Nita feeling tiny in her classroom.
Did you hear the news of what happened in Mojiang? A student killed his classmate. So many tragedies happened. Other news for you is that last Thursday, 26tth  November, another student died in a Chengjiang middle school, fighting over a girl. The person who died is 12 and a half years old; the killer is 13 and a half. Whenever I think of this I cant sleep; the images of the dead children always in my mind.

My work as a teacher is harder than before. Because two students died we, as class teachers, need to walk around the school at certain times, no time to rest at all. Sometimes I just divide myself into two persons - the real me is open, lovely, kind, easy-going but when I face the students I need to be really strict and I am always thinking about how I should punish them when they doing something wrong. I did talk with them time and time again but I still need to punish them when talk is useless. I do think you can move someone with you heart and love, sometimes, but some students are just like stone, no matter what you have done to them, no matter whether you are good or bad, hard or soft. I doubt whether the character of the students really decides anything.

One of the teachers told me: “You are not here for teaching. The most important thing is to educate them how to be good people, to respect”. I do believe that now. I can feel that I am changing.  I have come to believe what I didn’t believe before and I started to doubt what I believed before, especially in the area of education.

I think, I doubt, I write, I talk, I study, I want to do something more but I find I am powerless. I am so tiny. In my class alone there are so many people, 64 students. Every day I need to talk to so many students, just because they haven’t attended morning exercise, or they talked back to other teachers or they have not cleaned the classroom. Such tiny details that I think a 16 or 17-year old person can do properly by themselves. In addition, I need to company them to hospital when they are ill and I need to observe whether they have any psychology problems, if they have the intention to kill themselves. To be honest, I don’t really have time to prepare my lessons.

After the two students died the leader said that stability is the first aim, so every minute we really need to be stopping such kinds of accidents from happening again. It really is a hard job. I never realized before. It is much more difficult than I thought.

Here is our school timetable. You can see how crazy they are and how crazy the education is.

起床,早操 (get up, morning exercise) 6:20 --6:40

早餐,卫生 (breakfast, clean) 640--720

早读 (morning reading) 720---750

第一节课(first lesson) 800--840

第二节课(second lesson) 850--840

第三节课 (third lesson) 940--1020

第四节课 (forth lesson) 1040--1120

第五节课 (fifth lesson) 1130---1210

午餐,活动(lunch) 12:10--13:00

午休 (rest) 13:00---14:15)

第六节课 (sixth lesson) 1430--1510

眼保健操 (eye exercises) 15:10--15:15 [they never do it unless some one comes to check on them]

第七节课 (seventh lesson) 1525——1605

第八节课 (eighth lesson) 1620--1700

晚餐卫生 (supper ,clean ) 1700--1820

晚自习一 (evening class 1) 1820--1910

晚自习二 (evening class 2) 1920--2010

晚自习三 (evening class 3):20:20---21:10

晚自习四 (evening class 4) 2120--2300

晚自习五 (evening class 5) 2220--23:30

洗漱,熄灯 (washing, rest) 2220--2330

You can see from the timetable that students have no time to do sports. We had an exam recently and many students fell ill during the exam time. I think students need more sleep and more sport. Even I need time to do sports and sleep.

So many people said I am too kind to students. I dont know if it’s true. As time goes by I find I become so restless, so quick to get angry with some students. No matter how hard or soft I am, whether I punish them or talk to them, whether I tell the parents, they just keep on going the same way as before. I just feel they like stone. I'm sure they need to study how to respect, how to be grateful. I complain but I still appreciate such a chance to deal with different kind of students. I gradually get some real experience and I know I get stronger and more mature through this. I have a deep awareness of the real education in China. What we learned in university is really useless the most of time.  The university education should connect with our life, our real work. What is the root of the problem?

When we met Nita in August she told us of a student who died, as a result of an ectopic pregnancy. She had been too afraid to tell anyone that she had missed a period, suspecting she was pregnant. When the pain started nobody suspected that it was anything more serious than an upset tummy. The school instructed all teachers to keep silent about the incident. Nita comments on the school's desire to reach stability and prevent students from coming to harm. As in most cases this is achieved through even tighter controls and a relentless timetable, rather than through life skills education and knowledge. Do we education students "how to be good people" by putting them in straight-jackets? Nita is struggling to adapt to a very harsh social environment that many teachers lack the proper skills to deal with. I don't know where else it ends other than in disaster. Maybe a crisis will be the turning point, the final indicator that something just isn't working.

Li Hongyan
11/12/2009 06:44:42 am

My heart sank at reading this. It is not an unfamiliar senario to me. Most schools I visited over the past few years resemble this to various extent. Students are treated like cogs in a machine. We think a crisis such as a student's death might change the situation but sometimes it makes the situation even worse if they try to cover it up.

A school in Gansu cancelled all PE classes just because a student injured his hipbone in a PE lesson and his parents made a big fuss about it and demanded big amount in compensation. Apart from the teachers and head teachers, the parents need to be helped as well to understand the real purpose of education.

Lesley, that means how valuable your work is! Whatever you do there provides a glips of hope for teachers like Nita who are starting to think about these issues.

Recently a school in Hunan witnessed death of 8 students and injury of more than 20. It all happened within a few minutes amidst a stumbling and pile-over of students at the staircse during the rush out of classrooms after their (alas) late study sessions at night.

The MOE is interfering in this now and we can only hope that this tragedy could birng out more concrete actions and rationale thinking about the educational reform.



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