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Teacher learns life lessons in faraway land
By Zhang Jin (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-14 11:29

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei: Xu Jianling has stayed in Brunei for almost two years, but she seldom feels like she is in a foreign country.

That's because the teacher from China says she does not need to jump between languages. "In China, I used Chinese to teach English. In Thailand, I used English to teach Chinese. But in Brunei, I use Chinese to teach Chinese," she says.

The native of Qingdao, Shandong province, joined Chung Hwa Middle School BSB as an assistant principal in 2007.

Teacher learns life lessons in faraway land

The 53-year-old was impressed by local students' desire to learn.

After reading a book she bought from China for her class, a student asked her for recommended books listed on the back cover - a list that Xu had ignored.

"They are really eager to learn," she says.

Comparing them with the students she has taught in her more than 30 years as an instructor, Xu says that Bruneian students are open-minded and find more fun in learning.

Students in China are asked to sit properly with arms folded on desks, but here "we allow students to sit or even lie on the floor".

Bruneian students enjoy more group discussions and are encouraged to raise questions. "These moves help enhance their creativity," Xu says.

In addition, she adds, Chinese traditions, to some extent, are better kept in Brunei. For example, textbooks include more traditional stories about ancient Chinese figures, such as Confucius and Mencius.

In the past two years, the biggest challenge for Xu was changing her role from teacher to manager.

As assistant principal, she needs to handle administrative work, a responsibility she once hesitated to undertake.

She believes she is straightforward and sometimes outspoken, so she worried the school might not approve of her style.

Teacher learns life lessons in faraway land

But she soon found out that she could always speak her mind.

"It's a pleasure to work here. Whenever I have any advice, I go and tell the principal," she says.

According to Xu, Brunei's climate and food are similar with those in South China, where she stayed for years. And many daily goods are also from China.

"I never feel I am a stranger in Brunei, which is a home away from home," she says.

Xu has applied to renew her contract with the school for another three years.

Chung Hwa Middle School BSB now has about 20 teachers from China, including five volunteers sponsored by the Chinese government.