For the past three years, in my “retirement phase,” I have been teaching Chinese children online. This was never something I had planned to do, as I had reservations (and maybe pre-conceived notions) about teaching children from this Communist country. Even though I had taught hundreds of students from Asia, finding them engaging and eager to learn English, that was in my territory–The United States. I encountered positive experiences and learned so much about my students from Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, and I have many mementoes and gracious cards from their parents.
Around the time of the Chinese economic boom, I had my classroom expand–literally– to include more students from China than from anywhere else, and there was a learning curve for me. The students from China, although polite and kind, did not want to include themselves into school culture. They really stayed to themselves, and I was surprised.
Then came 2018, and I had a chance to teach online. I had a hard time making the transition from in school to online. I guess I move around a lot on a real classroom. Here I was, smiling into a square on my computer while beside me was another square with 5-year-old girl hugging a Hello Kitty pillow, saying, “Hi, Hi, Hi, Teacher!” In turn we learned a 25-minute lesson about food, travel, greetings, and just about anything a kindergarten student can learn in a foreign language. My one goal during each lesson was to make the student smile. Most of them did.
After a few months, my bookings grew, and I soon had a full early morning schedule in which I taught over 30 classes a week to boys and girls, ages four through fourteen. I taught six different levels, plus supplementary classes such as vocabulary. In all, I taught over 3500 classes!
And do you know the main thing I learned about China and its people? They’re just like us. Parents care about their children. Children want to play, but also enjoy their one-on-one time with a “real” American teacher. The children taught me about China, and I taught them about us.
And then, this summer, the Chinese government decided to eliminate all foreign teachers working in online programs in mainland China. Period. There were many confusing explanations for this, but what it comes down to is the Chinese government wants to eliminate outside influences on their students.
I was shocked but not surprised. I continued teaching through August, but as the government continued to stand firm, I realized I needed to find another job. I didn’t feel as sad as I thought I would until I decided that September 30, 2021 would be my final day teaching. I was tired, and I realized it would be better for me to say good-bye on my own terms. And so I did.
A few days ago, I received this feedback from a mother of a regular student: “In the last class, the child (her son) was shocked and moved to see the teacher say goodbye with tears. I hope to see you again.”
Farewell, dear student, from Teacher Sonya, who will never forget you!