The student is now the teacher

Hello 2013, this being the first post of the year, and the first blog post in about 3 months. A lot has happened since I last reminded everyone that I was alive.

Today is the 2nd day of January, and here in China, it coincides with a 3-day national holiday that starts on New Year. Since coming back to Xiamen after my 2-week semi-vacation in Manila for the Christmas holidays, I haven’t been doing much of anything besides staying home, sleeping, and trying to keep myself warm. In fact, my assignment for my part-time work ended 3 months ago so that part of my productive life hasn’t been awake in a long while.When I first came back to Xiamen last 28, I had to initially decline offers to renew part-time work because I was hoping to catch up on schoolwork, and previous tries to do part-time work online last month never pushed through due to various circumstances. But yesterday, my boss asked me if I could spend the holiday doing work and since I didn’t have anything planned today except a shopping date that could be moved, I decided to okay a schedule to teach.

At first, I felt very iffy about coming to work on one – a holiday, two – the morning, and three – cold winters day. Owing to the fact that I had a hard time falling asleep last night, among other things, I woke up tired and not excited to commute to work. But my initial blah-ness over the situation changed for the better over the course of 8 hours, more or less.

Today, I taught 4 different students with varying ages, which is a lot different from before when I had 4-5 students who were all the same age and in high school, and with a set of more or less the same exercises which I had to drill them on and review with them.

My first student today was a 15-year old girl. She wasn’t that hard to adjust to as she was very similar to my past students, and her comprehension of English was okay so I could speak English without worrying so much about translations. We spent 2 hours correcting her English essays, which weren’t that bad for someone whose mother tongue isn’t English. She was really nice, and quite adorable all wrapped up in her thick down-feathered jacket and scarf, and even asked me to lunch with her. We had lunch together at a small Chinese restaurant across the street, and I had one of the cheapest (yet filling) meals I’ve had in a long long time. And did I mention she thought I was 17? :)

My second student was a lot different, and reminded me of myself when I was much younger. I arrived late because during the lunch break I had decided to go to my friend’s house which was nearby and commuting back to work was harder than commuting from work to my friend’s house. My student was a 11-year old girl in the 6th grade, very talkative, curious and distracted, which was probably what I was when I was her age. She was just so jittery-flittery (yes, I know it’s not an actual word) the entire time I was correcting her essays. As compared to my first student of the day, her comprehension of English wasn’t as broad so I had to speak Chinese more than I did English, which proved a little trying because my wrong intonations were more noticeable when I was trying to explain things to her. Besides editing her work, I had to write down why certain words were used a certain way, compared to similar sounding words which could mean something completely different. I couldn’t just explain because she couldn’t understand my way of speaking very much, so I had to pretty much write everything down. She was quite hyper though and kept looking around the room, at my bottle of coke which she at one point started shaking vigorously, and kept glancing at my bracelets and whatever else could distract her from her essays. Not to say she wasn’t adorable, because she was. She made me realize how hard it must have been to teach me when I was her age.

The last batch of students were cousins who were in the 4th grade, a 9-year old girl and a 10-year old boy. I think I found the most joy in teaching them among today’s students, because they were so enthusiastic about studying. And despite seeming somewhat distracted with their cellphones before our session started, they were so concentrated on me when I was teaching them. One part we did when we were studying was that someone had given them phrases in Chinese which they had to translate into English and I had to correct it as homework. Both the students were so diligent and though they had mistakes, they diligently copied what I wrote in English so they could practice their English strokes. Next we did the months of the year and I tried correcting their pronunciations before I moved into quizzing them on the months by giving them the English name and asking them which month it was, and later by giving them the Mandarin name and asking them to translate it into English. I also gave them hints on how to remember which of the months were what in their Chinese counterparts. We also did a bit of fill-in-the-blank exercises and reading, which they were very excited to do. I think this is probably why if I had become a teacher, I would have gone out of my way to pick elementary school students to teach. And even if I had to speak to them in Chinese most the entire time, I was pretty smooth when it came to talking to them, and I didn’t feel nervous or anxious. And, they kept talking about so many random things and telling me how they had already studied their entire book and had memorized all the English dialogues inside. When I asked them to translate the English dialogues into Chinese, just to make sure they understood it and weren’t just reading it, they proved to be quite good. I was amazed.

The best part of today being that it started off on what felt like the wrong side of the bed, yet ended up feeling very satisfying.

Let it not be said that I have never considered education as a career, even if it’s only short-term.

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