Alexandra Sieh
Alexandra Sieh

I missed these kids.

I was surprised as anyone else by this "Awwww"-covered sentiment. Especially since every day I spend teaching is one I leave the school utterly exhausted.

Since landing in Beijing, I've worked nearly every day. The start of each semester is a busy time, and that's no different for our small group overseas. From marketing materials to lesson plans, I had plenty to get ready.

And then the shrieks arrived. The rapid Mandarin spoken in distinctly childish tones. The giggles as they pop their head into your classroom, curious who may be inside.

I glanced up from my laptop. Was I ready for another year of child-filled madness?

"Teacher ..." Oh no. "Teeeaaacchhheerrrrrrr." There it was. The only name I'd be called for the next year.

"Yes, Lily?"

"Teacher, I'm very very very very very very very very happy."

"Well that's great, Lily! I love having happy students."


"... Yes, Lily?"

Lily draws something with her fingers.

Ah. You see, in each young class, I break the ice by drawing a smiley face under their name that shows how they say they feel. The happier they feel, the bigger the smile. Clever, eh? Well, they sure think so.

So Lily was eager for me to draw an absurdly large smile under her name and wouldn't let me rest until I did, despite the fact she was 25 minutes early for class.

What about this did I miss again?

But then Alice trotted in. "Alice? Is that you?" I said, speaking with incredibly overdone excitement.


Huge smile. A true-blue, little-kid smile that no one can resist. She giggled as I marveled at how much she'd grown — "You're almost taller than me!" — and bashfully shuffled to her seat.

That joke has really killed this past week.

So it began, a reading class that took us through such classics as "Pat Can Jump" and "Pam and Sam." We learned that a ladybug can't jump — not until she hops on the back of her frog friend, that is. Or how, even though Sam the bird cannot run, he can fly, so *spoiler alert* he and Pam can still play together.

I'll leave you all to wipe that tear away.

Then we played hangman. "THE CAT SITS ON ALLE_." I watched as they guessed "W," "R" and "Z" before realizing this was a name of one of the students in class (that's also written on the board right above the game) and finally shouted, "N!"

By the end of class, I've heaped praise on such artistic attempts as a "very very happy bird," a "pig rabbit" and "Teacher Frog." I've passed out fake dollars. They've pretended to beat up my BFF/fellow educator Jim. And then they all trotted out of the school.

*audible sigh*

This lass may be highly unlikely to ever birth a tiny human of her own, but I sure do love these kiddos ... for our happy little hour and a half a week.

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