In our daily rounds of Shunyi, we encounter lots of people who help and perform services for us. Some we recognize, still others we may even know by name. Wouldn’t it be nice to get to know a little more about the people in our neighborhood?
Not all students make good teachers. Some people are fantastic at absorbing information and retaining knowledge without being able to impart it to other people. The moment you find someone who is able to clearly communicate what they know and finds joy in sharing this knowledge with others, you know you have yourself a good teacher. Wang Juan, a young Beijingren who teaches Mandarin to foreigners and beginner-level English to locals, is one such teacher.
As a young girl and a diligent student, Wang always dreamt of being a teacher. She admired her teachers for making lessons come alive. She wanted to one day stand in front of a group of people and have an intelligent exchange of ideas with them. Having grown up in the very traditional Chinese educational system, much of her learning was by rote and required constant repetition.
To this day, Wang believes that the best way to remember new information is to practice, practice, practice. However, she always tried to include something interesting or personally relevant.
As a young girl, her favorite subject was history. She was taken by all the stories of days gone by and the magic of imperial China. The stories she heard in school took root in her imagination. Armed with a vast knowledge of history and a keen interest in Chinese culture, Wang one day began to think that perhaps teaching was not what she should pursue. Instead, she set her sights on being a tour guide in her native Beijing.
Her cousin was already working as a tour guide. Wang would borrow all her cousin’s materials, pore over them in her spare time, and make up her own scripts for how she would regale groups of tourists. She would practice her spiels on her friends whenever they went sightseeing. It was a win-win situation. She played the role that she envisioned herself to be doing as a future profession, and her friends enjoyed learning from her. She was moving closer to fulfilling her dream.
But out of the blue, she heard about an opening for a Mandarin teacher at a small language school in Shunyi called HLCC Culture Center. A friend of hers knew the owner of the school, and as it goes with guanxi, she was eventually put in touch with the owner. They both had the same vision for teaching: the school was to be a place where foreigners would not only come to learn the Chinese language, but the lessons would be infused with information about Chinese culture.
It was a perfect way to get their students interested in an otherwise difficult subject, and they could learn more about their host country as well. In exchange, Wang stood to gain exposure to different ways of thinking.
Without realizing it, Wang did end up at her dream job, but one she thought she had already set aside. To this day, four years later, she has no regrets about becoming a teacher. She thoroughly enjoys encountering different personalities and feels a sense of accomplishment when she sees a spark of comprehension in her students’ eyes. She shares in the personal triumphs of students when they do well in external exams. Naturally, she infuses her lessons with lots of Chinese history and culture.
Wang has a lot of respect for foreigners who decide to learn her language, her city, and her country. She admires the many women and some men she has met who struggle through the adjustment blues upon coming to Beijing. But most importantly, Wang gives of herself to her students and in return becomes their friend.
Not all students make good teachers. But the good students who become the best of teachers know that they can also learn a lot from the people they teach.
Photo by Dana Cosio-Mercado
Dana is the beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent. Originally from the Philippines, she moved to Beijing in 2011 (via Europe) with her husband, two sons and Rusty the dog. She enjoys writing, photography, theater, visual arts, and trying new food. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city and driving along the mountain roads of Huairou, Miyun and Pinggu.