The Privilege of an Education

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_005Last summer, I travelled to China on a trip organized by Me to We, a non-governmental organization which helps create sustainable change by transforming local and global communities. J’ai voyagé avec sept autres étudiants autour de mon âge venant de Montréal et New York, ainsi que deux animateurs de Me to We. From my past experiences at the Round Square conference in Argentina last year, as well as volunteering in the local community, I was always interested in community service. However, I can honestly tell you that this trip changed my life.

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_001Nous avons passé nos premiers jours à Beijing en visitant des sites bien connus, tels que Tiananmen Square, des temples Buddistes, et nous avons même monté la Grande Muraille de Chine! Nous avons ensuite conduit pendant plus de six heures à une communauté rurale, Gufubao. It was a relief to finally be away from the pollution and smog of Beijing, and beautiful is not a good enough word to describe where we were. Nous étions complètement entourés d’énormes montagnes et des champs de maïs. It was really amazing for us to meet the kind locals, who take great pride in their natural environment, regardless of the extreme poverty that they live in. In addition, they always ensure that their environment is being taken care of, by being cautious of how much water and food they consume, as well as constantly making sure that their agriculture is properly cultivated and protected. Some locals even took us on hikes around the community, where we saw some unbelievable views.

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_003Pendant dix jours, nous avons enseigné l’anglais à des enfants défavorisés, et nous avons travaillé sur la construction d’un enclos pour des cochons, la première source de revenue pour la communauté. L’école était un bâtiment de briques avec trois salles de classe et un petit terrain de jeu dehors, les deux construits par Me to We. Lorsque nous sommes arrivés, nous avons été accueillis par une cinquantaine d’élèves, âgés entre cinq et 12 ans, qui étaient très contents de nous voir. Since it was July, all of these students were in the middle of their summer holiday, so you would think that going to school in 40 degree weather for the entire day was not exactly what they wanted to do, right? Wrong. These kids were more than happy to do so. Puisque les enfants parlaient très peu d’anglais, ils étaient très excités de nous montrer qu’ils pouvaient compter de un à 10, et qu’ils connaissaient les couleurs de l’arc-en-ciel.

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_006Why did I choose to write about teaching English to students in China? Well, we later learned that only 1% of students who have attended the school in Gufubao go on to university. That’s only seven or eight students at LCC progressing to CEGEP or college. Think about that for a second: all of the hard work that we put into our studies every day would only pay off for seven or eight of us in the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools combined!

We’re so lucky to go to LCC, with its amazing education programs and opportunities, inside and outside the classroom. Seeing how much the students in Gufubao appreciated going to school made me reflect on how I see education. Now, I go to school every day wanting to learn more. I’m excited to see where my education will take me, so I can use it to make a difference. Going to school is a privilege, and I think it’s important for everyone to realize that, just like I have. – Meghan Fersten ’18

The Significance of China @ LCC

DragonDance_02There are currently dozens of lovely, colourful, hand-made Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling of our Junior School corridor.  There is also a 30-foot Chinese Dragon lying in wait on the floor. It was made by students in art class and came to life recently in the children’s enthusiastic Chinese New Year Dragon Dance.

The Chinese New Year began officially on January 31st, the start of 4,712, the Year of the Horse. Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each animal. People born in each animal’s year carry some of that animal’s personality. Those born in the year of the horse (also 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954) are reputed to be cheerful, skillful with money, creatively talented, good at building with their hands, perceptive and witty.

At Chinese New Year celebrations people wear red clothing, decorate with poems on red paper, and give children “lucky money” in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which according to belief can drive away bad luck. The fireworks that shower the festivities are rooted in a similar ancient custom. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits. Chinese lanterns adorn temples, and people carry them in evening parades under the light of the full moon.

The highlight of the lantern festival is usually the dragon dance. The dragon, which may stretch as long as 100 feet, is typically made of silk, paper, and bamboo. The dragon is usually held aloft by young men who dance as they guide the colourful beast through the streets. In Canada, the new year is celebrated enthusiastically by Chinese community groups all across the country. Our Junior School students were particularly eager to discover more through an active learning experience, dancing spiritedly through our halls.

In our students’ individual and collective quest to be global citizens, they should each want to know more about major cultural traditions – and Chinese New Year is a good example. As cultural diversity is a core part of the fabric of Canada, we want our students to be active in wanting to know more about a wide spectrum of cultural traditions. By their teen years, they should not just wait for teachers to update them on key cultural information.  We want them to want to know more.

Let’s think a little bit about the Chinese-Canadian community here. One-and-a-half million Canadians are of Chinese heritage, representing almost 5% of the total Canadian population. The numbers of Chinese-Canadians are actually larger in both BC (11%) and Toronto (12%), Canada’s largest city.

Trade between Canada and China has exploded in recent years to a peak of approximately $70 billion last year.  Canada imports mostly electrical, mechanical and manufactured merchandise from China while we export a lot of raw materials to fuel China’s massive economy.

I am pleased that 17 LCC high school students will be travelling to China this March Break with Mr. Vlahogiannis, Ms. Leiter, & Mr. Lee.  They have been gathering weekly to learn more about Chinese history, language and culture. I look forward to hearing from the group when they return in the spring. I’m sure they will be very keen to teach us more about one of the world’s oldest cultures and most vibrant economies. – Christopher Shannon, Headmaster