We are Huili: Learning to be Independent and Proactive at Huili

This week’s article in the We Are Huili series is from Mr. Jiang, whose son William studies in Early Years 3 at Huili Nursery Hangzhou and daughter Queena studies in Grade 4 at Huili School Hangzhou. Mr. Jiang is a strong proponent of the Huili Identities, agreeing that it is important for children to be Inspired, Intellectual, Independent, Individual and Inclusive. Below, Mr. Jiang shares some thoughts on his own children’s achievements in beingInspired and Independent.

Good reputation and learning environment

When Wellington College International Shanghai opened in 2014, some of my friend’s children were accepted to study there. I saw their children make great progress and, more importantly, when discussing the school with them it was clear that the educational philosophy of the school was very advanced and deeply integrated into the daily life of the pupils. This element initially aroused my interest in the school. As I got to know more about Huili School Hangzhou, my resolve to applying for my children was strengthened. The environment of the school is simple and elegant, with everything designed in a pupil-friendly way. In addition, nothing in the school is impractical, which allows pupils to focus on their study. In brief, Huili School Hangzhou is very much in line with the school I had imagined.

Allowing children to take control of their own learning experiences

The biggest improvement after Queena came to Huili is that she now manages to do homework independently, whereas in the past she frequently asked us for help. At Huili, teachers are responsible for checking pupils’ homework and they advise parents not to offer help, so that they can monitor pupils’ progress.

Queena is good at English, but still encountered challenges after she entered the school. At Huili School Hangzhou, more than half of the subjects are taught in English and therefore it is difficult for new pupils to get used to the immersive English learning environment.  I was concerned about this problem and communicated with teachers one-on-one. During the meeting, teachers provided me with practical advice based on Queena’s individual situation, encouraging me to focus on her achievements instead of comparing her with other pupils. In fact, they reassured me that Queena had made great progress, and that I should not worry too much.

Later, I found that although Queena was not particularly fluent in English communication with foreign teachers yet, the learning process itself was pleasant for her. She enjoyed the class so much that sometimes, she did not realise when the class is over. In addition, teachers use gestures, models, multimedia equipment and other means to let every pupil understand the content of the class. Pupils can understand what the teacher wants to say even if they don’t know some of the vocabulary.

Now, she will take the initiative to communicate with us in English at home, and we as parents will also actively cooperate with her. From what I can see, Queena has become more and more confident when speaking English.

The “little adults” in the Nursery

William studies in Early Years 3 at Huili Nursery Hangzhou. He has fitted into the new environment very quickly and likes his teachers a lot. At Huili, teachers treat every child as an equal and independent individual, showing respect and giving encouragement to each of them. In addition, teachers often prepare their classes and activities based on their pupils’ own willingness, protecting their curiosity and helping them to establish their sense of achievement. For example, during the Science Week, when William said he wanted to take photos of pupils from different grades doing airplane models together, the teacher lent him a camera immediately and he shared his photos with other pupils. The child’s confidence and ability to think independently has slowly become more established through such little things. Although the nursery pupils are young, teachers treat them as “little adults”, having trust in them and communicating with them equally. Therefore, William feels that teachers are more like his friends and he shares with them not only what is happening at school, but also stories from home life.

At the beginning of this semester, there was one thing that touched me deeply. After a half-month holiday, there was a child who showed separation anxiety and did not want his parents to leave. At this point, Ms. Sara squatted down, held him in her arms and consoled him gently. The child then threw himself into her arms and finally took the initiative to enter the classroom. Apparently, the child is attached to Ms. Sara and she must have been loving and caring to make him feel emotionally secure.

Abundant pupil-led activities

Huili School Hangzhou has various activities, such as acting, sports, art, literature, debating and science activities and I’m truly impressed that all these activities are led by pupils. At the beginning of these activities, teachers usually provide a general direction and then guide pupils to accomplish the tasks by themselves. During the preparation, each pupil is encouraged to put forward his or her own idea. In addition, pupils from different grades are able to discuss with each other actively, and meanwhile solve problems independently. Finally, an amazing performance will be presented. It is important to note that pupils are able to gain a sense of achievement and become more confident after taking an active role in the whole process. Moreover, it also helps them become effective team members and improve their communication, organizing and problem-solving skills, allowing them to achieve greater success in the future.

Queena enjoys artistic activities the most and she also takes part in literature and debating activities. There are so many options offered by the school that she did not know how to choose at the beginning. We gave her a few suggestions and to our surprise, after a few months, she gradually realised what she really wanted, knowing how to compare and choose. From what I can see, her personality has become more and more distinct.

Instead of forcing pupils to become passive leaners, Huili School Hangzhou encourage pupils to learn through exploration, become independent thinkers and be proactive in life, which is beneficial for their future growth.