It was truly touching to read the words of WorldTeach volunteer, Alexandra Ehrhardt, as she shares about her time thus far and how close she has grown to her students. Interested in a teaching experience of your own? Consider applying to the WorldTeach China program.

January 9, 2016

The countdown to Spring Festival begins, reader. Starting January 9th the adventure move outside the Hunan border and into the rest of southeastern Asia. We’ve come a long way, you, me, and this blog. There is a few handfuls of people I owe a large amount of thanks. Rather, there are 500+ students that I would like to thank. Here is the 周南中学 (Zhounan Zhong Xue/Zhounan Middle School) post. Thinking back to high school, I remember many racially charged comments such as “all Asians look the same.” Moving past the absolute crap of the statement itself, my students live and prove such a statement wrong. Each could not be any more different from each other. Names are still a struggle for me – I admit. My lack of Chinese skill and the inability to remember hundreds of names is a personal flaw – I know.

Take a picture of my Junior 1 class:

The girl in the bottom right corner likes to tell the class to be quiet whenever they cannot understand my English. The boy in clear definition with glasses in the middle really enjoys English, but he does not really understand me so I walk over to show him what to do with my hands. The girl with her right hand in the air (appears to be the left hand to you) is one of the tallest girls in my class. Yesterday she gave me a cosmic lollipop, and she told me that she will miss me. She watches my every movement around the room. She’s more observant than most.

The feeling replicates a “proud mom” moment – every single one of these students embodies the future. I imagine their futures, envisioning myself pretending to watch the evening news and overhearing one of my student’s names. Greatness – I wish it for all. I wish it for myself. I wish it for you, Reader.

In so many ways, my students and I are alike. I stand at the front of the classroom as a teacher, but I feel much more like a student. Growing up all over again with an adult brain makes things more embarrassing. I walk down sidewalks and cannot read signs. I hear things but cannot understand. It’s like I am blind and deaf, leaving me with my own thoughts. While these thoughts are invaluable, I find myself reaching out to my students because they, too, are in a position of learning and growth. The only defining difference between us: they are not expected to know all of the answers simply by title alone. They are “students” after all. I felt I lost the title of student a long time ago. Since I am no longer in an academic institutional setting, I am not longer allowed to be lost. I must have the answer now. “Not knowing” is no excuse.

Then the world became my classroom. Its tests are not cookie-cutter, blatant memorization tests like the ones my students take. Both tests are just as hard, but one requires a little more creativity. My creativity matches my problem solving. Every time the world delivers me a problem, I pump up the creative flow. I owe that to China and my students. It’s a blessing. These students are amazing. They handle so much stress with such grace. I hope to compare, contrast, and comprehend the differences in our current methods of education. Alongside time to think about every aspect of my experience in China, now is the time for reflection as I saunter through the months of January and February.

Zai Jian – A