Darlene Foster's Blog

My Tibetan Girls

Posted on: April 26, 2021

Ever since I was a little girl, my dream was to be a teacher. I loved learning, loved going to school and was lucky to have had some wonderful teachers. When adults would ask the inevitable question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would stand tall, even though I was very short for my age, and proudly state, “A teacher.”

But, as is often the case, life happens while you are making other plans and I didn’t become a teacher. I had great jobs in retail management, recruitment and employment counselling. But I still longed to teach. So, after my children were grown up and I was already a grandmother, I enrolled in a Teaching English as a Second Language, distance learning program with the University of Saskatchewan. This was a two year program. Since I was working full time, I did my lessons in the evenings after work. I graduated with a Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language shortly after my fiftieth birthday. It was a proud day.

At last, a teaching certificate.

My first job after graduation was teaching six orphaned Tibetan teenage girls who planned to work in health care eventually. Since many of the volunteer doctors they would be working alongside would be from English speaking countries, they required English communication skills. They had come to Canada for six months for that reason, sponsored by medical professionals. They already had some basic English language skills.

The students were delightful and soaked up the learning like sponges. We had so much fun. I learned as much about their culture as they did about North American life. They especially loved learning the idioms. As I left the school to catch the bus home one afternoon, they shouted, “Break your legs.”

We laughed and we cried together. A lesson about camping became a lesson in birth control. I taught them how to make hamburgers and they taught me how to make momos. It was an incredible experience.

I invited them to my house for a typical Canadian barbeque. I also invited my daughter and everyone got along so well. The girls sang and did a Tibetan dance for us. They said, “Now you have seven daughters.”

After six months, they graduated from my class with much improved English skills. We held a ceremony for them at the school the day before they were to return to Tibet. There were many tears shed that day. They had already left the building when one of the girls, Lasha, came running back in to give me one more hug. I still shed tears thinking about it.

This was another dream come true for me. I had other wonderful jobs teaching English to non English speakers and met some amazing people from all over the world, but these girls will always be my special students. It was the most rewarding job I have ever had and I will never forget my Tibetan girls.

Have you had a job that was extra special?

115 Responses to "My Tibetan Girls"

Darlene, I feel teary-eyed as I read your post! What a wonderful gift you gave each other, becoming friends and mentors along the way! A touching story, Darlene and wow, congratulations on achieving your dream!😀❤️

Thanks, Annika. Fond memories!

It warms my heart to read your successful story and fulfilling your dream, Darlene. You still pursued your dream after being a grandma. The love of teaching called you back.

I have music as my first love but not too many people could earn a living with a music career. I took voice lessons and music theory and enjoyed singing in public. My second love is teaching and administration. I’m fortunate to do that for 30 years. I taught Chinese as a Second Language in the universities in Hong Kong before coming to the US. My students were international professionals doing different jobs in Hong Kong. I had lots of fun with them also.

I’m sure you were an excellent teacher!! Thanks, Miriam.

I think so, Darlene. I was very in tune with the student needs.

It can’t be easy to teach or learn a language which has no connection to your own. Did you ever here how those girls got on in their careers?

I kept in touch with a couple of them and one of the girls became a dentist.

That’s lovely, Darlene and I so identify with your enthusiasm for this branch of teaching. I did a PGCE for teaching English to English teenagers, but absolutely hated that and only survived 2 years, but when much later I started teaching English to adults from all over the world, I adored it. You convey so well the warmth, enthusiasm and appreciation of these students, and I can imagine how good you must have been at it.

I most likely got so much more from the experience than if I had begun teaching as a young adult. I think it is easy to be good at something you have a passion for. International students are always so appreciative, aren’t they.

Yes, I agree, and I loved every one of them. I just wasn’t cut out for troublesome English teenagers!

Wow, Darlene what a lovely story with such wonderful memories. I was a primary school teacher for over thirty years and although it was demanding and difficult at times it was also the most rewarding job. I loved it and I loved my pupils – even (especially) the naughty ones 🙂

I’m sure you were a wonderful teacher, especially if you loved the students. Sometimes those naughty ones are just looking for some love and attention!

