Here in Myanmar or Anywhere
Give me a student or a hundred students, and I will jump at any opportunity to teach. And why is some old guy almost eighty years old so into teaching? My father got a promotion several years after returning home from WWII. Due to the war, he couldn’t go to college, but he would make sure all his children went to college. However, his promotion meant moving from Pennsauken, NJ, a nice middle-class community and a school system, to Pittsburgh, PA. My dad asked a real estate agent which town had the best schools in the Pittsburgh area. The answer was Mt. Lebanon. It was. It also was the nineteenth best school system in America and was the wealthiest community in Western Pennsylvania.
I entered Mt. Lebanon schools just before junior high. I had been a good student in Pennsauken, but I wasn’t used to Mt. Lebanon. Getting mostly Cs, some Bs, and occasionally a couple of As made me feel dumb, along with being poor. While I made a mistake about being dumb and poor, it drove me to prove myself even now. I’m still teaching at the college level.
This essay is addressed to my granddaughters, especially Ti Ti. Bobby Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne in 1788. Every person in the world knows this song about remembering past friendships. My granddaughters sang this song on New Year’s Eve at our favorite eatery near Inle Lake, Myanmar.
Bobby Burns’ song is a tribute to memories of our family and looking forward to new ones in the future. I have many memories of my family a half a world away, but Auld Lang Syne pulls all our time together.
Additionally, Bobby Burns has helped us see the world more clearly. He wrote To a Louse around the same time as Auld Lang Syne. Burns said, “It would be a gift of God to be able to see ourselves as others see us.”
Ti Ti wrote something I jumped upon during one of our email exchanges. In my not-so-subtle manner, I wanted Ti Ti to grade her academic acumen. Using the grading standard of teachers: 70-79% C, 80-89% B, and 90-100% A, what grade would she give herself? Ti Ti responded quickly and said 80%. Ti Ti was making the same mistake I had over six decades ago. Ti Ti wasn’t a B- student? I went to Mt. Lebanon, and Ti Ti went to the DNNA Private School in Taunggyi. Both schools were exclusively college preparatory schools. So, we started in regular schools and then went to excellent schools. That isn’t an easy task. We both felt the educational dichotomy that we might not be as good academically as we wished. We both saw less than what others saw in us.
Ti Ti isn’t an intellectual clone of Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking anymore than I am. However, she is one of the most talented students in Myanmar. Burns warned us, “It would be a gift of God to be able to see ourselves as others see us.”
This Wednesday, May 11th, Ti Ti will take TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) in order to come to America for her college education. Therefore, I am predicting Ti Ti’s score on TOEFL’s four tests of reading, listening, speaking, and writing will be in the advanced range from 24 to 30.
When Ti Ti and her mother come to America this summer, we will go to Kohl’s, where I had gotten all the gifts for Ti Ti and her sisters for their birthdays and Christmas gifts. Then after that exhausting shopping spree, we will return home and have bananas flambé just like what we had at our favorite eatery near Ti Ti’s home when I last visited my family.