The purest eyes

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What is volunteer teaching?

A long time ago, I seemed to long for going volunteer teaching. I picture volunteer teaching as going to a place deep inside the mountain, where the kids may often face the bare ground, but when they look up, you see the purest things in their eyes. Once I thought, volunteer teaching is going with your heart beating, and come back with starry memories, decorated with kids’ pure eyes and laughters. Thus, in the application form, I added one line, ” The best reward will be the purity in kids’ eyes.”

As expected, this volunteer teaching, I saw the purest eyes I’d always remember.

Our team was the most popular one among the five volunteer teaching teams. Among 400 applicants, only 32 volunteer teachers got selected. It wins a lot of awards every year, because of the careful planning, and experienced leaders and meticulously selected team members.

After four months of planning, weekly teaching practice and lesson design, we set out, to the town 2000 km away, Meitan.

Meitan is beautiful. It is located in Guizhou, which has third lowest literacy rate in China, apart from Qinghai and Tibet. Its education is still under-developed. What they lack the most is human resources – good teachers who are willing to go deep into the mountains to teach. Take English (subject I taught) as an example, as their teachers often have strong accent, many students’ oral English were very poor, and were often unwilling to open their mouth and speak. “Be prepared to hear some Guizhou English”, said one kid. This greatly compromised purpose of learning language – to communicate.

In the beginning, as these 400 students were not in their original classes with old classmates, bonding was important. We designed outdoor Outward Bound activities, to help them get to know each other in their newly formed classes, as well as their new teachers (us).

Ice-breaking outward bound activities

During the day time, we usually teach our domain subjects to our specialty, largely corresponding to the subjects of their college-entrance exams, including English, Math, Chinese, history, physics, biology, chemistry, physics, P.E. and music.

In my teaching, I focused on passing on English literacy knowledge in a non-traditional way. Majored in English language and literature, I know how captivating the beauty of language can be, especially in poem translation and literature. I wanted to evoke their interest in English (which was what led me a long way in my own language learning), through these beautiful language materials and learn English in an artistic way. As an example, I showed them different versions of translation for the same poems, let them see how different it could be, let them translate poem themselves.

14 days were short, but I wanted to help build up their confidence in oral English. I taught them lyrics line by line and practiced till the whole class was able to sing one of my favorite, powerful English song – <21 Guns> by Green Day. This is one of my proudest thing, because it was really touching to see kids who used to be timid in speaking English sing the song together.

We want to make this summer camp special for them, in addition to the 8 courses of domain knowledge they take, everyday (usually in the evening), we designed a different 2-hour STEAM activity, to practice their problem-solving skills, creativity and higher-order skills.

One of the most exciting activity, also was the first time we attempted this, was the basketball game. Girls in my class were at first reluctant to sign up, and only 1 signed up initially. We gave them some encouragement to try new things and told them the results don’t matter at all, and to our surprised 9 signed up at the end of that day.

I saw one girl looking sleepy when in class, and learned that it was because they were practicing for basketball after class and were tired. From that night I decided to practice with the students. Every sport has its risk, some of the teachers sprained their ankles, but I hated most to see students get hurt. Luckily no students were hurt badly except from scratches. They were all happy after the game.

Most students here does not have any education on psychology. Since our university (BNU) has the best psychology department in the country, we didn’t miss the chance of introducing students the charm of psychology. Who knows, this may open up a door for them and one may actually choose psychology as a major when it comes to the time.

One psychology experiment: With their eyes closed, students are asked to imagine their left hand hold very heavy steel, and right hand hold very light feather.
And then open their eyes—— ha!

On Broadway Drama Night, we encouraged students go creative with acting drama. One acted Titanic, another did Zootopia, most were hilarious (no matter if they intend them to be or not). During a singing evening, students were so smart to use flashlight and water bottle as the glowing stick that always accompany a real pop-singer concert.

Though it’s only two weeks, the density of what we experienced together build up strong bonds between students and us. We tried our best in making a memorable closing ceremony, (sing song with students, even danced!) Students couldn’t help themselves but crowded on the stage to hug teachers. Many shed tears.

So what is my volunteer teaching?

14 days of being together day and night, 4 months’ preparation, 400 kids, 35 people’s team, 1 goal, a team that is knitted beyond comparison, memories unforgettable for life.

For Chinese version of this blog (slightly different), see 湄潭求高的日子

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Moments in my college life

Beijing Normal University, near the library

I spent most of my college days reading literature, teaching English as a second language in various occasions and building bridges to cross-cultural communication (usually between international students and local, Chinese BNU students).

