A Tribute to the Joys of Working with Children


When I was a child in the 1960s in China, we didn’t have much. Back then, the kids looked at a tricycle the way people look at a limousine today. In fact, I had very few toys, but I  remember them pretty well. One was a small blackboard. My favourite game was to pretend I was a teacher.

Many years later, I followed in my mother’s, aunts’ and cousins’ footsteps to become a real teacher. On the black, green, white or Smart board in the classrooms in Ontario, I wrote in both Chinese and English. I wrote equations as well.

I drew, even though I am no artist. Step by step, I was able to teach youngsters to draw simple things, such as an umbrella in the rain. One time, I only had three small containers of paint—red, yellow and blue—but the three primary colours were enough for me to teach a whole class to finger paint a slice of watermelon. One girl even went the extra mile to paint an ice cream with a cherry on top!

I did crafts. I helped kindergartners and first graders make necklaces and bracelets. We didn’t need gold, silver or diamonds. All we needed were string, colourful beads and a bit of patience. I taught kids how to make paper airplanes, flowers, fans, lanterns, party hats, pinwheels and kites. All these little things can bring a smile to a child’s face.

I played table tennis with my students. When I smashed, their jaws dropped. A Grade 6 boy called me, “Ms. Ping Pong.” I played basketball with the kids, too.  When I scored, they gave me a high-five. They mentioned the famous names, “Michael  Jordan” and “Kobe Bryant.” They commented, “You are an awesome basketball player.” They asked me, “Can you do a slam dunk?” or “Do you play for NBA?” Me? No way! My height is 155 centimetres. I am Asian, nearsighted, over 50 years old and female, not a stereotypical basketball player. I also played soccer with my young charges, sometimes quite a strange soccer game. Once, half a dozen goalies blocked the net. But I still managed to find an empty space and score! I raced with them in the field. Despite the fact that they had a false start (they took off before they heard “Go!”), I was able to catch up with those cheaters before the finish line. I felt good about it.

I read Robert Munsch stories and sang nursery rhymes to the young children. We had serious conversations every now and then. One day, on the playground, a 5-year-old boy with glasses told me that Mars had two moons (I didn’t know that!). When I asked his equally smart pal under the blue sky, “What is going to happen, if you keep going up?” he answered matter-of-factly, “There will be no gravity.” Another day, during a field trip, when our school bus drove by a beautiful church, I said to the kids, “That’s where people clean their souls.” A 7-year-old girl asked me curiously, “Are you a Christian?”

Every morning, I anticipate something cool will happen at school. Children keep me young, entertained and learning. I do what I love. I love what I do. I consider myself a lucky one.


Gu Zhenzhen
Gu Zhenzhen, a freelance writer and a mother of four, works for Toronto District School Board and York Region District School Board.

This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Nov/Dec 2013 issue.

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