I can’t sleep because the campus bullfrogs that live in the lakes and gutters are deafening even though we live on the sixth floor. Couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
Anyway, I haven’t written in a while, for several reasons:
1) The thought of chronicling our Spring Festival trip (Vietnam-Cambodia-Malaysia-Beijing-Philippines) was too exhausting. (I did keep a journal during the trip, though.)
2) Busy! School work, applying for jobs, preparing for life in the U.S.
3) I’ve been feeling some negativity about my current situation and some fear/anxiety about the future, which is never fun to write about.
However, thanks to the incessant frog-croaking, the creative gears are turning and I think I have something to share. (Bullfrog is literally cow-frog, 牛蛙, in Chinese, by the way. Ours especially sound like lowing cattle.)
Recently, it was Teacher Appreciation Week in America. I hope you all celebrated, and that my teacher friends and family in the U.S. got the recognition and thanks they deserve! Lately I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated with my own teaching and, honestly, with my students. I’ve always found it difficult and tiring to “perform” during class, and recently have been preoccupied with my personal life and not feeling very into my lessons. Also, it’s hard to constantly feel like my students don’t get me—although I connect very easily with some of them, I have a complicated relationship with most. As a very young person (luckily they don’t know that I’m like, three years older than them, max), and as a foreigner, I don’t think I’m seen in the same way as a Chinese instructor would be. Sometimes I feel like a zoo animal, or an alien. Sometimes students say things that make me uncomfortable, frustrated or offended—unintentionally, but it’s wearing. And sometimes, as I’m sure all teachers do, I feel like I am making no impact on their education or understanding of written or verbal English, or foreign cultures, or the world outside of the formerly-longest-teaching-building-in-Asia.
And this makes me want to give up. It makes me want to go on cruise control and coast through the rest of the semester until we leave. To do the minimum of my personal standard, and focus on other things.
However, as a last-ditch effort (“this is my last special favor!” “I’m going to take more time for myself!”), a couple days ago I gave some extra help to two students via email; some suggestions, encouragement, a few articles I thought they’d find interesting. And both of them responded with two of the sweetest emails I had ever received, thanking me, not knowing that I really needed that, right then. It was totally unexpected and could not have come at a more necessary time. It made me really happy. And Teacher Appreciation Week went global.
So—don’t give up. Very rarely will people tell you what you’re doing in their lives; you have to trust that something is happening, without your knowledge, maybe without theirs. Teaching is planting seeds that you might never get to see sprout, right? So when you do see them sprout, it means a lot. Appreciation comes unsolicited at very random times, and you need to find something that validates you beyond tangible acknowledgment of your success to hold you over. What feels like a waste might not be. What feels like stagnation might be very small, very slow progress.
You can do it, today! 🙂