Slice of Life Tuesday: Without Speaking

Photo by Alex Andrews on

It was week two of my summer English class. I assigned a NoRedInk grammar practice assignment on active verses passive voice.

A low murmur spread throughout the room as I walked around monitoring my students’ progress.

After about ten minutes, a student raised her hand. This student only recently arrived to the United States. She sat next to two other classmates who would consistently help her and translate my directions in class into Chinese for her.

I personally understand Chinese, but my Chinese speaking skills are a bit rusty. I’ve wavered back and forth whether to speak Chinese to help the struggling English learners in my class, but have eventually decided against it. I was self-conscious in speaking it, but more importantly, I felt the need to encourage my English learners to speak English as much as possible when communicating with me, to further improve their English speaking skills. I did not officially announce this; it’s just my unwritten personal rule. I’m not sure if I sent out the vibe that I do not know Chinese. Unconsciously, I believed I carry myself as someone who pretends to not know Chinese.

Occasionally, when I hear my students speaking Chinese to each other, I do not say anything. I would merely look up and smile, perhaps unintentionally sending the message that I could understand what they were saying. My students never asked me if I could speak Chinese, so I do not say anything.

When I walked over to the student who raised her hand, she started asking a question about the NoRedInk assignment in Chinese. But in mid sentence, she abruptly stopped speaking, realizing that she was not talking to me in English. She seemed embarrassed.

I did not wait for her to continue talking, and pretended that I did not notice that she spoke Chinese. I just preceded to answer her question.

She and her classmates at the table looked at me blankly for a quick second before continuing their assignment.

I wonder what they thought of me then.

Thank you for stopping by Haunting Comforts, where I share teaching, faith, and life through stories, reflections, and analyses. Subscribe & follow me on Instagram for more updates!

6 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: Without Speaking

Add yours

  1. Sounds as if the light might have gone for uour students. It is always interesting when our students learn something new about us.

  2. Your students were likely both surprised and relieved that they were never disrespectful toward you in their natural Chinese language. My aunt has taught English as a 2nd language on-line for a few years. She will find your story interesting. Thanks for posting!

  3. Your students now realize that the island they thought they were on while in your presence, was now attached to the mainland…!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: