No More Potatoes

This story is taken from

The Hui, Uyghur and Kazakh are some of the minority groups in the western provinces of Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Xinjiang and Yunnan. Creative roles like missional business, teaching, counseling, research and language study are ways to be involved in the community. Partnership with the Han churches increased focus on training and mentoring Chinese workers as key partners in this tasks.

“I started hating school in second grade.”

I can still remember the day that it started, when I said the wrong thing to my Chinese 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 announced to everyone that I was a bad student.

From then on, she would tell them all that I could ever be was 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 the Hui. I am 15 years 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. My body was tensed up, 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.