Huili School Shanghai has settled quickly into its inaugural year of teaching, and Evelyn Henderson is the person responsible for making English learning as fun, fast and accessible as possible for every pupil. Evelyn brings a wealth of UK and international teaching experience to the position and already has high hopes for English attainment here at Huili.
Early teaching career
I have been teaching English for the past 15 years. My career started in England, where I taught in successive schools before becoming an assistant head in a challenging catchment area. This particular school was very diverse and it was here that I discovered a genuine urge to teach English to children who were learning it as their second language.
This desire led me to organise and oversee a three-year Erasmus project in cooperation with the British Council, connecting with seven other schools across various European countries including Croatia, Turkey, Romania and Poland. I feel that this instilled in me the confidence to teach internationally and led me to jump at the chance to teach English in Shanghai. It is always a very exciting process to be part of setting up a brand new school, but being part of the Huili team is particularly special given the school’s ambitions to be a true pioneer of bilingualism in China.
Eager to instil English excellence at Huili
Unsurprisingly, I very much enjoyed working alongside my Chinese and international colleagues to get Huili ready for its big opening day. It has been an incredible team effort from the moment we arrived and I feel privileged to be collaborating with people who are all so dedicated to learning from each other and making the school the best learning environment possible. Huili was established with the philosophy that we would bring the best elements of Eastern and Western education together and I feel that is exactly what is happening. There is constant dialogue that comes from a place of mutual respect as well as genuine friendship.
I have been equally impressed by our amazing Huili parents! Without exception, they are so eager to engage with their children’s learning, to extend what the pupils learn beyond the classroom and encourage them in every way. Not only are the parents highly supportive of our efforts, they have also been very generous in giving up their time to understand what it is we are trying to achieve here. For example, our recent parent workshops have been extremely well attended, particularly our opening presentation of the Read Write Inc phonics programme. It is so important to have this level of parental engagement and enthusiasm, and it is something I am very grateful for.
Finally, of course, I am so impressed by the pupils themselves. They have embraced the Huili spirit very quickly and already the school has quite a tangible “family feel” to it as they come in each morning proudly wearing their uniforms and excited to get down to some serious learning!
In terms of their confidence and ability to speak English, the opening weeks have been transformative. Initially, we had plenty of pupils who were very shy and did not feel particularly confident in attempting to speak in English. However, now they have become sufficiently comfortable with the school, their lessons, classroom, teachers and friends to know that it is okay to try, to make mistakes and volunteer ideas all in English, even if they are not 100% sure of themselves. It has been amazing to see this kind of positive change happening even in such a short space of time.
Future plans for English at Huili
I feel that the Read Write Inc programme （Please click the link to know more about the programme) has had the ideal start here at Huili, thanks to all of the parents, pupils and staff members being so enthusiastic about understanding and utilising it to its fullest extent. One of the greatest strengths of the programme is its ability to help pupils of every level stretch their English and ensure that they are always getting the right mix of challenge and support that they need to learn effectively. As we grow as a school, I want to ensure that all pupils are accessing a high level of fluency in English as soon as they are ready to, which is why Read Write Inc is so important to our current and future efforts.
Theme-based learning is another element of our curriculum that has had a great start and one which is building momentum. It is so important that pupils are not only practicing and improving their English during English lessons; it is occurring in PE, science, maths and in all of their subjects and activities. This approach continues to help drive their confidence and ability in terms of English speaking, listening, reading and writing.
This idea of extending pupils’ English learning as much as possible leads into our future plans for encouraging a deep love of reading at home as well as at school. Our wonderful library is an essential element of those plans, as its excellent collection of Chinese and English books continues to grow and diversify. Currently, we are waiting on the delivery of books for a new reading scheme which will allow pupils to bring books that appropriately match their reading ability home with them every day.I feel very strongly that parents are essential in helping us lay the foundation of reading enjoyment and progress, so we truly welcome their support and input. With this in mind, you can expect to see more wechat articles and parent workshops which explore new ways that our Huili parents can continue to engage with their children’s learning. It is also important that we maintain the flow of constant communication with parents which has served us so well in the school’s opening months. Emails, consultations and apps like Little Blackboard have all played their part and I look forward to discussing further ways to help us keep talking about what matters most in the pupils’ education.
It has been a fantastic experience moving to Shanghai, settling into Huili and teaching English in such a fun, progressive and engaging learning environment. I am very excited to see what lies in store for us all in the coming months.
Get ready for English Week
26-30 November is English Week at Huili and its theme is: ‘The more you read, the more you know.’ Excitingly, we will be introducing famous English comedian and children’s author, David Walliams, whose children’s books have been published in 53 languages and sold more than 18 million copies worldwide.
Throughout English Week, we will bring many of his books to life in the classroom with engaging storytelling, role play and visual literacy. Pupils will even get the chance to explore and rewrite some of his stories. There will also be an opportunity for parents to join us on Friday 30th November and classrooms will have their doors open for parents to watch our storytelling sessions. The winners of our competition in grade 5 and 6 pupils will also be telling stories to our younger pupils in the library. We look forward to seeing you there!