Chapter 83: Zhang Ye Writes an Elementary School Composition!
No.2 Experimental Primary School began classes.
A familiar musical tone rang. A forty-something-year-old female teacher holding some lesson plans entered the classroom, “Good morning, students.”
“Attention!” a class representative shouted.
Everyone stood up at the same time, “Good morning, teacher!”
The language teacher smiled, “Students, please be seated.”
The other children were pretty well-behaved and listened to instructions accordingly, except for Chenchen. Her movements were slower by a beat, without any spirit and a look of disinterest. It was like she was not properly fed her meals. Zhang Ye had never seen Chenchen smile sincerely before, not even once. Her smile was always “Hur Hur”, like a cold sneer which always hung from her face.
Zhang Ye prodded her, “Pay attention.”
Little Chenchen just nodded in acknowledgment.
The female teacher hearing some commotion, immediately looked towards Chenchen and said with a sudden displeasure, “Keep quiet; it’s class time now!” before putting on a smile again and saying to the parents, “Good morning, parents. Today is a public exhibition class, so I would like to thank everyone for taking time off to attend. As for today’s lesson plan, I would like it to be more interactive. I will be giving a question for the students to write an essay piece of at least 200 words. Parents may supervise, advise or work on it together with your child. This is to let our parents understand our children’s world and improve our interactions with them. Alright, I will now begin the question.”
She turned around and wrote some words on the blackboard.
Title: Sing the praise of any type of plant.
Requirements: The theme is to be clearly written, with at least 200 words used.
The form teacher of the class, Zhao Mei, was seated at the back of the classroom, observing every student’s performance.
Clapping her hands, the language teacher announced to everyone, “Alright, students, You may start writing. If you are unsure of any words, you can ask your parent for help.”
“Dad, I want to write about roses!”
“Sure. That is good.”
“But I don’t know how to spell ‘rose’.”
“Here, let dad write it out for you.”
“Mummy, mummy, I want to sing a praise for the Cathaya plant. Ah, orchids are not bad, too; the orchids we have at home are very pretty. Didn’t you say that they were extremely famous and expensive?”
Everyone started moving their pens.
Only Chenchen kept still for a long time. She was biting on her pen without writing a single word. In the end, she turned her head and looked at Zhang Ye, “Zhang Ye.”
Zhang Ye asked, “What?”
Chenchen’s heart did not miss a beat as she passed her pen to him, “Write it for me.”
Zhang Ye stared at her, “The teacher gave the assignment to you; we adults at most can teach you to write some unknown words. You are really thick skinned. Hurry up and write it yourself.”
Chenchen lowered her voice, “I don’t know how to.”
Zhang Ye tried encouraging her, “What’s there to not know how? Think about which plant is good and which one you like, then write what is good about it and how it is pretty. That is all. Aren’t you very good at talking? Your vocabulary should be much greater than others of your age. You can definitely do it.” This little kid had someone like Zhang Ye, someone who was good at speaking and who had worked as a radio host, at his wits end. Zhang Ye knew that Chenchen was especially clever.
But Chenchen just could not write. She laid there for half a day without writing anything. It was obvious that Chenchen was getting frustrated.
Suddenly, there was a rush of footsteps coming from outside.
The school Leader had arrived, along with several people who looked like they were from the Beijing Education Bureau’s chiefs. There were about 20 of them in a row, men and women, young and old.
The language teacher quickly greeted, “Director Liu. Principal Li.”
No.2 Experimental Primary School’s Principal Li lowered his hands, “Carry on. You don’t have to bother about us.”
The form teacher, Zhao Mei, also stood up to welcome them and showed them the pre-arranged seats at the back of the class, “Please take a seat, everyone. The children are all writing an essay for their language class.”
Director Liu from the Education Bureau said pleasantly, “That’s great. We have to hear some of the children’s essays.”
Zhang Ye swept his vision to the back and understood that they had likely arranged an exhibition class because of the Leaders visitation. Eh, this was so troublesome. Formalism was really a pain in the ass.
Soon after, the language teacher looked at her watch, “Okay, time’s almost up. Whoever has finished writing, please put up your hands. I will read, hur hur. As this is an experimental class, the first placed for today’s essay writing will be broadcast during the school’s broadcast period. This is a rare opportunity.”
When they heard, the children became all eager and excited!
“I’ve finished writing!”
“I’ve finished writing, too!”
“Read mine first! Read mine first!”
Everyone was very enthusiastic; the children all had the urge to show what they could do.
Principal Li was very glad. He told the Leader, “Director Liu, this is our school’s best experimental class of grade 2. The children are all very motivated.”
