The above piece is on sale at Li Hong Jade.
The more I work with children, the more I understand that the notion of "flaw" is very subjective. Parents come to me because their child:
- swims competitively and seems to have no desire to win for the sake of winning.
- is so stubborn that he simply won't sit down to do HW.
- is highly sensitive.
Not Competitive Enough
To the parent who thought her child could be improved by instilling a fierce competitiveness and desire to win, I asked this, "Mama, do you enjoy living in a bigger house and driving a bigger car than your friends?"
Thankfully, the Mama said, "No... I would rather spend my money on books."
To which I replied, "Then, your son is like you. If you were the type who was fiercely competitive, you would enjoy being better than your friends in everything. Do you really want a son who wins for the sake of winning? Is it not better to instil the value of cooperativeness and collaboration, given that the modern workplace requires so much teamwork?"
A plan formed in my mind on how to turn a supposed flaw into an asset.
This child, when asked to do HW, punched his Mama with his tiny fists and said, "You are a bad Mama!" He had all sorts of ways to resist his mother's best attempts at working with him. As he got bigger sized, his parents worried that the physical violence would get worse.
I saw a child with an innate strong will. A strong willed child can go 2 ways. He can grow up into a CEO. He can grow up into a thug. It depends on how we temper the innate strong will when raising the child. The parents' eyes widen when I said that their son had the innate strength of will to be a CEO. They had never seen their child like so.
A plan formed in my mind how to turn the supposed flaw into an asset.
This child was too shy to even enter the classroom on the first day. He was extremely sensitive. On Day 1, in class, he cried.
I saw a child whose sensitivity helped him to read faces and to intuitively devise gentle ways to influence peers, without offending them. So, I worked hard at carving him in such a way that turned his flaw into an asset.
The school system is like a factory. It produces educated children in the manner of mass production. There are clear criteria for what makes a good student:
Teachers in a mass education context do not look carefully at each child and discern within it, its innate pattern. One of the things I love about my job is visualising the potential of each child:
- this one can be a good chef... (flaw: cannot spell)
- this one has it in him to be an entrepreneur (flaw: full of tricks and other out-of-the-box ideas)
- this one would be a great researcher (flaw: so hyper focused that he does not notice people)
- that one can do stand up comedy (flaw: disruptive in class)
- that one can be CEO (flaw: stubborn)
The other thing I love about my job is that I get to carve each child according to its innate shape.
To me, appreciating and working with children is a lot like working with jadeite. In the picture below, the original raw stone contained many flaws. Anything that is that dark brown colour is not considered high quality jadeite. The only conventionally valuable bit is the pale green translucent bit on the top right of the piece (carved into a baby dragon). However, the carver was able to read the innate pattern pre-existing in the raw stone and use all the flaws in the original stone to carve a thing of beauty.
I see children as jadeite pieces. To work with them, we need to honour the shape and colours within.