The thing about growing up, having new experiences, and becoming a better person is… it is never easy. Growing pains are exactly that, painful.
My winter vacation was supposed to begin Tuesday, January 6. However, on that Tuesday, I was told that instead of vacation, I would be teaching 8 classes/day on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and the following Monday. This would, of course, give me less than 12 hours to write a lesson plan and prepare the materials for 32 classes, all geared around “improving oral English”. In short, I would be teaching the same little 7-year-olds from 7:45 am to 4:15 pm for four more days.
From the moment I was told this, I was angry and deeply offended. I was also horrified of failure, but this took me several days to realize. It was offensive to us because, in America, you would never ask employees that you respect to suddenly work four extra days, when the rest of the school is shutting down and everyone is going home. And the idea that we had 12-hours to prepare only deepened the wound.
I could not figure out why the principals asked this of me and the other foreign teachers. It felt illogical and cruel.
It wasn’t until Dalton pointed out (after giving me sufficient time and space to rant and rave) that in China, the people who live here put in this kind of work every day, for their entire life. If they are given a job, they do it, and usually with laughs and smiles. The students at my school work in a classroom from 6:30 am to 8:00 pm, from the age of 6 years old to high school (in high school they work until 10:00 pm). The adults can be seen shoveling snow off the wide streets by hand with a single shovel every time it snows. Dalton and I can hear the scrapes of their shovels outside our window for hours on end. The city itself can build skyscrapers in just a few months.
So then I was able to picture the situation from the viewpoint of someone who has lived their entire lives in China, born and bred with this intense work ethic. And on top of that, when the people here are at work, they are usually smiling and laughing, even though the work often seems strenuous, and personally, I cannot imagine completing their work without at least a modicum of complaints.
If someone here is given a job by their superior, they simply do it. So, when the principles gave us these four extra days, I do not think they realized how deeply they offended me and the other foreign teachers.
In the end, I was able to complete these extra days of work, and feel successful in that my students learned more English and used their extra time wisely, while also abiding by the rules given to us by the principles. But far more rewarding was the sense that, having gone through an excruciating amount of stress and completing a hefty amount of work, I have grown as a person.
I am walking away from this situation a better person than I was when I walked into it.