In 1997, I was transferred to Roncheng Radio and Television University(RTVU) when the RTVU system was commissioned by the State Personnel Bureau to carry out vigorous training for computer application ability level tests and was in urgent need of manpower. On the day of registration, the president of the university said that we needed a new force of graduates so from then onwards, we would arrange a daytime class and a nighttime class.
At that time my child was just over two years old. My husband had to start staying at home with our child. When I got home, it was usually10.30pm. My husband was worried about my safety, as he could not leave the child to come and meet me. He couldn't help shouting at me, "Why do you keep teaching until midnight? I'm going to talk to your president. It’s no big deal for you to quit your job and stay home. I will support the family." I looked at him and said,“Can you afford it?”At that time, his salary was around RMB 200-300, which was barely enough to support a family of three. I comforted him by saying that a colleague accompanied me all the way home. In fact, this was a gentle lie. At ten in the night, I rode my bicycle home through the deserted streets.
Later, I became a full-time tutor for the 1999 junior college full-time computer programming class and thus came into contact with real college students. Thinking of a popular joke in the Internet,"A diploma is like a train ticket. A diploma from Tsinghua University is like a soft sleeper. An undergraduate diploma is like a hard sleeper. A junior college diploma is a hard seat ticket. A diploma from a private school (universities run by private institutions are usually regarded as inferior in China) is a standing ticket. With an adult education diploma, one will have to crowd around the toilets. However, when the train arrives at the station and everyone gets off to find a job, they discover that the bosses are not too concerned about how you arrive. What they care about is what you can do, and looking at these youngsters who were admitted to this full-time RTVU adult education class due to their failure in the college entrance examination, I really wanted to laugh, but I held back.
Later, I had to admit that the students were really quite good guys. They were smart, sensible, elegant, and polite. As a class tutor, I basically did not need to worry about their daily management. Most of these students were very motivated. One girl, Xiaoyu,lived in poor family conditions and her parents were divorced. The family was not able to pay her tuition fees in the last year.The university agreed to delay her payment and she earned her living expenses by helping in the school cafeteria. But she still worked hard and her grades were excellent, plus she had a very cheerful and sunny personality. Before graduation, the president gathered the class tutors from the graduating classes and gave instructions not to grant certificates of graduation for those who had failed to pay tuition fees and held them until the tuition was paid. I understood the difficulties the president was facing. The president had to be responsible for the college’s finances. But in reality, who would be willing to employ a fresh graduate without a diploma? The certificate provided by the university was not admitted by many employers. Not to mention,these students needed to get a diploma and find a job more quickly than other students in order to support themselves.
Later, the Academic Affairs Office handed the graduation certificates for all students to me. I thought long and hard before I finally decided to give the graduation certificate to the girl anyway. I told her to take it in case she needed it. If the university started an investigation, I asked her to immediately return it to me and to commit to paying back the fees in the future. The girl was greatly moved and accepted my offer. Later the president investigated this issue, but he merely criticized me and did not look into it. Fortunately, the girl did not disappoint me. After graduation, she found a job at a periodical office in Weihai. Afterwards, due to her good computer and English abilities, she became an agent handling affairs for students studying abroad. She was able to prepare beautiful written statements, and lead the students for written examinations and interviews in foreign countries. She also earned a lot of money so within a year she had paid off the tuition. A few years later she bought a flat for her mother in the city. She is now married and has a child.
A boy with the surname Fu was a student in the junior college programme computer class in 2001. Slim and tall, with a height of nearly 1.9m,he had finely-cut face, with big eyes revealing a hint of nervousness. He was a very clever boy born in the countryside. He was among the top ten students in his high school. However, he was struck with bad luck in the college entrance exams. In the first year of the exams, he was suffering with diarrhea, which affected his performance. He decided to take a review class for another year. However, shortly before the second year of exams, he fell off his bicycle and fractured his arm. Although he was reluctantly allowed into the examination rooms, his results were unsatisfying. In the third year, on the night before the exam, he fell down from the upper level of a bunk bed and one of his hands was injured again. Finally, he managed to get a score just high enough to enter a full-time class in the university. I thought this could be related to some problems with his psychological quality so I offered him counseling. I raised more questions and assigned him more learning tasks. Before graduation, he took the spring college entrance examinations to upgrade from a junior college student to an undergraduate programme student. He was successfully admitted to an undergraduate programme in the province and after graduation he entered a large company in Weifang city.
For the 2001 computer class graduation project, some students used VB,some used VFP,and some others used HTML and related languages to complete the web design. In our university there were two classes, with a total of around 60-70 students. Basically they did the work in the computer room and the tutors would come and offer instructions when they had no classes. There was only one tutor for every 6-7 students, however due to my easy-going personality and patience, and since I was the general director of the graduation design for the graduates that year, everytime I came to the computer room, the students would ask me a lot of questions, or let me help with debugging. After a semester, I established a deep friendship with the students. Even a long time after graduation, the students would often call me about technical problems they encountered during their work.
In 2006, I was in a car accident and had to stay in hospital for more than a month. They heard about my accident and a dozen of them came over to visit me. They had to take a two-hour bus from Weihai city to Rongcheng just to see me. It was a snowy day and when I first saw them, my first reaction was to blame them. How dangerous it was for them to come here on a snowy day. If anything bad happened, how would we face the consequences? However,deep in my heart I felt very happy, especially as these were students who were the ones who would have had to “crowd around the toilets” on the train to employment. Yet what society really values is what they are capable of. They lived up to my expectations. They used their knowledge and settled down in the world. Seeing them full of confidence and high spirits, I felt happy for them.
When I finished writing my story about being a tutor, I took a second look. In actual fact, the story is not really that related to teaching. However, I believe that teaching is not only about the impartment of knowledge. There are many other things that run through complete process of teaching, such as kindness and humanism. This is why General Secretary Xi Jinping has proposed that teachers should possess four qualities: "ideals and beliefs, a moral character, solid knowledge, and benevolence". I dare say that all the tutors in this university, all of the tutors in the provincial RTVU system that I knew about, and all of the experts and professors from the China Central Radio and Television University, all adhere to the concept of“Everything is for the students and their all-round development”. In open education, a major method of adult education, we are teaching, guiding, supervising,and providing the best learning resources and best support services for the students and trainees. I hope that our society will not underestimate the students who are temporarily regarded as those who have to huddle in the toilets, and those adult students who voluntarily squeeze inside to accept online learning, networked education, and open education, because they are truly outstanding. More importantly, as knowledge updates at an increasingly rapid pace, there is also a need for on-the-job adults to return to school to recharge their skills. Open education and life-long education is gaining more and more attention and becoming an increasingly common practice. What I want to say is, we should remove the tinted spectacles that we use to view open education, which will not only benefit the development of open education itself, but will also benefit the adults who participate in it.
(This article won second Prize in OUC“My Teaching Stories”essay competition)
By Sun Jing, ShandongRongcheng RTVU