No More Potatoes

Over a cup of tea my young student shared:

“I started hating school in second grade.

I can still remember the day that it started when I said the wrong thing to my teacher. She was teaching us poetry and I asked, “Couldn’t we say that the snow makes us numb instead of refreshed?” A simple enough question, right? But she took it as a personal attack on her authority. She cuffed me around the head and announced to everyone that I was a bad student.

From then on, I was her favorite scapegoat. Whenever our class was noisy, or someone had left litter lying around, she would blame me in front of everyone. She told them all that I would only ever be a potato farmer if I could even manage that. She would make me look at her, and tell me  你没用 ” – “You’re useless”

Of course, I also remember the day when it all changed. It was our first lesson with the school’s best English teacher, and we were doing introductions. It was going to take him about 30 more seconds to figure out what every other teacher in the school already knew. I am useless.

No more hiding. It’s my turn.

“My name is Frank. I 15 year old. I like to basketball.”

I blushed, ashamed by my strange English pronunciation and poor grammar. “Who cares?” I told myself. “I’m no good at academics. Teachers never like me. I’ll fail my exams and end up farming potatoes like my parents. I’ll work in construction like my uncle. I’ll be a failure in life. Who cares?”

I sat down. Then Mr Ma called my name. He waited for me to look at him. I tensed my body, waiting for the criticism. “Frank, that was good.”

He looked me in the eye and smiled.

Praise? For me? From the most talented English teacher in the school? I couldn’t believe it was true. Could Mr Ma really care about me?

Mr Ma told me I was good at languages, and coached me in English until I believed it too. He is the reason I’m now at the top university in our province, studying English and Japanese, instead of farming potatoes with my dad.

One teacher who believed in me changed my whole life.”


Pray for students like Frank, growing up in schools with more criticism than encouragement.

Pray for teachers to take the time to care for their students, even when the classes are large and the pressure for good exam results is intense.

Pray God uses Christian teachers in China to encourage students to believe in themselves.

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