WildChina > Destinations > Yunnan > A Word from Teach for China fellow David Li

In December of 2012, WildChina announced a new philanthropic partnership with Teach for China.

We took on the sponsorship of second-year Teach for China fellow, David Li, who had spent the summer of 2012 working as an intern at the WildChina offices. Now a year and a half into his tenure at Xiben Elementary School in Yunnan province, David has figured out the teaching methods that work best for him and his young students.

When we got in touch with David recently to see how he was doing, he sent us an enlightening breakdown of his day to give us a better idea of what he does out there.


A Typical Tuesday Morning at Xiben Elementary School: Part One

7:00 AM- Wake up
As I wake up to the school bell, students are already in the hallways of the two teachers’ dormitories, sweeping and dusting. I live on the 3rd floor of a yellow building. To my left is Ben, an American fellow, and to my left is Minglong, a Chinese fellow. The three of us 2nd-year Fellows complete the Teach For China team here at Xiben Elementary.

As I walk to the school building, I see students carrying large bowls of eggs and cases of carton milk from the cafeteria to their respective classrooms–breakfast. The whole campus is noisy as those students lucky enough to not be on cleaning duty sit in their classrooms reciting their Chinese lessons.

7:30 AM- Teach First Class (3rd grade)
After getting all my teaching materials from the office I share with Ben, I walk down to the 3rd grade classroom.

As I enter, there is a flurry of activity. Some students are cleaning, some are eating their breakfast, some are reciting Chinese lessons or doing homework, and others still are playing. A number of students gather around as I fire up the newly installed whiteboard projectors, which many local teachers are still learning to use. Students are eagerly asking about what I’m doing and what we’re going to do during class.

When the bell rings to start class, I wait for everyone to be seated with all their materials out on their desks. We’ve practiced this routine so many times that the students are remarkably fast! A volunteer comes up to the front to introduce himself in English, and the class responds.

Class is conducted at a brisk pace as we review material we learned last week. When we move onto new material, students are flipping back and forth between their textbook and their English notebook, copying notes, but also simultaneously repeating words aloud. We first work with new sentences frames together as a class, then move onto partner work.

My forty-one 3rd graders are divided into eight groups so that I can award points to groups whose members raise their hands to participate and answer questions. The winning group from last week gets to pass out the plastic folders and whiteboard pens we use to answer questions. As I ask each question, students collaborate with their desk mates to come up with answer to write on their mini-whiteboard, raising it up when they have an answer.

I can be rather dramatic as I reveal the correct answer, and students cheer when they get the answer right. Having worked with the material as a class, then partners, I finally have everyone prepare their desks for a short quiz, just to see what how well the students learned today’s material. Students are silent and concentrated as the quiz is administered. I dismiss class after the quiz. If the class got fewer than 4 warnings in that period, I let them watch a short video during their break on the whiteboard, often of extreme sports highlights.


A Word from Teach for China fellow David Li
Xiben Elementary School by boarding student, Grace (罗朋梅)

9:00 AM- Breakfast
While other teachers go to the cafeteria at 7:30am for rice noodles and eggs, I choose to wait until after my first period to have breakfast; I usually have oatmeal with a banana and a couple hard-boiled eggs.

9:30 AM- Morning Exercises
The bell rings and the whole school assembles out on the basketball court, where we do our morning exercise routine to music.

Unlike other schools, teachers here also perform the routine along with students, so I’ve learned it as well. Afterwards, students form lines as announcements are made by the principal and the local teacher on “duty” for this week.

10:00 AM- Nap
I usually like to take a nap before lunch to recharge for the afternoon…


10AM sounds like the perfect time for a nap! Check back in April for the second half of a typical day in David’s life as a Teach for China fellow.

If you are also interested in supporting this great organization, take a look at our WildChina Philanthropy page to make your own donation!



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