College has started and students have come back to school after being gone for 6 months, so I wasn’t surprised when a few students contacted me to ask if I was still on campus. But I was surprised when they said they wanted to see me and give me flowers. I mean, I know my students missed me and all last semester…but flowers? That was a little weird.
“You’ve been chosen as the favorite teacher in the School of Foreign Languages,” they said handing me the small bouquet. Then they proceeded to complain about how far they had to walk to get the flowers (all of 10 minutes) from the school administrators who called me “Teacher Long” because my English name was too difficult for them, but it was still sweet. Warm fuzzies.
When I got home I read the little note attached and it said, in Chinese, that I needed to go to a certain room in a few days to get my award. I was contemplating playing “the dumb foreigner” pretending I couldn’t read Chinese and therefore didn’t know about it so I didn’t have to go.
But my co-teacher contacted me, in English, and told me to go to room 105 the next afternoon. So at the appointed time I threw on some sports clothes (it was really, really hot outside) and went to find “room 105.”
Turns out it wasn’t a room….it was an auditorium. And it was already set up with cameras, sound system, teachers dressed to the nine’s and student presenters in military uniforms.
They brought me to my seat, gave me a corsage then pulled me up to do a run through before a few hundred students arrived. Rehearsal…a few hundred students?!
The ceremony was on Teacher’s Day, which is actually quite a big holiday here akin to Mother’s Day or something like that. Old students contact you, current students bring you gifts of flowers and chocolates and generally you spend the whole day saying “Thank you!”
So this awards ceremony had a bunch of sweeping videos and speeches about the importance of teachers and the general greatness of our school. One student, I’m guessing a music major, belted out a opera song while scenes of green fields and majestic views of our school played behind him. There was small skits, some poetry and students in long flowing red dresses danced around the stage as another boy sang another song. It was quite fancy.
Then, after an hour of that they finally called us off to the wings while students introduced us and what they liked about us, then we marched out on stage and was given a certificate, an award and a handshake. Somehow I ended up in the middle of the stage with my sports shirt, sandals and clueless expression at what I was supposed to be doing.
Luckily no speeches were required and after we got the awards the ceremony was over. I had to give back the certificate and award as they will be personalized and returned to me later, along with a small cash prize, but I gave it back and hightailed it out of there back to the safety and anonymity of my apartment.
It’s very sweet that my students chose me as their favorite teacher as I begin my 11th year, but I don’t put a ton of pride into getting the award. I’m a good teacher, I’ve always known that, but I’m not a passionate one. I really like my job a lot, but it’s not, and has never been, my passion. I’m the kind of person that prefers a job where I can work the least and make the most amount of money. Teaching university students, with a 12-hour work week and 20 paid holiday weeks a year fits that bill.
My students, many of whom are training to be teachers themselves, often ask me about my “passion for teaching” or how I found my “calling for teaching” and I’m like “Huh? Nope. Don’t have a passion or a calling,” which always shocks them. I’m enthusiastic about teaching and I think my enthusiasm tricks them into believing it is a passion. But my passions in life are writing, traveling and badminton playing. Teaching is quite far down the list.
So while I appreciate the award a lot, (who doesn’t like winning something based on your performance? And for sure it is going to bring me bragging rights I’ll annoy my friends with for the next few months) this isn’t a major career moment for me. As lazy as this sounds, I prefer flying under the radar, trying not to get too much attention or recognition lest I be asked to do more work or have more expectations thrust on me.
So thank you students! But once is enough eh? Now let’s all buckle down and get through the next semester without any major incidences (I’ll write about college in the time of Covid in my next update.) Fingers corssed for another great year.