My husband has been dead for just over a year. My son is a junior in college now. Some significant time has passed and I decided it was time to begin my career. I always knew that after devoting myself completely to my family and to motherhood, that I would eventually have a career. I just knew that I was not going to be able to do both and be good at either if I did it all at the same time. Well, I may perhaps could have been good at both but not great… and I really needed and wanted to be a full-time mother.
The time I spent with my extended family last year did a world of good for my spirit. The best part of it all was being able to form relationships with my little niece and nephews, whom I had never met. I did not realize just how much I missed having young children in my world until they were there. At my nephew’s fourth birthday party, while hordes of little children ran everywhere around the house, I found myself playing Barbies with the girls and hide and seek with the boys. While the other adults gathered around the food, I had groups of children gathered around me. I thought nothing of it. Actually, that is just what usually happens when there are children around me. This time was different though. My sister was there and commented after the party that many of the parents had noticed how good I was with their young children. I had never really thought about it before but as I began to consider a career path, I kept coming back in my mind to that day.
I had some concerns about starting any kind of job. I absolutely hate anybody making demands on my day. I don’t like nine-to-five jobs. I don’t like not having control over my time. I don’t like not being able to go where I want to go when I want to go… so this was a problem for me. I have always been an early riser. I naturally wake up crazy early in the morning and have been that way my entire life. I started looking around for programs to get my teaching certification although I really wasn’t thrilled to work the hours of a school teacher. By sheer chance, I stumbled across a job posting for an online teaching position for a company in Beijing, China that did not require certification. It only required that I have at least a four-year degree and experience teaching at any level… which I had both. I also had to be a native English speaker. In truth, I actually learned to speak Spanish first but since I have lived on the mainland since I was three, I learned to speak English fluently long ago.
I applied for the job and to my great delight, I got it. The drawback (if you can call it that) is that my teaching hours are in Beijing time. I live in Texas; so, that means when it is day there, it is night here. Peak hours for teaching are 3:00am -7:30am my time… which for me is not a problem at all. By 8:00am, I have completed my classes and have the entire day to do whatever I want to do. Because the classes are online, I can teach in my pajamas as long as I look respectable from the waist up. The kids never know I have on bunny slippers if I do not show them! If I want more hours, I can teach in the evenings starting at 7pm. I choose all my own hours. I work as little or as much as I want to. Students range from three years old up to thirteen. There are various levels according to student ability. My favorite levels are the first two… beginners. I teach phonics, the alphabet, colors, shapes and numbers. I am not required to speak any Chinese. I do not have to come up with my own curriculum. The company already has a pre-designed curriculum. My job is to teach it and engage the students with high energy and what they call “total physical response” or TPR. TPR is essentially a set of gestures that communicate non-verbal messages they can understand. I use a lot of props — puppets, flashcards and all sorts of toys… and I get paid well for it. It is my dream job!
Every student I come across has impacted me. I have found that if a student comes back for a class with me more than once, it changes my everyday life. I think about that child throughout the day. I ask myself what I can do to really engage them in their desire to learn. I find myself laughing out loud at little things that they said or how they responded to certain things I said or did in class. I make up songs with their name in it or about the lesson I am about to teach them in my head. Each and every one of them fills my heart with great joy! I find this job heals a part of my spirit that so longs to share and give love to any child willing to receive it. Perhaps because I am a widow and my husband is gone. Perhaps because my son is in college now and has left the home… or perhaps because I just have so much love inside, I am able to freely give it to these little kids. In truth, maybe it is just because I always wanted to be on Sesame Street when I was a little girl growing up! Whatever the reason, teaching these little kids heals my heart in a most profound way.
The money I receive is nice. The fact that I have a career now after all of these years is nice. However by far, the nicest of all is the fulfillment and joy I receive from knowing that I have made a difference in this world. My actions directly impact little children on the other side of the world. I am for many of them, the very first foreign person they have ever met or seen. I represent not only the company I work for but the United States itself in their little minds. They are forming lifelong opinions based on me about America itself. That’s huge! Who knows who these children will grow up to be? I take very seriously this tremendous responsibility in my mind. It is a great honor for me… and an even greater privilege!