Skip to main content

What is the difference between jealousy and envy? I’m too lazy to look it up, BUT I have always been the type of person who compares myself to others, in turn, wanting what they have. Whether it is intelligence, appearance, or petty things like shoes, my inner dialogue is clouded with phrases such as “Why can’t I be more like that?” and “Why didn’t I think of that?”. The amount of pressure I put on myself isn’t necessarily strenuous or unhealthy, but there is certainly nothing easy or uplifting about the thoughts running through my mind day in and day out.

I am going to be a teacher one day. I will have 24 tiny sets of eyes looking at me, taking in the lessons I hand them and looking to me as their provider of knowledge. I am by no means perfect, but my future students deserve to have someone who is confident in themselves teaching their lessons. Even now, whether it is here in China or at work in Durham, I have teenagers who are going through transformative years in their lives and who sometimes look to me for life’s answers.
Maybe I’ll never have the answers the students look for. Maybe I will never stop looking at others and longing for something different. OR MAYBE, I will learn to appreciate myself and what I bring to the table. (For the record, this does not mean the dinner table as I can only make PB&J.) I absolutely adored my elementary school teachers growing up. They were always such positive beings and I hope my future students can see me the same way.

Over the course of this trip, I have learned a few things about myself. Some of these things have made me frustrated because they show I am still growing. Other things have made me smile to myself. My roots are good and some days they just need a little more care.
– Biting my tongue is difficult but usually a better option than acting on feelings.
– I love people.
– Lesson planning is extremely difficult.
– Although teamwork makes the dream work, teamwork can be hard to accomplish.
– Going to sleep early does not mean defeat.
– Alvin and the Chipmunks is painful to watch.
– Shy does not mean defiant or disobedient.
– Some students are selfish with their knowledge while some seek to share it.
– When the time is right, I am able to kill cockroaches.

It is so easy for us to believe that the work we do isn’t sufficient. Obviously, we cannot change the world in two months, but we are simply trying to change the lives of the students, even if it is for only 40 minutes. I don’t know if any of us have been able to find the answers to life’s burning questions so far. I do know that we have each learned a tremendous amount about ourselves.

I used to believe that inside of me was simply bones and organs. An environment like Duke is not necessarily the center place for holding dreams besides medical and law school. Now I have been blessed with the opportunity to live my dream, and I know it’s where I’m meant to be. I believe I really needed this excursion as a confidence booster to help me continue on the rest of my path. The education department at Duke is very small. Although their contributions to the field itself have been grand, there is still a very prevalent stigma, from Duke itself and others, against those pursuing teaching after having come from such an established university. DukeEngage has reminded me of the importance of education and the need for well-rounded teachers.

Whenever I do begin to doubt my future or the importance of what I intend to do, the students remind me that every single action effects them. Whether it is the simply way in which we mimic each other’s noises just to be goofy, or at teary goodbye at the end of our last class together, they have been touched. It’s can difficult to see this on the stressful days or when something does not go right, but now we are closing in on our last full week of teaching and the students are more confident than they were on day 1.

When I leave the school where I work in Durham, I am able to promise to the students that I will see them when summer is over and they are in their next grade. Here, I am asked if I will ever return and I am rendered speechless.

Edit: As I was typing this, I was watching Law and Order SVU, while listening to Rex sing and do his homework opposite me. Rex asks me to pause my show and tells me the following, completely unprompted: Nadia, when you leave China, I will be very sad. And on the day in China when you are leaving, I think I will cry because I will be so sad.

Then he did this little laugh that only DE Zhuhai 2017 students will understand but is equal parts adorable and goofy.