“I saw it.” Director Liu praised “Very good.”
Only Rao Chenchen lowered her head and did not make a sound. Her essay book was still blank. When Chenchen looked around and saw her classmates all raising their hands, she slowly pursed up her mouth.
Zhang Ye could not bear the sight of this. He bit his teeth and did not care anymore, if I have to write, so be it. This child cannot afford to lose her confidence in front of her classmates. Moreover, the language teacher had been angered by Chenchen before. If she were to rub it in, Chenchen will further be ostracized. This was something that Zhang Ye did not want to see happen. The landlady auntie had always helped him when he was at his lowest. Big Sister Rao had entrusted the child to his care, so Zhang Ye definitely would not let the child suffer while under his care.
“Chenchen.” Zhang Ye whispered, “I will read, you write.”
Chenchen pursed her mouth and nodded. For once, she did not rebutt Zhang Ye’s words.
But what should they write? Praise which kind of plant? Zhang Ye’s head was blank, too. But all of a sudden, he had an idea. Yes, that’s the one!
Chenchen urged him on, “Zhang Ye.”
“Alright, don’t rush me. I have something.” Zhang Ye said, “The subject — ‘Tribute to the White Poplar’. The white poplar is no ordinary tree. Let me sing its praises.”
Chenchen’s writing was extremely fast. With a few strokes of the pen, she was caught up.
Zhang Ye continued on, “When you travel by car through Northwest China’s boundless plateau, all that you see before you is something like a huge yellow-and-green felt blanket. Yellow is the soil — the uncultivated virgin soil. It is the outer covering of the Loess Plateau, accumulated by Mother Nature several hundred thousand years ago. Green are the wheat fields signifying man’s triumph over nature. They become a sea of rolling green waves whenever there is a soft breeze. Here, one is reminded of the Chinese expression ‘麦浪’, meaning ‘rippling wheat’ and cannot help admiring our forefathers’ ingenuity in coining such a happy phrase.”
Chenchen did not know some of the words, as she had not learned them. Zhang Ye guided her with instructions on how to write them.
Over there, the language teacher had already picked up Dede’s essay, “Dede raised his hands up first, so I will read his essay first. “Violet”. “I like the violet. Once, dad and mum brought me on a trip to Europe. I first saw them in a courtyard. They were so beautiful…..” after reciting, the language teacher praised, “Well-written. I could see Dede’s heart in this; the words were also quite good.”
Dede was spoilt by the praise.
Dede’s dad and mom also smiled. They felt proud of their son.
“There. Tongtong raised her hand. Let me take a look at Tongtong’s essay.” The language teacher picked up the little girl’s essay, “Praising the Cedar”. “The Cedar is one of the most treasured trees in the world. Because of overharvesting, many of the ancient cedars no longer exist…” she finished reading. The language teacher’s eyes lit up, “Tongtong’s essay is even better. Compared to Dede’s essay, there is more depth and the concept of environmental conservation. It’s really quite good; please continue to work hard.”
“Thank you, teacher.” Tongtong grinned. She looked over at Chenchen’s table and gave her a look of arrogance, like she was showing off. It can be seen that her relationship with Chenchen wasn’t too good.
Every student’s essay had been read out.
At last, the language teacher asked, “Who else has finished, but not let me read it?”
Tongtong suddenly said loudly, “Rao Chenchen’s essay has not been read yet.” She pointed towards her.
Tongtong’s dad who was by her side, looked over at Rao Chenchen and Zhang Ye. His glance was a bit cold and he said cynically, “That’s right; I also want to hear Student Chenchen’s writing.” Last school semester, Chenchen had made his Tongtong cry a few times, so Tongtong’s father was obviously not very pleased with them. He had purposely found fault with them, “Chenchen’s guardian, are you already done? Then recite it for teacher. Chenchen’s educational performance can be said to be ‘outstanding’, so her composition must be very well-written!”
Everyone in class knew that Chenchen’s educational performance was bad; in fact, she was one of the last few in the class!
Many of the children who did not play with Chenchen were now gloating and booing at her.
“Read it, Chenchen!”
“I also want to hear Chenchen’s essay!”
The language teacher had not wanted to read Chenchen’s essay. It was not like she didn’t know about Chenchen’s language standard. She was the class’ worst student, and was likely to be kicked out of the experimental class next year. Today, it was a public class, so with so many teachers and school Leaders, and even Leaders from the Education Bureau present, she naturally wanted to choose the best works to be recited. By doing so, she could highlight her teaching abilities. Hence, she said, “Chenchen might not have finished writing.”
Tongtong’s father sneered, “I saw her stop writing a while ago!”