This is such a moving post, Darlene. Well done to you on making a difference.

A great story, Darlene. Have you kept up with any of those first students? And i love your photo – you look so proud – as pleased as Punch 🙂

I did keep in touch with a couple of the girls and met Lasha in London a few years later where she was training to become a dentist. I was so proud of that certificate from a prestigious university. I sent a picture to my mom as she was always disappointed that I didn’t get a university degree. She had it hanging on her wall in the care home. It’s never too late!

And thank you Mary for encouraging me to write about this experience. Hope you are doing OK. Sending hugs. xo

My ambition was to be a teacher but when I finished university at just 21 years old I realised that I didn’t have the necessary maturity or the life skills.

I know I wouldn’t have had the maturity either at that age. Things happen when they are supposed to happen.

Your story touched my heart Darlene. Travelling through Tibet was one of the most special experiences of our lives.

The Tibetan people are so gentle and kind. I’m sure it would be an incredible experience to travel there.

What a rewarding experience! Good for you, you followed your dream and look where it led 🙂

It was an amazing experience and enriched my life. It was a lot of work working all day and studying at night, but it was worth it.

Like you, I always dreamed of becoming a teacher. But I never thought about becoming a writer, much less an author.

Thanks for telling the story of your Tibetan girls, how inspiring!

You are a wonderful role model for those on a quest for meaning in life. Here’s to following our dreams! Thanks, Darlene!

And now here you are, a published author! Life can take us on amazing tracks if we follow our hearts.

How rewarding, Darlene! I can imagine how that happy memory has stayed with you.. Because I worked for an agency for a while, I had several interesting jobs, but my favourite was working with children in a junior school. Some of the naughtiest boys attended my poetry class (?) and I loved helping some backward with their reading. Great fun and gratifying at the same time. xx

Working with young people is always rewarding. Aren´t we lucky to have these great memories. xo

Darlene – isn’t life full of joy when you connect with others. Your care and compassion for your Tibetan Girls will be long remembered as they continue their individual journeys. I imagine them telling their grandchildren about the adventures and learning they had with you. This is a wonderful post that reminds me to create precious memories as I go along…

It does one good to recall the special memories that make life meaningful. The whole experience of living in Canada for six months was surreal for them. I tried to make my part of it as meaningful as possible. I created a lesson on Emily Carr and took them to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see her work. They loved it. That led to learning about totem poles and their meaning. Each girl choose a spirit animal and drew their own totem pole. They took all this back to Tibet and shared it with others there.

You have a wonderful way of sharing joy, Darlene. We could have passed each other in the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Such a wonderful story Darlene!

Thanks so much, Shelley. An awesome experience!

That is beautiful. And why we become teachers. I am so happy for that experience for you.

Thanks, Jacqui. It was an experience I will never forget.

Darlene, your post tells the story of everyone receiving happiness because of the experience. I did some pastoral work about 10 years ago. It was while Andrew was in a long term care facility. It felt so good to be the giver instead of the mother of the receiver.

Giving certainly enriches the lives of both parties. This job was my segue from being a recruiter, which was very stressful, to becoming an ESL Teacher and Job Search Facilitator/Employment Counsellor.

Great that your first group of ESL students was so enthusiastic and responsive. I taught English as a Foreign Language to adults here in Germany for over 47 years — until the COVID lockdown brought everything to a sudden halt.

Thank you for visiting my blog. Teaching English to non-English speakers is very rewarding as you can attest. I enjoyed your post. How wonderful they gave you a surprise birthday party!

For many years I was a member of TESOL (= Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), and I have fond memories of their conventions in Toronto, Chicago and Austin in the 1980s. I let my membership lapse a few years later when I decided to stop flying, which meant among other things no more visits to North America.

Thank you for sharing this lovely story Darlene!🤗

Thank you so much, Kim.

You must have been a fantastic teacher. It’s marvelous that you had such a great experience.

Thanks, Anne. I´ll never forget that first morning. I was so nervous and so happy.

