Erin & Mia interview Chinese teacher Heather Courtice-Hart

Have you ever walked by the third-floor classrooms and heard students practicing Chinese? Have you ever considered how hard it is to learn such a different language? Have you ever wondered what it was like to live in a different country, especially one very different from the United States?

Well, Heather Courtice-Hart, 7-12 Chinese teacher, lived in China for a year. She lived in Suzhou, a city about an hour and a half by car west from Shanghai (23 minutes by high speed train). Suzhou is called “the Venice of the East” because of the small canals running through it. She moved to China on a professional development trip with her family. Heather started learning Chinese when she was a junior in high school. That summer, she got the opportunity to go to Shanghai. “It changed my whole perspective,” she said. She felt like she needed to pay it forward, and give other students the opportunity to learn Chinese and go to China.

One of her favorite parts about living in China was the ability to immerse herself in the culture.  Heather enjoyed exposing her family to the culture as well. She made some new friends in her colleagues. She also loved the food there. She said that it was the best year of her life. Heather really loved living in China and says she would go back in a heartbeat.

Generally the biggest difference between the United States and China was the attitude towards the group. The group was always put before the individual. In the United States, the individual is put before the group. But in China, if you have a need but your family also has a need, then the family’s need is always put before yours. The food was also very different. Also, China is a very safe place to be. There is very little gun violence and crime. Heather felt very comfortable letting her kids wander around the city by themselves.

Heather started the Chinese program here before she went to China. The best thing for her about teaching at Waynflete is the students. They are curious and hardworking (but sometimes loud). Of course, when you think of China you immediately think about Chinese food. When she was asked what her favorite Chinese food was, it was another impossible question to answer. One of her all time favorite foods is squirrelfish. It is a cut of fish with the skin scored with a knife, and it is deep fried. When it is fried, it puffs out and expands, giving it the appearance of a squirrel tail. Some other favorites were steamed buns and dumplings. She also preferred sweeter food over the saltier food.

Sadly, even though she was living in China, she never did a dragon dance.