Poems touch the hearts

Poems touch the hearts


Rural school teacher inspires ‘left-behind’ children

Poems touch the hearts

CHANGSHA – “The cotton spits out the harvest.” Moved by the verse of her student three years ago, Li Bolin, a 26-year-old teacher started a poetic journey with her students in rural China.

Li teaches in Suyu Hope Primary School in Huitong County, central China’s Hunan Province. Roughly half of the school’s students lack the company of their parents since they migrate to remote cities for higher-paid work.


Amazing verses

“When I grow up, I will definitely spend time accompanying my own kids, otherwise they would not be able to learn very well at school,” wrote a student of Li’s.


The words reminded Li of her childhood when she was an introverted girl since her family was impoverished. She realized that some of her students had emotional needs and desires to express themselves beneath their silent and seemingly rebellious exterior.

“In retrospect, I didn’t often speak to my teachers during my school days. But they still tried to get to know me, accompanied by encouragement with great care and love,” Li said.

Her personal experiences inspired her to become a teacher. After completing her education in pedagogical training, Li returned to her hometown to teach the Chinese language in a town-level elementary school.

As she explored ways to enrich the spiritual world of her students, Li found the value of verse and poetry.

Many questioned Li’s plan and insisted that her way is not imparting knowledge and there was no use of teaching poetry writing to children in the impoverished mountainous area, where life is far from sublimated.

However, Li’s poetry-writing activities produced enough inspiring works and gave her great confidence to keep going.


“Perhaps, winter is the lover of plum blossoms,” a girl wrote.

“Why do the plum blossoms keep blooming despite the freezing winter? Because the blossoms want to meet the winter and they love each other. If only my mom and dad were like them,” she told her teacher.

Li believes that writing poetry can help children solve their emotional problems to some extent.


What in poetry?

“Poetry is not a rose, but the scent of the rose.” This is Li’s favorite answer to the question.


Li believes life itself is poetry. She encourages her students to play with grasshoppers, speak to grass, and share their secrets with the breeze. Only through seeing, hearing and touching the world can they feel the poetry of life, she said.

Initially, the students were happy to play but were reluctant to write anything down. “Write whatever comes to your mind,” she told her students. At first, one of them wrote: “I cannot write a poem.”

Li keeps an open mind and thinks the children’s poetry shall not be bound by tonal patterns, rhetoric or rhyme. “Their expressions, filled with childishness and naivety are all precious,” she said.

Li never directly revised their works but guided them to ponder on their own.

When a second-grader was writing a poem about blue sky, “what does the blue sky remind you of?” Li asked her.

“The sea,” the student replied.


“Then what does the sea have?”

“There are fish.”

“What does the sky have?”

“Floating and moving clouds.”

“What can the fish do? What can clouds do?”

“Fish can sing, dance, and spit bubbles.”


Then a clever line popped up in the student’s mind: “Why can’t clouds spit bubbles?”


Emotion vented

Li’s school has over 1,400 students and about half of them are away from their parents and are cared for by grandparents or relatives. For some students who find it hard to speak their minds, poetry is a channel to express their emotional needs.

“My little sister got spanked because I broke the vase. But she was nice and didn’t turn me in,” a student wrote. Li was pleased that her students were willing to share with her their little secrets.

“In a fairy tale, a little tadpole got lots of help and finally found its mother frog on a lotus leaf,” a student wrote. “But no one showed me the way when I tried to find my mom.”


After reading this, Li came to the student and lent an ear to her talks about her feelings.

Another student was too shy to hand in his writing, which was actually quite good. Li wrote the poem out on the blackboard and got the entire class to read it together aloud.

The next day, the boy submitted his homework on time and neatly. Inspired by him, Li hosted a poetry reading session and invited all students to read their poetry works aloud to their classmates.

Now Li has a “box of treasures”, a collection of poems created by her students.

The parents of her students who work far away from home are touched by the writings and some are surprised by how the children actually feel.

Li holds that poetry is like a door to the heart of children who live in the mountains. “Beyond this door, you will see how much they love the world, and will also realize what can be done to love them more,” Li said.

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