This is a wonderful and powerful story, Darlene! What a privilege for you to teach these students after you graduated. The fact that you learned each other’s cultures and became friends speaks to you, and your teaching. Doesn’t it feel good to make a difference? Do your Tibetan girls keep in touch?

Thanks, Jennie. I knew you would relate. It does make you feel good! I kept in touch for a while but they got on with their lives eventually. I met Lasha in London a few years later. She was training to be a dentist! We had a lovely catch up. She told me others were working or being educated in the health field.

I can definitely relate. Those are the times we remember, and connecting years later like you did with Lasha makes those moments all the sweeter.

I am a sucker for any teaching story, but the image of the young woman running back to give you one more hug was particularly moving. I have found in most teaching experiences, the teacher and student each receive rewards.

As a professional teacher for most of your working life, you can relate. I’m pleased I was able to have that experience eventually.

Well aren’t you a dark horse. What talents lie beneath, huh? Must be great fun swapping cultures in that setting. What’ are momos? Deep fried yak testies?

Ha Ha. A good guess. Momos are similar to a Chinese dumpling. Every culture has something similar, like ravioli, perogies, dumplings, samosas etc. Momos are filled with a savoury stuffing like veggies, seafood, chicken or paneer (cottage cheese). They are quite good.

I wonder ours is? The cornish pasty, God forbid.

What a wonderful story, Darlene. There are more ways than one of achieving a goal. You did it in a great way!

Thanks, Norah. Better late than never!

Darlene, thank you for sharing this story with us. I can’t think of a more fulfilling experience for a new teacher. 🙂

It was just the best experience and a perfect start to my new career.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story of how you fulfilled your lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, Darlene! Your Tibetan girls sound just delightful. My most rewarding and enjoyable teaching experiences involved working one-on-one with two college students on integrative capstones in creative writing (which was their dream!). I asked them to take a leap of faith with me with a basic framework for the assignments and no grades. And they did!

That would have been fun and rewarding! Glad you enjoyed my story, Liz.

I liked seeing your graduation photo, too. You looked so happy!

How wonderful to pursue your dream and make a difference in the lives of these girls! Your younger self would be proud… 🙂

Thanks, Meg! I firmly believe it is never too late to make a dream come true.

What a lovely story! I think the mark of a true teacher is that they also learn from their students, as you did.

I agree. There is so much you can learn from your students. Its a two-way street. Thanks!

That sounds wonderful!
There was a time when I wanted to be a teacher (or a coach), too. I did tutor my colleagues on the side sometimes.
There was a Tibetan girl in the same Uni I went to. She was very shy and most of our classes required presenting in front of others/ being active in class. Additionally, she struggled with conversational English, let alone other Uni level classes in English. I tried to help her but she just felt too lost. She dropped out and left without really saying goodbye.

The advantage of my girls was there were 6 of them. They stayed at homestays and were the only ones in my class. Being alone at a University would have been very difficult as they are very shy and not very world-wise. I’m not surprised she left, poor dear. For me, it was an amazing experience to see them improve their language and come out of their shells.

What amazing post — I didn’t know you went for your teaching certificate. Can only imagine how it must come in handy in Spain. And how much fun interacting with girls from Tibet.

The Tibetan girls were delightful and so much fun. Yes, having the ESL Teaching certificate has come in handy here in Spain and in Europe. I am able to communicate even if not well versed in the language.

Lovely memories Darlene..I was so proud of you making that transition from recruitment into being an English Second Language teacher…the Tibetan girls were very lucky to have met you here at that time. Learning English even for those who speak English is not always easy! I always wanted to be a nurse and work in healthcare or education..so being a Vocational Employment Specialist and Career Counsellor/Facilitator allowed me to meet some of those goals, and help others achieve success.

Thanks, Jayne. You were there that night I graduated. You also have helped many people achieve success over the years. And to think we met when we were both recruiters!

What a wonderful story Darlene. I have goosebumps finishing it. Were you able to keep in touch with the girls over the years? Even if not I think those 6 months with you left them forever changed for the better.

Thanks, Sue. I kept in touch for a while but eventually, they got busy with their lives. They learned a lot in those 6 months and I’m sure they put that knowledge to good use.

