January 5, 2014

During our pre-service training, I somehow got the idea that my teaching experience would involve eager female students who craved friendship and meaningful connections.

When I was placed at a small vocational school for construction and engineering, my little bubble popped. My students were almost exclusively male, and really they couldn’t give two flying farts about English. Hanging out with their strange, gawky foreign teacher wasn’t really high on their list of priorities.

The one exception to this was the English majors—a group of 25 bright and quirky students taught by my husband. They became my surrogate students last year. There would be days when I felt like a complete failure, unable to connect with my students. I would pour all my energy into my lessons, only to receive dull responses from boys who’d been up all night in internet bars playing League of Legends. It was Jeff’s English majors who came to my parties, who attended our English corner. It was these kids who made me feel like I wasn’t the problem.

In May, the class will graduate. Many are moving on to other cities—Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, where they will translate or do HR work for construction companies. Many students have gotten positions in Africa, since Chinese companies are doing loads of construction work in places like Algeria and Tanzania.

Soon, their close group will scatter…but right now is a magical time when they are all filled with opportunity and dreams. Life is a gigantic possibility, and no limits have been set.

Last night we had a goodbye dinner for the class, since they will spend next semester interning at various locations away from campus. The students cooked up a storm, hammed it up for the camera and went crazy when I brought out my nail polish collection.

Youth is such a gorgeous, infectious thing. This beautiful group of girls have been an amazing part of my time in China, and I will always remember them.

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