I have been sitting here for the past five minutes, staring at the empty text box, unable to think of anything to write. Or rather, the fact that there is just too much to say, when you consider how everything has a story.
You know, that’s my problem when it comes to writing. I get overwhelmed and bogged down in everything that there is to say that I can’t just pick one thing. My mind goes everywhere at once, like a magnet; each story drawing my thoughts towards it with forces stronger than the previous.
And so it is that I will today focus on something very specific: A student. All of my students make me smile, but there is one student in particular warms the cockles of my heart every day. This student, whose name I actually don’t know (as is the case with many of my non-English speaking students, sadly), recently transferred to our school from a school at the centre of town. Returning from my travels and getting on the bus, I noticed a little boy get on. Not abnormal, many students ride my bus to various schools around the city, however this certain boy was smiling at me and greeted me with, ‘Laoshi Zao! 老師早！‘ (good morning, teacher!). Before this made me smile though, it made me feel awful. I had no idea who he was. Here was this student, grinning and calling me teacher, and I didn’t know his face. Feeling slightly sheepish, I smiled back, told him good morning, and returned to my book (I have just finished Annie Dillard’s ‘An American Childhood,’ by the way, which was superbly proseful).
I knew the ultimate test would come when he did or did not get off at my stop. You see, the bus route begins at the school across from my apartment, and the route ends at the school where I work, so it’s really the perfect bus ride. If I’m tired, it involves little thought. I’m sure they’d notice if I didn’t press the button at the end of our hour together. It turns out that he really likes to press it.
I’ve become very protective of this student, and fond of him, despite our language differences. For a fifth grader, he speaks practically no English, but I use my Chinese to say things to him first in Chinese, and then translating to English so he can practice.
This morning, he asked me why I hadn’t been on the bus the previous afternoon. I explained to him that sometimes I take the other bus to go to meetings. His face peered up at me as I formed the Chinese sentences with grammar I was learning. What an interesting dynamic, being spoken to in your native language by a teacher who teaches you a foreign language and is just studying yours.
When we get off the bus together in the morning, I help him cross the street, and then we walk into the school together. He next to me, turns, and says, ‘bye-bye’ and walks off to his classroom. I am left with a smile without fail.