Saturday, October 19, 2013

A new day dawning

Opening this blog, I am on the cusp of a major life change: relocation to the United States. Having spent the past 10+ years in China, this is no small endeavor. I started out as a young, single teacher yearning to change the world. I return a married man, a father of two, and a not-so-young teacher still yearning to change the world.

I'm not returning to the United States in the most joyful of circumstances; my three-month-old son has been diagnosed with a genetic disorder called tuberous sclerosis complex, often simply referred to as TSC or TS. The treatment options in China being severely limited, my wife and I have made the difficult decision to pull up our tent pegs and start a new journey in the United States.

There are definitely things that excite me about returning to teach in the United States, and there are naturally things that I will miss. This opening post is dedicated to three of each:

Exciting #1

Linguistically and culturally, I am excited to explore the variety of backgrounds that inevitably await me in a U.S. ESL classroom. Based on statistics alone, I can imagine a classroom of students from language backgrounds including Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Persian, among others, each with their own unique difficulties in acquiring English. Such an environment would prove to be an exciting challenge, no doubt, but it will also be incredibly interesting, not to mention fun.

Less than exciting #1

On the other hand, I will miss working within a Chinese context. I would never call wasted the years spent studying Chinese or the years devoted to discovering the unique ways that the Chinese language background both enables and hinders acquisition of English. Nevertheless, those specific knowledge banks will be of much less value in a multilingual, multicultural environment. Of course, I also simply enjoy Chinese.

Exciting aspect #2

Rejoining a professional, cutting-edge workforce thrills me. Working in North American academia with professional development opportunities, access to the latest technological capabilities and freedom to explore new topics is truly a galvanizing prospect. I've long lived where professional development is rarely obtainable, in a context within which internet access was never a sure bet. Being able to mingle with other English teaching professionals, tour the latest in blended learning trends and engage students in a new range of topics feels liberating.

Less than exciting #2

Despite the complaints I've often uttered (e.g. I understand that China doesn't like Google search, but do they really need to slow down my Gmail!?), it has been enjoyable dealing with and learning to adapt to the limitations I've faced in China. "There's no multimedia access today? Think fast!" Learning to discuss sensitive topics in ways that promote discussion rather than anger has been challenging but rewarding for both me and my students. Fresh teaching challenges unquestionably await me in the United States, but likely few compare with those I've acclimated to in Changsha. I will miss near-daily tests of adaptability.

Exciting #3

I have no idea what to expect. My next steps seem completely unpredictable. It is roughly comparable to the emotions I felt before first going to China as a student in 2001 and later returning as a teacher in 2003. After more than ten years in the China, living and working in the United States presents a virtually identical sense of disorientation. In some ways it is a homecoming. In other ways it is very much like entering a new culture, getting to experience the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of an entirely new, foreign milieu.

Less than exciting #3

Simply put, I will miss China. It has become home not just for me, but for my family as well (though it always was my wife's culture). Yes, I experienced culture shock and culture stress just like anyone else. It was not easy living in a city about which a local Chinese friend once remarked, "I you can make it in this city, you can make it anywhere in China." Yet over the years digging in roots, engaging a culture, and learning daily, I began to love a myriad of aspects of China that simply are not present in typical U.S. culture. I began to appreciate habits and traditions in ways that I never would have expected. Do I like everything about China? Of course not! But home is home. Now it is time for a new home, again.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog! Looking forward to coming here for all of my much needed education tips from now on!