Opinion / From the Readers

Should I tell my students the truth?

By teamkrejados ( Updated: 2015-05-20 08:38

As adults and global citizens, we have the obligation to help these students gain a clearer worldview. Not everything in America is good; not everything in China is bad. Fundamentally, it comes down to personal choice, but it must be an informed choice. Unbiased information is what we need to offer our students, our friends and anyone who is curious about life abroad.

Conversely, we should not go overboard to represent our countries of origin in unrealistically bright hues. I sat in on a lecture given by another foreign teacher, about family life. He completely neglected to report that some families are completely estranged, with members not even willing to come together for holidays or funerals. Or that sometimes, family elders are shunted into homes where no family visits. He gave the impression that families in America connect by love and desire rather than obligation, something that most students here feel burdened by.

There is a measure of truth in that assessment, but his illustration of family life in America, coupled with countless movies of families gathered around the turkey at Thanksgiving or the Christmas ham no doubt served to send his class into paroxysms of envy. Such longing was later revealed in open conversation.

The danger of promoting such adulation is neglect or abandonment of Chinese traditional values. While these kids lick their lips over turkey and hugs and that Norman Rockwell (painter of Americana) feeling, it seems they are turning further away from their own, poignant culture. One student told me they do not revere their traditions as much because they are more 'modern'.

What does that mean?

For both China and America, the holiday season approaches. Americans have enjoyed their turkeys and possibly their Black Friday shopping with an eye toward Christmas; the Chinese government is planning their Lunar New Year extravaganza. Said extravaganzas are looked upon more and more with jaundiced eye by the Chinese. The gala – CCTV's show that, in recent years has been judged as trite, the fireworks now deemed disturbing and dangerous, the agony of travel in spite of more trains being put into service, none of it is gleefully anticipated.

Christmas shopping is what people in China are looking forward to. Already the malls are decked out and the merchandise entices. One no longer hears Gong Xi Ni Fa Cai - the Chinese song wishing luck and prosperity, but Jingle Bells and other English carols. On Christmas, stores stay open late and shoppers expect deep price cuts. It is all in fun, but it is yet another step away from traditional Chinese celebration.

ADVERTISING3 3 For the first time in the five years I've been here, I will be 'home' for Christmas. When I told my students, they immediately envisaged every tender family scene from every movie they'd ever watched. Or, perhaps they were parlaying my homecoming into theirs, scheduled for about a month from now. Regardless: all of the feelings ascribed to rejoining loved ones after a long absence were present in their comments and in their eyes.

This is what we foreigners must absolutely not destroy.

I'll not share my anxiety dreams with them, or my fears. What they need to know is how great it will be to hold my sweet grandbaby again. Instead of focusing on gunshots that sound like firecrackers, I'll illustrate how wonderful it will be to spend Christmas with my son and his family.

I'll tell them how much I regret missing the New Years' show they stage, that I've attended every year since I've been here. I'll tell them the skit I'd written for the Teacher Talent show will have to be performed next year, as I won't be here for it this year. When I talk with them, I'll try not to cry over all the things I will miss about China when I'm in America.

For we foreigners in China, especially teachers, that is the balance that must be struck in order to educate our charges in finding their place in this world.


The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and don't represent views of China Daily website. You can read the original story and comments here: What did you say?

Should I tell my students the truth?

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