In the previous post, you were able to enjoy my family’s vimeo of Christmas greetings to my Chinese students, colleagues and friends. Yesterday evening, I spent over an hour individually sending to all my groups, students (past and present), special contacts and friends via WeChat (China’s equivalent of Facbook).
This morning, I had over 60 messages of praises and excitement over watching my brother, my mom and me give our special Christmas message. Here are the highlights of those communications.
Former student, Hero, Shows his Class
“Hero” is my former student, an English Education Major who graduated from my college 5 years ago. I have written of Hero in previous posts. He was one of my most outstanding pupils. While his classmates were sleeping during the 2 1/2 hour siesta time, Hero was with me, walking the campus and practicing his English. Every noontime, he’d call me to ask where we could meet up for our daily chat time. Due to his diligence, his spoken language skills and understanding of my American culture far outshone all the other students in the English education department.
During his student teaching experience, he would often consult with me about problems he was encountering and how to solve these. He also went out of his way to make his 45-minute English class for his young people, in elementary school, a special and exciting time. Because of his enthusiasm and excellent recommendations, he landed a teaching position in a highly respected Luzhou primary school, teaching the 3rd and 4th graders. He’d often borrow my Halloween costumes and masks, Christmas decorations, Thanksgiving Day set-the-table lesson props and other visual aids to create interesting lessons for all three classes of 60 + students whom he was assigned.
I actually visited his school 3 years ago and gave an English language activity session to 300 plus children (ages 9-12), including 8 teachers and the principal in the institution’s lecture hall. We had such a wonderful, interactive 2-hours with prizes given and audience participation, which included not only the kids but the staff and administrators. Everyone was eager to join in, no matter how excellent, adequate or non-existent their English skills were. Having such an enthusiastic crowd made my visit both memorable and rewarding.
I remember being very impressed by the progressive approach to learning at Hero’s school, which was one of the premiere public primary schools in Luzhou.
Fast forward to today’s time period, with Hero preparing, on December 25, a Christmas Party for his home-room class of 60. He had asked if I could prepare a few things for his students, including a video of my home. This I did and sent to him last week. He showed the 5-minute tour of my holiday house in between classroom holiday games. The reactions, which Hero recorded for me, were hilarious! Claps, cheers, “Oh!”s and “Ah!”s resounded as different Christmas items appeared on the power point screen.
My family Christmas greeting, however, was what brought down the house. This was a later addition to Hero’s lesson, which he had so carefully put together for several days. I basically did my family video as a spur-of-the-moment thing and sent it to him around his 3 a.m. on December 25. His class party was to be toward the end of the day after all the regular teaching was over.
I didn’t expect my Vimeo to appear in their party activities but Hero had spent his noontime putting together our video clip into presentable material. This included framing us in holiday images.
Then he sent me pictures and videos of the children watching and singing along with us, after which all the party fun they had participated in. As you can see below, his well-planned, well-prepared Christmas unit was a huge success.
Hero later told me what touched his heart the most was when the students gave him a very special Christmas surprise: Cards they had made themselves and a store-bought Christmas holiday wall hanging which they had paid for and chosen themselves. What a treasured moment for us educators to experience: our students being inspired by, and grateful for, the most precious gift we have to offer: that of the love of learning.
My Sponsoring organization in China, The Amity Foundation, Shares with the Office
While Hero had his own touching ‘Spirit of the Holidays” moment, mine came in a text message from the director of the education division in the Amity Foundation. The Amity Foundation is my sponsoring organization in China and is located in Nanjing. It was founded in 1985 by Chinese Christians and serves impoverished Chinese people through development projects in education, health, social welfare, emergency relief and numerous other programs (See amityfoundation.org for more detailed information.)
I am an Amity Foundation teacher and have been in this position for close to 25 years. It’s just this year of Covid that has me away from my role as an educator and has kept me “stuck” in the States until my city allows my return.
Director She Hongyu shared that my video had been forwarded to those in charge of the meeting and would be shown to the entire Amity organization, administrators and staff, during their office Christmas celebrations. Another staff member sent me the above photo, captured in the middle of our carol, “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
It was honestly the best Christmas present I could ever receive.
My students from Last Year: Christmas celebrations? Hmmm
The posted video also was a hit among my freshmen students from last year (now sophomores) and the college’s 200-member English Association WeChat group. I received many texts of “Merry Christmas, Connie!”, “We miss you!” and “Hope to see you soon. Love you!”.
Some mentioned remembering last year’s Christmas lessons and visit to my home. They included in those notes pictures of us together in my overly-decorated home. Such wonderful memories for them.
An Ego Lost
I’ve always been very proud of my 4-week Christmas unit. It includes the religious story, a history of modern-day customs, necessary holiday vocabulary, a Christmas-themed bingo game and a visit to my home to finalize all that we’ve learned. An open-book, small group collaborative written test nailed home all that I had so carefully imparted to these young people, soon to be teachers themselves in a few years. Almost everyone received 100% for their Christmas exam.
Particularly sad for me this past Fall semester was not being able to lead the 2020 freshmen through my culture classes, including Christmas. I imagined all that previous students had learned from me about this special December celebration and how informed they are to pass on to others.
Well, that was until I received the following WeChat message, complete with visuals, from one class of my 2019 English education majors:
Student Becky gleefully reported, “Hello, Teacher Connie! We remember your Christmas home last year. It was so beautiful. So we have our own Christmas party in the classroom this year. We had a very good time. Here are our pictures.”
“Masks?” I was thinking. “Surely they remember that’s a Halloween thing.”
If only Becky had stopped there. The true stab in the heart (and utter disintegration of my ego) came with her closing remark.
“Thank you, Connie, for teaching us about your festival. Without your careful instruction, we would not understand this wonderful holiday. Merry Christmas!”