One of my college professors once told me that he firmly believed that each educator is called (or driven) to teach a specific age group. When I started teaching college courses in 2010, I knew that university level was my calling. Not only did I love teaching these students, but I loved interacting with them and helping them during one of the most transitional periods of their lives. But today, I feel I can take this professor’s belief one step further: I think there is (at least) one group of students that educators are put on this earth to reach—and for me, that group of students was my PSL group of 2017.
Sias offers a Principles of Servant Leadership (PSL) training course for students who are interested in learning and being exposed to different styles of leadership. We look at many great historical leaders in the course and examine their methods, reasoning, and levels of success all to help educate the next generation of leaders. During the process, we get to know some pretty amazing students!
In this group, I met “Alex”, a senior at Sias International University. Alex is such a sweet boy, and my husband and I often joke he is our second son. We also met “Jane” who has amazing English and great goals for her life. Jan was one of my first friends in China; she is the one who introduced me to hot pot. Then, there’s “Nathaniel”. He has a great sense of humor and is always making us laugh. He often makes “Owen” the butt of his jokes, playfully hitting him in the shoulder during lessons. Owen just laughs and hits him back. Owen is usually pretty quiet–unless he is goofing off with Nathaniel–and he is pretty wise for a Junior. He has some pretty profound things to say. Then, there’s “Teresa”–she is so much fun! She loves to tell stories and make people laugh. She’s also a pretty good singer. And lastly, there’s “Kenny”. I am constantly amazed at Kenny’s continually expanding vocabulary. He is so smart and easily expresses himself in both English and Chinese. He is definitely destined to be a leader.
These students became our Chinese family. We love them and enjoy spending as much time with them as we can. Many students in China grew up as left behind children. This means that their parents had to leave them with grandparents or other family members while they moved to other, bigger cities to find work. As a result, many of our students have strained or complicated relationships with their parents. Please don’t misunderstand; they deeply love and respect their parents, but they also miss their parents and their presence in their lives. So, when one of these precious students cried because I attended his college graduation when his parents couldn’t, I was so touched and honored to be there.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of these students lives. For though the course is over, we still stay in touch. It’s amazing really. We began the semester a group of strangers discussing leadership strategies and we ended as family, loving and encouraging one another (despite the distance, now that some of them have graduated) toward our goals.
Meet the author
Kayla Dean is an Arkansas native who moved to China with her husband and son in 2017. Kayla graduated from Arkansas State University in 2011 with her M.A. in English, and she currently teaches English Composition for Fort Hays State University at Sias. In her free time, Kayla enjoys singing, reading post-apocalyptic novels, writing some poetry or fiction of her own, and spending time with her growing family in the great outdoors.
*Author photo credit to FHSU*