I had chance building bridges between international students and local students

I love for language, thus joined the English Association one month after starting college. I was in charge of organizing weekly English Corner activities, which include designing activities, discussion topics, disseminating materials and setting up stages. We invited both international students coming from all over the world (Japan, Canada, Russia, Columbia, England and U.S.A. etc), who were studying at BNU at that time, as well as Chinese students. Chinese students were motivated to practice English and make new friends, and international students were also happy to feel connected and included. Every Sunday night 8-10 p.m. we gather at Muduo to share about different culture according to the prompts prepared, (but usually conversation just flowed), even in freezing winter wind or summer heat.

I enjoy teaching kids English

In my senior year, I interned at one of the best high school in China, Beijing 101 high school as a English teacher. Teaching students in 101 high school was far too different from teaching kids in Meitan, Guizhou where I did volunteer teaching. When I was in Guizhou, every kids have high respect for you as a knowledgeable teacher. But here in 101, since every kid comes enjoy much better family situation and more privileged educational resources, they don’t necessarily obey what teachers said. English is by no means unfamiliar to them, they can be deemed as being brought up in an international culture. It can be hard to get them to listen to you, especially as a young intern teacher who would only stay there temporarily.

So my first class was actually very noisy, what make matters worse, that was the day when students’ mid-term grades came out, so many students were checking their phones for their grades instead of listening to me.

It can be frustrating, but it is also a lesson that new teachers need to learn -how to build your authority. (I don’t like to talk about the word “building authority”, because from my experience interacting with many world-famous scholars later on, sometimes the more knowledgeable they are, the more humble and approachable they seem to be.)

Yet it can also be important. So, building authority does not mean appear to know everything, and definitely not obfuscating right and wrong, e.g. in time when students challenge you. I think building teachers’ authority may be better expressed as building professionalism. Professionalism expresses that you have high standard for yourself, which implicitly tell them that you have high expectation for them. We should admit our own limitation, though we should minimize that limitation.

As an intern teacher, besides teaching English, we also help organized and planned their STEAM outreach – agriculture learning, when students go to the farm and experienced “learning by doing”. For example, they observe how cows were milked, how tofu was made, how grains were harvested, etc.

I got to help some kids in need

Being member of the White Dove Volunteer Association, I provided English literacy assistance to students in Dandelion School in the winter of my freshman year. It is the first school in Beijing especially for children of migrant workers.

Although this school is in Beijing, it is located at the very edge of Beijing. We need to take several different buses and it takes 2 hour to get there. This is a school for children coming from low-income community. The students here usually come from family of migrant workers – who though work in Beijing, have no steady registered residency of Beijing. It’s almost impossible for students from these families to have any extra money to afford tutors, but many of them have very weak foundation in English, and limited teacher-resource, thus we volunteered to help out those who need further assistance to keep up with their study.

They don’t have enough classrooms for tutoring, so we sat around tables in their gymnasium. Usually I teach 6-7 kids at a same time, so I liked to engaged them to learn collaboratively. For example, since I believe in the importance of oral English and learning language as a tool to communicate, I sometimes assigned each of them to read 1-2 sentences of a passage one after another, to keep them focused and on pace, without feeling overly self-conscious about making mistakes. I also often set up small, friendly language game or competition within the group to engage them, but usually give all students some small gifts I brought (e.g. snacks).

AngelHome is another place where I volunteered with other members of Shiying Welfare Society in the BNU. AngelHome is a Children charity organization where that for children born with physical disability (e.g. Down’s syndrome ). Their biological parents were either unable or unwilling to look after them anymore. So these children are orphans who depended on the charity of the society and volunteers to live, get medical surgery or become adopted. I haven’t see children with disability before volunteering there, and was first at a loss seeing a room full of children, who are more delicate and vulnerable than normal ones, because they each may has a different kind of disability. Some can move normally, some cannot even sit or stand properly. They are too young to realize their situations, but luckily they are brought here and are taken care of. It’s hard to imagine the many others who do not have this privilege even. Any contribution counts, if possible, donation volunteer or adoption are welcome through the link above, to help more children. Many children were able to grow as healthy kids after medical surgery.

I read literature and participated in activities

Another big part constituting my college life is literature reading. From British to American to Japanese literature, from Enlightment to Beat’s generation, from <Beowulf> to <The Chrysanthemum and the Sword>, to <My Country and my People>, from Shakespeare to Shelley and Wordsworth. Reading literature makes me peaceful, and I never regretted majoring in English Language and Literature in my college, even though it has its limitation. I initially chose it because of the love for language, and it never let me down. Maybe choosing a different major would endow me with more skills in a particular domain, but I never regretted this time spent reading and thinking critically. They made me more clear on who I am and what I want, and nurtured my soul to be stronger in the long run.

Beijing and my university gives me the stage to practice myself through many competition and events, including Future Educators -Teaching Competition, Dubbing Competition, Star of Outlook English Talent competition, National English Writing Competition. What make me especially memorable is the last one, among more than 1000 submitted essays, I was selected as one of the two students, representing BNU to compete in province level, and won a second prize.

