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Dear Teacher,

I’m currently participating in a program called Duke Engage. My project put me in southern China. I’m teaching English and dance classes. I’ve just finished my last full week of just teaching. From here on out, we are volunteering at various locations around the city, traveling, and preparing for our final performance, while our kids prepare for their final exams.

Altogether, reflecting on these last 67 class periods, I have to say that there were many times I felt so excited and so frustrated about class.

The combination deconstructs like this: I love teaching! I love pointing to something I want to share and problem solving every way to explain it until I see the light of understanding flick on in someone’s eyes. I love the challenge of constructing lessons that students can relate to, sneaking vocabulary and language practice into engaging games and memorable activities.

There are a lot of things I love about teaching, but I’ve run into more than a few situations that have left me feeling less than qualified to be doing what Duke Engage is letting me do. The teaching environment necessitates an atmosphere of growth which is beautiful but sometimes ugly and always uncomfortable.

But through both the good and the bad classes, dear teacher, I’ve been constantly thankful for you. ┬áThank you for meeting me for extra hours after class when I you had already explained the material in class. Thank you for the times you set aside to listen to me process the confusing parts of growing up when I know I was probably ridiculously overdramatic and you had plenty of papers to grade. Thank you for all of the times you showed me what a gift school was. Thank you for all of the second and third chances. For being generous when I needed it and strict when I need that too– I’ve learned that it can be really scary to push a student even when you know it’s good for them.

Every time you put your job before your comfort, you helped put me closer to where I wanted to be. You are the reason I can be in China right now serving and learning and doing things I didn’t know I could do.

Sincerest thanks,
Sara

Here’s on of my favorite books. It’s for kids but I find it very helpful. Reflecting on the program so far, I can’t help but think about a lot of mistakes I’ve made while teaching. If I could teach 67 more classes I might do them a lot better. But experience is very important and it’s important to be reminded that mistakes are necessary. As Hsiao Mei says, “Perfect is uninteresting, but human is beautiful.”