Showing posts from April, 2017


Because "How's China?" or "How was your year?" are questions that -- however well intentioned -- make me want to groan, I've been working on thinking of some better questions.  I'll probably be adding to this list as I think of more -- if you have ideas (including questions that are good ones for me to ask about your year!) feel free to comment with suggestions. Tell me about a normal work day. What was one of your favorite lessons? What do you usually do on the weekends? What's the transportation like? What's your favorite/least favorite thing about your school? What are your classes like? Who are some students who you spent a lot of time with? What is the strangest thing that anyone said to you? What was a really encouraging moment? What was a surprising moment? What's one of your funniest memories from the year? Tell me about your team. What's your apartment like? When was it really difficult to not be in America?

"I'm very familiar with your apartment!"

The adventures yesterday began as Katherine was dragging me and Jenney down the road while I talked on the phone, too preoccupied with my conversation to ask her where we were going.  It turned out that our destination was to see her dormitory.  And then to see Jenney's.  Both of them (and their roommates) were in one of my classes last semester.  After the grand tour of their rooms, we headed back out.  "Where are we going now?" I asked.  All of us had work to do, but we all had the day off, thanks to sports day. "To your apartment!  Watch a zambie (zombie) movie Hannah!" Katherine informed me. Oh yes.  The last time they'd been over, she had wanted to watch Warm Bodies , but card games won out. What's a random day off for if not to watch movies and hang out with students? So she and Jenney accompanied me back to my apartment, met the ayi's tiny new puppy, and we picked up Miriam (and the movie) and invited Joy and Phila.  We preppe

My Students

They make me laugh.  They make me cry. They drunk call me when I'm hanging out with friends in the city to find out when I'll be back to campus.  They grab me and hug me over and over, bouncing with excitement as they tell me how they've got a volunteer job teaching English in rural parts of Sichuan. I miss America, and so many of you people there, yet I am so privileged to be teaching here.  I love my students so much that it's exhausting and exhilarating and I feel sometimes like it's shooting out of my fingertips and the ends of my hair, as George Bailey promised the moon would if he lassoed it and Mary swallowed it in It's a Wonderful Life. There are these fault lines of hurt and brokenness running through the hearts of many of my students that I can barely even fathom, but as we get closer, I'm getting more glimpses.  If you want a window into their lives, and how you can be thinking of them and their needs that go so far beyond learning


My first year teaching in China, I often thought that the most appropriate lines to sum up how I felt about my students were contained in a song by Miley Cyrus:  "You make me laugh/You make me cry/I don't know which side to buy." That hasn't changed. They fall asleep in class while we discuss rubrics. They bring me "something" which turns out to be a bag full of different types of meat, labeled with Chinese and English names. They burst into applause after I sing in class. They drunk call me when I'm in another city, asking when I'm coming back. They play endless rounds of Uno with us in the office. They text me, four years after I've been their teacher, to ask for clarification of terms they heard in BBC broadcasts and don't understand. Or to find out if I want a job in Hangzhou. Or to send me random updates on their life, their dreams and hopes. They text me when I'm already in my pajamas to t