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Teaching task an unforgettable experience

SHANGHAI teacher Xie Junqi, 35, who was assigned to Dujiangyan City last August with 59 other teachers from this city, considers his one-year-mission "an unforgettable experience and life challenge."

Forty-eight male and 12 female Shanghai teachers, aged from 32 to 58, were sent to schools in 19 towns and villages in Dujiangyan.

"I feel mostly guilty for my family, and it's the same for most of my Shanghai colleagues here," Xie tells Shanghai Daily. He and all the others only returned to see their loved ones for about three weeks over the Chinese New Year.

"My son just entered elementary school when I left - quite an important time for a child. I should take care of his education since I'm a teacher, but I have to leave this to my parents and my wife."

Some Dujiangyan schools were completely destroyed and the 60 teachers were assigned to 44 schools, from kindergartens to high schools. On average, they each hold about 20 40-minute classes every week. Some teach as many as 30, including evening lessons that end around 10pm.

Xie teaches science to fifth graders at Tuanjie Primary School, about 2 kilometers away from the dorm at Dujiangyan High School, where all the Shanghai teachers live. Some teachers assigned to faraway villages have to commute for up to 50km to their assigned schools.

"We were prepared to live in temporary rooms and the dorm is so much better than we expected," says Xie.

Two teachers share a room of around 20 square meters, equipped with a TV and Internet connection, although "it's normal not to receive signals for TV and the Internet."

Xie tries to avoid mentioning the May 12 earthquake to his students.

"Psychological assistance is important, but we have found it better not to mention the earthquake now. After almost a year, many students, especially little ones, are forgetting the disaster and it only adds to their stress to mention it."

No students died in school at Tuanjie Primary School, where Xie teaches. However, about 20 lost one parent and one student lost both. The death toll of Dujiangyan City was about 3,000.

Even when he has to teach about earthquake in science class, Xie doesn't mention the May 12 disaster, but focuses on the reason behind earthquakes and safety precautions.

"We have tried our best to help out while learning a lot from local people and our students too," Xie says.


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