It’s hard to summarize a college life. But I am grateful that my college endowed me with chance to engage in volunteer work, contribute my effort to make the society a bit better by helping the kids and students in need, and empowered me with the knowledge and ability to think critically, which goes a long way in my growth.

Advising Students – Tips for the future self

I want to jog down some things that may be worth a try when I have students to advise, maybe in the far, far future, when I become a professor.

  • I will let them give me at least three pieces of advise every month, in how they want to see me or the lab to change or improve on. This can be how I can better advise them (advising style, e.g. should I give them more ownership to the projects, or more/or less guidance); this can be about research direction, do they think I should pay more attention to a particular area or domain of research; do they have any suggestions in general on how to improve their life & work here. Reason for this is I think students don’t get to openly express this to their advisors a lot, and if it is going to five years, it is kind of important Ph.D. in a way is a working environment too.It is important to create this open pathways for communication in working environment in general.

To a Ph.D. student, the most important person in their work is probably their advisors. Students are equally important to professors too. I might tell the students, I may or may not be able to make changes in any promised amount of time. But no matter if these changes are made, it is better to get these feelings out because I am interested in hearing what you care about.

  • I will want to make sure that people in the same lab have frequent time to meet each other, create such opportunities that they can talk about communicate with each other. Seminar is a good way where people come in and pitch ideas on research. I heard in DELTA lab they set aside 1-2 hours every week so people can do pair work – (whoever need help or want to help on research, e.g. pilot study, giving feedback on writing pieces). Academic life and Ph.D. journey can get lonely, your cohort get you through a lot of this difficulty. Sometimes, even just being in the same common space, even if you don’t talk, you will feel less alone.

Leading a research project for the first time – what I learned from my advisors

A long time ago, Hu Shi (1891-1962), a very respected Chinese scholar said to do academic research we should “make assumptions boldly and prove it carefully”. (大胆假设,小心求证). This is a very famous saying that I have been hearing a lot in various occasions since my childhood, though I never really empathized with this saying, until one day it exemplify itself through near the end of my project, when Vincent spent three hours on Saturday morning to give me careful feedback on the 20-page paper. When reading the feedback and reflecting on recent meetings, I realized the way of research they guided me to do, was “make assumptions boldly and prove it carefully”. And it occurs to me, that in an interesting way, good scholars do research in similar way, regardless of their nationalities, or era for that matter.

I spent around nine months leading my first research project, regardless of the experiment results and paper result (yet to be known), it has really been a very gratifying experience and this all have my caring, intelligent, and experienced collaborators (Vincent, Ken and Joseph) to thank.

I have once heard the saying that, having yet to learn about doing research is better than having learned the wrong way of doing research. Through this my first time of full research cycle, my collaborators all exemplified the most rigor, patience and support, thus no matter what the paper result is, I believe what I have learned through this process is at least a right way to do research.

So now that the paper is submitted, I want to take some time to reflect on what I have learned from this research and from my mentors. Some are not about doing research, but more about being an academic, and these are only my own perceptions and personal reflections, which may or may not fit every situation.

About importance of research questions

Coming up with research questions – 11 weeks.

It took us at least 11 weeks to finalize on what we are doing. These 11 weeks we tested out and discussed about different research ideas, I sketched out different design mock up, the initial ideas were actually very distant from the one we end up doing. It got a little frustrating to me near the end, because I felt I was marching on the same spot. But later I think, it is through this training, that I understood how important it is to ask good research questions, which I also keep in mind here in the new lab.

So the first and foremost thing I learned is the importance of the research questions. I know this is not new, (though I feel it wasn’t stressed enough sometimes). Having a research question guide us all the way through and clear a lot of confusions and help us do research with a stronger purpose. At one meeting, I remember Vincent asked explicitly if our research questions are settled as statements (as there were many iterations before). In his critic of my paper draft, the most commonly seen one is that I should make sure the analysis, discussion,(basically any sections existed in the paper), are linked to research questions. If they are not directly answering the research questions, they need to be “motivated separately” – meaning we need to say explicitly why it is interesting to write about them.

About advising students

Even though it may not be immediately applicable (as I probably wouldn’t have students to advise soon), but I actually learned a lot of tips from my advisors about how to advise students. None of these “tips” or “principles” were explicitly said or advised by them, and may be conscious or unconscious behaviors, but these are just what I believe may be good strategies judging from our interaction.

Be Professional and Approachable

My mentor Ken was finishing his fourth year Ph.D. when he joined the project, even he is somewhat more like a peer and more approachable than professor, I was swept by how knowledgeable and how helpful he was and the professionalism he demonstrated. Though they are all very busy, Ken was always responsive and very positive (always prompt in helping me with questions and replying with meeting availability), and I have never heard him saying about being busy, all that I felt was they are really trying their best to help. I can really feel their good intention, and that whenever they can, they are prioritizing helping others.

