UNC Alum, McKay Roozen, Joins Teach for China

Thoughts from 卢美凯 on Teaching in China:

During my time at UNC, I had participated in many organizations and projects that were international in scope, with China as the primary focus. China Leadership Summit was one project that was especially dear to me. By senior year, I had mastered the challenges of college. I was in control of my life, in control of my future, and in control of my time. I made a schedule for myself and all-be-damned if I ever veered off my Google Calendar. It worked. I was successful and accomplished quite a bit.

As I began to think critically about my future in my senior year, I knew one of two things was about to happen: I was either about to fall off the deep-end, into a well-paid field of consulting or management hat was unaligned with my trajectory, or I was going to go back to China. And so I find myself here as a Fellow with Teach for China.

Teach for China (TFC) is a very young non-governmental organization that seeks to eliminate educational inequality in China. Like Teach for America, they place Fellows in particularly difficult schools where the odds are stacked up against them and their students. Soon after I arrived in China and began working with TFC, I realized that this was a new kind of hard. This was not college. I was a real, live, semi-adult with the future of over 100 kids in my hands.

Most importantly, I learned that I did not have control. I was never clear on when things were happening, what exactly was happening, how long it would take and what would be involved. I realized that I only had 40 minutes three times a week to teach my students a full curriculum that they would forget in a matter of hours. I was told what to eat, what to drink, who I was eating with and when, likely when it was happening. No planning allowed. The little things like water (hot water in particular), electricity, a restaurant to eat at, were out of my hands. I was no longer the queen of my castle. I was only just another villager living the village life.

The adjustment from having everything to having so little that was mine was difficult. It still is. But it has been an excellent exercise in something I am not good at. I have realized recently that the only consistency in my life is that there is no consistency. Finally, I’m at a place where that’s ok and understanding this has made me a better person, a better teacher and a better contribution to my little village of Lawu.

So what’s the takeaway from this cheesy sob story about control? Well, to challenge yourself. Find yourself in places where it is uncomfortable, where it makes you angry and irritable and then figure out how to deal. Figure out how to be happy in the direst of situations. To be able to make this sort of adjustment is invaluable. Use your strengths to develop your weaknesses. It will make you a better person and a better student of life.