A couple of weeks ago, I was teaching one of my first classes at the new POP Kids learning center in Dadukou. As I was walking around the halls, waiting for my class to begin, I started noticing these two girls following me around. Now, in itself, that is not uncommon for me. I am tall, my skin is white and I am bald but I have a beard, I am pretty much always the center of attention when I am at work. It bothered me at first, but I have to admit that after 6 years of teaching children I have gotten quite accustomed to the attention.

外交!, 外国人!, 光头!, Foreign teacher, Foreigner, Shiny head, there is pretty much not a word for myself that I have not yet heard. And while being bald wasn’t by my own choice, I have more or less come to embrace the fact that it gets my students attention. I do not like being compared to cartoon characters but when you work with children aged anywhere from 6-12 you cannot always control what they are going to say. And being followed around by students at the school has also become a regular occurrence. I quite enjoy it sometimes, it is nice to know that the students like me, and that they find me interesting. But there are also days where all I want is just to enjoy that 10-minute break I have before going to my next class.

When I taught students at my previous school, I often told them that if they run to me and talk to me and I don’t immediately answer back or ask them to come back later, it is not because I do not want to talk to them, but simply because I need a little break from work. Those of my students who have my QQ or my WeChat also knows the same thing. I never mind them writing to me, but if I do not answer back it is simply because I am busy, it is NEVER because I do not want to talk to them. I love my students, they bring me so much joy, even on days where I am cranky in the morning. The vast majority of the students I have taught always treat me like their friend, and it makes me really happy.

So back to the two students in Dadukou who were following me around. I kept noticing that they were walking up behind me, talking and giggling but too shy to actually say or do anything. So I finally turned around after a while and noticed that one of the girls was holding her phone out and she asked if she could take my picture. I smiled and I posed and I quickly got down on my knees in between them and took out my own phone for a selfie. I don’t much like selfies, but I thought it would be fun to get a photo with these two girls.

I don’t mind people or my students photographing me. If they think I am memorable, by all means. What I really do appreciate though, is that instead of just sneaking a photo of me, she asked politely. If you meet me on the street and you want to take a photo, all you have to do is ask. But don’t sneak a photo with your phone (especially if you haven’t turned your phone on silent). I understand that maybe you are shy, but foreigners are not known to be angry or bite your head off. If you want a photo, or if you want to talk to me, just come up and say hi. Don’t yell “Hello!” at me when I am so far away that it doesn’t make sense to stop and turn around to face you. I won’t bite you, and unless I am really busy I’d be happy to talk. Just show me the same respect that you’d like me to show you.

This little girl understood that. I don’t know her name or how old she is, but she had basic manners and she asked before she did anything. I wish the grown up people I meet every day would do the same! J