The professionalism I am referring to here is not only superficial or external representation of professionalism, but the devotion of your mind and heart into your work, the dedication and deep care for your work and your students, the high standard you always hold for yourself and your work. This is very important, because it conveys silently to your students your expectation of them. This is also very contagious, one of the strongest power I felt for being in CMU – many people themselves are the Andrew Carnegie motto – “My heart is in the work”.

Be Encouraging (especially when students are less experienced)

It can be very important for new students to feel the support and acknowledgement from their advisors. At probably the hardest time (around 2-3 months into the project when I was a bit stuck with the experiment design and research questions), I remember for several times coming out of Vincent’s office, he would always say to me cheerfully, “Okay, we are making progress!”, which was really a relief especially when you have some doubts about the progress and yourself.

Give Students the Ownership

Another big thing I learned from this experience was the importance of having students taking ownership of the project. This can be important in cultivating students’ motivation and research interest, and it’s really tricky because it is a fine line, between holding them by hand (over-scaffolding) and inadequate support, but I think my advisors managed it perfectly. I felt adequately supported and yet also felt the perfect amount of ownership and responsibility for the project.

One example was in a meeting when the four of us was discussing about the framing and practical contribution of the paper, even though they are more experienced in this, as others mentioned their thoughts Vincent suddenly turned to me and asked, “What do you think is the practical contribution of the paper?” I really appreciate this gesture of him to ensure student’s voice get heard do not just nod along others’ opinion on the discussion about important piece. In POL office hour, Vincent also did the similar thing, when my teammate asked him questions continually and explained, he said “yeah I understand, I was trying to take a step back and (let you guys decide).” Ken also similarly said it could be “good practice” for me to come up with analysis plan, and I really appreciate these learning opportunities while we are working.

Letting students running the meeting is perhaps the first step to ensure ownership too. So usually in the beginning of the meeting, they would ask me “What should we talk about in this meeting?” Being the one to make agenda and meeting slides is great because I can more or less control the pace of the meeting and make sure the most important questions get addressed first.

Their advising style is they usually voice many of interesting ideas in the meeting, they tried their best to help when I am stuck or really need help, but most of the time they give students the freedom to make the decisions, and never make any arbitrary decisions for the students without giving them sufficient reasoning. I think this is a very important thing to do when advising students. Because I feel the hardest thing in research for novices is making decisions – big and small ones. If we can’t make decisions by yourself, we can never grow as a researcher. At first I was more worried about making the wrong decisions, but gradually I become much more comfortable in making decisions.

About being an academic

“Here to learn? here to contribute.”

When deciding independent study topics, I attended a small team meeting where there are 3-4 undergrads, Jonathan and Vincent. In the beginning I introduced myself and said I was “here to learn more about what the group is doing”. I remember Vincent saying, “Here to learn? (you are) here to contribute.” I ended up choosing a different topic and did not contribute to that team’s work, but this saying of his stay in my memory for a long time. Ph.D. students are no longer the consumer of knowledge, but producer of it. And I think this saying captured a lot about how my advisors identified their roles in the community too.

For numerous times, I see them contribute just for the purpose of contribute. That’s probably why, at the time of my graduation, when I asked for some “final word of wisdom” from Vincent, he said , ” … I could not think of a better job (than being a professor), though you have to be dedicated.” It wasn’t until later that I realize gradually what this dedication means. It’s easy to be dedicated to things you love, but being an academic is not all about things that you love. This “dedication” may mean even though sometimes you are very tired, or there are tasks/ jobs you don’t particularly want to do at the moment, you would still push yourself to do it, and do it with your heart, because you know others need it.

The first time is very important, and I am very thankful that I get to be mentored by these great people. This very much shaped my perspective of research and being a researcher. The project went on for quite long time, it is because my mentors’ continuous support and encouragement, that keep me going forward and lead to this fulfilling experience.

There is another Chinese idiom – influence and teach by one’s words and deeds (言传身教). This may capture well a lot of what’s written here. Very little of what I learned taught to me in words, but exemplified in what they do in the past 9 months, which speaks much louder than words.

Ph.D. advice repost

[Repost from Quora, think it is a great answer – https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-rules-a-PhD-student-should-impose-on-himself-E-g-not-working-on-Sunday-visit-parents-once-a-month-and-so-on]

My advice is based on the advice I received from my PhD supervisor, my own observations of my behaviour and those of my colleagues, and testing these conclusions by sharing them with others who have been through the process.

