The Little Things

Promotional lessons are some of my favorite things to do; they’re very short (about a half an hour), very basic and very fun. Basically I just have to get up to the front of the class and be silly while getting the kids to say four or five basic words, then play a few games with them using  those words. While I’m getting to be very well known for being an engaging teacher, I always get one student in my promo classes that’s default setting is "fearful." He walks in the classroom, cautiously clutching his mother’s leg, doe-eyed, and the moment he (always a he) sees me, he bursts into tears, buries his face into her dress and attempts to bolt, all at the same time. No matter how much I try to shrink, seem unimposing, soften my voice and funny my face, he just isn’t having it. He’s seen through my facade; saw a fang peek through smiling lips and knows me for the wolf I really am.

So I teach the class and easily get the other kids singing and laughing and touching the smartboard. Generally by this point, I’ve cracked the icy patina of my shy student and he’s up with the rest, hand raised and eyes atwinkle. But not tonight…This boy was a tough nut to crack. He’d stare fixedly away from me, and whenever I’d merrily dance his way and say "mouth…Can you say ‘mouth?," without even a physical motion, the tears would begin to flow, as if I possessed some sort of satanic aura that was draining his very psyche by my mere proximity. I laughed it off, but I persevered…To no avail. And so, defeated, my half hour up, I relinquished the reins of the class to the other chinese teacher and retired across the street from ALWAYS for some street food – steamed meat & veggie kebabs! Random, unnamed farm animal flesh, random unnamed sea animal flesh, kelp, cabbage, chicken hearts, and noodles, yum! After my meal of mostly unknown origin, I grabbed my favorite ice cream to cool the soft burn of my spicy meal and ate it on the way back to ALWAYS. Little known fact: the Chinese have mastered the art of ice cream – SO GOOD. (Another little known fact – their pizza is GOD AWFUL. Unless you order Pizza Hut. Which I can, by the way.)

So I walk back into the class where my fellow teacher is wrapping things up. A few of the kids look my way and wave, smile, even peep a hello or two, but not my troublesome lad. He’s raising his hand and dancing to the front of the class, to my delight, but he does not seem to even notice me. Musing over the shock a foreigner had on the kid, I wish him a less sheltered existence and finish off my ice cream. As the kids all get up and file out, parents in tow, my little trouble-maker walks by me, and actually looks me in the eyes with a tear-free gaze and gives me a shy wave before quick-stepping past me. I waved back and thought that was about as good as it was going to get with him. Mission accomplished. But no; he came back, and without warning gave me a warm hug, backed away, smiled again, then ran off to join his parents.

These sort of experiences we imagine easily but really must be felt to be believed…That made my night.

Categories: china, musings, Uncategorized

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