Principled approach to learning earns top marks

Zhu Yuting
Huishi Primary School, founded in 1870, is one of Shanghai's oldest schools with around 2,600 students.
Zhu Yuting
Principled approach to learning earns top marks
Ti Gong

Mi Ying, principal of Huishi Primary School in downtown Shanghai's Xuhui District

Morning is the most crucial part of the workday for Mi Ying, headmaster of Huishi Primary School in Shanghai's downtown Xuhui District.

Mi is always there to greet her students when the school gate opens at 7:40am.

"I can tell if the children are happy by saying hello to them and seeing their faces," said Mi, who refers to the students as "our children."

"I want every student to enjoy their time at the school."

Huishi, founded in 1870, is one of the city's oldest schools. It now has around 2,600 students in 58 classes.

Principled approach to learning earns top marks
Ti Gong

Mi Ying with students at an after-school art class

The 47-year-old has been with the school for almost 30 years, rising through the ranks from math teacher to principal.

Although her title has changed, her original goal of having students enjoy learning has not changed.

But how does she make it work? By making every attempt to relate textbook knowledge to real life and to provide them with more opportunities to try new things outside of school.

Mi recalled her first time in a classroom 20 years ago, when she was a math teacher for grade-one students.

To make her students interested in math, she took them to a nearby park and Metro station to teach them how to measure using real-life objects.

She told an interesting story from her teaching experience.

There is a tree older than 100 years on the campus. It became Mi's teaching tool in 2001, when she asked her students to come up with methods to measure its height.

Her students provided more than 20 different answers, including one suggestion to tie a string to a squirrel's tail and let it run to the top, and then measure it.

"Only when students like teachers, will they be interested in what their teachers teach," Mi said.

Principled approach to learning earns top marks
Ti Gong

Mi Ying encourages her students to do exercise.

Mi has worked harder after becoming the school principal, launching more extracurricular activities such as Peking Opera, paper art, meteorology, aerospace and first-aid.

For the Peking Opera class, Mi invited professional teachers from relevant institutes to Huishi.

Some students were impressed and expressed a strong interest in the traditional Chinese culture. Talented children have even taken the professional path and won city-level theatrical honors.

Mi and her team have worked hard to make classes more welcome and rooted in the school culture.

"I want to give our children more opportunities to experience new things and develop their interests," she stated.

"Sometimes children don't know what they really like. I believe schools and teachers should provide more opportunities for students to discover the world."

Mi has also collaborated with the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau to deliver talks on weather, climate and meteorology.

Principled approach to learning earns top marks
Ti Gong

Mi Ying with a student at a theme event

In addition to after-school activities, the headmaster also monitors teacher-student interactions.

She often helps new teachers with creative teaching methods. Once she found that an instructor was skilled at paper art. So she assisted her in launching an after-school program which is now one of the popular courses at the school.

"Courses like this can not only help teachers make full use of their talents, but also enable youngsters to apply their skills," said Mi.

There are some special students in the school, such as those with disabilities or special talent. Mi pays close attention to them and always provides them with whatever assistance they may need.

One of the students is a talented piano player who needed more time to practice and often missed classes. Then a teacher was assigned to assist her with the schoolwork.

"I want every child to be able to learn what they desire," she said.

Mi noted that her office is always open so that students can talk to her whenever they want.

"Some children even share their secrets with me," she said with a broad smile.

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