  1. Any pressure to overwork is all in your head. Doing a PhD is not, intrinsically that hard. It is a long process aimed at inducting you into the culture and practice of research. At the end of this process, your “exam paper” will be graded by three examiners. There is nothing intrinsically that difficult in this process. By definition, it’s basic-level research! However, most (but not all) students will blow this up into a highly stressful event, and will overwork it. Some other students just take a “by the numbers” approach to their PhD, doing exactly what’s required, and not fretting about it, and getting it done in 40 hours a week.
  2. Overwork is the road to perdition. The ones that get it done in 40 hours a week are the same ones that go on to high-paying jobs in industry, and to top academic positions. Why? Because it requires keeping a calm clear eyes on the goal, focusing your energies, and working efficiently and effectively. These are all required to be a top future producer of quality research papers, or to run a division in a science or tech company.
  3. The PhD is designed to bring out the worst in you. Every education program has two aspects: the so-called explicit curriculum, which is what you see in the course catalogue, and the tacit curriculum—how the education is structured so as to make you fit for a future role in society. In an undergraduate degree, the instructors set the problems, and they know the answers, and they grade you against their knowledge of the answers. This prepares you for a low-grade, managed position in the economy. In a good master’s degree, you work with a professors on problems they are working on: they set the problem, but they don’t know the answers. This sets you up for managerial, professional and technical work, in which your client or senior manager sets you problems to which they don’t know the answers. The PhD amps it up in this way: not only do they not know the answers, but they won’t even tell you what the problem is. And you have toil away for years under these conditions of maximum uncertainty. This sets you up for high levels of industry decision-making, or to be researcher capable of establishing new research programs. But this uncertainty has a tacit role: our natural (and wrong) response to uncertainty, under the mistaken notion that since we don’t know what we’re doing, doing more will increase the chances of getting it right. It plays to this. But that response is exactly wrong. Overcome that response, and you’ve passed the tacit test.

Therefore, I’m worried about advice which implies that you are working to the max during your PhD, and have to be reminded to call your mother or take a day off. Because if you need to do this just for a complicated academic exam, you will drown in the real world.

In short:

Whatever the explicit content of your PhD, its social function is to teach you to work autonomously under high levels of uncertainty. If you respond by working insane hours for years on end, you are failing. The PhD is not that complicated a task, and if your response is to max out, you simply don’t have what it takes to be a high performer in the more complex situations that follow.

So if you find yourself working and stressing excessively, take the cue and use your PhD process to change your approach, and learn to do it in a relaxed and comfortable way.

If you don’t believe me: read the accounts of Einstein during the years in which he developed the three papers of 1906, or Feynman’s accounts of his time at university. Look at photographs of them at the time. They were both having lots of social activity, and they were having fun.

Now you may think “because they were geniuses”. But I suggest: it’s the other way around. They were able to do ingenious work because they didn’t work too hard, and had a lot of fun.

That’s your indicator that you’re doing it right.

NAACL-HLT 2019 Reflection

This is the first academic conference in NLP that I have attended and presented on, I have experienced a lot, acquainted some friends, and had a really good experience at Minneapolis.

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I learned more in the NLP area, including the different problems that they are working on. Some novel things I heard include using visual cues to help increase the accuracy of co-reference (HKUST), fairness and bias in nlp and machine learning is a quite, QA, discourse analysis and dialogue system, and combining cognitive modeling with NLP.

Sadly, I notice I have lost all the notes taken at the conference, only left with a few pictures I took at Keynote. They are almost all about gender bias and fairness in ML. So this is not going to be a complete recollection of my reflection and what I learned, but only part of it.


Some Inspiring Pics

This is an interesting picture, showing what words are and should be gender neutral, and what words are okay to be biased toward one gender.

This is a picture signifying that language bias can be caused by difference language, so to say, language itself can cause stereotype, because there seems to be a difference in bias between different languages.

This is when the keynote speaker was confronted with the question that, is the act of studying AAE itself promoting bias(that would be ironic because they are researching to reduce bias in the ml system)? Why should there be a kind of African American English?

The answer he gave was that the distinction is merely in linguistic, without implying any language is inferior or superior than the other.

This is a very refined and interesting experiment, it is not asking people to put words associated with a certain gender to a certain side, but it is measuring the reaction time and using that as a measure of bias.

The experiment is that participants are asked to sort to two sides of the screen boy/girl name, and some other items that are supposed to be gender neutral, (such as addition, books, graph, story). The items are either about math or about story.

The idea is, if people have gender bias, then it would be easier and faster for them to categorize the words that are related to stories to the same side as girl name, and those item words that are related to math to the same side as boy’s name. It seem the result is that people do have a difference in reaction time, and that reflect gender bias.

An interesting experiment, smiling women stereotype. This means those people who smile are more likely to be considered as female.


DISRPT Community

I presented at the DISRPT workshop, for the work of applying rhetorical structure theory to students essays in order to give structural feedback.

