A Classroom for Beautiful Minds 
    2013-05-20 11:02:17     CRIENGLISH.com       Web Editor: Liu Yuanhui


The Peizhi School in Beijing's East District was founded in 1987 to offer compulsory special education and rehabilitation training for mentally disabled children. Thanks to its persistent researchers and devoted teachers, the school has established an effective special education system that caters to the needs of students with learning difficulties, communication challenges, physical disabilities or emotional and behavioral disorders.
On today's program, we are going to meet a music teacher at this school and find out how she was inspired to treat her special needs students with love, care and devotion.
Stay with us.

It's seven-thirty in the morning and Xu Dunping, a music teacher from Peizhi School in Beijing's East District is leaving her home to rush to the nearest subway station, Xizhimen.
(subway sound)
Xu begins all her days like this except during the holidays. After a short subway journey that usually lasts 10 minutes, followed by another 20 minute bus ride, she arrives at her school which is located at the north third ring road, at around eight o'clock.
(school gate sound)
Stepping into the school gate, Xu is greeted by her students.
(sound: greeting)
In the corridor, Xu meets her student Li Zhenyi, who has been learning the piano with her for the past three years. During the conversation, Li tries to find out Ms Xu's birthday date. For the mentally retarded girl, finding the answer to a simple question such as this bears the same level of difficulty as what you or I might encounter when facing the Goldbach conjecture. She finally comes to the correct answer after being given a clue by Xu and searching deep into her memory.

"So today is your birthday! We wish Teacher Xu a very Happy Birthday!"
Today is Xu Dunping's 55th birthday. Since Xu became involved in special education 22 years ago, she has chosen almost every year to spend this day with her adorable students.
(sound: class is starting)
Xu starts her music class with some vocal warm-ups. Making roll calls is part of the vocal exercises and each student is asked to answer the call loudly and clearly.
(Calling students' names, Du Qian's name is called )

"Du Qian's father is unemployed and totally dependent on a monthly allowance provided by the municipal government for those living below the minimum standard. His mother is mentally unstable and often wanders off when going out. Du Qian has to cook and feed his mother each day after school."
(sound, Zhao Ke's name called)
"Zhao Ke comes from a single parent family. His mother divorced his father and doesn't like taking care of her son due to his mental disability. Zhao's father is a guide at a bus station, with a meager income. I tell the chilren all the time that they will eventually have to learn how to take care of themselves."
(sound: vocal training starts)
For the nearly 200 mentally-retarded students in the school, music is one of their favorite subjects. Xu says music brings them happiness, confidence and strength.

"Music education is great for these special needs children with learning disabilities and mental retardation because it is a fun way to learn basic concepts and skills. Music also makes them want to open themselves up and communicate with others."
(sound, vocal training)

"I always ask the young teachers not to lose their temper when they encounter problems in dealing with these students. Why should you get angry with these kids? They are a special group of children with special needs. It's already great progress for them to want to open their mouths and talk to others. We should get a significant sense of achievement from that. Is it not great progress for the boys not to wet their pants during the whole morning? Is it not great progress for the girls not to cry and make noises in the classroom? They are good enough."
(sound: music scales exercises)

"Right, some students may not be able to tell you the answer to one plus one, but that doesn't mean they are hopeless. As special education teachers, we can always change our teaching methods. For example, we can use candies to teach these students how to count properly and perform simple math."
(children prepare to do chorus)

"Teachers need to offer more love and care to these special students. Every one of us could become disabled, physically or mentally, at some point in our lives in the event that we are unable to safeguard ourselves. To respect them is to respect ourselves."
Now it's the time for teacher Xu to lead the students in singing songs together. This is the students' favorite part of the class, being apparently more fun than the musical scale studies:
(sound: two voices chorus)

"For many years, I have never said in front of the students that they are slow or mentally retarded. I always tell them they are just as intelligent as everyone else, and they will become even smarter by studying hard."
(sound: chorus with piano accompaniment)

"I tell the parents: you guys have to accept the reality that your children are born to be a little different. I tell them never to be ashamed of what their children are. Each time I bring these students out, there are always a few passersby who point to us and say, 'look, these children look like fools¡­' I don't care about what they say. True, many people still tend to look down on disabled people, but that only indicates their lack of morals. A person does not become disabled because he or she wishes to become disabled; disabled persons deserve to be given their due respect in public."
(sound: chorus "My Beijing My Home")

