November 28, 2019

Usually students thank their teachers, but on this Thanksgiving Day in 2019, I want to thank my students.  As I watched a tv news program of grown-up students thanking their old teacher during a reunion, I thought that was nice.  But I imagined a reunion in which I was able to thank my many students over many years and many countries for how they had changed my life and what I had gained from them.

Although I was never trained as a teacher, I luckily learned I was truly meant to be a teacher by circumstance and chance as I traveled the world and wanted to get to know the cultures I was in.  Without a shared language, I reached out to teaching as a way to teach me about the cultures I was living in.  And it worked.

Raised in the U.S., I learned about the countries I was then living in, as well as what the U.S. looked like from the outside.

Through teaching, I experienced third world poverty and the obstacles my students faced.  I learned how other cultures suffered, survived, thrived.  I was able to compare and contrast variations of similar cultures.  I was a part of the history of other cultures over the years as they matured and morphed.

I was fortunate to always have students who wanted to learn English and respected me as their teacher.  As teacher and student, we were kind to one another and appreciated each other’s efforts.

Many also became caring friends who have kept in touch with me over the years so that, on this Thanksgiving, we got in touch with one another, made fast and easy with modern technology, to give holiday greetings.

When I met them, I was middle-aged and they were young.  Now, I am old and they are middle-aged.  Their children have become my grandchildren.   And still we are in touch.

A book I wrote about my travels is in an archive at the Hoover Institution in Stanford University along with 25 years of their letters they wrote to me as China went through its metamorphosis.

If I had never become a teacher, I would have missed out on the happiest, most interesting and adventurous years of my life.




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