A 25-year-old woman teacher from west China’s Shaanxi Province on July 13 ended her life by taking poison. She wrote a letter before committing suicide, saying: ”I am sorry that I am not qualified to be a teacher, as I always feel tired and depressed. I don’t want to mislead my students any more.”
Only weeks before, on May 7, a 30-year-old teacher from Yancheng, in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu, committed suicide for not being able to answer his students’ questions.
Chinese teachers’ living and health conditions have drawn nationwide attention in recent years. Recently, the Middle and Primary Schools’ Psychological Health Education Research Group of China conducted a comprehensive sample survey among 2,292 teachers in 168 schools. The results show that 51.23 percent have suffered some sort of psychological problem.
Most Chinese parents have accepted the fact that children can master the up-to-date technologies of computers or electrical appliances much better than they can. Sometimes, they make a show of what they have learned from their own children before colleagues and friends.
However, some Chinese teachers still have a strong sense of superiority in the field of knowledge, despite the fact that this is being challenged, according to the survey. With the development of information technology, China has entered a period in which youngsters are passing on what they have learned to the older generation.
Teachers used to exert a gradual and imperceptible influence on their students in everything they said and did. Nowadays, youngsters don’t have blind faith in teachers’ authority any more. They can get information and knowledge from books, the Internet and TV.
“Our history class is dull as the teacher always reads from the text,” said Jing Jing, a middle school student. “I prefer television courses, which are vivid and vigorous. Besides, I can find much more background material from the web than those prepared by my teacher.”
The survey revealed that the quality of middle and primary school teachers has yet to be improved. The country’s 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05) stipulates that, by the year 2005, at least 60 percent of primary school teachers must be junior college graduates and 80 percent of middle school teachers must be university graduates.
University teachers, especially, need to have the ability to put up with all kinds of pressures from society, according to survey. “One of my students has part-time jobs, and his salary is several times more than mine,” said Prof. Li from the Tsinghua University.
“Once he invited me to a dinner party in a luxury restaurant. The delicacies he ordered were so expensive that a common teacher could never afford them.”
To keep pace with the times, teachers not only have to continuously improve and update their knowledge, but also have to understand student mentality and give them proper guidance, said Prof. Li.
Love between an elder woman teacher and her young student is something that the old tradition would never tolerate. A 30-year-old woman teacher fell in love with her 17-year-old student, for example.
They kept on dating privately and were unable to extricate themselves from the sentimental bond. However, the boy’s parents flew into a rage when they learnt of the relationship.
“How could a teacher have no consideration for the dignity of teaching profession,” said the parents. The teacher was sued and had to change her job, and her love affair with the boy ended in failure.
“Why is it that so many men can get married with young girl students, while what I did is considered hurtful to the boy,” asked the woman teacher.
“The word, ‘teacher’, according to traditional Chinese values, not only represents a kind of profession, but also a paragon of virtue and learning,” said Dr. Wang Chengquan, of the Mental Health Education Research Institute at Beijing Normal University.
“In our daily life, people always regard teachers as good examples and models, but they have neglected an important fact that teachers are human beings, too. They have their sufferings, hardships and needs,” said Dr. Wang.
For people, no matter what calling they follow, the first need is survival, and the second is safety, including psychological safety, said Dr. Wang.
Dr. Wang urged that the whole of society have a better understanding of the concept of “teacher” by treating teachers well and creating a supportive environment for them.