China is not known for its relaxed rules, and neither are its schools. When I attended pre-school and elementary school in China, I often came home crying. There was always something to get in trouble for: I vividly remember being scolded by teachers for eating my lunch too slowly or not having trimmed my nails. I was traumatized as a child to even misbehave in the slightest. My teachers’ words were law, and no one dared to question them.
This is the typical culture of schools in China, where teachers make the rules and students obey. The dynamic aligns with the Confucian tradition that has been embedded into the academic system of China for hundreds of years. Even when the Cultural Revolution tried to destroy the traditional system, that same teacher-student relationship reemerged as if nothing had ever happened.
Unlike the United States, elementary schools in China have naptime after lunch for about an hour. In those hours, parents do not have time to pick up their kids from school, so children sleep at school. There has never been a tradition where schools provided beds, so teachers had children sleep on the wooden desks. I clearly remember curling up on the hard surface trying my best to sleep, never complaining because that was the norm.
What seemed to be the norm yesterday can be challenged today. A Chinese microblog on Weibo posted pictures of children napping on hardtop wooden desks that look so uncomfortable, it triggered a wildfire debate on the internet. Amongst the multitude of opinions that surfaced in this never-been-discussed topic, people questioned the sleeping arrangements with the children’s health and wellbeing in mind. Although this is a tradition that’s been agreed to by the parents who let their kids stay at school for naps, rules can be changed and children can nap more comfortably.
If only these rules were challenged when I went to school in China so I didn’t have to sleep on this hard wooden desks every day.