"I always tell my students, so our brains were damaged, does that really matter? -No. Can that be cured? -Yes. By What? ¨CMusic."
Xu Dunping says music is a brilliant method of communication because it almost never fails to promote communication between special needs children, their peers and instructors. Also, it is much more involving than other subjects, including active participation instead of passive listening. Not only can special needs children hear the music, a music education curriculum also involves visual stimuli, movement and dance, and feeling. So music education is very important for helping special needs children improve their perception of most or all of the senses.
Now the students have finished the chorus, they are beginning to perform solo parts. Autistic child Xing Anda gives the first performance.

"When Xing Anda first came to my class, he couldn't communicate with others. Whenever he heard others sing, he would cover his ears with both hands and complain that it was too noisy. I could only teach him in one-on-one sessions. But now he's become one of the most active students in my class."
(sound: Xin performs solo)

"I spent eight years training these students to perform a chorus in unison. Yes, indeed, it took them eight years to learn how to sing a song properly together."
(sound: chorus "We are in a same blue plane)

"They are really amazing! I remember once we were attending a children's chorus competition. After the performance given by another school, my students murmured to me, 'teacher, someone in the choir is singing out of tune!' I had to ask them to be quiet. I said, 'it's great of you to identify the pitch and intonation, but you need to respect your competitors and be polite."
(sound: chorus)

"These students are so enthusiastic about music class. If there is a day when I can't come in to school, I have to tell them in advance, 'listen, kids, I have to go out for a meeting today, can we switch this afternoon's class to tomorrow?" they would think about it and then very reluctantly agree. The next day, they would come to the teachers' room to look for me and urge me: 'Teacher Xu, hurry, it's time for music class now.' They like the music class so much that I simply feel that I can never let them down."
(sound: beating drum)
After a few songs, it is time for the students to practice drumming. This is also a regular part of the music class as some students are members of the school's drum band, which performs at the school's national flag raising ceremony each morning:
(sound: drum)

"There is one boy in my class with cerebral palsy and one of his hands cannot move at all. I told him that he would be able to move his hands after learning to drum with me, but it would definitely hurt. He said 'it's okay, as long as I can join the drum band'. The boy never complained about the hardship but I heard from other teachers that sometimes it hurts so much that he cries behind me. But the next day, he's always the first one to come to the drum class."
(sound: drum)

"We initially had a total of 100 drum sticks, but the students practiced so hard that in less than half a year, they were all broken. The headmaster responded by simply saying, 'no worries, we will buy new ones.'"
(sound: drum practicing)


"I hope I teach them more than music. During the classes, I always try to instruct them on how to look at themselves, and also teach them some basic skills for use in daily life and jobs, so that they can support themselves out in society¡­ They are all very willing to talk to me."
Xu Dunping says that over the years she has observed that when special needs children are given the opportunity to be unique and feel included in a fun and loving environment, they can form close relationships, gain self-esteem and learn basic skills and concepts enthusiastically.
(sound: Xu commending students)

"For these kids, there is no need, and it is also impossible to teach them to achieve high scores in exams. They may not be able to do a simple mathematical equation after being taught thousands of times, but if you can teach them to be a wonderful person, then that's the greatest achievement for any educators in special education."
(sound: music class approaching end)
Time passes quickly and it's almost the end of the music class. Teacher Xu and her students are saying goodbye to each other.
(sound: good-byeing)
These students have only just found out that this is the last goodbye they will say to Ms Xu, because this is the last time that she will teach them. Fifty-five year old Xu Dunping is to formally retire tomorrow.

 "We don't want to say goodbye!"
 "Teacher Xu, We will miss you!"
Hearing the heart-felt warm words, a smile appears on the veteran teacher's face. Xu's felt mixed feelings on this special day, but she won't reveal this to her students.
(sound: bell rings)

"I feel glad for my students. Some of the graduates have found their ideal jobs. There is one working at McDonald's and each time the store has special offers, I am always the first customer to know. My student would call me and say 'Teacher Xu, I will bring you some discount coupons.' Moments like these always make me feel that my job is fulfilling!'"

(Piano, fade out)



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