In China, respect for teachers is a traditional virtue. A teacher is an
elder and not someone to whom you can talk freely. The lines are clear:
Teacher is teacher, student is student. As we approach the children, we
are careful to become their friend and not their teacher. But, they still
like to call us "teacher" anyway. We open with a few warm-up games to close
the distance between the children and us, as adult facilitators of the consultation.
We play some games from the local area. "Eagle Grabs Little chicken," "Diguaiguai,"
"Mouse steals oil,"* As we play the games I feel very happy; it takes me
back to my own childhood.
A young girl conveys her dreams for
the future in Jia County, China
After the warm-up games, the children follow us into the classroom and we begin our formal work: children's consultations. We squat down to talk to the children, so that we are the same height, and we can look each other squarely in the eye. We give the children white paper and colored pens, and they look so excited. We let them draw what they like most, what they dislike most, and the future of their dreams. Whether it is the process or the results of the consultation, the children always surprise us.
During the consultations, I notice some differences between boys & girls.
Girls tend to use the paper and pens very carefully. They are generally
very perceptive emotionally and more sensitive to problems in their family.
Very often, what makes them sad is when their father gets drunk or when
their parents quarrel. Boys' imaginations are usually rich, especially their
future dreams. There is one boy named Xiao Lin whose dream for the future
is to become a teacher. He dislikes it when his classmates drop out of school.
He says that their parents are shortsighted and see little value in education.
If he were a village leader, he would 'straighten out their thinking.' Another
boy, about 14 years old, wants to become a high official in the future.
Why? So he can summon wind and rain, exercising magical powers to punish
corrupt and venal officials. I can't hide my smile, it's open from ear to
ear. Without dreams, life would be withered and yellow.
planning how to create a better community in Yalin Liugianhe Township
Some of the children scratch their heads, bite their pens, with their eyes fixed on the sky, as they try to express themselves through drawing. It's pretty difficult for them; they are not used to free drawing with no fixed form for them to copy. We try to inspire them, tell them to think about what makes them feel happy, sad, or satisfied in their family, school and community. I try my best to use 'children's language' with them. But, to tell the truth, I'm not satisfied. The main problem is that my mentality is not the same as a child's way of thinking.
Children have clear boundaries in their hearts: right is right, wrong is
wrong. Their world is black and white. It's like their language, which has
very few neutral words, unlike adults who often say: "so-so" "not too bad"
and "fine." The children's eyes are pure and transparent. But when I look
at my own eyes in the mirror, they are not so clear anymore. I wonder, is
the price of growing up that we lose our clear eyes of childhood in exchange
for muddy-eyes of adulthood?
Mavis Zu facilitating children's consultations
In China, there is an old saying: "Return to original purity and simplicity." This is the Taoist religion's highest state. When I see the children's eyes, I think 'When can we, too, return to original purity and simplicity?' I hope we adults can be part of building an environment for children so that they will not have to change their pure and transparent way of seeing the world.
|Mavis Xu reflects on her opportunities to
facilitate children's consultations in three counties in China: Pu
Cheng County, Jia County and Yu Lin county. Email Mavis Xu - firstname.lastname@example.org