It is always wonderful when you can follow your dreams to reality as you did later in your life.

Thanks, Karen. It’s never too late!

You’re so sweet Darlene. I love storytelling and the people who tell stories .❤️💐💐

What a lovely experience, Darlene. Did you keep in touch with any of them?

It was a great experience. I kept in touch for a while and met one of the girls, Lasha, in London a few years later. She was training to be a dentist!

Such a great experience – thank you for sharing it with us! Bravo to you!

Thanks, John. These are the jobs that define your life.

Yes indeed…a good friend of mine has helped start schools for girls in many under-served areas around the world including India, and she just updated us on how they are locked down during this horrible surge there…

The situation in India is worrying. Your friend is doing very good work out there!

I loved reading this. Good for you for following through with that dream. I am not surprised. You’re a real go-getter! xo

What a beautiful, touching post, Darlene. I was a teacher for 31 years. Best job in the world!

I’m sure it was!! Thanks, Laurie.

I loved your story Darlene. I’ve often thought about teaching English as a 2nd language. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to teach English to someone who couldn’t speak any. Would you have to know a second language to teach? xx

Thanks so much. It is actually better if you don´t know their language. Visuals are the best. Show a picture of an apple with apple written under it. Then practice saying apple as it is the different sounds that are so difficult. Kind of like teaching a baby how to talk. I guess having learned another language yourself would give a teacher empathy. xo

Makes so much sense Darlene. ❤

What a beautiful story! Those girls were lucky to have you. And you them by the sound of it. I always wanted to be a nurse, but that never happened. Life had other plans.

Life often does have other plans!! But it always works out in the end, if we let it. I was indeed lucky to have met those girls. The whole experience made a huge difference in my life. xo

What an amazing and gratifying experience this was, Darlene – and look at those smiles on their faces! A learning experience not only for them, but you, too.

It was one of those defining moments for me. The girls almost always had big smiles. Such lovely souls. They were very proud to graduate!

Oh my gosh, I had tears in my eyes reading this. How lucky those Tibetan girls were to have you, and how much you gave them! Do you still have any contact with them? We are never too old to make a path for ourselves, are we?

I thought you would like this. We are never too old to follow a dream. I kept in touch for a while. I actually met up with Lasha in London a few years later. She was studying to become a dentist. She mentioned the others were following various medical careers.

Wow. That’s so impressive! YOU are impressive. xo

How lovely, and congratulations on your newly acquired teaching skills!

Thanks, Stevie. These are great memories. It led to a whole new career for me. Looking back it was the best thing I ever did for myself.

The girls were brave to travel all the way to Canada to learn English. And they were lucky to have you as their teacher!

They were very brave considering they had never been out of Tibet before. They struggled at first and got homesick but made it through the 6 months. Thanks for the kind words.

This is such a happy post, Darlene. I too, wanted to be a teacher only to have the dream die on the vine. But there are lots of ways to teach and you have found a great one. Such a heartwarming story of lives touching each other in such profound ways while crossing the language barrier. What I keep looking for now is a way to teach adults to read. So many are functionally illiterate. Without books and stories, what are we?

This is true, there are many ways to teach besides in the school system. I am sure there are opportunities to teach adults to read as I have heard that many are illiterate. How they manage through life is beyond me. I´m glad you enjoyed my story. xo

Wonderful, Darlene! ❤ One of my favorite jobs was as ESL/SDAI teacher preparing middle-schoolers (grades 6-8) from various lands for entry into the regular classroom. The world is such a beautiful place! xo

You can understand how rewarding this was. Working with people from all over the world, certainly shows us what a beautiful place the world is filled with precious souls.

Reblogged this on Ed;s Site..

Thanks for reblogging, Ed.

Reblogged this on Time Traveler on the road of Life and commented:
How wonderful to be doing something that you love. I hope someday to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I am celebrating my 81st birthday soon.

Oh, I’m still working on that. Right now I’m writing books but I may do something else later. Maybe we just don’t need to grow up! Thanks for reblogging. So kind of you.

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