In teacher's world of silence, color is king

By Liu Mingtai in Changchun and Zhou Huiying | China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-22 09:13
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Wang Huawen gives an art lesson at the Special Education Experimental School in Jilin city, Jilin province. CHINA DAILY

Jilin art instructor committed to help hearing-impaired students go further

Although he has lived in a world of silence for 48 years, Wang Huawen has helped some 500 students with hearing impairments get into college since he became an art teacher at the Special Education Experimental School in Jilin city, Jilin province, in 1996.

Born into a rural family in Panshi city in 1968, Wang was given medicine when he was 7 that irreparably damaged his hearing.

"My parents took me to lots of hospitals, but all the doctors said that I would never hear another sound again," he said. "At the time, I was too young to fully understand what that would mean, but I was sad that I wouldn't be able to communicate with others normally."

Wang remembers some of the troubles he had as he adjusted to his new situation.

"At first, my parents had to speak slowly so that I could understand what they were saying by reading their lips," he said. "I insisted on attending a normal primary school, but it was really difficult for me to keep up with my classmates as the classes became more complicated."

When he was 8, Wang was transferred to a special education school in Panshi, where he began to learn sign language. At first, he was reluctant to use it, especially in public.

"I was always worried that using sign language would draw attention to me, which would make me feel ashamed. But after struggling with myself for quite a while, I finally accepted the truth that I couldn't just live in my own world and that I needed to communicate more with people in the same position as me," he said.

"I also hoped that I'd be able to develop better. And so I began to study sign language harder and use it more frequently."

In 1989, Wang enrolled at the Jilin Special Education Experimental School, a secondary vocational school. "Thanks to my parents' support and encouragement, I was able to continue my studies," he said. "When I started at the school, I wasn't sure which major to choose. The teachers suggested I choose art after they realized I had an interest."

Wang said though he wasn't good at painting, he had a passion for it.

"Painting is also a kind of language, and it allows me to express my inner world and emotions," he said. "Despite not being able to hear, I was more focused and had a better understanding of color and art."

Wang studied hard and did well academically during his four years at the school. In 1993, he was admitted to Changchun University's College of Special Education to study arts and crafts.

After graduating in 1996, he returned to his alma mater and became an art teacher.

"In fact, I had a few offers of employment from cities in southern regions," he said. "But when I was asked by the headmaster of my alma mater if I wanted to teach there, I decided to take what I had learned back to the school and its students."

Wang was put in charge of teaching drawing, sketching and coloring to senior students preparing for the gaokao, the national college entrance examination.

"As an art major, I had little experience as a teacher, so I had to research and explore teaching methods," he said. "Fortunately, I was able to communicate easily with my students, especially by using the paintbrush as a bridge."

To help his students understand him more easily, Wang often uses big, exaggerated gestures during class.

"Like me, they are living in a world of silence. My hope is to bring a little more color into their lives," he said.

Over the past 26 years, Wang has taught about 600 students, around 500 of whom have been admitted to college.

"Some have done very well, including getting into postgraduate programs or continuing their studies overseas," he said. "Some have also held exhibitions, which made me proud of being their teacher."

Wang's impressive teaching achievements have also attracted students from other parts of the country, including the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Gansu and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

"With the great changes that have happened, the disabled now expect more of life and from their personal pursuits," he said. "I hope that all my students will be able to change their fate through hard work, and like me, create a niche for themselves with the skills they have learned."

Zhang Siyu contributed to this story.

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