class roster, finding Yuan Quanyue hadn't arrived on time. I wondered why she had not come. I learned that she lived and worked in Beijing. I had communicated with her on the phone beforehand and she had said a friend of hers would come to class and take notes for her. But neither she nor her friend showed up... After the other students were off to a solid start, I called her once more. Both she and her friend were busy, unable to come at this time. Students variously told me, "You do not have to worry about it. You have notified her and she didn't come. Let it go. Let's get started." Another said, "Yeah, who knows when her friend might come." One student advised, "She missed such an important class, without taking leave of absence. You don't have to worry about her..” I sought to be constructive, "Be quiet. Who would like to record the class and send the contents to students in other cities?” Which one student replied, "You are so considerate. She herself did not care about it ..." Indeed! At this time, there was a voice in my heart murmuring, "It really is none of my business- I've notified her and she has decided not to come.” As the saying goes, ‘You can never wake a person who pretended sleeping.' I thought, “She did not pay attention to such an important class, so what can you do about it? She was unwilling to come. Would she like to listen to the recording? It’s useless to do this for her!" I did not have much time to think about it. The questions raised by the students, as well as the tutor's vivid lecture, pulled me back to the classroom. The students attending the class all scored about 90 points on the CCRTVU formative assessment. They came out of the classroom delighted. The class was over, and the other students had received good marks, but her score was a zero. I was so disappointed.
As she lived in Beijing, our most effective means of communication was via telephone. I couldn't see her expression, and could only judge her attitude and objective regarding learning by the sound and tone of her voice. I called her again, "Yuan Quanyue, I knew that you were in Beijing, but your friend did not come. Class attendance accounts for part of your grade, you know. If you did not attend this course, how did you do the online homework? I have sent the instructions on how to study and do the homework online via QQ (a messaging app). I hope you read and study them carefully. Contact me if you have any questions." Perhaps I called too many times, or maybe she really did not value her school work, but she responded "I just missed a class. It is not a big deal. I have to spend several hundred yuan on a trip to the school. I'd rather spend some money and ask someone else to do it, okay?" I couldn't bear listening to her words anymore, saying, "I'm sorry. You think about your words first and let's talk about it later."
My family beside me heard the exchange and asked, "What are you pursuing all day long? Taking great pains to do your job and receiving only a meagre salary and little sympathy, but having so much to worry about- what do you work for? You are only made upset with yourself. I really don't know why you persist in it." I knew my family cared about me; their rough words were filled with reason and care. I thought to myself, "Yes, what I did is for the sake of what?!" It was almost half past nine when I came home from work every evening. Although I didn't have to work in the morning, I stayed in the office the entire morning in case anything happened with the class. What was I working so hard for? Sometimes, I had just fallen asleep when the phone rang. It was 11:50 pm, and I would still pick up the phone and explain problems asked by the students. I did understand that it is difficult for students to manage the time conflict between their work and learning. Still, for what purpose was all of my work? During the weekend, friends would go out with their families, but I often spent my weekend teaching...
Why? Do I really have to give up?
I happened to read a book about teaching. A paragraph in it enlightened me. It stated, “teaching is like spring rain, which moistens everything silently.” This is a kind of wisdom, a kind of pursuit, a kind of state of being. The wisdom, pursuit, and state of teaching are difficult to describe, seeming invisible and silent, but actually there is a path to follow. Teaching is a science, but also an art of love. We not only need to step forward, but also need to look back. Teaching is a process of precipitation and also sublimation. Isn't that what "great music has the faintest notes, great form is beyond shape" means? Great achievement has profound influence, while great tolerance can often forgive everything on the earth.
I was suddenly enlightened. What I did was not for nothing, but a kind of pursuit and state of being.
A few days later, I received a call from Yuan who said, "I'm sorry, I know what I said that day went too far. But I really just want to get a diploma." I responded, "I'm also sorry for my words and mood that day." She said, "It is not easy for me to attend the on-site class. In addition to the expensive trip, I will also lose part of my salary if I take a leave and I don't earn much." Indeed, I should have put myself in their position and thought for them. Although the high-speed train has shortened travel time, the round trip still costs students about RMB300. It is not cheap for them, and indeed increased their economic burden. "Yuan Quanyue, we are now in the 21st century, and we can leverage the Internet in open education. With QQ and remote PC assistance, we can study in a flexible way, right?" After that, we agreed to conduct one-to-one teaching through remote PC assistance and QQ video after work every 10 o'clock in the evening. When she learned that she earned 98 points in the CCRTVU's formative assessment examination for the Entrance Guide for Open Education course, we exchanged a deep smile. It was the first time I had seen her smile that semester.
I am deeply grateful to my students. The RTVU system covers the entire country, but students from all over still choose Shanxi RTVU. This is their trust and confidence in us. Albert Einstein said, "studying knowledge needs thinking again and again, which is a learning method helping me become a scientist". This also applies to our tutors. When students encounter learning difficulties, first of all, we should try to resolve the problem, rather than skimp on the work. We should treat them with great love and tolerance.
Since then, Yuan Quanyue and I continued to communicate with each other over the phone. She handed in homework by post and I informed her of test times in advance. Finally, she earned a Bachelor's degree in Economics issued by the University of International Business and Economics. Upon receiving the certificate, she said to me, "Ms. Li, thank you!" These simple words meant so much to me.
In the past nine years, I have grown a lot with the RTVU. I sometimes hesitated with my work and was at a loss. But I began to think more about how to deal with different students using different approaches. The past nine years, and moving forward, has witnessed and will witness my dedication to working with RTVU students. They are my song, my happy note. Although the occasional tune played is emotional, most are happy and moving! They helped me make great progress both in work and life. It was because of them that I gradually grew to love my job and enjoy my role. It was through them that I found pleasure in my small work with dull numbers and forms, granting me renewed passion for my work. These things are like movie clips, lingering in my mind. I'm proud of our RTVU students, and I am willing to devote myself to our students because I'm passionate about the RTVU. I am a member of the RTVU, and I would like to be the soul of the RTVU!
(This article won second prize in OUC "My Teaching Story" essay competition)
By Li Min, Attached College of Shanxi RTVU