Pink Floyd echoes through my brain tonight. I am attempting to help some of my students make contact with someone, anyone, outside of China. There over 4 billion qualified people. How could it be so difficult? My students e-mail me, “Teacher – I’ve sent so many e-mails, but no one will reply. Where is a foreign friend I can depend on?”
“Is there anybody out there?” The strains from “The Wall” album linger.
I question myself, my ability to teach, my sanity. Is it really so hard? Why can I find ways to communicate with people outside China in seconds? What am I not telling them?
A friend of mine, a senior English major from another university, was visiting our home tonight. I asked him, “Is this really such a hard assignment?”
He laughs and says, “No. It’s not.” Our other friend, an engineering major, concurs.
Some of my students have succeeded, even with flying colors. In class today, a student says she got tourism predictions for New York City up to 2014 from her contact for her restaurant business idea today. I asked her how she chose the contact. She says she found a website that helps small businesses, from which she found much of the information she included in her presentation to investors several weeks ago. Continuity. Resourcefulness. Fantastic. Why do others struggle so?
I resist going to the obvious answer – laziness. I know there are some who will succumb to failure because of the persistent student nemesis. But the one who sent me this mournful e-mail today is not lazy. She is just not thinking through her actions. She e-mailed Amazon.com and expected an answer to the statement, “I have a question about this skirt.” No product reference number included. And it is Amazon.com!
Her thinking exemplifies a problem that is the very reason I assigned this task. There is a persistent lack of awareness of how the world outside of China works.
I am not advocating that China conforms to some imagined higher standard. I just want to foster a sense of curiosity, and the ability to analyze a situation and work a problem all the way through to its resolution. Some students have done it. So I’m encouraging them to pass on their experience.
Others? Well, I think part of the issue is just plain fear of the unknown. I feel that “Is there anybody out there?” in their pleas for help. I want to reassure them that there is. If you’d like to communicate with one of these forlorn and lonely English majors, shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com. Let’s see if we can’t break down some of these walls…