WELCOMING THE POT- BELLIED TIBETAN SPIDER MAN (Edited)
April, 24th 2013
It was one beautiful Sunday during my tenure as the property manager at Deshi Phuntsokling, Tibetan Association of Northern California when one of my good friends came to drop off his son for the Sunday school. “Hi, excited about today’s class?” I asked the boy. “I hate Sunday school!” he shot back with a grimace on his face.
Also during one of my recent trips to New York City, I saw the same grimace on my niece when her father was about to take her to a nearby Tibetan Sunday School. I have a feeling that from Europe to Los Angeles, almost every Tibetan kid share the same story. Why do our kids hate Sunday school to death? Why don’t they look forward to the Sunday as much as they do to the weekday school? But parents seem excited and look forward to the day as they meet and share their good old memories from India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet among themselves, while their kids sit in the gloomy classrooms under the care of a 'cultural teacher' who is as confused and overwhelmed as the kids are.
I completely agree that Sunday schools play a significant role in giving younger generation Tibetans in western countries the environment and education connected to their roots. Children have an opportunity to meet peers of their colour and develop a sense of belongingness when they’re already a minority in the mainstream culture. However, while framing the school’s curriculum and activities, I have a very strong feeling that we had overlooked the basic aims and objectives of the program altogether which is to instill in our kids a sense of Tibetanness by speaking in Tibetan, teaching basic reading, writing, and singing Tibetan rhymes, among others. Clearly our goal is not to produce literary giants given that we’ve only a few hours in a week.
When the whole world is on holiday, and barbecuing at their sunny backyard, confining kids into a gloomy classroom teaching Kha Qha Gha Nga is in a way robbing our children of their play time. How about removing classroom, blackboard, chalks, and books altogether from the day and do it in an open field and picnic-like situation where kids get to play, learn Tibetan rhymes and alphabet orally on grassland, beach, park or riverside? How about changing location every Sunday so that all including the parents and teachers are excited about the weekly meet? I would pitch a typical Tibetan tent with eight auspicious signs in the middle where food and snacks are stationed.
How about if one of the parents wearing a Spiderman costume (doesn’t matter even if he or she is pot-bellied) comes out from a nearby bush and tells Tibetan stories to the kids? Wouldn’t it be fun to watch a pot-bellied Spiderman speaking pure Tibetan? Or, how about two parents doing yak dance? How about everyone: kids, parents and teachers hold hands together and perform gorshey to the beat of the drum in the middle of the circle?
We all know that we hated gloomy classrooms when we were young, right? Then why torture our kids? Why aren't are we unwilling to learn from our own experience and not to put our children through the same ordeal? Do we really need to stick to the centuries-old methods which we learned the least, and hated the most? To impart a culturally rich education and experience to our posterity, we should first strive hard to sustain our Sunday school for a long time which is possible only by making it enjoyable and fun. Let’s welcome the pot-bellied Tibetan Spiderman to make our children’s day fun and exciting.
Co-Director & Co-Producer