The people in the DISRPT community are nice and does great work. Prof. Amir Zeldes does great work along with his two graduate student Siyao Peng and Yang Liu, they devoted a lot of effort in making RST Web a better tool for researchers, and are continually adding features to it yearly. Shujun Wan and Tino developed a tool that can calculate the agreement of RST trees (annotation) between two annotators, making use of the methodology of Iruskieta. That is really useful, because when I annotated with Shiyan, it was very hard for us to calculate agreement, and we had to build consensus after every passage, and never really enter the independent annotating stage. Shujun said to further improve the tool, a GUI is necessary, look forward to seeing that!

After my talk, I talked with Xinhao from ETS, who are doing similar work in applying RST to speech, in order to do automatic scoring. That seem interesting because with the amount of data ETS can get hold of, it is likely that their model can achieve the state of the art accuracy. I am also happy that Mikel Iruskieta expressed interest in the intelligent tutoring system we built, and he is interested in adapting that into Basque and Spanish. It is nice to hear that people are inspired by your work.


Other interesting topics

There are a lot more interesting topics that I got to understand a bit better through NAACL. My mentor at RIT, his research is more related to accessibility, specifically he is researching on how to help deaf workers have meetings with hearing people. The regular automatic translation while they can achieve somewhat high accuracy, there are some mistakes more costly than others, such as the important details (dates, time of a meeting). Ashutosh Adhikari (from U of Waterloo), presented on how the simpler model beating complex models. Wei Yang and Yuqing Xie, they focus on QA topic in NLP. Conversation with these people are very inspiring and eye-opening.

Conference is very rewarding, and look forward to the next time:)

湄潭求高的日子

支教是什么?

很早的以前,似乎就很向往支教的存在,认为支教就是去一个山很青,水很绿,小溪潺潺抑或黄土漫漫,孩子们脸朝黄土背朝天,但是抬起眼睛却是一汪澄澈。曾经,认为支教,就是带着一腔热血和纯净而去,满载一船星辉而归。所以当时在申请表格里的支教设想中,我补了这么一句话,孩子清澈的眼睛就是我们最好的回报。

而这次支教,我如愿以偿,看到了我想看到的,清澈的眼睛。

早在申请支教之际,我便在五个支教队伍中一眼相中了贵州湄潭求高队,大概是对于西南山区神秘的向往吧,我预感它会给我很多不一样的体验。我打开电脑,在3D实景地图中看到了湄潭县,街景普普通通,小县城的样子,墙和街道没那么新,有些斑驳的青苔印迹。但我还是最相中这里,以至于我并没有填写第二个愿意去的支教队,而把这一票,孤注一掷地赌在了湄潭求高支教队。

事实证明,这确实是个赌,而幸运的是,我赢了这场赌。 投递志愿给湄潭求高支教队的,据后来统计,达到了400人次左右,而这其中,只录取了区区32个人,这样高的筛选率,预示了我的小伙伴们,必定都是卓尔不群之辈,事实证明,确实如此。

第一次试讲,引导的朱爽队长,便给我留下了活泼细心,友善积极的第一印象。当时我的演示文稿临时出了问题,她非但没有责怪,而是耐心地提出解决方案,让我回了宿舍重新取了优盘,并且加入了下一组一同试讲。当时我在等候的时候,有一位小姑娘(后来才得知也是支教队里的成员,张邓辉)也在旁边帮忙引导,谈到为什么其它支教队面试都结束了,而贵州队还没有结束时,她骄傲地说:“那是因为贵州队是未教协会的王牌队伍啊”我疑惑,“王牌队伍?”她说:“是啊,每年这个队都会得很多奖的。”当时我虽然还不是支教队一员,却已经开始为它感到骄傲和自豪,并且很期待。

[队长] 加入了支教队后的第一次大会,我正式认识了我们的队长,肖雅文同学,当时我觉得她虽然个子小小的还是我的学妹,却有着不同于同龄人的领导气质和成熟干练。随着后来的接触,我也逐渐发现,她的领导,不是趾高气昂地发号施令,而是洋溢着温暖的微笑,在队伍的最前方,带领着大家前进。当大家出现一些小差错,她会很细心地解决,当出了问题,我能从她的表情看出她真的很着急,可是她不是去苛责别人或者高高挂起,而是心想着如何止损,如何解决。虽然才见了一面,我却心里已经喜欢上了我们的队长,觉得做她手下的队员一定是值得的。事实证明,肖雅文队长可以说是我见过为数不多的特别具有责任心和担当,而且无私奉献的同龄人了,也是我见过,几乎最棒的领导者。

[例会] 认识了大家后就开始了每周的例会,在队长热情澎湃的感染下,会上大家几乎一改玩手机的毛病,非常认真听,积极参与每一项布置的活动,真的让我感到,一个团队团结起来,力量能有多大。每次例会,为了增进大家的了解和感情,体育组都会细心准备几个团建小游戏,这些游戏也让大家逐渐破冰,熟悉了起来。肖雅文队长很注意掌握开会的节奏,语速很快,话说到点子上,并且严肃和活泼相结合,穿插给队员唱生日歌、唱队歌等调动气氛的活动,让我们的例会一点也不枯燥,并且也成功地完成了应该完成的任务。每个人的轮流模课,队歌等的选择,活动的制定,海报视频的宣传制作,都一项项有条不紊地进行着。

