If Everyone Could Take a Small Step Forward

中文 English

Editor’s Note:

This passage recounts two heavy-hearted stories. The main characters in these stories—a nameless young boy and a girl named Jiani, are among the most vulnerable kids in society. At the same time Ms. Sun and Mr.Zhang, who deal with these kids, feel guilty and confused when they can’t solve their problems. They have no awareness of the absence of the nation, the system, the society and NGOs that is behind these phenomena. The unique value of philanthropy work lies in the concepts and the heart of the people behind different projects. What really matters is whether project officers treat these sorts of problems with empathy, whether they genuinely try to understand the difficulties faced by the people they serve and empower the powerless. (For purpose of privacy protection, the real names of the people referred to in the article are all left out)

Preface

As a project officer working at a foundation, my daily work is not just related to project management, but mainly to the people-to-people interactions behind the projects. During this process, there can be clashes between the frontline executors of a project and other stakeholders, during which human beings’ weaknesses and tenacity all make themselves felt. Such situations are always a challenge for me.

During my work, I have had the opportunity to work together with many frontline educators. I would like to share two stories, stories which may seem rather dispiriting. The main characters in these stories, Ms. Sun and Mr.Zhang, tried their best at the time. If they could have taken just one more step forward, maybe these stories could have had a different ending. Or perhaps the endings might not have changed, but to MS. Sun and Mr. Zhang the stories might have taken on a different meaning.

Educational issues are far more complicated than we might think. They involve not only teachers, parents and schools, but also the surrounding communities and children welfare policies. All these can influence children’s education and development. As individuals, both MS. Sun and Mr. Zhang deeply feel helpless and frustrated. However, these two stories may inspire more field workers like MS. Sun and Mr. Zhang with more reflection and action.

At the same time, what I want to emphasize is that field workers need more support. Not only support regarding educational methods and techniques, but also emotional support. If everyone could take just a small step forward, many stories would have different results and lead to a different future.

 The first story: guilty Ms. Sun

Sun works at a children’s institution. This social organization mainly offers services to unattended children whose parents (or at least one parent) are serving prison sentences. Sun is now over 70 years old. She used to be a prison warden, and after retirement she went into charity.

Sun has been in charge of the institution for ten years. She cares for every aspect of more than 70 kids’ daily life, and sometimes she has to worry about the kids trying to flee. Before arriving at Children’s Village, many kids were leading a homeless life on the streets, and they could not adapt themselves to the rather strict management within the institution. What puzzles Sun is that in the old days, when she used to be in charge of 200 members of staff and more than 2000 prisoners, it didn’t seem to be that difficult, but these 70 kids really drain her emotionally. Sun always says that she feels very tired, and that the tiredness lies in her heart. She would like to find someone to replace her so that she could have a rest, or find someone younger to help her with management. But after employing some college students, she found that “they would at most work for 2 or 3 months, and then they could no longer bare it and would go away.

Working with kids who live in the most disadvantaged sections of society, you hear many heartrending stories. Once Sun told me the story that had most affected her over the past few years.

There was a pair of siblings in Children’s Village, an elder sister and a younger brother. Their father had been sentenced to over ten years in prison for robbery. Their mother couldn’t bear their family’s hard economic conditions and ran away. The kids had lived in the Children’s Village for several years. The sister behaved quite well. She was a good kid and studied hard. However, her little brother would cause trouble for Sun. He often fought with his classmates, and stole things both at school and at the Children’s Village. Sun was often asked to go to his school to solve his problems. Within the Children’s Village, this boy even led some other naughty kids to form a small group, making discipline a problem.

Sun had no choice, and she had to ask the siblings’ uncle to take the younger brother back. Their uncle was unwilling to take the boy home; but under the threat that both of the siblings would have to go home, the uncle finally did took him back home.

After being taken home, the boy was left to live with his grandmother. The grandmother was too old to look after him. At this point the boy acted like a runaway horse and completely lost control. Soon he became a local bully. By the time his father had been released from prison, the younger brother had become a regular visitor at the local police station for stealing and fighting.

The father was in great misery and disappointment. After bailing his son from the police station once again, he poisoned the boy and killed him. Later he was himself sentenced to death for murder. The elder sister thus lost her only relatives overnight.

This incident made Ms. Sun feel quite guilty. She felt that if she hadn’t insisted on sending the younger brother away, the whole family would not have ended up being ruined. At the time however, she had sent the boy away for the good of the other kids in the Children’s Village. When recounting this, Ms. Sun feels both guilty and confused.

Ms. Sun told me that this incident weighs like a heavy stone on her heart. She has always felt that if it had not been for her incapability, the older sister wouldn’t have ended up having no relatives.

