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Face Life with a Positive Attitude - Begin with Education

Face Life with a Positive Attitude - Begin with Education
What do you do when you encounter setbacks in your life? Should you run away? Confront them? Or choose to hurt yourself? How do you handle the low times and cope with life's mishaps? How to face life is the core task of life education-teaching students to deal with life's frustrations with courage.

Besides taking active measures to introduce life education, schools are also being requested to establish a three-step mechanism to prevent self-harm. A scheme to reward schools with outstanding performance in life education promotion and three-step self-harm prevention has been stipulated. Rewarded schools will be asked to share their experiences.  

28 elementary schools, 19 junior high schools, 8 high schools, 5 vocational high schools, 6 universities and 6 technology colleges received citations from the Ministry of Education in 2008 as having achieved outstanding performance in the promotion of life education and prevention of self-harm through the three-step mechanism. Among them, Hualian's Beipu Elementary School used the death of an old pine tree to teach the students a life education lesson. Tzu-chi Senior High School set up the three-step prevention mechanism as well as bringing in medical resources to look after students who needed help and address their psycho-physiological issues.

The Death of an Old Pine Tree - A Life Experience Deeply Remembered

The teachers and students of Beipu Elementary School in Hualian held a funeral service for an old pine tree on campus as an opportunity for the students to experience the loss of a loved one.

In 2006, the principal realized the old pine tree was dying. The needles were withered and brown. It was diagnosed as terminally infected with Bursaphelenchus xylophilus. The pine tree had to be removed before other trees were infected. After discussion with the teachers, the principal decided to take the opportunity to give the students a life education lesson.

How to face the death and departure of a loved one is always an important issue but it is a feeling very difficult to put into words. It seemed to be a good way to give the students the opportunity to experience that feeling by saying goodbye to the old pine tree.

The school organized a series of classes. Before the tree was removed, students were requested to draw the old pine tree as they perceived it. Junior grade students spoke to the tree and prayed for it while middle and senior grade students wrote down what they wanted to say to it. A couple of months later, as it became certain that the tree was unsalvageable, the school held a funeral service. Indigenous children of the school performed a traditional dance used to bid farewell to an elder. Students made farewell speeches to the old pine. In the end, students removed their get-well cards from the tree and left a dead leaf in exchange. Everybody said goodbye.

As part of the activity, students were asked to share their experiences of losing a loved one. It was discovered then that many of them had already experienced loss, whether it was an elder in the family or a pet they had kept. In the Hualian/Taitung region, it is not uncommon to see children brought up by grandparents. Many parents leave town to find work. Their children have to learn to accept their departure and absence. Through such an activity and with the help of the teachers, students learned to face death and separation. It helps when they have to face life. 

Family Activities, Medical Resources, Assistance and Counseling

The Tzu-chi Senior High School in Hualian is a Buddhist school that promotes life education with religious color.

Principal Li Ke-nan explains that promotion of life education and prevention of student depression are divided into three levels. For the first level, the school publishes a weekly called "The Kitten in the Mind". Students read books about life education and write down their opinions. Well-written articles are selected and published in the weekly. This allows the students to share their ideas about life.  

In addition to the class teacher system, the school also promotes Good Teacher - Good Friend Family Activities. A faculty member, a parent or a Tzu-chi volunteer serves as the head of the family. Students choose to join the family they prefer. Gatherings and off-campus activities are held regularly. For Li Ke-nan, the 800 something boarding students have developed closer ties with the teachers as a result of this approach. The teachers help with the students'problems in life or with schoolwork and relationships. As an alternative to professional counseling, it provides an extra channel for the school to take care of the students.   

At the second level, teachers conduct seminars on individual cases as well as give counseling to students in small groups. Through the Life Exploration Camp, the Parent and Child Hand in Hand and other parent-child activities, parent-child relationships have become more intimate.

The school invites life warriors and Tzu-chi volunteers to give speeches on campus now and then to share their life battles or international disaster relief experiences to stimulate and enlighten the students. At the same time, since Tzu-chi Foundation has its own hospitals, the school is able to have doctors from the psychiatric departments  come every week to offer counseling and look after students with psychophysiologic problems. 

The third level alert is if a student attempts suicide. Related resources and measures are activated and the student will be hospitalized immediately to be under the care of a specialized medical team. Fortunately, this has never happened since the school was established nine years ago.

In the future, besides reinforcing the expertise of teachers in counseling work, Tzu-chi Senior High School will also encourage senior students to help their junior fellow students with their studies. Through peer assistance and mutual learning, the results will definitely improve.  

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