[出发]  7月13日终于到了,这天因为要乘早上七点的车,我定了四点的闹钟,而前一天恰好睡得晚,本担心起不来,却没想到还没响闹钟就醒来了,大概也是因为支教的兴奋激动吧。在蒙蒙亮的天色中上了大巴,即将踏上旅程心情非常激动,接着我们一行穿着橙色蓝色队服的人们又集体登上了火车,占领了几乎一整节车厢的卧铺,这种感觉也是前所未有,在火车上我们欢声笑语,玩游戏的聊天的,听歌的打扑克的,欣赏风景的看书的,我们加深了彼此的了解,也为我们的旅途开启了欢乐的开始。

[美丽] 到支教地,我的第一反应是,这个地方也太美了吧。真正的绿水青山,湄潭像个小江南,绿水上有一个巨大的茶壶,象征着这是中国茶城。到了学校,学校的条件和对我们的支持,也让我们惊喜而感动,学校贴心为我们准备了一些生活用具,水卡饭票等,到了晚上,这的天空很黑,能看到很多的星星。

[初遇] 第二天就要见到同学们了,我的心情是特别紧张,我在想我应该以什么样的形象面对他们呢?像老师一样威严的?还是像大姐姐一样亲切的?忐忑中我们35个人站在了400个学生面前,之后三个班主任进班,我之前准备的演示文稿,因为没有电,又没办法用,我们三个人刚进去还有些尴尬,但是发现同学们不管我们说什么都是非常的认真听并且十分配合。让他们搬一下桌椅,很快就搬好了,我们竞选了班委,我发现学生们并不太胆怯,刚好填补了我们需要的所有班委名额,最让我惊讶的是劳动委员,竟然是一个有些调皮的男生竞选的,一上午我们带着他们玩了游戏,中间休息的时候,劳动委员说:“要不要扫地?”我当时心里很想笑,又觉得他们好淳朴,休息的时候本来可以好好休息,竟要扫地。我说,“没事啊,休息吧”男生又补了一句“你看这地多脏”我心里偷笑,还挺爱整洁。

[热情] 下午的破冰活动中,大家都积极参与,本来在操场上,虽然热,可是孩子们也没有怨言,晚上是我们带的第一个活动,数学组的密室逃脱,本来心想这么学术的答题计分活动会不会响应者寥寥,没想到,整个班级像被点燃了一样,非常激动,我当时作为帮他们盖章计分人员,几乎要被汹涌而来拿题目的学生淹没,我坐在一圈桌子围成的空隙里,本来很宽敞,后来这个空隙被热情兴奋的孩子们越挤越小,我都被这群孩子给逗笑了。

[拼搏] 让我印象很深的是篮球赛,这是我们这一届的一个创新活动,要举办这个活动,对老师和学生的要求都是挺高的,很多裁判组的人和计分组的老师(比如我),都几乎天天要在下午4点太阳很辣的时候在毫无荫蔽的操场上晒一个小时,更不用提那些上场打球的学生们了,但他们都很卖力,刚开始我们班女生队只有一个人报名,但后来在我们的鼓舞之下,也报了九个女生,最让我感动的是,她们竟然自发组织每天晚上训练,虽然他们白天上课,晚上活动,一定很累,但是从8:30我们活动结束后,他们还会自发去球场练习篮球到晚上10:30,以至于有一天我去旁听他们体育课的时候,看到有几个女生在旁边昏昏欲睡,才知道是因为他们之前篮球打得太累了。那天晚上,我就决定要和他们一起练篮球,我也要做不是发号施令而是陪伴中间引领前行的老师,于是当天晚上,在8:30结束活动回办公室开完会,虽然已经10点多了,但是我们三个班主任都应约来到操场和同学们打球,其中一个班主任还不小心伤了脚,其实还挺心疼的,我们支教队来的老师中一共有3.4个人都在篮球或其它运动不小心受伤了,但是更心疼的是看到学生受伤的时候。

[心疼] 篮球是一项激烈的运动,有时难免有冲撞和擦伤,在第二场比赛中,我们班由于形势严峻每个人都很拼,特别拼的是我们班长,一个有些胖胖的可爱的女生,她在场上奔跑得特别快,去阻截对方传球,结果不小心摔倒,手腕有些扭伤,后来带她去医务室,我问她怎样,她一直坚强地说:“没得事没得事”,可是眼睛里却疼出了泪水,当时我真的很心疼,第一次听到一个人说那么多遍的没事没事,第一次看到一个女生坚强得这么让人心疼。

