Think be­fore you laugh, he may not be a fish

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Aboy in East China’s Zhe­jiang prov­ince ac­ci­den­tally be­came an on­line sen­sa­tion af­ter his pho­to­graph went vi­ral re­cently. The photo, taken by his kinder­garten teacher, shows him sit­ting at a ta­ble, his back to the cam­era at a slight an­gle, with a basin con­tain­ing a big dead carp in front of him. The boy is flanked by five other chil­dren care­fully ob­serv­ing gold­fish in lit­tle fish bowls.

Be­liev­ing it to be amus­ing, the teacher shared the photo on her weibo, or mi­cro blog, with the cap­tion, “My teacher asked me to bring fish for ob­ser­va­tion. I am proud that my fish is big­ger than the other chil­dren’s.”

The photo, for­warded mil­lions of times within a day, soon flooded other so­cial me­dia plat­forms. Thou­sands of peo­ple left mes­sages be­low the post, re­call­ing the most awk­ward thing they had taken to school as chil­dren.

The boy’s fa­ther later explained to the me­dia that his son had told him that his teacher had asked him to bring a fish to class, without spec­i­fy­ing its type or size. Since he had just re­turned from a fish­ing trip, he gave his son a carp he had caught but did not feel like eat­ing.

The in­ci­dent struck a chord with many be­cause they all had had sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences in their child­hood. One ne­ti­zen said he once took a bloody pig liver to kinder­garten be­cause he didn’t re­al­ize the teacher was re­fer­ring to tan­ger­ine, which sounds the same as pig liver in South­west China’s Chongqing di­alect. An­other said her mother strug­gled to dig out a sapling in the woods in cold win­ter as she had mis­taken sketch pa­per for sapling be­cause they sound sim­i­lar.

Such episodes may sound funny, but they de­serve some se­ri­ous thought.

While some crit­i­cized the fa­ther for be­ing “ir­re­spon­si­ble” and mak­ing his son a laugh­ing stock, oth­ers sym­pa­thized with those par­ents who al­ways strug­gle to help their chil­dren fin­ish all kinds of home­work. Al­though it is the chil­dren who are as­signed the home- work, most of the work is ac­tu­ally done by their par­ents. For ex­am­ple, a hand­i­craft-mak­ing home­work usu­ally turns out to be a cre­ativ­ity com­pe­ti­tion for the par­ents, not the chil­dren.

Be­sides, nei­ther the Zhe­jiang boy nor his fa­ther was wrong be­cause the teacher had not spec­i­fied which sort of fish the stu­dents should bring to class. While most par­ents took it for granted that the teacher had asked for gold­fish, the boy’s fa­ther thought out­side the box. As the teacher jok­ingly said in her post, the child might not be aware some­thing is wrong and might even be proud that his fish is big­ger than those of the other chil­dren. A child should never be judged from an adult’s per­spec­tive or forced to ac­cept the so-called main­stream think­ing. In­stead, teach­ers should en­cour­age chil­dren to think cre­atively. Chil­dren are not prod­ucts as­sem­bled on pro­duc­tion lines. Their in­di­vid­u­al­ity and in­de­pen­dent char­ac­ter should not only be re­spected but also en­cour­aged. In the Zhe­jiang boy’s case, mock­ing and laugh­ing will only hurt the boy’s self-re­spect. Ide­ally, the teacher should have taken the op­por­tu­nity to teach the chil­dren the dif­fer­ence be­tween ed­i­ble fish and aquar­ium fish. Chil­dren in kinder­gartens and pri­mary schools usu­ally can­not tell right from wrong. Teach­ers’ re­ac­tion and feed­back are al­ways very im­por­tant for them to form their own judg­ment, which will serve them well in later life. A small en­cour­age­ment from teach­ers to chil­dren who do not fol­low the herd can help them grow up into dif­fer­ent but so­cially con­scious adults.

The writer is an ed­i­tor with China Daily. li­fangchao@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

ZHAI HAIJUN / FOR CHINA DAILY

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