This semester, the makeup of the student population has changed very much. YYHS used to recruit its freshmen from the satellite counties of Shiyan City. But this year a large proportion of the newcomers are from the city proper as a result of changes in the recruitment policies made by the local education authorities and the shameless advertising the school did of itself.


In the past, a lot of my students came from underprivileged backgrounds. Some had trouble paying their tuition fees; some even could not afford the expenses of staying on campus. In contrast, the majority of my new students are just the opposite. Some have parents who run their own businesses; some say their parents work in the municipal government, the hospitals or banks. They do not worry about their weekly budget. They have access to the Internet at home and in the school. And they do not study because university would offer them a means of living.


The new pupils have made me aware that they need new motivations for learning. I have been figuring out my new ways with them. At the same time, day by day, week by week, the teens have been growing and learning. I have noted a couple of moments of growth as follows.


A Ruined Weekend


Zhang Chengyue comes from the city but she opts to live on campus. She told me that she felt free in the school without her parents telling her to do this and that all the time. She goes back home on Saturday afternoon after the third class. She comes back to school on Sunday afternoon for a new week.


The competitive learning environment made her aware that she should improve herself. She determined to change herself in some ways. Usually on the weekend when she is home, she spends a lot of time on computer games and TV. One Saturday she thought she should cut down on computer games and give more time instead to her homework and serious stuff.


After supper, she saw her computer. She told herself, “I will play only two hours. Only two.” Then she sat down at the computer and the gaming kicked off. The next time she checked the clock, it was already midnight. “Oh, my God!” Chengyue cried.


She went to bed and did not arise until 11 am on Sunday. After her lunch, also her breakfast, she took a shower and had her hair washed and dried.


Time flies. It was already 4 pm before she realised. Her mother cooked the dinner for her. After dinner, she had to leave for school. The first evening class began around 6.30.


Thinking of all the homework left undone, Chengyue was guilty. She learned a lesson from the weekend: Change does not come easy and still she has to change herself for the better.


Waking Up


Li Shuang the girl, one of my student assistants, comes from the county town of Zhuxi. Her parents are probably government officials. Before high school she lived at home and her parents took good care of her. She did not need to do washing. She did not need to cook. When she came home from school, dinner was already on the table. She even did not need to wake up herself in the morning. Her mother woke her up on time like a clock.


Everything changed when she started high school. Her home far away from the campus, she had to live in residence, sharing a dorm with 7 female classmates. A new life kicked off for Li Shuang.


Because she could not wake up herself in the beginning, she asked her dormmates to help her up when the time was due. For the first few weeks her mates did it every morning. She was grateful to them for their kindness. Two months into her high school, Li Shuang resolved to set the alarm and wake herself up.


One morning she finally made it. She woke up with the alarm off. “This is some big progress,” Li Shuang told herself, congratulating herself on the achievement. One of her mates, Miss Liang Yawen, used to wake her up. Amazed by Li Shuang’s change, Yawen hugged her and kissed her.


Miss Li Shuang will stay here three years. This small step forward will be followed by longer strides towards an independent lifestyle. Good luck, Li Shuang.




A Chinese teen in the 21st century might not do maths well. He might not write good Chinese essays. He might not get straight A’s on his school reports. However, there is one thing of which he is a master – the Internet and the computer. A lot of teens know more computer stuff than their teachers do. They, working online, are just like fish in water. Familiarity with digital technology does give them an edge. Nonetheless, the other side of the coin is that a lot of teens are addicted to the Internet and gaming. Obsession with the games disrupts their life and leaves their existence in a mess.


Ye Chacha comes from a town called Mt Wudang. He is not bad at English but his failure to turn in his journal and assignments arouses my suspicion that something preoccupies him.


He got home one Saturday afternoon for the weekend break. Like all the other students, he had to come back the next evening for a new week. During the one-day break he had to do his homework. He had to take care of his personal stuff – taking a bath and washing his hair, meeting former school friends and catching up on his games.


No sooner had he got home and left his backpack on the floor than he turned on the computer. Not having played his favourite games for a week, he started to quench his thirst immediately. There was no time for a proper dinner, so he had some snacks instead. Before he realised it, it was 6 o’clock Sunday morning. He was so tired that he fell asleep the moment his head touched the pillow. When he woke up, it was already Sunday afternoon. He had to take a bus back to school, hair dirty, bath not taken and homework undone.


Ye Chacha wrote later in the journal he would never again play games throughout a night. “It is too bad,” he reflected. “I have many other missions to accomplish.”


I am afraid that a lot of teens without any discipline would turn webaholic. May those hooked on games learn to control themselves and put their gaming into perspective.


A Meal


Miss Guo Weiwen commutes to and from school every day. She does not live on campus. She is learning fast too.


On Sunday morning she slept late. Her father had to work on the weekend. While Weiwen was still in her dreams, her father called in. Half dreaming half awake, she took the call on the mobile phone. The father asked Weiwen to cook lunch herself for he would come back later than usual. She agreed before she fell asleep again.


Around ten am she suddenly awoke. The father’s call came back to her mind. She was getting a little panicky because she had never cooked before. She had agreed to cook on the phone because she, not being fully awake at the time, did not know consciously what she was mumbling.


She jumped out of bed. After washing and brushing her teeth, she rushed to the supermarket. Weiwen sometimes had her lunch in the school canteen, where one dish – tofu and ham cooked together – impressed her. She decided to try the same dish at home for her father.


It was time to cook. She sliced the tofu and the ham into the right pieces. Then she turned on the cooker and put cooking oil in. The oil got hotter and hotter but Weiwen had no idea which to put in first, the tofu or the ham. The oil was so sizzling that she could no longer hesitate. She threw both the tofu and the ham at the same time into the wok.


The dish turned out to be a disaster, Weiwen thought. It looked ugly. When father sat down and tasted the dish at lunch, he said too little salt had been put in. So more salt was added to it.


Did Miss Guo Weiwen learn from this cooking experience? Certainly.


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