|Luna playing the guzheng|
Yesterday was Teacher's Day. I don't know whether or not it is an official international holiday, but it joins the list of widely celebrated holidays in China that seem to go unrecognized in the US (others include Women's Day and Children's Day). I remember my first Teacher's Day well, as it is often hard to forget painfully embarrassing experiences. At the time, I was working as a high school English teacher here in Chengde. The day before the holiday, my boss approached me in the teacher's office, right as I was getting ready to leave work. She wanted me to prepare a performance for the next day's teachers' assembly. “What kind of performance?” I asked. “Oh, anything will do—you can sing or dance or play an instrument,” she replied casually. My heart jumped up into my throat. As anyone who knows me can attest, I can't sing or dance or play anything. I'm more of the artsy fartsy variety.
Looking back, I should have protested. I should have refused. I should have made up any excuse to get out of such an impossible situation. But I was a naïve. I was a good sport. And I ended up looking like a complete idiot attempting to sing the ever-so-popular song (which I'm sure no one outside of Asia has ever heard of), Michael Learns to Rock's “Take me to Your Heart.” I did it accapella and I forgot the words about 15 seconds into my performance and ran off stage. Happy Teacher's Day to me.
|me with Luna's family, on stage|
Fast forwarding nine years later, yesterday was marked by another performance, luckily not by me. This Teacher's Day I had the honor of watching one of my students perform. I've been tutoring Luna since she was a little girl, nearing six-years-old. Although she is now not quite 12, she has grown into a pre-teenage girl that nearly resembles a woman. She is taller than me, for sure. But her dedication and maturity rivals that of many grown-ups. In just two years, she seems to have mastered the guzheng (a traditional Chinese instrument similar to a zither). I was stunned that she got to headline her own concert, but the opportunity was well deserved. Luna played beautifully.
|Luna with her 6th grade classmates|
Sometimes I feel a bit shy to admit that after all these years in China, I still work as a teacher. It seems to be a job that most foreigners grow out of after a year or two. Somehow you haven't really “made it” in China if you don't move on to other things. But yesterday helped me remember why I'm glad to still be a teacher. It's amazing to see the kids I tutor transform, not just in their ability to speak English, but also to see them mature and develop their personality and abilities. I also feel respected and appreciated by many of my students and their parents. Yesterday Luna's mom and dad expressed very heartfelt gratitude toward me. I like to think I played a small part in advancing Luna's education and I hope she remembers me fondly when she's grown up. I know I had a lot of great teachers growing up and I feel very fortunate for that. To all the teacher's out there, Happy (Be-lated) Teacher's Day!