Something really special and touching happened during the Primary 3 class that I taught today.

It happened as we talked about MH17.

teaching children about MH17

So on the bus to school this morning, I overheard the conversation between two Poly students talking about MH17… only, they didn’t really know the facts nor saw the gravity and seriousness of this tragedy. They seemed more interested in making jokes about how ‘MAS confirm habis’ or ‘Malaysia tak boleh la sial’.

Which got me thinking…

As I walked into class today, I told my students not to take out their textbooks just yet; that we’re going to have a little chat instead.

I then wrote “MH17” on the board and asked the class of 40 plus nine-year-olds if anyone knew the significance of it.

1/3 of the class raised their hands. Half of that one third confused it with MH370 though.

Only 6 or 7 knew about the latest aviation tragedy. So I shared the news of MH17 with them (not yet telling them how many died).

And then I asked, “How many of you care or think this news is important?”

Just slightly more than half the class raised their hands.

So I asked why or why not? Some innocently said “Because it doesn’t affect us” while some shared that they felt sad because “cannot go to JB anymore”.

This was where I told them MH17 wasn’t simply just a machine in the air that got shot down. Close to 300 people died.

The mood of the class started to change as the tragic loss of innocent lives started sinking in to these young ones.

I then asked if anyone wanted to share what they now think or feel about the MH17 tragedy.

A few stood up and said they felt really sad because someone has now lost a loved one, that it could very well have been a Singapore plane instead. Now all these things are direct quotes that came out of the mouths of nine-year-olds. I merely asked them to share what they thought or felt after telling them the number of people who died.

I then decided to push it a little further and changed MH17 to SQ17 instead and asked again how many would care about this tragic news?

Every single person in the class raised their hand.

“Someone we know could have been on that plane… my father… my mother… my cousin…” was the common understanding they started to share.

This was when I got them to think about a scenario where one of their classmates wasn’t in class today because he/she was on the plane.

And the last thing the class said or did to this now missing classmate was bully/tease him or her. How would they feel now that they’re never going to see this missing classmate again?

Sad. Regret. Guilty. They said.

Some were even on the brink of tears.

I decided to wrap it up by sharing with them how fragile and unpredictable life is – That we should make the best of moments, cherish loved ones and not be so mean to each other because sometimes that may very well be the last thing we say to them.

All the kids were very solemn at this point but they understood.

“Now if you want to, I’d like you to turn to the person beside you to give them a pat on the back and tell them you cherish them”.

The entire class did this and broke into smiles and laughter. One kid even walked across the classroom to give her friend a hug.

Not all lessons come from textbooks.

Remembering MH17 and sending our love from a Primary 3 class in Singapore.

By Matthew Zachary Liu

Text and Image Source: Matthew Zachary Liu Facebook

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