On a fine Sunday morning of 28 February 2016, the Tzu Chi Parent-Child Bonding Class attended the first lesson of the year. Families travelled across the island for the lesson held at the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Cultural Academy Home. They were welcomed by the sight of a four-storey building looming into view which made one feel inspired to attain greater heights in their learning. The culturally-rich institution, coupled with its spacious and tranquil compounds, also provided a conducive learning environment for the children.
Ms Lin Li Qing, person-in-charge of the Parent-Child Bonding Class, said in her welcome speech, “We hope that shifting lessons beyond the Jing Si Hall will integrate the programme in our community while overcoming space constraints.”
Well-planned lessons were conducted in the spacious grounds in six classrooms as well as in the outdoor compound for the children, while parents attended lessons in the main hall.
In the Good Hands of Tzu Chi Volunteers
Parents started streaming in at 8.45am with their children in tow. They were received by friendly ushers whose warm smiles calmed the enthusiastic children. They were then ushered to the reception area and subsequently the classrooms, where the teachers were waiting patiently. Thanks to the dedication and commitment of 103 volunteers, the programme ran smoothly for the benefit of 272 participants.
As it was the start of a new school term, new-comers were there to attend their first session but their jitters were eased by the friendliness of existing participants. They were soon integrated into the classes. In addition to such positive interaction among students, excellent rapport between teachers and students built over the years could be observed in the classrooms.
The discussion topic for the day was “Gather the mind and be firm in your faith”. To aid the young participants in understanding the abstract concept, teachers referred to the volunteer in charge of photography as an example. “Do you think she’s really focused on filming and taking photographs? Gathering the mind is akin to photography as it captures our mind, allowing us to focus,” a teacher explained.
Gathering the Mind, Understanding Impermanence
Children from one class watched a video clip which depicted a mouse turning into a cat, followed by a dog and subsequently a tiger. The teacher explained that the desires of the small mouse are just like the distracting thoughts in our minds; we too, often have too much wants and expectations. These lead our hearts astray and we forget our original potential. “If we guard our thoughts well, life will be joyful; the reverse also holds true and brings suffering,” said the teacher as she invoked the wisdom of a Jing Si Aphorism.
To help children understand the meaning behind the Jing Si Aphorism – “If one cannot concentrate and focus, one will not succeed”, the teaching team conducted an interactive game as a form of experience-based learning.
Under a peculiar-looking fig tree in the basketball court, the teacher conducted an outdoor activity – the Basin Race. The objective of the activity was to allow young participants from the “Courage” class to experience what it meant to gather their minds. As the children carried the filled basins in their hands while attempting to outcompete one another, they learnt that they had to be very focused on the task at hand.
In addition, teachers taught the young participants the concept of impermanence by playing a video about the Sabah earthquake which took the lives of three students from Tanjong Katong Primary School last year. “I feel that they are really pitiful as they lost their lives at such a young age. Therefore, I believe that we should treasure the time we have by being filial to our parents and focusing on our studies,” Zheng Hao Tian shared after watching the video.
Gathering the Mind Through Tzu Chi Principles
Meanwhile, senior volunteer leader Sister Susi shared with the parents in the hall about how practising Tzu Chi principles helped her focus her mind. Having been through a difficult childhood, Susi started working at a young age. Due to her circumstances, she developed a headstrong character and could not get along well with others. Fortunately, joining Tzu Chi changed her life. She has since become more understanding and tolerant. She applies the principles she has learnt in Tzu Chi, allowing her to better communicate with her teenage children and to take things calmly in her stride.
Ms Liao Mei Zhen, a parent, was extremely touched by Susi’s personal recount. She attended the bonding session with two daughters. Her younger daughter, Huang Yi Jun, who used to attend Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool, had been looking forward to attending the Parent-Child Bonding Class. She was so excited about the session that she woke up exceptionally early for it. Ms Liao strongly believes in Tzu Chi’s ideals in education and this spurred her to sign both daughters up for the Parent-Child Bonding Class despite the distance from their home.
“Tzu Chi is able to apply profound ideology to the parent-child bonding curriculum, (the contents are) very applicable to daily life and is very beneficial in parent-child interactions,” Mr Wu Yi Jing, father of Wu Jue Min from the “Resilience” Class, shared. He was heartened to see his daughter become more sensible and well-behaved after attending the Parent-Child Bonding Class for three years. Although the new venue is not too accessible for him, Mr Wu feels that the environment is more conducive for learning and is supportive of the move.