Ms. Sun feels that she could have done better. What if she had talked with the boy more often, asking him why he was so rebellious? Or what if she had asked his sister to talk with him? At that time, she thought she couldn’t let the boy get in the way of his sister’s studies. It didn’t occur to her that maybe his sister might have been the right person who could best influence him and change him. Maybe the first time she was called to talk to the boy’s teachers, she should have tried to look into the situation more closely rather than just sit there and watch the school’s headmaster criticize him. Maybe she could have talked with his uncle more often after he had been sent back instead of being so careless. Maybe…

What I am getting at is that if Ms. Sun had received more professional and systematic advice and guidance when she encountered these problems, she wouldn’t have to feel so guilty and confused now.

The Second Story: conflicted Mr. Zhang

Mr. Zhang is an ordinary rural teacher, who told me the story of his student Jiani.

Jiani was a seventh grade student in Mr. Zhang’s class. In his eyes she seemed very shy. She couldn’t get good grades in practically any subject. Especially in math, she could never get a satisfying grade. During every class she seemed to be listening and carefully taking notes. Every time she took a test however, she could only get a score of 30 or 40 out of 100. When it came to kids like this, Mr. Zhang didn’t know what he could do.

At the beginning of the second semester of seventh grade, Jiani stopped showing up in class. Being the head teacher, Mr. Zhang had to look into the reasons why Jiani had quit school. Mr. Zhang tried phoning her family, but the phone would always be picked up by Jiani’s father, who would reply with phrases like “she is not here”, “I am not clear” or “call her mom”. Mr. Zhang finally got Jiani’s mother’s mobile number from the other students in the class. Her mother told Mr. Zhang that their family was living on a tight budget, and Jiani had to work to support her family. Jiani was not good at her studies and she wouldn’t make it to university, so it was a good idea for her to start making money earlier.

Later on, Mr. Zhang came to know that there were nine kids in Jiani’s family. She had four elder sisters, two younger brothers, and two younger sisters. Three of her elder sisters were already married, so her mother asked Jiani to work in a clothes factory and make money to support the family. A close friend of Jiani at school told Mr. Zhang that Jiani herself also didn’t want to go to school. She couldn’t understand most of what the teacher taught in class and she felt studying was boring. Jiani’s mother also told her that she was a girl, so no matter how long she studied, she would marry someone and then a different family would benefit from her. On the other hand, if her younger brother kept on studying well, in the end their own family would benefit from his hard study.

When Mr. Zhang told me about Jiani’s story, he repeatedly told me that things like this often happen. Parents don’t attach enough importance to girls, and they prefer boys. Some girls are even asked to quit school and work in factory when they are in grades 5 or 6. When it comes to boys on the other hand, no matter how bad they do at school or how naughty they may be, parents will leave them in school. What makes Mr. Zhang feel conflicted and frustrated is that he can see that for students like Jiani staying in school has little meaning. In the end, she wouldn’t learn much by continuing her studies. On the other hand, he feels it is not right for such young kids to quit school and work in factories.

Mr. Zhang told me how he wished there were ways to make the students love studying. It is a big challenge for him that while most students come to class every day, but do not study, you can never tell what is going on in their minds. Those who are able to answer his questions are always the same few. He says that every time he finishes class he feels a great frustration. It feels like talking to a wall, without response.

Once Mr. Zhang took part in teacher training programs, he listened to many experiences of participatory teaching methodology shared by other teachers. After going back, he also tried to teach in groups and bonus points for class management, but he only experimented for half a term. When he found it was hard to maintain discipline, and saw that the grades that the school and parents attach great importance to didn’t improve much, he decided to give the new methods up.

In my mind most teachers like Mr. Zhang don’t lack the desire to change, but what he lacked was adequate support, such as external support (training resources, a community where teachers support each other), and internal confidence and technical support. Mr.Zhang didn’t make enough preparation for innovations and experimentation in his teaching, so it was very easy for him to give up when he encountered difficulties.

These are the two stories. Looking back at them, you will see that working in the field is like working in a complicated maze. It’s very hard to find the key to solve all the problems you encounter. Many educators work with kids for decades. When we see their miseries and confusions, share their happiness and bitterness, feel their acknowledgment and enthusiasm towards their work, and sense the trust they place in us, I can realize the meaning and value of my job. Thanks to the strength and confidence which all the people and things I have come across have given me, I have stuck to this cause.

After all, the basis of education is people working with each other. During this process, the most important things are understanding, consideration, acceptance and the actions based upon all of these-a small step forward made by everyone.

