I recently returned from a great trip to China accompanying students from my high school to a sister school in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province in the People’s Republic of China. I’m so proud of the students and our district and school leadership for continuing this relationship for the past 16 years. I’ll have to go into that in another post soon.
Last weekend I was in China and today I’m reflecting on some of the incredible people and experiences that moved me. I lived in China for a year decades ago and have been back numerous times, but as I was scrolling through some of my pictures, these images jumped out at me.
Our students were having a field trip to Jinsha, a local archaeological site in Chengdu that dates to about 1000 BC during the Shu Kingdom. Bronze figures, gold discs and boat-shaped coffins, elephant tusks and the remains of buildings that were discovered in 2001 are some of the amazing artifacts on display. Looking at the sophistication of the ancient culture caused many of our students to pose deep questions about our own heritage and history as well as what characteristics and ideas transcend time, language, geography and culture. I loved hearing our students discuss among themselves.
As we were leaving, we ran across some elementary students that were there for a spring outing or field trip. Their teachers were trying to get them to walk in an orderly fashion, keep their hands to themselves, listen to instructions and drink enough water in the unseasonably warm weather. Of course they wanted them to appreciate the beauty of the park we were in as well as the history they were encountering. The students spoke a different language and carried different food items in their lunch bags, but I found something very familiar as I watched their teachers guide them. I saw compassion. I saw excitement. I saw connections and relationships. All the things that make great teachers were present.
A couple of the students stopped and stared at the foreigners. They obviously weren’t prepared to see some high school students and adults from America. Of course one of the braver ones, said, “hello” and then it was on. I said hello back and used just a little of the broken Chinese that I know. We had a bit of a dialogue then I asked their teacher if we could get a pic. My poor attempt at a selfie is included and although my skill level wasn’t high, the enthusiasm of my co-participants was incredible.
This was just one small incident that took a total of 5 minutes of my life; however, it reminded me that teachers across the globe love their students. They work hard. They have challenging days. They have issues with resources, behavior, workplace conflicts and politics, bureaucracy, public perception and an endless list of items that can suck the joy out of their calling. Despite these obstacles and many more, I was inspired by watching other professionals that I never officially met nor could communicate with following their passion and making a difference for children. It was obvious they do it for them!
Xie xie laoshimen (thank you teachers)!