Tzu Chi Singapore held the second “Jing Si Aphorisms Teaching”s sharing session on March 16, 2013. It was a good meeting for 20 teachers from various secondary and primary schools, They temporary left their work stress behind, had a great time at the session and felt recharged.
Clarity of the Future Direction Fosters Closer Ties
More than a decade ago, Taiwan's Tzu Chi Teachers Association team was invited to Singapore several times to share the results of Jing Si Aphorisms Teaching with the teachers here, and the Singapore teachers were highly encouraged by their Taiwanese counterparts. Thereafter, "Tzu Chi Teachers Association (hereinafter referred to as Teachers Association) was established in Singapore in the year 1999.
10 years ago, Sister Zhuo Kum Kuat (now Master De Ge in Jing Si Abode ) led the teachers to Taiwan to learn on the Jing Si Aphorisms Teaching Method, but since 2006, they have not been back. Sister Wu Yin Kuai who is also the coordinator added that teachers here practice aphorisms in their respective schools wherever possible, and occasionally organize meetings to share their teaching experiences.
Some of the teachers, who are more active, also take part in the children’s classes and other educational activities organized by Tzu Chi. However, since the start of the Education Group Sharing Session in 2010, the Teachers’ Association’s gathering has become less active.
In November 2012, Ms Zeng Yu Chen from Taiwan led a team of 6 teachers and educators to Singapore and held 6 sessions of forums, spiritual talks and meetings over 2 days to exchange and share experiences and insights with the Singapore teachers and volunteers. Following this, they introduced the Jing Si Aphorisms Teaching to Maha Bodhi Primary School on November 17, after which many teachers responded and expressed their willingness to continue participating.
This in-depth exchange has indeed brought clarity to the future direction of the Education group with the hope of recruiting more teachers to join it’s Teacher’s Association. Since the beginning of 2013, the Education group has been organizing sharing sessions on Jing Si Aphorisms Teaching Method once every two months, to share the experience of Jing Si Aphorism Teaching and encourage teachers to learn from one another.
“After using Jing Si Aphorisms Teaching, the children has become more obedient and well-behaved. Not only that, teachers have also become more caring. "Sister Wu Yin Kuai said. The language teacher in local school usually has to take charge of 3 classes and therefore is always in a hurry. Through the sharing session, teachers are inspired to use Jing Si Aphorisms Teaching within their limited time.
Just like in sowing seeds, not every one will germinate. Moreover, in education, it takes a much longer time to see results. Nevertheless, some teachers are patiently using the Jing Si Aphorisms teaching to guide their students.
The wondrous effect of good words inspire kindness in children
In 1998, Ms Qian Bao Lai went to visit Jing Si Abode with the Teachers’ Association and returned with a copy of the Jing Si Aphorisms. Since then, she has been referring to the aphorisms in her teaching. Ms Qian finds the aphorisms very applicable in life; one particular phrase that she likes: “Getting angry is to punish yourself with the mistakes of others”. This phrase has helped her when facing difficulties in her marriage. She would also compile the aphorisms and these words of wisdom into small booklets to give to her students. For lower primary students, she would additionally furnish the Hanyu Pinyin as their vocabulary is limited. For the upper primary students, Ms Qian will use the Chinese characters directly, so that students can learn more Chinese characters. While conducting a class for lower primary students, Ms Qian previously shared that “gentlemen have big hearts, while petty people have big tempers”. Ms Qian often uses humour to relate the aphorisms and that helps make deep impressions in the students’ minds.
Ms Wang Li Wei is a Chinese teacher from Chung Cheng High School. After participating in the first sharing of the Jing Si Aphorisms Teaching, she puts the aphorisms on the classroom wall or uses it as discussion topics for comprehension. Over time, students gradually incorporate the aphorisms into their essay and thus indirectly improve their writing skills.
Boys who are going through puberty tend to be impulsive. One day, two boys in Ms Wang’s class had an argument and almost got into a fight. Ms Wang made them read the aphorism: “Getting angry is to punish yourself with the mistakes of others” The students read it and promptly calmed down. Ms Wang had skillfully defused an apparent fight. The wondrous aphorisms slowly and surely bring out the goodness of the students through these daily influences.
Deep sense of Commitment
Having been incorporating Jing Si Aphorisms in her teachings for over 10 years, Ms Ji Cui Yun shares how she usually uses a story to relate to the teachings in an aphorism. For example, she tells a story where a mother took her twin daughters to a rose garden; one daughter got annoyed at why her mother took her to see flowers with lots of thorns, whereas the other daughter was very happy and thanked her mother for taking her to see such a beautiful garden. They were in the same situation but with different thoughts and feelings. Ms Ji refers to one aphorism where it says “if you look at a chipped cup from another angle, it still looks round.” In reference to that, Ms Ji always advises her students to look at things from a different angle when faced with challenges.
