Creative teachers keep local culture alive

A program that began two years ago to cultivate creative teachers for local primary and secondary schools has now trained 128 teachers.
Creative teachers keep local culture alive
Yang Meiping / SHINE

Two teachers perform a scene in O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Maji.” 

Teachers’ performance of a classic drama, students’ chanting of poems in Shanghai dialect and acapella singing were part of shows celebrating a program that began two years ago to cultivate creative teachers for local primary and secondary schools.

A studio named after scriptwriter Yu Rongjiang has trained 18 teachers from 18 schools in courses ranging from script writing to drama education methodology and performance production. The teachers performed a version of a short story by American writer O. Henry, “The Gift of the Maji” at the Yangpu District Children’s Palace recently and surprised the audience as they appeared to be professional actors.

“All the teachers have taken our concepts and methods to their own schools,” said Yu. “They have convinced me that drama can bring success and joy to teachers and children so I will continue to take part in the program to reach more teachers, more schools and more students.”

Xu Botao, a Shanghai Opera performer, selected four schools to train teachers in Shanghai dialect and opera. Students taught by the teachers have staged more than 20 shows in the past two years.

“Shanghai dialect is at risk of disappearing as young people do not speak it now,” said Xu. “Teaching the dialect to teachers, who can teach a large number of students, is an effective way to popularize our mother tongue.”

Xu often teaches his students chant poems in dialect.

“My husband and I are from Heilongjiang Province. Although my daughter was born here, she could not speak the local dialect. Fortunately, the school now teaches it,” said a mother named Pang, whose daughter is a sixth grader at Xinjing Middle School in Changning District. The school's music teacher learned Shanghai dialect and Shanghai Opera from Xu.

“Learning Shanghai dialect is learning its culture,” said Pang.

Another two studios joined the program last year, one for dance and another for Peking Opera. A total of 128 teachers have been trained so far.

Creative teachers keep local culture alive
Yang Meiping / SHINE

Students from the Xinjing Middle School in Changning District chant a poem in Shanghai dialect.

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