Shengliver’s Note: This entry was first posted on the blog about ten years ago, when working conditions at the school were far worse than today. Today the teens have access to drinking water in the classroom building. Better still all the classrooms are fitted with air-conditioners.


I have been on holiday for around a week. A couple of email messages prompted me to write this entry. I hope that the boys and girls read it when they visit my blog.




The week before the vacation started, working in the classroom was a torture. The high temperature and poor ventilation combined to make us all suffer, sweating and feeling lethargic. Classroom One has three windows in the wall facing the sports field, but Classroom Two only two. So I sweated profusely when working in Classroom Two, especially evenings.


The main reason we are on holiday is the weather. We find it hard to concentrate on our learning at extreme temperatures, low and high. In summer, people from all walks of life take some measures to protect themselves against the blazing sun. When we stay at home, we can dress casually, eat cooling foods or have an iced drink. With over 70 souls sharing a classroom, one individual does not average a large space. At home, we have more room to breathe in.


The same goes for winter vacation. We stop school and go back home when the weather turns freezing. Of course we Chinese have a special reason for the winter holiday—the Spring Festival.


In my opinion the best place to be when the temperature is high is home. A simple endeavour like a shopping trip costs a lot of sweat. My first tip is to stay home when it is scorching. There are a number of close days every summer.


Do you remember when you were back in school? Every workday we had to process homework that seemed endless. We had to meet various deadlines. The maths teacher’s assistant was collecting the maths assignment; the English teacher’s assistant was asking you to turn in the journal; and many others. Do you remember how you felt, locked up in the school? Did you complain about lack of freedom and a sleep debt? So is there another reason for summer vacation?


Yes, of course. As far as I can see, teachers and students alike need to take time away from school. Doing mental work all the time blunts the intellect. Some of you told me in the journal that the mind was not as sharp as before. So the holiday is a time when we go away from intensive mental work and rest our brain for a while by doing something different. After holiday, we will come back and resume the same mental labour.


Actually professors in the West are granted a sabbatical every few years. A sabbatical is a long break away from their teaching and research. They take the time to do whatever they like. Some professors may go and be a farmer for a couple of weeks. When they return to the world of ideas, they take up their academic job with a renewed mind.




Do we learn at school everything it takes to be a social being? Not really. As a human, we need more than what is offered by school in order to function in society. Teachers could not teach you everything. And wealth is not created only by being a student. We need to discover more about society, family and friends, and ourselves.


Observe folks around you and learn about them. For instance, is there a shopkeeper in your neighbourhood? Find out how he runs his business. How does he make a living? Where does he purchase the merchandise? What is the difference between his buying price and his selling price? What role does his shop play in the community? Would your life be affected if his service should be gone? Will you one day end up being a shopkeeper? Questions of this nature would start you off exploring the way society runs.


Another option is to go and find a job, part-time or full. The job need not bring you a large sum, and keep in mind that doing a summer job will raise your awareness of what you have already got. By doing the work, you will see what steps there are, what patience it takes, and how you should socialise with the people related to your work. Such stuff could never be learned at school. After we finish our education, where will we go? Will we depend on our parents and teachers for ever?


Help your parents keep house. Whether you live in the city or in the country, you can help around the house in the summer. If your parents are still working, your help will be a delight to them. Probably you took for granted the well-maintained home—the spotless kitchen, the well-made bed, and the daily grocery shopping. The truth is that maintaining a decent family home takes your parents time and effort. Offer to clean up. Or promise to cook a meal. Or take out the rubbish every day. Your work will make a difference, and your parents will appreciate your contribution.


Should we set aside time for homework? We need not pore over the books all the day but some slots of time being made good use of will see you finish a portion of your work daily. As the holiday progresses, your homework decreases. Please do not leave everything, Maths, Chinese, English and the Sciences, until the very last minute.


A point to bear in mind when it comes to doing our assignment is that we should reserve a time when we are not disturbed and that we should do the homework where other people, including our family, cannot divert our attention. Please do not do your homework while your father is chatting with you. Please do not do your homework in front of the TV set or at your computer. If there is a lot of distraction going on, we work slowly and the effect is not as good. So make sure you have a good learning environment, and be focused when it is time to work.


