The Cutest Little Chinese Kids You’ve Ever Seen, and How They Changed My Life Forever

Teach English in China

I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into.

After a bout of visa issues in New Zealand, I found asylum in Brisbane, Australia for three months, where I worked in a local nightclub and waited for my next opportunity to present itself.

People often ask how I decide where to go, and I usually stumble with my response, as I don’t actually have an answer for that. For more than three years, I have been making movements with the universe, sidling from location to location at seemingly random intervals. I wait for opportunities to present themselves, and then I act.

Ugly faces in the classroom!

A friend of mine, whom I met closer to the beginning of my travels, posted a Facebook status asking if anybody was interested in teaching English in China. It was funny timing, really, because I had already entertained the idea of teaching English somewhere in Asia.

As I’ve stated before, I’ve been selfish in my travels, and I’m very grateful for the freedom that I have been allowed in my life. Without the support of my family, friends, strangers, and all of my readers, I would not be able to lead the life that I live today. I feel as though I have amassed an immense amount of life experience in a short period of time, and all over the world. I was feeling like it was time to give back to the planet so, on top of spearheading the Travel Blogging Calendar charity project, I decided to jump on a plane to China.

Some of my favorite students!

I was under the impression that teaching English in China was going to be, somehow, globally significant. I pictured myself as an international philanthropist, making a significant and worthy contribution to the world. What I didn’t realize is that I would, once again, be the selfish party walking away with yet another meaningful experience under my belt.

Some of my students

For six months I lived in central China and taught English to tiny little Chinese people. I’ve never seen children as people, per se, but getting to know 140 three-to-13 year-olds put a particular emphasis on each one’s personalities, their idiosyncrasies, and their distinct individuality.

Teach English in China

Walking into my first class, I was bombarded by 16 strange children who couldn’t understand a single word out of my mouth. When I walked out of my last class, six months later, I had made a personal connection with each and every one of them. Some of my students could barely speak Chinese, much less a lick of English. But somehow, through determination and force, we connected.

Every class was not only a lesson in English, but a lesson in camaraderie, being a role-model, being a parent, and being a friend. I became a father to some, an older brother to others. I was loved and adored, feared and hated. I had to learn discipline, and not only how to dole it out, but how to discipline and conduct myself as a role-model, teacher and as a full-fledged adult.

"Teaching" English

But in between the discipline, I had to make learning a fun experience, and I had to create a nurturing classroom environment for my little ones. Between the dance parties, the games, the tickling and the singing, I had to make teaching the words “fox” and “zipper” somehow dramatic and stimulating for two full hours.

Teaching English in China

They stood by me as I spent two months fumbling through lesson plans and the child psyche, and they forgave me when I yelled or got upset. And when they threw tantrums, or bruised their knee, or missed their mommy, I forgave them, kissed their bruises better, and gave them a shoulder to cry on.

It’s what they needed, and unbeknownst to me, it’s what I needed.

Jeremy and Lisa!

Over the course of six months, these children became an integral part of my life. They became my outlet and, somehow, they stuck to my heart. They looked up to me, truly loved me, and they cried when I left.

And I loved them right back.

My students!

Teaching English in China was, by far, the most emotionally rewarding and fulfilling thing I’ve ever challenged myself to do. I have walked away from this job with a softened heart, knowing that I have made a difference in so many lives. Sure, they won’t remember me in ten years, but I know that I made an impact on them, hopefully one that will stick with them for the rest of their life.

And I want that, more than anything, because of the profound effect that they’ve had on my life. I want my teachings to be reciprocal, because they taught me how to unconditionally open my heart and how to be a more loving and patient person.

Because, really, no person is perfect, and our days are far more meaningful when we have someone to share our lives with.

