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My experience in China
发布日期:2021-04-15 浏览次数: 作者:Danielle Esplin 字号:[ ]

?? I remember when I was 6, I was too shy to even look my first grade teacher in the face let alone answer her when asked my name at meet the teacher.? I spent the evening looking at the carpet. I was always very shy growing up so stories like this were quite common for me even through my university years. But then I made a spur of the moment decision that literally changed my life.? I decided to come to China for a semester abroad volunteer teaching English.

When I first made the decision to come to China, I knew very little about this country I had decided I was ready to go call home and teach in for five months.? My first meal here in China I was shocked to remember, OH RIGHT they eat with chopsticks here.? I had never used chopsticks in my life. My second day I had to be reminded “ni hao” was how they say hello here.? Most importantly the idea of getting up in front of a classroom of 30-50 students made me want to throw up a little. But I was and still am equally as stubborn as I was shy, so off I went on an adventure.

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My first class I ever taught in China went about as horribly as I could have imagined.? When my new roommates and I got off the train from Beijing we were met by our driver, Mr. Ding.? Mr. Ding did not speak a word of English and we did not speak a word of Chinese beyond “ni hao” and “xie xie”.? So it was a quite ride to our apartment in Suzhou New District and after dropping us off with some words we did not understand Mr. Ding left and we did not see him again for almost three days.? When we did see him again it was Monday morning, I was still in the shower with conditioner still in my hair, but according to the English speaking helper on the phone we were to go with Mr. Ding to ?“see the school and meet the teachers”.

When I arrived at the primary school, I was introduced to my fellow Chinese English teachers and my new desk in my new office.? After some quick introductions, a teacher asked me to follow her.? I followed her to a classroom full of first graders, she said some things I did not understand to the children and then the bell rang, and she turned and looked at me expectantly and my heart dropped. She was expecting me to teach this class.? I had no idea what she was expecting or how long this class went but the expectant gaze of her and 40 + other pairs of eyes told me I better figure it out quick.? After what felt like an eternity of me scrambling to teach something coherent but was probably more like 10 minutes, I think the co-teacher caught on based my performance and look of desperation that I was nowhere near prepared to teach for the remaining 30 minutes, and she finally mercifully set me free with “maybe you can go and…have a rest now”.? Relieved and nearly in tears I ran back to my new desk.

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But it got better, I got better.? It took probably 2 or 3 months before I was not sick to my stomach before every class but eventually that got better.? My classes back then were and objectively not good, I know this. But I learned that no matter how poor a teacher I felt I was or how naughty and out of control the students were that I would always be met with screams of excitement ambushed with hugs when I walked in the classroom. No matter how bad the lesson, the students loved me, and their unconditional love gave me confidence and that was the biggest boost I needed.? It did not happen overnight. It did not happen that semester even, or the next.? But the seeds of confidence were planted in me and that changed something in me.

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I have gone on to teach and many more schools and many different grades and have gotten better and better each semester.? But I owe much of that growth to what my students have taught me. My students have taught me the importance of hard work when learning a new language. They inspired me to learn Chinese and to continue studying and learning each day.? They taught me compassion for the new less experienced teachers I encountered during university and later studying Chinese here in Nanjing. They taught me that I can do difficult things, things I would have never thought I could overcome.? If you had told first grade or even high school me that I would regularly be teaching and speaking in front of 30+ students or adults each and every day as my chosen profession I would have probably cried or thrown up, but I definitely would not have believed it possible. I often think back to those grade one and two students back in Suzhou and aside from feeling a little bit guilty and bad for them that their one and possibly only foreign teacher was such a horribly inexperienced one, but I maybe selfishly mostly just feel so much gratitude for that experience.? That semester quite literally changed the trajectory of my life.? It changed how I viewed myself, my limitations, and the world.? In the words of one of my favorite musicals, so much of me is made from what I learned from you. I know I’m who I am today because I knew these students, because I knew them, I have been changed for good.?





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