Sending All The Lefties To China

, , , , | Learning | July 12, 2019

(For one year, I work as a foreign English teacher in China. I am an American. I have an impairment to the right side of my body that makes it somewhat difficult to do many tasks with my right hand; as such, I’ve learned to use my left hand for pretty much everything. The city I am living in is one of their larger ones, but it hasn’t quite westernized as much as other cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. As such, they tend to be more traditional and many people think it’s improper to write with one’s left hand. Here are some of the responses I receive while in China. This is a common response when I have a new class of beginning-level students in the seven- to ten-year-old group when they notice me writing on the board with my left hand:)

Students: *frantically pointing at their left hands* “Teacher! Teacher! Teacher! No… this!”

(Something like this happens with new students who have a higher level of English. It is still one of the seven- to ten-year-old classes; the older kids aren’t bothered by it and the younger ones are too young to notice.)

Student: “Teacher, why do you write with your left hand?”

Me: “Why do you write with your right hand?”

Student: *confused* “Because… everyone else writes with their right hand.”

(The only time I get frustrated with a middle-level class of the same age group. It is my first time teaching them; I am just covering for their main teacher since he can’t be there that day. He is naturally left-handed, so I don’t expect them to have any issue with me. Suddenly, after about a third of the way through the class, they start chattering in Chinese and one student yells and runs up to me and yanks my left arm away from the board.)

Student #1: “No! No!”

(I look at the other students and they are all pointing at their left hands and shaking their heads.)

Me: “Are you serious!? Are you serious!? [Regular Teacher] is left-handed!”

Student #2: *sincerely* “No! [Regular Teacher] is right!”

Me: “You’re crazy! He’s more left-handed than I am!”

(I guessed they never noticed somehow? After my last class of the afternoon, two of my students and their parents are hanging out with me. I write something on the board to show my student something. Her father speaks English very well.)

Student’s Father: “Oh! So in America, you all write with your left hand?”

Me: “No, no, just about ten percent of us.”

(Sometimes our company contracts us out to a private elementary school for mornings before our normal classes. I walk past a first-grade girl writing with her left hand, and she looks up at me and quickly puts her pen into her right hand.)

Me: “No, no, it’s okay.”

(I take her pen and put it back into her left hand and pat her head before giving her a friendly nod.)

Student: *hesitantly returns to writing with her left hand*

(The weirdest reaction wasn’t from a student. I was at a small restaurant eating some noodles when a strange woman came up to my side and took the chopsticks from my left hand and tried to stick them into my right hand. I gently shooed her away and grabbed a new pair out of the holder at my table. She seemed friendly looking; I think she was just trying to help the confused foreigner who didn’t know how to eat the “right way.”)

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