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Wemhoff: Taking a chance with the opportunity of a lifetime
Emily Wemhoff
Antelope Staff
Courtesy Photo
Emily Wemhoff says she received more than a dozen mooncakes and one Chinese decoration after giving an English presentation to middle school students in China. A mooncake is a Chinese bakery product offered between so special and one of a kind, I had to hold back tears, Wemhoff said.

I’ve never had the desire to be a teacher, so when I was told I would be teaching students at a middle school and high school here in Shijiazhuang, I really didn’t know what to think about the situation. Of course, I was more excited than anything, but I was also afraid of being a complete failure at the process. I’ve never even taught American students, but here I am expected to teach hundreds of Chinese students something about myself and about America.

Saray, Vanessa and I were all assigned to one school, and there was some confusion when we first arrived at No. 9 (schools in China go by numbers). Our first day was on Monday, and we met with about 20 middle school teachers. Right away, one of the teachers asked me, “How do you keep a student’s attention in the classroom?” I think they thought we were actual teachers, so I quickly clarified that we were only students. However, we all agreed that we could teach them a lot about America and tell them about our experiences as students. We obviously knew what teaching styles we like and how we learn the best, so we could at least demonstrate these techniques to the teachers at No.9.

On Tuesday, we visited with 7th grade students. Saray, Vanessa and I were told that we would all be in the same classroom, but when we arrived, they split us up into three separate classrooms. Once again, we were misinformed or had some sort of miscommunication, but we managed to get along just fine. In fact, I loved every moment I had with the students and guessing from how they reacted once class was over, I believe they enjoyed it too.  

Each class that I talked to had about 50 students and the period lasted 40 minutes. I was startled when I first said, “Hello! How are you?” and 50 students loud and proud, and in unison, replied, “Hello! I’m fine, thanks. How are you?” I was not expecting it, and I’m sure my eyes popped out their sockets for a while.

 I began by introducing myself. I showed them pictures of my family, my house, my friends and pictures of what I like to do, such as singing and dancing. The students knew very little English, so I was surprised when they would raise their hands and ask me questions. Each time I called on a student that had a question, they would stand up and stay standing until I told them to sit down. It was kind of flattering, but I also felt awkward when they stood because it was such a respectful gesture. I don’t ever recall having such respect shown towards me, not saying that people aren’t respectful in America. This was just different and it made me feel….old. I don’t know how old it made me feel, but not 21.

The students asked me a range of questions ranging from my favorite foods, holidays, my experience in China so far, American celebrities and Obama. Remember, these are 12-year-olds in China who know very little English, and they ask me about my feelings toward Obama. Honestly, I hardly know anything about the guy, which made me feel a little pathetic...

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