By: Xiaopeng Chen
I started teaching Chinese three years ago after my 25-year career as a mechanical engineer. The school I work for happens to be one of the Confucius Institute Classrooms. I have to say that teaching Chinese is the most rewarding job in my whole career. The sweet greetings in the mornings and at the end of each school day, along with my students saying, “I cannot wait until my next Chinese class,” make my day, every day. Writing this article brings me back to day one of my teaching career…
I appreciate that I have the opportunity to introduce Chinese to my students.
During the first semester I taught school, I introduced the Confucius Institute organization to my students. However, I accidently pronounced “Confucius” as “Confusion”. One of my students raised his hand and asked, “Confusion organization? What organization is that?” I laughed when I realized what I did. I told him, “That is correct. Education should not be “Confusion” at all!” Every time I think back to that first semester three years ago, it makes me smile. I also had another student who transferred from a public school to our private school. She told me: “Teacher Chen, do you know why I transferred from my other school to here?” I shook my head with absolutely no clue. She said, “I made my decision because I observed your Chinese class on my shadow day. You were teaching students to make Chinese lanterns for Chinese New Year. Those beautiful lanterns and amazing characters guided me here.”
One of my students’ mom told me a story. Her son played the piano at home and started singing in Chinese. His grandparents thought the song was beautiful. They asked, “Is this the Chinese song you learned at school? It is so beautiful!” His sister, who goes to the same school and learned Chinese as well, replied “No. It’s just music with the Chinese numbers he learned.” Everybody laughed. His grandparents could not believe he was just singing the Chinese numbers to music. They kept insisting, “The song is just so beautiful!” The other cute thing that my students constantly complain about is that Chinese characters are hard to “draw”. I continually correct them that Chinese characters are “written” not “drawn”. Now students do not say “draw Characters” anymore. They realize Chinese characters are not only pretty pictures but also used as communication tools.
For our seventh and eighth graders, we introduced the 2016-2018 Chinese National TV show “Cheers, Science!” in a native language speaking environment. Students showed a great interest in watching this show. The students make their guess on the science subjects using their knowledge they learned in their regular science and math classes, then they confirm their answers with the show. The science subjects and experiments evoke the students’ greatest interest. It is an eye-opening experience. One of my students wrote me a card when he graduated that said, “Thank you for making China seem truly great to me.”
I appreciate that I have the opportunity to introduce Chinese to my students. I cannot wait to see what future years of teaching Chinese language have in store for me! I am sure there will be many more enlightening, humorous and heart-warming stories to tell!