 

【来自基金会的TA】如果每个人都可以向前一小步

 作者:马玲玲

编者的话:

本期推送的文章,以双重叙事的方式追述了两个有些沉重的故事。“往事”中的主角——弟弟和佳妮,是社会中最为弱势边缘的孩子;“现实”里的孙老师和张老师,则在愧疚、矛盾中责问自己,不曾追问表象背后,国家、制度、社会和NGO的缺位。公益工作之所以有别于其他工作,更重要在于项目背后的理念和人心——项目官员是例行公事还是深具同理心,对于真心实意体察服务群体面临的多重困境、让无力的服务群体变得有力,是不可忽视的功力之一。

 

题记:

作为一个基金会项目官员,日常面对的工作并不仅仅是项目管理,更多的是项目背后人与人之间的工作。在这个过程中,一线项目执行人员以及各个利益相关方之间的碰撞、冲突、困惑、迷茫,展现出人性的脆弱和韧性,无时无刻不在挑战着我。

我在工作中会接触到大量一线的教育工作者。我想跟大家分享两个遇到的故事,它们看起来有些沉重。故事的主角——孙老师和张老师在事情发生时,已经做了他们能想到的努力。但是在事后看来,如果当时再多尝试一步,也许故事的结局就会发生改变;当然,也许结局不会改变,但是对于孙老师和张老师来讲,意义可能就会不同。

教育问题远比我们想象中要复杂很多,这里面不仅仅涉及到老师、家长、学校,还有周围生活的社区、我们国家在儿童保护方面的政策,所有这些都在同时影响着孩子的教育和发展。而作为单个的个体,不管是孙老师,还是张老师,面对这些,他们都会有深深的无力感和挫败感。但是我想,这两个故事也许能够激发像孙老师和张老师这样坚持在一线的老师开启更多思考和行动,从而让更多孩子受益。

同时我想说的是,一线的老师需要更多的支持,不仅是教育方法和技巧方面的支持,更多的是情感方面的支持。如果每个人都可以向前一小步的话,许多故事都可能会是不同的结果和未来。

是为记。

 

故事一:愧疚的孙老师

孙老师是一家儿童机构的负责人,这家民间机构主要为父母双方或者一方在监狱服刑、事实上无人照料的孩子提供服务。孙老师今年已经70多岁了,她曾经是一位监狱长,退休之后才来到公益行业。

孙老师管理这家机构已经有10年,要负责70多个孩子的吃喝拉撒,时不时还要担心有孩子要逃跑——来儿童村之前,很多孩子都在社会上流浪,会不适应儿童村相对严格的管理。对于这里的管理,孙老师经常感到困惑的是,之前在监狱的时候,自己管着200多名员工和2000多个犯人,都没觉得多难,现在这70多个孩子却让她操碎了心。孙老师经常说的是,太累了,关键是心累。她很想找个人来接替,自己可以休息一下,或者找个年轻一点的人来帮她,但是找了几个大学生,“最多就能干上两三个月,都干不了这活儿,跑了。”

和这个社会上最为弱势边缘的孩子们相处,常常会有很多揪心的事儿。有一回,孙老师给我讲了过去这几年中最让她揪心的一件事情。

儿童村里面有姐弟两个,爸爸曾因抢劫判了十几年,妈妈受不了家里的条件跟人跑了。这姐弟两个在儿童村生活了好几年。姐姐表现很突出,乖巧懂事,学习成绩也好,弟弟却是孙老师的一块心病,在学校和儿童村里都经常跟同学打架、拿同学的东西,孙老师经常被叫到学校去批评。儿童村里面也因为弟弟的带头,联络起了几个调皮捣蛋的家伙,搞得村里有点纪律散乱、人心涣散。

后来没办法,孙老师只好叫来了姐弟俩的大伯,说必须要把弟弟带回去,要不然姐弟两个人都要回家。

大伯心里面一千一万个不甘心,无奈也只能把弟弟带回家。但带回老家后,大伯让弟弟跟奶奶两个人单住,基本不管不问。奶奶年纪大了,哪管得了弟弟。这下弟弟就像脱了缰的野马,更是控制不住,很快成了当地的一霸。等爸爸从监狱出来的时候,弟弟已经因为小偷小摸和打架斗殴成为派出所的常客。

爸爸非常痛苦失望,在又一次将弟弟从派出所保释出来之后,用药毒死了他,因而被判了死刑。姐姐就这样在一夜之间失去了所有的亲人。

这件事让孙老师非常内疚,她觉得如果当初不是她坚持要送走弟弟,他们家也不会落得家破人亡。可当时送走弟弟也是为了儿童村大多数孩子好。提到这一点时,孙老师又愧疚,又觉得困惑。

孙老师跟我说,这件事情像压在她身上的一块石头,她总觉得要不是因为她,姐姐也不致于落得现在一个亲人也没有。

孙老师说,也许当时她可以做的更好一些。如果当时可以更多地跟弟弟聊一下,问一下他为什么会如此叛逆?也可以请姐姐帮忙去跟弟弟聊聊天——她当时觉得不能让弟弟干扰了姐姐的学习,都没有想到其实姐姐有可能是影响和改变弟弟的最好人选?也许在弟弟第一次被学校叫家长的时候,她可以更加仔细地了解一下情况,而不是坐在那里任由教导主任批评一直不吭声的弟弟?也许她可以更多跟大伯打电话了解一下弟弟回家之后的情况,而不是把弟弟送走之后就再也没有问了? 也许……

