[Essays: Below are some essays translated from Chinese into English. The first is a newspaper article by an elementary school teacher in Taiwan. It shows how Taiwan’s society is changing. Hope you like them.]
An Elementary School Teacher’s
Written Statement of Repentance
Society is confused now, and many people say this is because elementary school teachers don’t teach well. This criticism makes me very angry. But recently something happened with my students that made me admit it might be true. Maybe elementary school teachers really don’t teach well.
The unfortunate event began with a phone call from some of my students who had recently graduated. They said: “Teacher, we are having a class reunion tomorrow. You must come. We want to see you!”
The phone call made me feel warm inside. I remembered that when I taught them I was just a young teacher, around 25 years old.
Once, I remembered, I’d made a deal with them. If their exam scores were high, we’d take a field trip and visit many places. Later I realized this was maybe dangerous. With one 25-year-old teacher traveling around with a lot of students, what would happen if someone got hurt? Anyhow, we took many field trips until the older, wiser teacher finally said, “No,” and we stopped.
Time waits for no man. Now they were all 17 or 18 years old. I wanted to see them, so I agreed to go to the class reunion.
They made an appointment to have lunch in a restaurant at the top floor of a department store. When I got to the public square in front of the store, I saw them. I thought that they were waiting for me, but I was wrong. They were waiting for other students they’d invited.
I waited under the sun with them for the other students. We waited a long time. Unexpectedly, no one said: “Teacher, why don’t you go into the restaurant sooner?” But I remember that when I taught them I didn’t want the relations between students and teachers to be too serious. “It’s okay,” I thought. “I can wait.”
After a while, they didn’t want to wait any longer for the others. They were afraid their appointment might be canceled. Finally I could get out of the sun and go up to the restaurant.
The restaurant was an excellent choice. The food was all very fresh and it wasn’t very expensive. As we talked, one of the boys said that after lunch he would meet his girlfriend and go to a movie. He had bought a present for her too. About half an hour later, he said to another student: “I need to go meet my date. You’ll have to cover my part of the bill because I spent all my money on the present.” Then he left.
But the other student didn’t want to pay for him, so they all started arguing whose training wages were highest. Meanwhile I felt a little nervous, so I asked one of the students: “When did you all plan this class reunion?” That student was quite innocent. He immediately answered: “Yesterday.”
My God! Planned only a day ahead of time! It was no wonder they didn’t have time to gather the money. A while later I decided to go home. Before I left the restaurant, I said to them: “I will pay for myself.” Unexpectedly they said: “Teacher, you only need to pay $308. But if you have more money, you can pay for us.” So no one thought that they should pay for the teacher.
A few days later I went to school for a teachers’ conference. After the conference I told one of my colleagues what happened at the class reunion. She said: “Don’t be sad. I’ve had a worse experience than you.”
She told me some of her former students had called her and said they wanted to come to her house and visit her. She agreed, and asked them: “Do you want to eat lunch when you visit?” The students said it sounded good. When the day came she cleaned the house and cooked a big meal. As the students arrived she noticed that they didn’t bring any present, but thought it was okay, since they didn’t yet have wages. But after they finished the lunch no one offered to help her wash the dishes, and as they watched her washing the dishes they said: “Teacher, you are a good housewife.” When they went home they took the presents she had prepared for them and didn’t even thank her.
I thought to myself about how I worked so hard to teach my students, but now they don’t even know how to be considerate. If someone around me ever says that elementary school teachers didn’t teach well, I won’t bother defending myself. I admit it: we didn’t teach them well.
Some other essays. . .
One man likes to buy books. He usually says to people: “This book is. . .”
Other people put a damper on him immediately. They say: “Your books can’t really be called books. They are just commodities.”
The man feels angry, so he asks them: “What do you mean?”
They say: “You never read them.”
Some people are interested in buying books, but they don’t have the time to read them. They just buy them and when they get home, they put them in the bookcase. They think they can read them whenever they want. But in fact, even though they have free time, they never end up reading them. So there are more and more books every week. Finally their house becomes like a bookstore’s warehouse.
A man who sells shelled peanuts buys old books to package the peanuts. He says to himself: “If these books didn’t have words in them it would be even better.”
Buying white paper is better than buying books and never reading them.
One company president sent a ship out to buy mussels. When the ship came back it met with a very big storm and so it came back very late. When they unloaded the mussels from the ship they found that the mussels were already all rotten. The company president was so sad he wanted to kill himself. The ship captain suggested that he not give up too early. He said to the president: “Maybe we have something inside the ship we don’t know about.” So they checked the mussels again. This time they found a big pearl in one of them, a pearl that could be sold for more money than they lost.
Failure can bring us something very important, like experience. And experience can be even more priceless than a pearl.
One big hotel was very ancient. The facilities inside were very old, too. So there was no business for a long time. The hotel’s president invited an expert to help them solve their problem. Three months later, this expert gave the hotel’s president a report. The expert wanted the president to build a new hotel. And invite a fresh new staff.
The staff couldn’t accept it, so they invited another expert. After this expert had studied the situation, he suggested the president change the water taps. “The new water taps are beautiful, practical, and they never leak. So guests can sleep well at night.”
They invited the expert to be their new manager. This manager started to reform the hotel. He solved the details first. Then he solved the hotel’s larger problems. Finally the hotel changed for the good.
The guests found the hotel comfortable, though not very fashionable. Many visitors liked to stay in this hotel.
Smart people who reform things always start with details. Because they know small problems are easier to solve than big problems.
Having many small successes at first built up their confidence, so they could move on to larger problems.
Twenty years ago I knew two people who wanted to learn English. They would often tell me what they felt about the language. One of them (let’s just call him “A”) said to me:
“English is very beautiful, you know. It’s just like going into a garden. When I learn a new word, I feel I see many beautiful colors.”
The other person (“B”) often said: “English is too hard. There are too many grammar rules. It’s boring.”
Today A. is a famous translator, but B.’s English is lousy. Maybe it’s because he thought the grammar was too hard.
People who don’t want to read a lot usually have a lot of excuses. One man I know doesn’t want to read Confucius because he can’t be sure if the texts are all really by Confucius. If you don’t take up the book to read it, how can you know what the book has to say to you?
If you always focus on the bad side of things, how can you ever improve?
The neighbor on my left side was a famous singer before. She listens to her CDs in her house all day. The neighbor on my right side is a professor. He prays and studies in his house all day.
The professor is old but looks like a young man. How about the singer? She is only forty, but she looks like she’s almost eighty.
What’s the cause of this? It’s because the singer can’t forget her past and the things that “ruined” her life. Although the professor is very old, he never stops learning. He is learning Latin now.
“When I learn new words,” he said to me, “I feel I am younger and younger.”
White hair doesn’t mean a person is old. The truly old people are those who stop learning. So there are twenty-year-old people who are already elderly, and there are eighty-year-old people who are still young.
Learning always keeps people young and fresh. It can keep you young too.
--Essays translated by Terry Lu.
Email: Terry Lu
This page is at http://www.necessaryprose.com/