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For TGS students, preparing to live in Beijing for three months means more than learning a few basic phrases in Mandarin. Under the guidance of teacher Sherry Zhang, these world travelers are learning as much vocabulary as possible, and are practicing their conversational skills and pronunciation on a regular basis. In addition to their language skills, they will travel to China armed with an understanding of the history and culture of the people who call that country home.
As part of their Mandarin studies this term, students are learning some of the tenets of Confucianism.
Sherry has asked her students to think critically and philosophically about the ideals of humanity, benevolence and family values. To further their learning, they are to formulate and ask a single question of a wise elder – one whose learning and experience will provide valuable insight and wisdom. Who better to be on the receiving end of these questions than TGS’s Head of School, Brad Ovenell-Carter?
Starter questions like, “What does Brad think are the qualities that make for a humane and benevolent person?” and “ What are some life lessons he has learned along the way?” helped students start to think about what they might ask Brad. The catch? They must also translate their questions into Mandarin.
Students share their thought provoking questions
After a delicious dinner in Chinatown (where the students had to order their meals in Mandarin) students posed their questions to Brad. They were excited for the opportunity to get to know him better. Our Head of School found himself on the hot seat as he was on the receiving end of more than a dozen thought-provoking inquiries. Here are the student questions:
- Yada: If everyone had some of the moral codes and values of your family, what would you rule out as the less important in that moral code for the maximum benefit of humankind at this time and the future why? The less important values may vary for the two times.
- Bailey: How do your beliefs about life differ/compare to the beliefs of Confucianism and the Confucius way of life?
- Gijs: If there was one thing that you would risk your life for, what would it be?
- Megan: What is the one aspect that you think defines your family as different to others?
- Pema: Are you happy with who you are and what you have right now, is this what you dreamed for?
- Mark: How were you taught by your parents to behave when you face people that are unpleasant to you? Do you follow the golden rule?
- Charis: If Confucius were to stand in front of you, what would you ask him? As a philosopher, what are your opinions on the concept of family and Confucianism?
- Alice: What do you think is the most important thing to have/do to be able to be truly happy?
- Will: What do you think is the most important Confucian value? And do you follow that value?
- Alex: What is your golden rule? How has it affected your life? And do you think that there is one universal golden rule?
- A’ntonia: When you look back on your life, the things you’ve done, the people you love and the children you have raised, is there one thing you wish you had experienced? Wish you showed more love to someone you really cared about? A value you wish you could have instilled into your children? Why?
- Liam: As a child, did your parents influence their morals onto you or did they let you decide for yourself what is right and wrong? Do you agree with their decision? And how did you influence morals onto your own children?
- Mavis: Are you what you dreamed about many years ago to become or to do? And what does that make you feel? What are some of the important lessons your parents taught you and how did that change you life?
- P.: Do you think that what has happened to you has changed your opinion on life and being humane?
- David: What are the laws you and your family follow in your day-to-day life? Did you acquire these on your own or did your family guide you?
- Jaydon: What are your 3 most important virtues and why? Who was your most important influence as a child?
In all, the students appreciated this opportunity to interact with their Head of School and learn more about him. “I believe that being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes is the foundation for building strong relationships with others and gives you a wider perspective on the world around you,” said Bailey. Liam remarked, “[Brad] always has the most amazing perspective on things and can easily describe them.”
What’s your take? How would you answer the questions from the students?