[起伏] 到了这才知道,原来当老师,远远不是把课教好那么容易,而是掺杂了几多笑和泪,当我们夏令营正进展得如火如荼,气氛被精心设计的歌手大赛推向了高潮之际,突然我们班级有三个中坚力量(包括一位体委,一位班长)说要退营,当时心里很不是滋味,也很烦扰不舍,他们给的原因很敷衍,而且不是真实原因“虫子太多”“伙食太差”,我们决定了解真实原因。后来经过侧面以及和三个同学的反复沟通和挖掘,我们了解到这原来设计学生之间的友情和懵懂的爱情问题,我们对学生进行了开导,这对我们来说,从来没做过,没有以老师的身份做过,真的很难,但是学生是真诚的,他们心里过不去这个坎儿,只是需要一些温暖的帮助,就把原来坚定要走的坚冰一样的决心,渐渐融化。我发现学生之间是很容易产生误会和矛盾,因为他们小,化解起来也困难,所有有时候采取逃避的方法—退营,尽管他们心里还想待下去,他们不知道如何解决尴尬的矛盾,这时候需要老师有一定的引导方法。

[化解] 后来,我们三个班主任和另一位体育老师讨论了半天如何解决,还临时将数学课改为了班会课,邀请擅长开导的体育老师辅助班会,给大家讲了几点我认为出现了的问题:1. 恋爱与学习的关系 2. 个人与集体的关系3. 学习与未来前途/改变命运的关系 4.补课与参加此夏令营的关系。突发事件的解决是很有挑战性的,当时开班会刚开始我不知怎么表达,有些哽咽,后来体育老师救场,觉得班会过后,学生们对我们想讲的内容也有了新的理解。他们有着自己的看法,你不能扭转,改变泯灭他们之前的想法,但是老师这个职位,真的赋予了你去在他们心中种下一颗种子的机会,这种最为宝贵的,改变别人一生的机会。当天晚上,本来要退营的女生给我发来一段话,“老师,我妈妈说做事不能半途而废,我决定要继续参加夏令营,不好意思,今天因为我们几个人的事让你们烦恼,伤心,对不起,请原谅我们,原谅我们勒不懂事,是我们太自私,想得太简单了。”我们队长知道我们事情解决后,说:“这是心的交流呀。”

[心的联系] 到了这才知道,原来师生之间的情谊,真的是可以让你为了学生们,把自己放在后面。当时班上有一位接近尾声的时候我们的班长和另一位女生中午请假出去,从她们那偷笑的神色我看出她们一定是要给我们准备小惊喜,我装作不知道准了假,没想到她们被门卫拦住,当时大中午我正在吃午饭,她们QQ上找我,虽然想吃完饭再去找她,可是想到学生在门口等着天气也很热,就不忍心,放下筷子我赶到了校门口,回来虽然饭冷了,却觉得很值得。

[偶遇] 还有的感动,就是因为有规定,因为安全原因,我们不能私自和学生出去玩,所以在我们几次出门,一次小吃街,一次七彩部落,我们有几个学生说:“老师我们不和你们去,我们去和你们制造偶遇。”本来没往心里去,可是后来当在七彩部落真的“偶遇”我们班上的几个同学的时候,那种惊讶惊喜难以描述,他们脸上只带着平常的笑容,要知道那可是离学校有着将近一小时的车程呀。这样的偶遇,太让人感动,更让人感动的是我们在他们心中的分量。

[尾声] 最后的结营联欢会,我们跳了一支开场舞,虽然跳得不那么整齐,却很感动,因为是几个孩子,每天苦等教我们和我们一起练习的机会,仓促教会我们的,由于支教工作比较忙同时要管班级,我们每天能和“舞蹈小老师”碰面的时间不多,往往是他在操场等了我们很久,而我们的会又开晚了练习时间寥寥,这里对他感到很抱歉,但他并没有什么怨言,我们最后还是较为成功地完成了开场舞,他说给他留下了珍贵的回忆。结营联欢会上,当我们在台上合唱队歌《倔强》,没想到的是,台下的孩子们纷纷冲上台,和他们的老师拥抱,许多人都热泪盈眶,这令人铭记的一幕。

[分别] 我要走了的时候,我的学生给我打电话:“老师,你在哪呀,等下我们去车站送你”这真让我没想到,他们真的来了,还带了一串提子塞在我手里,当时我的航班取消了,孩子们给我出主意,后来主动帮我拿包过安检,提醒我照看行李,我倒觉得自己被他们照顾了,这种感觉,很温暖很温暖。在车上,平时不爱吃水果的我吃起他们的提子,回忆起这半个月,心里觉得很甜很甜,比提子还要甜。         

我的支教是什么?14天的相处,三个月的准备,400个孩子,35个人,一条心,无比团结的团队,一生难忘的记忆。