Feel China | Courtyard teacher helps village kids master English

Liu Xiaosheng, a retired foreign language professor, teaches children English free of charge in a village administered by the city of Zunyi, Guizhou province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Liu Xiaosheng finally had time to himself when the summer vacation recently ended. The 73-year-old had been teaching children English free of charge six days a week for over a month.

His "classroom" was a rural family courtyard in a village administered by the city of Zunyi, Guizhou province. On the outer wall of the house, there was a small blackboard covered with phonetic symbols. Benches were arranged in a U shape to serve as desks, and a dozen children were packed in for classes.

Before he retired, Liu was a foreign language professor at a university in Chongqing municipality. In 2012, he brought his family to Guizhou, a region known for its cool climate, to spend the summer.

One evening, he saw a neighbor's child learning English. He asked the child to read him a passage.

"The pronunciation was bad," Liu recalled. As a teacher, he knew how important standard pronunciation was to learning the language and he began to correct the child.

In this way, Liu "recruited" his first student. News of free English tutoring from a retired university professor soon spread through the village, and more and more children came to learn.

At first, Liu taught in his living room, and then moved into the corridor for more space.

But soon, the corridor was packed with students.

One villager volunteered to vacate his rice milling room to use as a classroom, and the villagers pooled their money to buy desks, chairs, benches and a blackboard.

Later, as the number of students grew, Liu set up a classroom in the courtyard of a villager's house, and as a result, he is now affectionately known as the "courtyard teacher".

Every summer, about 40 children come for English tutoring. This summer, thanks to media reports, more than 60 turned up, a record high.

Luo Lihang, a senior at a university in Shandong province, was one of Liu's first students in the village. She learned English from him every summer before starting college and has now become Liu's teaching assistant, responsible for the daily management of the class.

One day last summer, it began to rain just as class was about to begin, but there was no room large enough to accommodate all the students. Luo said that in order not to delay the class, he let the students sit under the eaves while he stood in the rain under an umbrella to teach.

So far, some 100 local students have attended the classes, many of whom have been admitted to universities, with some even pursuing doctoral degrees.

Villagers once proposed paying tuition fees, but Liu turned down the offer. Some also tried to give him gifts to express their gratitude, but he refused. He said that teaching had become a part of his life, and he did it for neither fame nor profit.

Before he wrapped up this year's session and returned to Chongqing, he promised the children that he would see them again next year.

Source: Xinhua via China Daily
Editor: Lyu Yun