而我想说的是,如果在孙老师遇到这些问题的时候,能够有人更专业或者更系统地给她一些建议和指导,那今天的孙老师也许不会这么愧疚,也不会如此困惑。

 

故事二:矛盾的张老师

张老师是一个普通的乡村教师,给我讲过他的学生佳妮的故事。

佳妮曾经在张老师带的七年级班上念书。在张老师眼里,佳妮是个非常害羞的孩子,整体成绩不算突出,尤其是数学,每次考试都不理想。每次看她上课也特别认真在听课,笔记也认认真真在记,但是每次一考试,就只能考三四十分。对这样的孩子,张老师也不知道应该怎么办。

七年级下半学期开学时,佳妮没有出现在教室中。

张老师作为班主任,自然要去了解一下佳妮辍学的原因。张老师给佳妮的家里打电话,每次都是佳妮的爸爸接,每次都说“佳妮不在”、“她的事情不清楚”、“给佳妮的妈妈打电话吧”……张老师就通过班上的同学,辗转要到了佳妮妈妈的手机号码。佳妮妈妈说,家里经济条件紧张,需要佳妮做工补贴家用,而且佳妮学习成绩也不好,肯定也考不上大学,还不如早点出来赚钱。

后来张老师陆续得知,佳妮家有九个孩子,她上面有四个姐姐,下面有两个妹妹、两个弟弟,而三个姐姐都已经结婚生子,所以妈妈要她出来去缝衣厂做工赚钱、补贴家用。跟佳妮关系比较好的同学跟张老师说,佳妮自己也没有那么想读书,老师讲得她大部分听不懂,觉得读书很没意思。而佳妮的妈妈说,她是女孩子,读再多的书以后都要嫁人,都是别人家的,让弟弟好好读书才是自己家的。

张老师在给我讲佳妮的故事的时候反复说,我们这里这样的事情太多了,父母根本就不重视女孩子,特别重男轻女,甚至还有五六年级就被父母叫出去打工的。但是男孩子,不管学习成绩多么差,在学校多么调皮捣蛋,父母也会坚持要让他们留在学校里面。而让张老师矛盾的是,像佳妮这样的学生,如果硬要留在学校中,好像也没有太大的意义,在学校待着她也学不了什么知识;但是他又觉得这么小的孩子就出去打工肯定是不对的。

张老师说,如果能够有什么方法让大部分学生变得热爱学习就好了。他特别头疼,班里面大部分的学生看起来每天都来上课,但实际根本不知道他们在想什么,上课提问能够回应老师的反反复复就那么几个人。他说,每次上完课都特别有挫败感,觉得自己在对着一堵墙讲课。

张老师去参加培训的时候,听别的老师分享过做参与式教学的经验,他回来后也尝试过实验分组教学、积分奖励等等。但实验了半个学期,张老师发现分组的时候纪律问题控制不好,学校和家长最为看重的成绩也没有提高,后来也就不做了。

我想,张老师并不缺乏改变的愿望,他缺乏的是改变过程中的足够支持。不管是来自外部的支持(培训资源、周围教师互相支持的社群),还是来自于自身的信心和技能支持(张老师自身对于创新和实验并没有做好充分的准备,所以在遇到问题的时候就很容易退缩了)。

故事讲完,再回头来看我们的工作,你会发现:真正的基层,真正的一线工作,像是曲折复杂的迷宫,很难找到一个通用的万能钥匙解决遇到的问题,而许多教育工作者数十年如一日地坚守在陪伴孩子成长的第一线,看到他们身在其中的痛苦和迷茫,分享他们遇到的苦与乐,体会他们对自己工作的认可和热忱,感受到他们在相遇时给予我们的信任和信赖,就会觉察出这份工作的意义和价值。而之所以能一路走下来,我想就是在这个过程中接触到的人和事给了我力量和信心。

教育工作归根到底就是人与人之间的工作,在这个过程中,最重要的就是理解、感受和接纳,以及基于此开启的行动——让每个人都能再前进一步。

 

(备注:为保护隐私,文中人物均进行了匿名处理。)

 

关于作者:马玲玲,现为澳门同济慈善会的项目官员,这家基金会的北京办事处关注并支持用创新的方法解决教育公平和教育质量提升的教育项目。在这之前,她既作为乡村教师跟小朋友斗智斗勇过,也曾在某国际机构打过杂。做教育项目这些年,玲玲自觉对教育问题的思考在不断深化,期待之后有更多的心得和体会跟大家分享。

Project officer at the Macao Tong Chai Charity Association

Translated by Pan Mingzhu

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