I wake up to a ringing alarm. Someone yells out the time, “It’s 6:07.” Collective grumbles throughout. Then, stillness as we all try to soak in the few remaining minutes before the daily morning jog.
At 6:20AM, the P.E. teacher blows his whistle–over 100 uniformed students, evenly spaced out in rows, start jogging around the basketball courts. All to the same counts as the class monitors’ chants. I try not to land off beat. The second whistle goes at 6:40AM, at which time the students stop running and assemble for stretching. Breakfast is served at 7AM. Classes officially start at 7:30AM.
So is a typical morning at Dandelion.
Dandelion Middle School is a boarding school for about 450 migrant children, who do not have the Beijing hukou necessary to attend the Beijing public school system. As an Oral English teacher, I’ve been assigned to follow and instruct Grade 7, Class 4 for the rest of the semester. Learning the substantial obstacles these migrant students have to overcome for good education has been dismaying, but their attitudes have been nothing but encouraging. The 39 kids in my 7(4) class work by the motto “We are Family” and are also the only seventh graders on the music track. Besides teaching English and tutoring, I sit in on their classes, facilitate violin rehearsal, and regularly eat my meals with them. Basically, we spend a lot of time together. And I couldn’t be more thankful.
These kids, despite the circumstances, are nothing but uplifting. They understand the enormity of their situation. They know that doing well now, in middle school, is of the utmost importance for their future. It’s an incredible amount of pressure. One that I definitely would not have been able to handle myself a few years back. And yet, for these students, it’s something they carry with such silent strength. From the outside, you couldn’t tell. They appear to be just like any other seventh grader, gossiping over crushes and complaining about school food. But every morning, without failure, they get up to run together. And every night, without failure, they are in the classroom studying and working hard together.
Waking up for, and keeping up with, the morning jogs was difficult. But it’s gotten progressively less so. When I run behind my class, I feel motivated by them. I’m excited for the next nine weeks because I know there is a lot more to learn about Dandelion and the students. When it’s 6:07AM and I still feel drowsy, I think about their motivation. Then, I get up so I can run.