Because I am only teaching one class this semester I decided to take advantage of things I could do with 33 students that I couldn’t do with 150 students. One of these being assigned lunches. Part of their class grade is that they have to go out to lunch with me, in groups of 3-4, at least once in the semester. It works out nicely because my class goes from 10-12, finishing just in time for lunch. It is a chance for me to figure out how I can help them better with their English, but it also gets a chance for them to get to know me, to perhaps go deeper, and to develop relationships.
Last week I went to lunch with four guys from my class. They wanted to come together because they are all friends and have known each other since they were freshmen in college. Now they are pursuing PhD’s together.
We got on the subject of their majors and their research studies. This is how the conversation went:
Me: What’s your major?
Shawn: Flight Vehicle Engineering
Me: And what exactly is Flight Vehicle Engineering? I have no idea what that means. Like working with airplanes?
Harry: No, no, not airplanes. How to say..how to say… (the four of them discuss together and try to come up with a translation, like a round table discussion) After a pause..
Me: Missiles!? (a little too loudly)
Shawn: Yes, missiles.
Me: for the military?
Shawn: Yes, our research is for the military. We research…missiles…and give our results to the military.
Me: WOW! That sounds really important.
Shawn: It’s actually very boring.
Me: But, missiles! I know China says they have not and will not invade another country, but after hearing this I’m not sure anybody wants to invade China either.
They all giggle.
As we are walking pass the track after lunch there were students experimenting with a go-kart thing.
Harry: Oh, yes, we do experiments, too.
Me: On your missiles?
Shawn: Yes (the other two guys barely talk)
Me: And where do you test your missiles? Do you actually send them up and they go off? Like, boom!
Shawn: Yes, at a place near to hear.
Me: Near to Beijing???
Shawn: Yes. Near to Beijing (he names a town I’ve never heard of)
Me: So, you’re setting off missiles near Beijing.
Me: But, but what about all the people!?
When he finally realizes what I’ve been getting at, all four of their eyes go completely wide!!
Shawn: NO! No people. None! There are no people in this area when we test our missiles! No people!
Me: Well, that’s good to know.
This is my life. These are my students. Welcome to my world.
And when I told them the Easter story this week in class, they listened. They didn’t shut down. They even nodded their heads in acknowledgement. They even told parts of the story excitedly to their classmates in an interactive assignment. How much they actually understood I don’t know. I was prepared to move on to a different topic, but His presence was there. And so I continued.
For a moment there light was able to enter this place. With these particular students. And I smiled a little inside.