By Jimin Zhang 10:47 am PST
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“How was your day?” I asked my son, when I picked him up from school. “Boring,” he answered, and went on to tell me that the teacher always digressed from the topic and rambled about irrelevant things.

Out of curiosity, I asked what “irrelevant things” the teacher talked about, hoping that I could give another perspective. “Just about his previous classmates and something like Kuo Tai-ming…” came the hesitant answer, after a bit of nudging.

How interesting. Kuo Tai-ming or Terry Gou is the founder of Foxconn and the richest man in Taiwan. What would a teacher have to say about him to fifth-graders?

I tried to get my son to open up, but he turned speechless. I guessed that his mind had wandered and that he actually couldn’t remember. “Did you pay attention to what the teacher was saying?” I asked. He looked at me, embarrassed, and shook his head.

“What a shame! You didn’t listen because you thought it was boring and useless, but didn’t you waste your time being there then?” My son nodded.

“You often can’t change others, but you can adjust your own attitude. You can’t change your teacher and what he says might seem useless or wrong; actually a lesson doesn’t have to be informative to be helpful. You can train your ability to understand and judge what’s being said. So isn’t that kind of opportunity also useful?”

I paused for a moment to see if he was with me. He seemed to be following. Feeling satisfied, I asked, “What do you think is the point of going to school?”

“So we can learn from textbooks,” he replied.

“It’s much more than that,” I said, smiling. “Textbook knowledge is only part of it, and may not even be the main point.”

My son grew curious and asked, “What other purpose is there?”

“Many!” I replied. “Learning to interact and socialise with others; extracurricular activities and blossoming through hobbies and talents, exercising, and maturing while developing future relationships. These things are sometimes more lasting and deeper than textbook knowledge,” I explained.

I’m happy to be able to discuss such things with my son. I believe his attitude towards school will improve after our talk and he will make better use of his precious time.