I've seen you before…

My company makes materials for teaching small children English. Then the company markets and sells those materials all over China. I assist in this process, also providing Chinese teachers with training, and occasionally I teach a class of kids myself. I probably only teach kids one or two hours a week. I really like this because I am able to keep a firm grip on my sanity (I don’t know how other teachers like Wayne do it every day!), but I am still provided with frequent reminders of the final objective of this whole English language resource production and distribution process.

Yesterday I taught a class of 5-year-olds. It was my first time at the school, so I first met the principal, and then she took me to the classroom. I arrived a little early, so the teacher there asked me to just sit down with the kids and wait a few minutes. Then she inexplicably left the room. So there I was, it not yet time to start class, surrounded by all these wide little eyes. And then the little mouths opened.

“Teacher, I’ve seen you before!”

“Yeah, I’ve seen you too!”

“Me too, I’ve seen this foreign teacher before!”

“Really? You’ve seen me before?”

“Yeah, I’ve seen you before!”

“Me too!”

“So have I!”

“I’ve seen you before too!”

“A lot of foreigners look alike to you, don’t they?”




“I’ve never come here before, so you couldn’t have seen me before.”

“I’ve seen you before!”

“I’ve seen this foreign teacher before!”

“Me too, I’ve seen him before!”

“I have too!”

They really are cute.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. That’s so cute it makes me want to teach 5-year-olds.

  2. I have the similar experience but with a little twist:

    I want to be your friend

  3. Ask them if they have ever seen an elephant in the supermarket and see what happens. Not to say that you are an elephant or anything but this is my fifth semester in Kindergartens and “cute” is that start of a long list.

    What is your companies web site? I am sick of buying 15 dollar DVD’s from the states.

  4. hey john ==> long time no see,
    In my grandma’s opinion all the foreigners look the same; and she thinks that white people look much older than us Chinese people even at the same age. It is quite interesting when I first heard her saying this after watching some stuffs on TV.

    btw, did anybody tell u that u look a bit like Ben Afflick rather than dashan? I think so.

  5. Tian,

    Hmmm, I think the point of my post was that Chinese kids are cute, not that I hate them.

    Good luck raging against ignorance though.

  6. Tim,

    It’s http://www.e-melody.cn. You must know of them. They have an office in Hangzhou too. They just don’t hire foreigners in Hangzhou.

  7. Heather,

    Ben Affleck? Hmmm, I don’t think so, but OK. He’s better than DaShan. Someone else at ZUCC already holds the “DaShan Look-alike” title anyway…

  8. Da Xiangchang Says: February 18, 2004 at 10:26 am


    With a class of rampaging kids, I don’t think “cute” is the right word. 😉


    I’ve heard that white-people-look-the-same contention from a lot of Chinese. My maternal grandma says the same thing: “They all have big noses and eyes!” Like the idea that all Asians look alike, it’s complete bull.

    The idea white people “age” sooner than Asians might seem true, but I’m not sure. I used to think maybe it’s cuz Chinese skins are darker, thus the sun’s rays don’t effect wrinkles as easily on Asians as on Caucasians–but then, what about Latin Americans and blacks? Certainly, they don’t look younger. So overall, I don’t think this is true. Maybe some Asian women age better than white women, but I don’t think Asian men do. A lot has to do with the healthier Asian diet too.

    As for John looking like Ben Affleck, I don’t see it at all. They’re about the same height, though.

  9. Maybe they’ve seen you on TV? You could be famous, you know. 🙂

  10. i think chinese women (especially) age less than their western counterparts because most of them wear less makeup, drink less and smoke less…??

  11. They probably saw you on that box of condoms you peddle.

  12. How do I keep my sanity?

    Iron fist of authority. Make them stand with their hands on their heads. Make them stand outside. Don’t yell, but still say in a booming voice: “XING BU XING???”

    Despite this, I’m running into some problems with my new school with some boys really in need of Ritalin. The problem is that I’ve made some of the girls in my class cry because I’m so scary.

  13. And I forgot to mention another thing. Another reason why I keep my sanity is that every time I come into class, a couple of students always run up and hug my leg and go, “Waaaayne!” How many jobs in the world are there where the people you work with are genuinely happy to see you?

Leave a Reply