Teacher-in-charge, Zhao Mei, who was in the back of the class, was a bit mad. What sort of parent was this!? Why did you have to treat another person’s child like this? Was there a need to mock others? Yes, Chenchen might have a sharp mouth, and had made your child cry, but don’t you know that you should not take offense at a child’s babble? Furthermore, that was also the child’s own matter. Why must you, as an adult, step in and help your child bully another? What sort of words were those!? Ever since she knew of Rao Chenchen’s family background and history, Zhao Mei’s attitude towards Chenchen completely changed. She also became very tolerant.
Zhang Ye was also mad. He stared at Tongtong’s father. Grandson, what sort of words are you saying!? Are you finding fault with me? Fine!
“Chenchen, you?” The language teacher queried, and also signaled to Chenchen with her eyes, indicating that it was fine if she just said that she was not done writing.
But before Chenchen sounded out, Zhang Ye spoke up, “My child is done writing! Since everyone wants to listen to it, then read it!”
The language teacher was stunned. Holy sh*t, are you really reciting it?
Tongtong’s father laughed, “Teacher, we are all waiting.”
The Leaders from the Education Bureau and school could not bear watching this any further. They felt that some parents parents was lacking in bearing, so they did not plan to carry on listening. They got up and were about to inspect other classes.
At this moment, the language teacher had already taken the composition from Chenchen’s hands. The moment she looked at it, she was at first stunned. There was nothing else. There were too many words in this composition, and it had far exceeded 200 words. She wrote so many words? You can write so many words just to compliment a plant? She then read with a skeptical tone, “Title: ‘Tribute to the White Poplar’. The white poplar is no ordinary tree. Let me sing its praises!”
When the first sentence came out, everyone was amused.
Singing the praises for the white poplar? And it was no ordinary tree? You must be kidding! There were damn white poplar trees everywhere on the streets, and most of them were in the rural areas. What was the meaning of praising this plant? Look at what the other classmates were writing. They wrote about orchids, cedar or lavender. Even the worst of the worst was praising roses!
What about you?
Praising the white poplar?
Man, why didn’t you praise the oil waste in the sewers!
Quite a number of children mocked, and a few adults, like Tongtong’s father, laughed together with the children. They looked disdainful! A rotten child was a rotten child! They could not do anything! What sort of crappy composition was this!? Aren’t you even ashamed to use it to compare with my child’s composition?
The language teacher also felt there was a problem with the composition. The title itself wasn’t well chosen, but there was no other way. With a few parents purposely forcing the situation, she had to carry on reading, but the more she read, the more astonished she became. Her expression became more and more surprised!
This was prose?
Only then did she realize that the composition was not as simple as she thought. The words may have been simple and uncomplicated, but there was something amiss in it!
“With straight trunks and branches, white poplars aim high.”
“White poplars are no ordinary trees. But these common trees in Northwest China are as much ignored as our peasants in the North. However, like our peasants in the North, they are bursting with vitality and capable of surviving any hardship or oppression. I pay tribute to them because they symbolize our peasants in the North and, in particular, the spirit of honesty, tenacity and forging ahead — a spirit central to our struggle for national liberation.”
“The reactionary diehards, who spite and snub the common people, can do whatever they like to eulogize the elite nanmu (which is also tall, straight and good-looking) and look down upon the common, fast-growing white poplar. I, — for my part, will be loud in my praise of the latter!”
The language teacher closed Chenchen’s composition book and said in a daze, “End.”
She had finished reciting the composition!
Everyone at this moment was silent!
Tongtong’s father was dumbfounded!
The other parents were in a daze!
The Education Bureau and school leaders who had just walked out the classroom also stood in their original spots for no reason. Then.. one by one, they quickly returned. They looked in shock at the classroom, as if they had seen a ghost!
Zhang Ye began to be the braggart he was and scoffed at the parents who questioned Chenchen and him. You really despised me as a dog!?
Show off! Show off some more to me!
Competing with me at compositions? All of you are sure funny!
Zhang Ye was not surprised at the astonishment of everyone. Was I joking with you? This was the ‘Tribute to the White Poplar’. If he did not remember wrongly, this was a famous essay in his world’s second grade textbooks. And its author was even more famous: Mao Dun!
Zhang Ye would spit at anyone who could find fault with this essay. ‘Tribute to the White Poplar’ did not have flowery language, and also did not have complicated vocabulary, but it was because of this that the value of this essay was highlighted. Only then could it highlight the ideological, educational and literary value of the essay!
An essay that praised items?
‘Tribute to the White Poplar’ was the most inconspicuous one! But it was also the most famous one!