Saturday, May 17, 2014


If my life were a book, I would be ending a chapter and beginning a new one.

Sunday will be my last day of teaching my Chinese Toddler Class. After five semesters and a great many children and parents, I say goodbye to a very rewarding Chapter of my life.

My little two- and three-year-olds have filled my Sundays with song and dance, laughter, stories, crafts, games, and intangible fun. Each time a lesson ends, I feel an incredible teaching high. We've gotten our routine down so nicely that the kids and parents go through each lesson like a well-oiled machine--gears turning and syphons pumping--ever without a hitch. But in order to have everything go smoothly, a lot of preparation is required. And time has not been on my side these days.

I'll always remember a few wonderful moments over the last few years. Last year we played a game during a lesson on Clothing. I had asked the children to take off one shoe and randomly put it somewhere in the classroom. Then all the children went shoe hunting for someone else's shoe, and we tried to find its owner by practicing saying our color words. It was all good until two of my youngest kids (still age two at the time) began to cry great, huge drops of tears. Because they weren't allowed to pick their own shoes. This year I brought colorful pairs of socks to play this game instead. No tears this time--lesson learned.

Each week, we always start the class by singing a Welcome Song to the tune of Frere Jacques: "Ni hao, lao shi. Ni hao, xiao peng you..." which translates to "Hello, teacher. Hello, children..." And one little girl has always--and still continues to--insist on calling me Ni Hao Lao Shi. As if my last name is Ni Hao. Why, hello, Mrs. Hello! It always brings a smile to my face when she greets me. One time this little girl got defensive because another child took a prop of mine. She immediately said to the child, "Give it back! It's Ni Hao Lao Shi's." I couldn't stop giggling at the possessive use of my new name, complete with the "apostrophe and s"!

And then there's the time when a child happily shared what was on his underwear (superhero character) during story time; or when I heard a child tell me how to say something in Chinese for the very first time; or the time when we made flowers for Mother's Day and I asked a child to tell his mom "wo ai ni" (I love you) and he did it immediately even without knowing what the heck he was saying; or the time when I came back from our Toronto trip, having missed two classes in a row, and a child said to me, "I really missed you!" (in Chinese!). Yes, these are the moments I will never, ever forget.

Chinese New Year Celebration Performance

As for why I made this decision to stop teaching Chinese school: last month, the principal of my kids' school asked me if I would be interested in teaching summer school. Would I ever be!? Of course I'd jump at the chance to do something for a school at which I have been comfortably substitute teaching for over a year now. The class is for incoming third-graders in reading, writing, and math. It will be four hours a day for four weeks. What better way to get a good feel for teaching my own class than a short-term, laid-back, summer class with a classroom full of my own kids? How lucky am I that this opportunity came knocking on my door? Huzzah! 

A few weeks later, DS's (first grade) teacher, who is expecting her second child in July, asked me if I would like to take her maternity leave assignment in the fall, which covers from the start of school until November, or January (if she can combine two leaves). I couldn't even hold back from smiling ear-to-ear before she had finished asking. What an incredible opportunity--again! To be able to ease into a classroom from the start of the school year, have help from a teacher with curriculum planning, and experience having my own class during the regular school year for a couple of months! And, and, and, since I have been the go-to sub for our school's kindergarten teachers, I already know the incoming students for next fall. I felt like the teaching gods were tossing me gold.

After receiving these two wonderful news, I was feeling all the feels: excitement, trepidation, nervousness, gratitude, and, occasionally, a "I've-got-this." I was also afraid to tell people for a little while cuz I didn't want to jinx anything.

And now they are definitely official. So.

Do you remember my Zero-Sum Theory of Life? The "you win some, you lose some" theory? The "you have some good, you get some bad, and it all evens out" rule? Well, I started to wait for the other shoe to drop. Two great news must mean something terrible might happen to even things out.

And... Bam! ROOT CANAL.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Ba-Bam! STREP THROAT.

Well, that about sums it up. Zero-Sum. We're now even.

And if you're laughing at my crazy theory, I will make one more attempt to convince you why my theory holds true and it all evens out:

At the start of this school year, a first grader asked me how I know DS having heard other children say we know each other. I said to him cleverly that DS and I have the same last name, and asked how he thinks we're related. He replied, "You're his grandma?" Ouch.


A few weeks ago, a classroom full of 7th graders swore up and down that I appear no older than 25. For reals.


Zero Sum.

And so, for me, a chapter ends and a new one beings. With much anticipation, I begin another journey in my professional life. And as necessary as it is to move on from Sundays at Chinese School, I'll always cherish my most special name, Ni Hao Lao Shi.


  1. Congratulations on both of your new opportunities! I am sure your Chinese School students will always remember you fondly.
    Good luck!

    Oh, and yes, I did laugh just a little bit at your Zero-Sum examples :)

  2. Wow! Congrats, Sandra, on both assignments!

  3. Sandra, I'm so happy for you! Congrats and lots of luck! You got this! I feel giddy inside just reading this, I remember this feeling when I got the job at my kids' school and things just have been so great... Of course, going by your zero-sum theory, the other shoe just dropped and middle was diagnosed with mono... But it's all godd. :)

  4. How exciting for you! Congratulations on the teaching opportunities (hey, strep throat and a root canal are a small price to pay, right?) I can see why you wouldn't have time for Sunday classes too, though. I did get a chuckle from the zero sum... especially the age. I guess twenty five and grandma even out :)

  5. Congratulations!!! Can't wait to celebrate with food and pie on Wednesday!

  6. What wonderful and funny memories you will always have of your Chinese school teaching, Mrs. Ni Hao, hehe. Cute crafts you've done with them too!!! What great news, both -- the summer school and getting to teach in the fall!!! Your zero sum theory holds true. :).

  7. Congratulations on your 2 upcoming jobs, Sandra! I'm not surprised in the least that you are in such demand. :-) You have no doubt made a (positive) mark on every child's life you've come in contact with (as well as mine!) so any school would be crazy not to snatch you up. I loved reading about some of the memories you shared from your time teaching Chinese school. Your Zero Sum theory actually gives me hope. At this rate, I've got a ton of good things coming my way that I had NO idea about! Ha ha.