Jeremy Foster

Founding Editor at travelFREAK
Jeremy left home in 2010 to embark on a journey to the other side of the world. Years later, he's still on the move and exploring other countries. He is now a traveling cocktail bartender and the head writer for travelFREAK! You can usually find him on either side of the bar, acting wanky and pretentious about booze.
SIGN UP FOR MORE!
Subscribe below to get updates every month! You'll never miss another article and I pinky promise I'll never spam you!

19 Responses to The Cutest Little Chinese Kids You’ve Ever Seen, and How They Changed My Life Forever

  1. Audrey July 14, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Your students look like such an adorable bunch! The girl with the red apple sticker on her forehead reminds me so much of a girl I used to teach in Korea. Some days I miss my little students!

    • Jeremy Foster July 17, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

      That’s Lisa! She was one of my absolute favorites!! Such a sweet little diva, she was. I miss my kids heaps, to be honest. I don’t know if most foreign teachers develop such strong bonds with their kids, but I certainly did.

  2. Bobbi Lee Hitchon July 19, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    This is such a sweet post! I’m glad the experience had such a positive affect on your life. It’s great that you just took the opportunity and went with it, even though you had no idea what you were getting into. They are so cute!

  3. Sally Bucey July 20, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    What cute kids! Posts like this make me wonder if I’m missing out by teaching middle school instead of elementary, but I’m also not so patient with temper tantrums… so perhaps not haha. I’m glad it was such a good experience!

    • Jeremy Foster July 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      They’re two different terrors! I’m usually the same way, when it comes to tantrums, but I had to learn to be patient. Do you develop relationships with your students, or do you feel like it’s just another boring job?

  4. Jessica Hill July 20, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

    What an amazing takeaway from such a special experience! I taught university in China, and all other ages in Thailand, and I’ve also written about how I often feel like I get more out of the situation than they do, but I hope I’m wrong. Do you think you’ll teach again?

    • Jeremy Foster July 25, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      I know the feeling! I’m not sure if I’ll teach again, to be honest. I have ideas and plans for my life and I don’t think another 6 months or a year teaching is in the cards. I will always have the memories from this incredibly special experience, though, and they will stay with me forever. I know you understand :-)

  5. Sarah Bennett July 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Loved this. I’m about to leave China after 2 years teaching here. I am very excited to begin a new chapter but I know I’m going to be absolutely devastated to leave my kids, as that’s how I see them now, they are mine!

    • Jeremy Foster August 1, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

      The best you can do is never forget them, and know that they changed your life forever. As much as you might want to, you can’t take them with you!

  6. Mary @ Green Global Travel August 3, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    These are indeed extraordinarily cute children and phenomenally talented face makers. I believe that travel changes lives – and it was wonderful to read a little about how your experiences have effected you!

  7. Mathew Duong August 22, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Great post. Really love children here. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  8. The Photoblogger November 4, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Children, they just have this effect on you right? :)

    Nice warm fuzzy-feeling story you got there Jeremy!

    • Jeremy Foster November 9, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      They really do. It was one of the most fulfilling times of my life! Thanks for stopping by :-)

  9. Matteo Marinacci March 11, 2014 at 12:03 am #

    I’m studying to be a primary school teacher here in Melbourne, Oz after having given music/pop/rock the better part of half my life. Third year in and so far so good. After reading this article, I must admit that my horizons have been broadened. A lovely read that has strengthened my resolve to become an “agent of empathy and learning”. Good luck with whatever choice you make dear Jeremy.

    • Jeremy Foster March 15, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      That’s wonderful. Your work will be incredibly difficult, but terribly rewarding! I applaud you! Good luck, Matteo!

  10. Mytanfeet March 15, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    I kind of always steered away from young children when I taught because I thought I couldn’t handle them after one very bad experience with a 6 year old lol but there is something special about teaching kids and it’s heart warming to read the amazing impact it had on your life. I have to agree, us Asian kids are pretty darn cute ;)

    • Jeremy Foster March 22, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

      What is it they say? One bad apple spoils the bunch? Kids are wonderful, and I only learned that during my time teaching them. It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done :-)

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge