Mark’s first two entries: by Mark Lilly

So, today (October 15, 2010) marks exactly three weeks since I’d arrived in Shanghai, China for the start of my ‘adventure.’ I also looked back and it had only been 40 days ago that this whole life had started. There is a DESPERATE need for English speaking math/science instructors internationally! I’d lived in a secluded little town like South Lake Tahoe, CA USA for a good part of my life. If it hadn’t been for a man that spoke with me at the end of August, I would have never known of this opportunity. For no apparent reason, except for what I call divine intervention, he started with ‘Let me tell you what I do…..’ and, well, for the rest, we’ll have to see.

I got a call from a British man on September 6th, 2010, asking me if I would be interested in teaching Statistics in China. I was to be the AP Statistics instructor at Jiangsu Tianyi High School in Wuxi, China. I was to be one of the six AP English speaking instructors. The program was brand new. This was only the second year. This was the first year for the subject of Statistics. The AP subjects are English, Literature, Calculus, Chemistry, Physics, and Statistics were to be taught here. I’d be one of six instructors, 5 American, 1 from Pakistan. All smart, intelligent, and gifted in instruction of their subjects. Not receiving a paycheck since April, 2010, it sounded inviting. So, without even hesitating one bit, I said “sure, I’ll do it.” Opportunities in life are always all around you. I wasn’t going to let this one pass me by. Just jump and the net will appear.

So, off I go to China. I’d NEVER been this far West before in my life. I was going alone. I didn’t know how to speak Chinese. I didn’t know how to read, or write Chinese. I didn’t know ANYTHING about China except that the Great Wall was here. So, I asked myself: “why not make it an adventure to remember?” Why not? Actually, it all happened so fast that I really didn’t have time to think. Or, talk my way out of it. Passports, visas, everything okay back home. These were the things racing through my head. You know, that little voice in your head giving you all the ‘what if’ scenarios. If I hadn’t had such a supportive wife back home, this could never had been a reality. Everything was lining up and happening for a reason. I was supposed to go!

So, it’s been three weeks for me here as an AP Statistics instructor at a government run Chinese boarding school that was sold an AP program by the British. My role as the first and only AP Statistics instructor here at the school and the excitement begins. My job is to help these students pass the AP exam for Statistics. Not a problem, I’d taught Statistics 20 times at LTCC and had studied more Statistics than many people on the planet in my graduate studies at UNR. No problem…….

But, did I mention I’ve only been here three weeks? Last week, the whole week, plus two days, being a school vacation, Chinese National Day (like our 4th of July) so no class time. I arrived AFTER the school year had started. I was to teach 11th and 12th graders, 61 students in all. Today, the end of week 7 (of 22) was the first day I saw my 12th graders. Okay, I only have 2 classes, 61 students, but I need time with them to teach. So, I’m moving at light speed with these kids. I’ll do it. No, we’ll do it. It’s going to be tough!   More next time………….


Life here as a Westerner… What can I say? We’re not the ‘norm’ over here. People stare, really stare. Kids follow you around giggling Teenagers, as well as adults, will say ‘hello’ in English and then giggle like theiy were impressed with themselves that they’re speaking some foreign language. Oh, they are…

Being a Statistics instructor, when I start my classes, I (used to) pick some random traits of my classes.  In the beginning, when illustrating categorical data sets, I would usually randomly select my students and ask them:

1) What’s your hair color? (no variability here – they’re all black.)

2) What’s your eye color? (no variability – they’re all brown.)

3) What’s your political affiliation, or religion? (we won’t even go there, but I’ll bet they’re all the same….) Okay, honestly, I didn’t go there at home either…

Even numerical data:

1) How many siblings do you have? (not a lot of variability here, either 0 or 1)

2) Miles to school? (It’s a boarding school…)

So, as you can see, I have to teach differently.

So, back to life as a Westerner in China. Did I mention before that I can’t speak, read, or write Chinese? Communication is strained to say the least. So, as I walk down the streets in my neighborhood or in town, getting the occasional ‘hello’ in English, followed by giggles…. Every once in a while, once in a BIG while, I get an English something else or a ‘Hello’ followed by something else. Now, my ears are in tune to the English ‘something else.’ I IMMEDIATELY follow up with ‘Oh,

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6 Responses to Mark’s first two entries: by Mark Lilly

  1. Diana Hamilton says:

    MARK! Wow – I’m amazed! I saw your interview with Bambi (?) Ledbetter and wondered what your “perusing other opportunities” was about — figured you were making smoothies & taking kids places.

    I was in China for 3 weeks years ago with a few days in Wuxi. I found out what it feels like to be a celebrity… as you wrote, “People stare, really stare”, point, clearly are talking about you, they crowded around me, tried to look in my purse, yet were very polite and careful not to touch me.

    Well, it is so interesting that you are doing this! How long to you expect to be gone? The aspens are turning gold, soon it will be snowing.

    All the best to you, your neighbor…. D.

  2. Hank Raymond says:

    Mark, do your students speak English? Since you speak zero Chinese, if they don’t speak English, how can you possibly teach effectively?

  3. Peter Loughlin says:


    We miss you in Lake Tahoe. Looking forward to seeing you in January

  4. Mark Lilly says:

    Like I said, this all moved really, really fast. I’m here for two years. It’s interesting, very interesting. I’ll be home for vacation end of January, 2011 for three weeks. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to say hi. Mark

    Yes, we all teach in English. We are preparing these kids to enter English speaking universities. All my students speak English as a second language AND are very intelligent!! All the classes I listed are taught in English and we do require these classrooms to be ‘English speaking zones.’

  5. Taylor says:

    Hi Mark,

    What an amazing adventure. I’m thinking it might be fun to do a feature story in the Mountain News.
    Whatdya think?

    Tahoe Mountain News
    530 542-7033

  6. Mark Lilly says:

    I’ll be back in Tahoe sometime late January for the three week school holiday during Chinese New Year. I’ll contact you then. Mark

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