Painting to a colorful future

Updated: 2011-10-02 07:40

By Zhang Yue (China Daily)

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Dongxiang, Gansu - "When I was in high school, I never expected I would become a teacher in a rural primary school," Du Juan said as she stood in front of a classroom 10 minutes before classes began, watching children playing and screaming loudly.

Painting to a colorful future

Du Juan, a painting teacher at Wangji school in Dongxiang county, Gansu province, shows students how to draw a cartoon figure on Sept 20. She is the sole teacher at the school who has a degree in art. [Photo/China Daily]

She said she used to feel impatient toward naughty kids.

Despite that tendency, the 25-year old is now the sole graduate of an art school employed to teach students in the nine grades at Wangji school in Dongxiang county, Gansu province, where most of the residents belong to the Dongxiang ethnic group.

Du herself is Han, which is the largest ethnic group in China.

She graduated from Longdong College in Gansu province in 2009 and began teaching that autumn.

"I had immense trouble when I first started here," she said.

"Very few of the first-grade students, who are mostly six or seven years old, can understand what I am saying in Mandarin."

Du is among the small group of teachers at the school who graduated from a university outside Dongxiang county.

Most of her colleagues belong to the Dongxiang ethnic group and can speak to the students in the local language.

Du said it was not until she held her first painting class that she began to realize that, besides language, one can communicate through pictures.

She vividly remembers the first time she stood before her class and painted. She drew a scene she reckoned most rural children would be familiar with.

It depicted a rabbit hiding under mushrooms to avoid getting wet in a heavy rain.

Du said she was surprised to see how excited the students became at watching her work.

"Wow! A rabbit! It was so much like a real rabbit!" some of the students shouted each time she finished a depiction of a leaf or piece of grass.

The demonstration marked the first time many of the students had seen someone painting.

"Before I started painting, the kids were even not able to talk to me because of the language difference," she said.

As part of her daily routine, she now shows her students how they can draw, stroke by stroke, pictures she has copied from books.

Sometimes, though, when she asks them about a particular painting, they misunderstand her. "There are too many things that they have never seen, and then they have no idea about what I am trying to show them," Du said.

Du said she has been amazed by the children's ingenuity and use of color. Last year, she received a notebook as a farewell gift from a girl who had graduated from primary school. When she opened it, she saw that the girl had drawn a small flower in different colors in a margin of every page.

"Beautiful things are always on their minds," Du said, "The students are just very shy."