Making a Difference Insights

I have a feeling this is going to be a long entry into my blog. But, I think it needs to be stated for anyone who is a teacher, and ESL teacher, or anyone who thinks they just do not matter. It is often the little things we do in life that make the biggest impacts on people. And, those little things are not always intentional or realized. This past week put this into perspective for me greatly. And, I wanted to share it with you so that you too can know that the people you come in contact with are influenced by you just being you.

I have not been very happy here in Shangrao. I am always comparing this place with my first home here in China, Ganyu. And, that is really unfair of me. I have gotten it into my head that far too many students here just do not want to learn English, have been left behind, and my time and efforts have been wasted on so many of them. Oh! I will not deny that I have impacted many of my students here. And, there are some very wonderful success stories I can claim. But, when I do the math of over 700 students twice a week, it just does not add up to being a success to me. Well, that kind of changed for me this week.

Myself, and my other two co-teachers, are restarting our English Corner program this term. For those who are unfamiliar with English Corner, it is a program that many schools will develop to give added time of instruction and speaking time with the foreign teachers. Usually games or planned speaking projects are offered. It is not really structured class training things. Well, this past week we have been introducing the program to our classes and asking for kids to sign-up. We already knew that more students would sign-up than we had space for in the program. We saw this last term. Although we have expanded our Corner enrollment from 15 students to 20, 25, 30…and we have increased the number of sessions from 5 a week to 9 a week. We know we still cannot serve all of the students that are interested in it.

For me, I decided to try something different this term. I wanted to offer an English Cram School program for students that have been left behind in English studies. I wanted to focus on the kids that when you call on them, they insist that they cannot speak a word of English. Or, you have to stand there for 15 minutes of the class time prodding them along to speak. They are the ones that sit around the classroom speaking with their friends because they have no clue as to what to do with themselves in a class that seems so far advanced to them that it might as well be rocket science or brain surgery.

Keep in mind a few things. English Corner is held during their lunch break. These kids go to school from 7 Am until 6 at night. Their only real break is their lunch period. We are asking them to give up one hour of their two hour free time to sit in a classroom to study and practice English. It was shocking to me last term to see so many students willing to do this. But, now I am targeting students who have little to no confidence in their English studies. I am asking them to give up their free time and VOLUNTEER to spend two days a week with me. I was not sure of the response I was going to get. I was pretty sure I could get 15-20 of these non-confident kids to attend. By the end of the week, I think I have nearly 80 students on my sign-up lists.

Let me throw in my spiritual segment into this discussion. God placed this project on my heart. I was very content on doing a normal English Corner like last term. But, He kept nagging me and putting ideas in my head about this. I have a real relationship with my God. I talk to Him like I would with anyone in this world. And, I have come to trust in that voice in my head as not being my subconscience ID speaking to me. But, as God speaking to me. I know it is God because I argue with God all the time about things and He argues back at me. My ID just tells me what I want to hear or what is supposed to be the right thing for me to do. With God, it is more like me having a real discussion with a friend. And, He gives me insights to things I would never have thought of. This I am sure of. Anyways, I argued with God about this new English Corner format. I have confidence in the things I teach and the way I teach. But, this is something that makes me anxious and nervous. This is something new to me. I am going to take these kids and start with the basics ABC. It is like teaching your little child how to begin speaking in pre-school. I have never done this. And, I am not quite sure what to do. But, God keeps telling me that it is ok. It is His plan, so He is going to guide me. And, He has. He has shown me a completely different way to teach these kids. It is not my usual way. And, it is not something that I have researched or learned before. It is still very simple and seems to meet the objectives that God and I have argued about. The question I keep asking is…will it work. Since it is from God, my answer should be…Sure it will work…it is from God. But, I am also human. And doubt comes into play all the time. Even if I know it is from God. But, as with this entire adventure in China, when it does become a successful program, and I look back on it and wonder what in the world was I worried about, my faith in God will just keep getting stronger and stronger. Now, many of you, like me, are asking, what happens if it is a failure? Well, we need to cross that bridge when we come to it. But, if experience has taught me anything during my two years here in china with God, we will not be seeing that bridge. And, because of that, my nervousness and anxiety should be put to rest. Of course it isn’t. I am a doubting Thomas until the end.

