When Peng Jun (彭军) graduated in 2011, he was all set for a career in the city and stepping up the ladder of social progress. Yet at a time when the norm is to seek to build your own fortune in the world and raise a family, Peng decided to do something completely different. He left his prospects in the city, and joined a programme for sending teachers to rural schools while working for a minimal salary. Finding himself in a small rural school in a mountainous area of Hubei province, Peng came into his own, devoting himself to the comprehensive education of his students, while developing novel teaching techniques for “joyful”, “creative” and even self-critical education. In the face of a pitifully low salary and the resistance of his parents, Peng found his rural teaching job to be his dream job. The front page of the Wuhan Morning Post from the capital of Hubei province today recounts the story of a man whose selfless devotion to the education of underprivileged kids can serve as an inspiration in times when a self-centred and narcissistic pursuit of wealth is often the norm. Thanks to Weibo, Peng’s story is now front page news.
Born in 1987, Peng Jun (彭军) graduated from the Wuhan campus of the South-Central University of Politics and Law (中南财经政法大学武汉学院) in 2011. The day before he was to graduate, however, he attended a lecture at the university that was to change his life. The lecture was on a programme for sending teachers to rural schools in Hubei province. 20,000 teachers have already been sent to 1,900 villages in Hubei via this programme. The lecture made a big impression on Peng, and the day before his graduation he decided to change course and applied for the programme.
Thus in September last year, Peng found himself at Pingbaying Village Primary School (坪坝营镇新场小学) in Xianfeng county (咸丰县), Enshi prefecture (恩施州), Hubei. Surrounded by mountains, the school is located 1,100 meters above sea level and has 504 students with 30 teachers and staff. Peng Jun was allocated a class with 49 students, mostly from the surrounding villages.
Not put off by his new remote and Spartan surroundings, Peng devoted himself to the job. He not only teaches the 49 kids at school, but travels the surrounding countryside to visit every household and see their home situation for himself. And even though his salary amounts to just 1,160 yuan (or US$185) per month, Peng out of his own pocket purchased sports equipment for the school as well as badges, sweets, and books.
Learning of Peng’s exploits on Weibo, journalists from Wuhan Morning Post went to see for themselves how he was doing in his mountain school. They found that Peng had developed his own style of teaching, with an emphasis not on rote learning and stern instruction but on joyful education (快乐教育) and creative education (教学教育) to give his students a good all-round education yet making sure they can enjoy it as well. Peng has even been able to get his students to write about their own shortcomings, which no other teacher at the school has been able to achieve (and which can clearly often be a very sensitive undertaking in China).
Despite his very low salary and strong resistance from his parents (Peng’s parents became so concerned about their son that they forbade him from continuing to teach at the school, yet with the help of his sisters, Peng lied to his parents, who now think he has a white collar job in Nanjing), Peng has rejoiced in his job. As he wrote on Tencent Weibo, teaching the kids in Hubei was a dream come true for him:
I should rejoice, the choice I made after my graduation put me on a path to attain my dreams. Where will this road end? I don’t know. But on the way there, with all the wind, rain, snow and all the good and bad, I will fulfil what is in my heart and be satisfied with that.
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