Every holiday for me is when I can afford the time to pursue my interest further. Most likely you have learned that your teacher has an uncommon interest in the language. Of course when I am working at school, I am learning and using the language but most of my energy is devoted to the daily routine—classroom teaching, working with my colleagues, preparing the lessons and reading your work, and all the other duties. During a term I do not have a long stretch of time for the bigger projects. Now I am on holiday. Every day besides doing the household chores and staying with my family, I have all the time to read the books I have not found time for. I do a lot of reading and research on some topics I am interested in. No one disturbs me and it is pleasurable. I have been working so hard so long to improve my ability to use the English language in listening, speaking, reading and writing. The holiday is also a time when I will hone my practical language skills further. When we meet again at the beginning of the new term, you will surely find your teacher’s knives sharper than ever.


I talked about pursuing my interest in the vacation because I hope you all will do the same—go all out for what you like as long as your interest does not interfere with your healthy normal life. Do you have an interest? Do you like music, dancing, travelling or simply reading? The holiday should enable you to take time over it. You need not worry a lot about your academic studies. Immerse yourself in your interest. Do what you like and develop your interest further. You will come out of your holiday a maturer and more practised being.


Some of you asked me if it would be any use attending a summer camp. Cram schools offer summer classes and they are very popular. Well, in my view, while following your own heart, you should take into account your family budget. If you do feel a need to go out and learn from other teachers, you can go. A chance to meet new people is always a good learning experience. But ask your parents and see if they raise their eyebrows over the high fees you would have to have them pay for such lessons. Every summer those language schools make a fortune out of their courses.


If you attend a language school, do not dream of others learning for you. The learning itself has to be done by your very person. A teacher might inspire you and a buddy might help you, but they cannot learn for you. The high fees you paid are not a 100% guarantee of a better person. Even if you feel the experience was a let-down, do not blame others, say the teacher. Hopefully, a failure, should it happen, teaches you one BIG lesson—learn for yourself.


Quite a lot of you, both from Class One and from Class Two, will probably never attend a summer camp. You have to be with your family on the farm. Does it mean that you will lag behind those who are LUCKY enough to attend a summer camp? Not necessarily. Since the learning responsibility rests with the learner, why should you worry if you work hard every day at home, helping with the farm work and doing the homework in the tree shade in your yard? Toiling in the sweltering sun is no less rewarding than learning English from a celeb teacher. Chances are that you will reap more than those sitting in an air-conditioned room. Cheer up, boys and girls, if you have to stay the holiday on the farm.


Every day, I still stick to a routine. I do not let the rhythm of my life be disrupted. I take a walk in fresh cool air first thing in the morning and a new day kicks off this way. When I am free, I will talk further about my holiday.




Back at school, most of the time we work and live in a community, doing a lot collectively. We share one classroom, we rush together to the canteen three times a day, and we share a dorm with the mates. Do we need a time when we are all alone and no one is watching us?


Yes, we do. At the end of the day, all of us have to face ourselves. It is quite easy to keep ourselves well-behaved and well-disciplined when we have company. All of us feel compelled to put on a good face. However, when we are all alone, it will be much harder to follow the right way and stay away from distractions and temptations. When your family are out working and you are left alone, you will find you have to make your own decision on what to do any minute. When you are doing your homework, do you from time to time go and get something to eat or drink? Do you get hooked on video games or linger on the Internet when comes the time for planned stuff like homework or exercise?


In the holiday, when you have chances to be alone, learn to live with yourself. A person matures when he voluntarily does what he should and when he need not be told to do this and that. It is hard, but it is worthwhile trying to manage your desires and to do the right thing at the right moment.


Anytime you are tempted to leave behind your planned stuff for entertainment like anime or games, remind yourself that work comes before play. Otherwise, you would find your vacation plan in a mess. Learn to say no to your own desires that would derail your plan. Instant gratification would spoil rather than build your character.


Creativity happens when a fresh idea comes to us. Personally I believe I am most creative when my mind is turned on, and this comes about when I am laid-back in complete solitude. We need collaboration with others, and we need individuality and the time to be all alone, as well.


If you happen to have access to the Web, welcome to drop me a line. Please send your message to My English blog Shengliver’s Garden is always here for you to dig into.


Boys and girls, enjoy life.


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