I was finishing up my first year of teaching English as a Second Language and studying linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh when a job offer came from a company whose task it was to supply foreign experts in developing countries—mostly for building bridges or drainage ditches with the occasional gunfire overhead. The year before, when I was unemployed, I’d applied for an opening teaching German at a university in Nigeria. Now, in the summer of 1984, the company was offering me a gig teaching English at a university in China. I saw it as an opportunity to find out … Read More
In September of 1984, I arrived at Xiamen University in Fujian Province, China. As happy as I was to be in this beautiful and fascinating place—and I was happy—the trouble started immediately.
I’d been teaching since my first gig as a graduate student 1966. I thought I knew students, and I wasn’t above playing it for laughs. So why did I see all these expressionless faces? I thought the kids must have been so abused by the system that they couldn’t react normally. After about two weeks they started to thaw out, and I realized having to deal with a … Read More