Since our Home Classroom began in February this year, we have been humbled by the many volunteers who have risen to the occasion and helped us provide English classes to hundreds of children in rural communities.
Thanks to their generosity, students have been able to continue to learn, despite not being at school, and have acquired a variety of new skills through the unique process of online learning.
We would like to share here some uplifting stories of good, kind people from all over the world who are devoting their time to helping students in China. To better understand what they think of the Home Classroom (HCR) program, we interviewed a few volunteers and listened to what they had to say.
Rafaella is teaching our students from Italy, a recent epicentre of the epidemic. She remarked, “I have always worked as a volunteer teacher in all the places where I have lived with my family: France, Brazil, Argentina, and Italy, of course. This is why, as soon as we moved to China, I found Stepping Stones. When the COVID-19 nightmare started, I soon realized that there wouldn’t be a second semester at the migrant school where I had taught in the first semester. However, technology is a great gift we have, and we now can keep teaching in a safe environment even if we are not physically together. I have been an English teacher for the last 10 years and have worked with Stepping Stones for about 1 year. It’s the first time I am experiencing teaching to a group of students online, and I am really enjoying it. I have fun and I feel like my students have fun too. Through these classes, I get to know more about them, and they get to know more about me. Sometimes I feel like I am learning more than what I am teaching. I am learning so much about the culture, the habits and the language of my host country from my students!”
Steve is an English teacher in Shanghai who went to stay with his wife’s family in Hubei Province for the Chinese New Year holiday. Ending up trapped there for many weeks by the epidemic, Steve decided to use his time in lockdown to help rural children with their English. He said, “While many expensive English schools in China simply abandoned their students, Stepping Stones took matters into their own hands and continued to provide their promised services with remarkably good online materials and very dedicated arrangements on many levels, proving once more that they really care about all their stakeholders (disadvantaged students, their families and teachers alike, and the greater society).”
Joy is a long-time volunteer at Stepping Stones and has taught children in rural communities via the HCR program since the beginning of March. She believes that the online learning process is a gradual one that both students and teachers need to get used to and that students are able to learn much from an online environment. Joy stated, “I feel like getting used to an online teaching and learning environment is very important both for educators and students, as this is a bigger general trend in society in general. My students have learned more useful everyday skills and are now much more willing to speak in English. I think it’s very impressive that Stepping Stones was able to organize such a large operation that involved a lot of cooperation between Stepping Stones staff and organizers, students, and volunteers, and I learned a lot from this experience as well!
Home Classroom Program Impact Report
To assess the value and impact of the Home Classroom Program while it is still ongoing and to help us to decide whether to continue this program after schools reopen, we conducted a mid-term evaluation in April 2020. The evaluation consisted of an online survey questionnaire completed by 237 beneficiaries’ parents, who answered a variety of questions regarding their attitude towards English, online teaching, and Stepping Stones’ program, as well as their children’s educational needs.
We are pleased to report that parents have expressed a very positive attitude towards online teaching and Stepping Stones’ HCR Program. More than 93% of parents think the program is “good” or “very good,” and of those whose children were already attending other online programs, 71.9% considered the HCR Program as superior to other programs. Moreover, the vast majority of parents (87.34%) would like their child to continue attending Stepping Stones’ HCR after schools re-open. The prospect that a program that we started as a temporary response to the coronavirus crisis in February may become one of our permanent long-term programs is definitely exciting!
Stepping Stones is very encouraged by the results of this evaluation, which suggest that our program has a positive impact on the English education of our beneficiaries. Please click “read more” for the full impact evaluation report.
Finally, we were very touched by the generosity by some of the parents of our students, who expressed their gratitude to Stepping Stones by making affordable donations to our Alipay fundraising campaign. Thank you to everyone who has supported us through these trying times, and we are excited to gradually resume our regular programming as the situation improves!
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