“So Ginger, do you want to come over for game night? We’re playing Secret Hitler.”

I rubbed my eyes. “I think I’ve been playing it all day.”

Don’t go off the deep end. My book club friends are also into high strategy board games, the kind that require you to watch a You-Tube Video before rolling the dice. In Secret Hitler, a team of fascists competes with a team of liberals to eliminate Hitler before he is elected into office. It seemed like a good way to unwind after a long week of where I played dictator in the classroom.

While the problems at a private international school in China can’t compare to the shootings, pregnancy and illiteracy plaguing public schools in Detroit and Chicago, teaching students born in the Year of the Entitled Attitude does have challenges.

Take, for instance, the “My TOEFL COACH IS BETTER AT ENGLISH THAN YOU ARE” student.

TOEFL is the “SAT” test for language learners. A high score and a coach with guanxi  關係 (connections) can help grease the wheels for a kid to get into a prestigious American School. However, these coaches push the volume of words learned, not mastery of how to use them. So, getting an essay where the rafters of the sentence structure can’t support the garble of adjectives is typical. The Essay Prompt was “What would you serve at an Earth-Friendly Restaurant?”

Then, there are the students who don’t understand the connection between speaking English and good grades.

I have implemented a zero-tolerance-policy for speaking Chinese. Since I’m not working at a Chinese school where grades are routinely changed by assistants to please the pay-rolling parents, the policy is working.

Even the first graders are impacted by materialism. The students built an ark and had to load it with animals before the flooding began. However, due to a lack of tiger yellow crayons, they got behind in their coloring.

We made a quick cell phone call to God on my cell phone played by a baritone-voiced teacher with a free period.  When his voice boomed over the speakerphone, they started asking questions I couldn’t answer.

“Ms. Sins, does God use an Apple phone or Huawei?”

Finally, the fourth graders, who like baby birds, expected to be fed every day. The assignment was repulsive food combinations. That’s a serious challenge in a country where chicken feet is a favorite snack.

Some of my favorite Yunnan edibles include local mushrooms that are packed in oil and anise…

Thousand layer pancakes (imagine a potato pancake-crepe with chives)…

Or freshly ground peanut butter mixed with sweetened red pepper. It’s like that caramel dip you get at apple farms but with a serious kick.


But what did my students want to eat?  Nutella smeared on dill pickles decorated with wasabi peas.

“My mouth is so miserable, my tongue tastes fire!”

Students also beg for durian candy, which I dangle outside of my class window on a jerry-rigged fishing pole. It keeps the smell from permeating my room and students from raiding my supply.

Teaching entitled students still beats the frustrations of being a creative director where getting chastised for abbreviating tablespoon in a recipe ad could be a daily occurrence.

The animals were saved, the students learned grammar and the fourth graders used their vocabulary.

As for Hitler?

I ended up electing him to office.



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