Letters

Letters 07-06-2015

Safety on the “Bridge to Nowhere” Grant Parsons wrote an articulate column in opposition to the proposed Traverse City pier at the mouth of the Boardman River. He cites issues such as limited access, lack of parking, increased congestion, environmental degradation, and pork barrel spending of tax dollars. I would add another to this list: public safety...

Vote Carefully A recent poll showed 84% of Michiganders support increasing Michigan’s renewable energy standard to at least 20% from the current 10%. Yet Representative Ray Franz has sponsored legislation to eliminate the standard. This out of touch position is reminiscent of Franz’s opposition to the Pure Michigan campaign and support for increased taxes on retirees....

Credit Where Credit Is Due I think you should do another article about the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund giving proper credit to all involved, not just Tom Washington. Many others were just as involved...

I’ve Changed My Mind The Supreme Court has determined that states cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying and must recognize their unions. This has happened with breathtaking suddenness. It took 246 years for Americans to decide that slavery was wrong and abolish it, but it’s been only a couple of decades since any successful attempt was made to legalize same-sex marriage, and four years since a majority of the American public supported legalization...


Home · Articles · News · Features · China Mom: Sarah Johnson
. . . .

China Mom: Sarah Johnson

Erin Crowell - May 2nd, 2011
China mom: Sarah Johnson brings teaching experience and two daughters to the Middle Kingdom
By Erin Crowell
While Leelanau County resident Sarah Johnson has lived over 30 years in a
home that is “off-grid” (meaning self-sufficiency without reliance on a
public utility), the mother of three is finding a whole new meaning for
the term.
The Pathfinder School teacher is currently on a three-month sabbatical
teaching English in the very unwesternized portion of Central China in a
city called Yichang.
Although the city’s population swells at around 3.5 million, Johnson says
she’s never felt more disconnected to the rest of the world.
“A lot of things are blocked,” she says of internet sites such as Google
and news outlets like NPR. “But there are ways to circumnavigate,” she
adds, describing a way she can use one site to access another.

A FAMILY AFFAIR
Johnson approached Pathfinder headmaster Karl Sikkenga earlier this winter
about the opportunity to teach at Three Gorges University.
“Karl had mentioned a sabbatical program in the near future, but I don’t
think he was planning on doing it quite so soon,” Johnson laughs.
When she approached her family about the endeavor, Johnson says there were
mixed feelings.
“I just kind of blurted out that there was a teaching gig available and I
wanted to do it,” Johnson recalls. “‘Are you nuts?’ was the initial
reaction. My husband said, ‘well, if that’s what you want, do it.’”
With the support from her family, Johnson left at the end of February,
taking her youngest daughter Norah, 11, with her.
“She’s been a great travel partner,” Johnson says. “She’s very open and
curious, which is great. I think the trip has created a certain
flexibility that she didn’t have innately. She’s a very analytical kid,
looking at situations instead of getting emotional about them. She likes
to ask ‘why?’ and ‘what’s the tradition behind this?’”
Five weeks ago, second eldest daughter Flannery joined her mother and
sister, followed by Johnson’s husband, Bob Babich, three weeks later.

CULTURAL INFLUENCE
The cultural differences are always evident, and appear even in the
classroom.
“This is from a very limited perspective, as I’ve only been here for a few
months, but I have noticed the standards here are very different in terms
of curriculum. The teacher decides whatever they would like to teach for
the semester. Not everyone has the same experience.
“In the U.S., you take Comp 101 where you focus on argumentative and
descriptive writing. Here, they really push their middle and high school
students in anticipation of university. By the time they get here, kids
kind of kick back.”
Johnson says it’s not uncommon for only half the class to show up for an
exam.
Beyond the classroom, cultural differences happen everyday for Johnson and
her family.
“When we go downtown, we’re the only Western-looking people on the street.
People will giggle and take photos. By the end of the day, we’ll have
gathered a small parade,” she laughs.
Johnson says the experience has also opened her children’s eyes, a goal of
both parents.
“We’ve always been about shifting their paradigm,” she adds. “I think that
giving your kids the global perspective as far as how people live is a
really big gift. They see a lot of things here.”
For Flannery, a 16-year-old student at Leland High School, the experience
has allowed her to consider her own endeavors.
“Coming to China and seeing all the pollution, it makes me want to study
environmental issues,” she says.
When it comes to mom, Flannery says she is proud.
“She’s definitely an inspiration to me. I know she’s really glad she took
this opportunity and that is absolutely amazing when she can experience it
and all the challenges that come with it.”

To follow Sarah Johnson’s experience in China, visit her blog at
http://sarahjohnsonportfolio.webs.com.


 
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