In addition, Ms Ji always leads her students to practice aphorisms in their daily lives, for example, she uses “Getting angry is to punish yourself with the mistakes of others” as a discussion topic in their papers. She also often asks: "Which aphorism touches you most? And which aphorisms would you give to your friends and family?"
The class rooms in Chung Cheng High School are named after moral values. When Ms Ji was the form teacher for “Humble” class, she asked the students to use an idiom to describe “humble”. The student answered: "Pride brings loss while humility brings goodness," while she quoted an aphorism: "The fuller the rice tassels are, the lower they bend; the more accomplished a person is, the humbler he should be” to illustrate the importance of humility.
When marking the assignments, Ms Ji also likes to write an aphorisms in her students’ workbooks. Over time, the students will instinctively turn to the last page to look for the aphorisms upon receiving the workbooks before getting on with the assignment.
For those on class duty, Ms Ji also gives them a gentle reminder using an appropriate aphorism such as "as we sweep the floor, we also cleanse our soul, if we merely sweep the floor and neglect cleansing the soul, then it is a waste of effort" to remind the students about the importance of cleaning ; if one cannot do a small task well, he will not be able to accomplish a big task. In addition, Ms Ji also puts aphorisms on the notice board, to constantly remind the students and cultivate goodness in them.
Once, a student in the basketball team was distraught and was fighting back tears upon receiving poor results, Ms Ji found his mobile number and sent an aphorism to encourage him: “In life, not all balls are good ones; only a seasoned batter can make a hit every time.” When this student, who was already in the second year of university, returned to visit the school in 2008, he showed the same text message to Ms Ji and said,“Do you still remember this text message? You sent it to me then and after changing four mobile phones, I am still keeping this message!”
Ms Ji also has a habit of giving her graduating students bookmarks with Jing Si aphorisms. After observing each of her students, she picks the appropriate aphorisms and gives them to her students. One of the students was Ms Chen Suwen, who is also a teacher now.
Passing down the wisdom
26-year-old Ms Chen Shuwen still keeps the handmade bookmark from Ms Ji. Last year, Ms Chen and her colleague, Ms Wang Liwei visited Hualien for a holiday, and while they were there, they chanced upon Jing Si Abode and thus got to know about the Jing Si Aphorisms. Upon returning home, Ms Chen shared her delightful experience with Ms Ji. When Ms Ji invited her to attend the sharing session on Jing Si Aphorisms Teaching, she was quite surprised that she in fact had first learned about the aphorisms 12 years ago.
Back in 2001, on her graduation, Ms Ji had gifted her an aphorism: "Life is like walking on a tight rope, be focused and look forward, don’t look back and feel regret.” At that time, Ms Chen was feeling down and lacked confidence. Her teacher seemed to understand her state of mind then. “In the process of growing up, I hope to learn a lesson from failure or frustration, and then try to pick myself up and continue to grow, rather than marking time and not proceeding forward.There is no point in holding on to the past.." She looked back and realized that the aphorism had indeed make such a big impact on her.
During her secondary 2 and 3 days, Ms Chen was a member of the Chinese Society in school, where Ms Ji was the teacher in charge. “During that time, I had a lot of opportunity to get close to Ms Ji. Her passion in teaching and her care towards students had left a great impression in me. Her teaching also made good sense in our daily lives.”
Because of Ms Ji’s great influence, Ms Chen later chose a career in teaching. “Teaching is a very meaningful career, it can influence a person and I would like to be one who can influence others too.” Ms Chen added.
After attending the first aphorism sharing session on Jan 19, Ms Chen found that it was not easy to incorporate aphorisms in her teachings. However, after hearing Ms Wang Liwei’s experience, she finds that it is not impossible. "In the beginning I was worried that students would feel uncomfortable because of the religious overtones, so I did not try to use them. But slowly, I find that aphorisms are very easy to understand and they are applicable for teaching social and interaction skills.”
Ms Chen who has been teaching for four and a half years now, was very touched upon seeing the efforts of the other teachers’. She contemplated her own original intentions of choosing a career in teaching, and decided to internalize the aphorisms before incorporating them into her teachings.
After listening to the testimonies from the pair, the Principal of Chung Cheng High School, Mr Peng Junhao said: "It is most satisfying for educators to see children grow up with the right attitude and kindness."
Mr Peng described the way Ms Ji passes her knowledge and wisdom to her students as “passing the lamp of wisdom”, thereby changing the fate of many students, Ms Ji is indeed very well-respected teacher by her students. Mr Peng summed it up thus: "Good teachers are very hard and rare to find."
At the end of the sharing session, deputy CEO of the branch, Brother Zhang Zheng Chang was very delighted to see teachers making great efforts towards effecting changes in their students so as to develop a more gracious society. He hopes the sharing would allow teachers to learn from one another and looks forward to future heart-warming sessions where teachers can emerge re-charged, and radiate the positive energy to even more teachers and students.
Educators first have to learn and “internalize” the aphorisms, only then can they "teach others"; this is the best learning model in order for the aphorisms to be widely used in Singapore schools in time to come.