Across China: Passionate chalk-drawing teacher enlightens rural students

Source: Xinhua| 2018-06-02 15:35:48|Editor: ZX
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YINCHUAN, June 2 (Xinhua) -- Zhang Juwen, a Chinese teacher, always draws chalks pictures on the blackboard to help his rural students understand their textbooks.

Zhang, 60, became a teacher after graduating from high school at 18. His students were young villagers from Piancheng Village of Xiji County, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

"I was born there. I knew our kids might have difficulty in differentiating Chinese words 'butterfly' and 'dragonfly' because they have the same pronunciation in our dialect," Zhang recalled.

In order to help students know the difference and remember the two words, Zhang chalked the two insects on the blackboard.

"Of course it worked. Pictures are far more vivid than word description," Zhang said.

Since then, Zhang has drawn chalk paintings in his Chinese class whenever needed, even after he was transferred to Piancheng Middle school.

"High above the silvery ocean winds are gathering the storm-clouds, and between the clouds and ocean, proudly wheels the Stormy Petrel, like a streak of sable lightning."

This words are from an article named Petrel, by Russian novelist Maxim Gorky.

"Our hometown is characterized by aridity and poverty, thus its impossible for students from the 1980s and 1990s to imagine what this image was like. Then what can I do?" Zhang said.

Zhang took out some chalk and drew the billowing ocean and brave stormy petrel.

"At that time, books were poorly printed with few illustrations. When I taught those articles like Petrel, it was hard for them to understand and I wanted my students to remember some images, so I would turn to chalk drawings," Zhang said.

Zhang cannot number how many chalk paintings he has drawn in the past 42 years, but the pictures are well remembered by his students.

Su Youfu, a farmer, now owns a mini-market in the village. He studied at Piancheng Middle school between 1996 and 1998. Zhang was his teacher.

Some 20 years later, Su still remembers Zhang's drawing of a kettle and a bowl, which showed that when pouring water quickly, one can only get half bowl of water; but when pouring slowly, one can get a full bowl of water.

"Zhang told us knowledge, just like pouring water into a bowl, needed to be accumulated little by little. He was good at enlightening us with chalk drawings. We loved and indulged in his class so much that 45 minutes were just like a second," Su said.

Besides drawing with chalk, Zhang is also good at calligraphy, singing and playing the Chinese fiddle and flute. As long as it helps stimulate student interest in learning, he is willing to learn and try.

"Zhang is like a walking multimedia, and his class was always full of joy," said Li Donghong, a colleague of Zhang at Piancheng Middle School.

With the improvement of education in China in recent years, many teachers in rural areas are able to use multimedia to help students understand things they never seen in their daily life. But Zhang is much more likely to stick to old things.

"Video and pictures downloaded from the internet are good for teaching. But for me, no matter how good or bad my paintings and calligraphy are, they are something real that my students can see. Teachers with talent always gain more respect and trust," Zhang said.

Zhang retired this March, but did not put down his chalk.

His son bought a blackboard for him at home. Without class time-limits, Zhang is able to draw more finely and the contents of his chalk drawings go far beyond textbooks.

He draws the uncivilized behavior he sees every day, like spitting on the floor and the running of red lights.

"Parents sometimes do things that teachers tell their children not to do. But children always copy their parents. I hope adults can learn from my drawings," Zhang said.

"Retirement is not an end," Zhang said.

Whether he is at school or not, he will always continue teaching.