Dec 10, 2012

Meeting Maybell

A new friend, via — amazingly — Connecticut

Maybell and her boyfriend eat with us at Golden Hans

Maybell was new in town this fall. Originally from Chengdu, she was doing her student teaching at our school. And besides her boyfriend, she didn’t know anyone in Luzhou. Peter met her in one of his classes, where they discovered common ground in Hartford, Connecticut, of all places — she had been there as an au pair last year, thus accounting for her perfect English.

At lunch a few days later, she asked if we could be friends, apologizing if that seemed forward. You see, she had met many friendly people in Luzhou, but they all already seemed to be busy enough with their own lives, she explained. We’ve had a similar experience in our time here.

Maybell is passionate, about English and about teaching, in a way that is infectious and inspiring. At lunch, in the school cafeteria, she’d tell us about her classes, her strivings and frustrations, and her successes. She spoke warmly about getting the students involved in speaking and wished she had the opportunity to do more.

Let it be said now: Her future students are going to be really lucky to have her.

Eventually, we finally got it together to have a double date. Maybell may speak perfect English, but her boyfriend does not, so she had to act as translator … though as the night wore on, the teacher in her came out and she pushed him to, “say it in English.” With a little bit of beer in him, he grew less and less shy about this.

For this beer, we took them to our new dining hot spot, Golden Hans. Maybell’s boyfriend (who, alas for my memory, does not have an English name) works for our local liquor giant and has many, many drinking meetings, so he said he was glad of the opportunity to have a laid back beer. We were glad too.

Sweetly, they sung each others’ praises all night. Maybell revealed that they had been high school sweethearts — at a school where dating was banned! The did get reprimanded, she said, although one of their teachers told them that they made a cute couple.

We also talked about the differences between American and Chinese education, and what is expected from students in each country. Chinese students, Maybell confirmed, face a rigorous course of study in high school wherein they make homework and exam-passing their whole life. When they leave for university, they’re stuffed full of facts, but have little idea of what to do with those facts. We all agreed that each country’s educators could learn something from the other’s.

Thus, having solved the world’s education problems, we said good night.