I have been thinking about teaching and learning for a while now – perhaps because we are nearing the end of school attendance with our own children, perhaps because of visiting so many schools in the past six months but perhaps because of this picture, which arrived in my inbox courtesy of Chipasha Luchembe from the Zambians in California community.
Perhaps because once upon a time I was a teacher.
It is a formidable responsibility that you take on when you stand in front of a class of ten, twenty, thirty, fifty or one hundred children and direct their learning, impart knowledge – educate them.
Confucius, a teacher himself, placed enormous emphasis on morality, self control and respect – and on study and discipline. One of his more famous quotes relates to this: “He who learns but does not think is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”
He did not in any way mean rote learning – his teaching was defined by its questioning nature, literally. He would ask students questions, pose problems and get them to arrive at the answer. As he himself said “I only instruct the eager and enlighten the fervent. If I hold up one corner and a student cannot come back to me with the other three, I do not go on with the lesson.”
One of the blessings of being a teacher is that you are given an opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of those you teach, and likewise they can have a positive impact on your own life. It can be a rewarding, wonderful job. I remember being told of science teachers in Zimbabwe, many of whom had not been paid for months on end, travelling miles – some walking, some cycling, some in cars using up scarce diesel – to attend a Science Teachers workshop. Taking time they could ill afford in order to improve their skills in the classroom. There are many students who have a lot to thank those teachers for.
In looking up teaching in Zambia after seeing the picture that Prof Luchembe sent on I came across one of many inspiring stories. It is the story of teachers Mr. and Mrs. Maonde from Lilayi. They had both retired from teaching but began to teach children in their own home. They started with five pre-schoolers but by 2005 they had 200 pupils coming in shifts to their home to be taught.
The couple got in touch with teachers they knew in Canada and out of this an initiative called Friends for Zambia was started to raise funds to build a school in the area. The result is this.
Twitti School in Lilayi
There are now 370 pupils in the school from kindergarten to Grade 9. Some achievement. All stemming from the dedication of two inspired Zambian teachers, Simon and Lydia Maonde and two inspired Canadian teachers who had taught as volunteers in Namwala Secondary School – the school at which Simon Maonde was headmaster!
Take a look at their website here
This Day in World History - Few people in history can justly claim the impact of Kongfuzi (often called Confucius), whose teachings have influenced hundreds of millions of people across Asia. Like so many important figures in the world of ideas, the historical Kongfuzi is an elusive figure. While precise date of the sage’s birth is unknown, the Chinese have long celebrated September 28, and to this day, members of the Kong family still live in the family compound in Qufu, China.
It may seem to some like lazy thinking, but appropriating sayings, quotes, and proverbs can be quite handy in distilling complex subjects into something more immediate. At the Harold Washington Chicago Public Library are a few quotes above the checkout:
Books are meat and medicine
and flame and flight and flower,
steel, stitch, and cloud and clout
and drumbeats on the air.
- Gwendolyn Brooks
Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.
- Groucho Marx
Books and reading are very personal subjects for most of us, and I was interested to find more famous opinions about our chosen profession…
It would appear that Maya Angelou would approve of a customizable kids book that peaks a child’s interest in books:
“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”
Comedian Mitch Hedberg seemed to think that we may be too specialized:
“Every book is a children’s book if the kid can read!”
It was Confucius, however, who was the most complimentary of our endeavors:
“The book salesman should be honored because he brings to our attention, as a rule, the very books we need most and neglect most.”
What a wiseguy…
Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom is a Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. His new book, China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, covers everything form Confucius and Mao to Internet censorship. In the post below Wasserstrom poses some questions about China that you can find the answers to in his book. See if you can answer them in the comments. We will post the answers tomorrow. For more China questions check out another quiz by Wasserstrom that appeared on The China Beat.
Q: Which country is most like China in internet usage?
Q: Which country’s population is most like China’s?
Q: Which country follows China in overall Greenhouse Gas emissions (China is number one, this country is number two)?
Q: When China hosted the Summer Games in 2008 was it the first, second, third or fourth Asian country to do so?
Q: Has Confucius always been revered in China?
Q: When did Mao’s face begin to appear on Chinese banknotes?
In 1949 (when the PRC was founded)
In 1966 (when the Cultural Revolution began and the Mao cult peaked)
In 1976 (when Mao died)
In 1999 (the 50th anniversary of the founding of the PRC)
Q: What replaced his face on some 2008 banknotes?.