Anyway, back to the purpose of this posting. Not only did I have this English Corner to show me of the impact I make on kids here. But, I went to visit some friends yesterday in Guixi. It is a town about an hour train trip from here. They are teachers at a sister school from our company. And, many of my summer camp kids from last year are at that school too. I knew I was going to see many of them. I was excited to see them too. But, I met one of my old students there briefly. We might have spoke for 5 minutes. But, today, we chatted a bit on QQ (a social network here in China). And, this is the message he sent to me during our conversation.

nashboroguy 6:58:00 PM

It was really great to see you yesterday. You are growing into a fine young man. I am very proud of you. (昨天真的很高兴看到你。你正在成长为一个好青年。我非常为你骄傲。)

JC 7:13:48 PM

I was very happy to see you too yesterday.and I will do better to achieve my dream .

JC 7:19:15 PM

long time no see.I want to talk about many things with you.how is every thing going?

JC 7:21:06 PM

but the time was so short yesterday.

nashboroguy 7:21:53 PM

Things are busy with me always. I love my teaching. So, I am always working on lesson plans and new ideas. (事情总是忙着我。我爱我的教学。所以,我总是在课程计划和新思想。)

nashboroguy 7:21:56 PM

I love China very much and I enjoy working with people like you. (我非常喜欢中国,我喜欢和像你这样的人打交道。)

JC 7:28:12 PM

I like working with people like you too.It is so kind of you .you really taugh me much thing

nashboroguy 7:29:38 PM

I hope I have taught you many things. That is my job. Ha Ha. (我希望我已经教会了你许多东西。这是我的工作。哈哈。)

nashboroguy 7:29:40 PM

But, the one thing that is important to me is that we are friends. (但是,这对我很重要的一件事是,我们是朋友。)

JC 7:31:35 PM

YEAH the friends forever

nashboroguy 7:32:12 PM

JC 7:35:23 PM

I expect we can have a long great convercation when you come Gui Xi next time

nashboroguy 7:35:57 PM

I hope so. I will be back next month. (我希望如此。下个月我会回来的。)

JC 7:39:53 PM

Who will you come with ,and what will you come for?

nashboroguy 7:40:46 PM

We will be having a meeting with the school. Many foreign teachers will come. (我们将与学校开会。许多外国老师会来。)

nashboroguy 7:40:49 PM

I am not sure if it is at the school. Or, if it is at The Base. (我不确定它是否在学校。或者,如果这是底部。)

nashboroguy 7:41:25 PM

But, I will come back to the school many times to see Sherry and Al. And, to see all of my former students. (但是,我将回到学校很多次看到雪莉和艾尔,看到所有我以前的学生。)

JC 7:47:45 PM

OK It is great

JC 7:50:44 PM

I will do better in everything to let you see a better me

nashboroguy 7:52:19 PM

All I care about is that you do the best you can….FOR YOURSELF. Do not try to impress me or anyone else. (我关心的是你做的最好的你可以….为自己。不要试图让我或其他任何人。)

nashboroguy 7:52:21 PM

Do everything you can for YOURSELF. That is the most important thing. (尽你所能。这是最重要的事情。)

I have not seen to JC or spoke with him since we left the summer camp last summer in August. And, perhaps he is just being nice in what he is saying. But, if this young man is willing to try to better in his schooling to make me feel better about him, then that says something to me about the impact I make on these kid’s lives. And, this kind of things happens all the time with the kids I speak to long after I have left them. They say similar things to me.

I am always asked why I stay in China. Why don’t I go back to the USA and start working there again? Because I was not making a huge difference in people’s lives there. Yes. I know I have impacted people’s lives there. I know some very special people there. But, I see this almost as missionary work. But, I am not preaching the Gospels to people and converting them. I am helping mold the new China with the kids and others I meet here. I have no idea what the success and failure stories will be with these kids. But, I believe English is a path for them to achieve their dreams and goals of financial success and career success. And, many of my kids look at me as their mentor, their friend, and sometimes their father. The family structure is far different than a western family structure. I will not go into all the dynamics that are good and bad. But, these kids have found something in me that they cannot get from their family. I am more than their teacher. I am more than just a token foreigner they can show off and say they have. I am more than the entertaining dancing monkey in the classroom to them. And, they are much more than just students to me. Being here in China has given me a purpose for my life that I had never truly experienced before. I AM MAKING A DIFFERENCE. And, at the end of this life, I can be content to know that I did a good job with my life. I may never be wealthy like a Steve Jobs. And, I may never be famous like a Mother Teresa or Ghandi. And that is ok with me. Wars are not won and lost by generals. They are won by the foot soldier that sometimes dies anonymously. And that is good enough for me.

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