Monkey Abroad

A blog about living in China and eating Chinese food. Videos, stories, photos, advice, and teaching ESL.

Teaching ESL
Teaching ESL

Saying Goodbye to Students


This week reminded me of the greatest perk of being an ESL teacher: student love. After final exams, I looked my classes in the face for the last time, thanked them for being great students this semester and, of course, posed in hundreds of bunny-ears photos. As this chapter of my life closes, I’m realizing how much I’m going to miss these students.

Teach ESL

Freshman Business English, Class 1

Teach ESL

Sophomore Business English, Class 1

Teach ESL

Freshman English Education, Class 2

Teach ESL

Sophomore Business English, Class 2

teaching esl

Sophomore English Education

Teach ESL

Freshman Business English, Class 2

Teach ESL

Freshman English Education, Class 1

There is an immeasurable sense of satisfaction that comes from creating a relationship with one’s students that is difficult to explain to people who’ve never had a similar experience. Teaching ESL reminds me of a sentiment that I have long lived by: a rich life experience has nothing to do with money. This is the lowest paying job I’ve ever had, but its rewards are priceless.

During the past seven months, we’ve met every week, and many of my students never missed a single class. I’m blessed to have so many great pupils with a consistent desire to practice English and build a relationship with me. Together we laughed, struggled, and destroyed the language barriers between us. There were so many occasions when I had to calm the class down from laughing too hard during funny speaking activities.

I recently got into an argument with another foreign teacher—a guy teaching children aged 4 to 12 in a language center. He said that, between us, he’s the only one who will ever make a difference in his students’ lives, not necessarily because he’s a better teacher, but because my students are already fully developed and his students are still young and malleable. While the dude made a good point about learning a language early in life, he will never grasp the concept of truly relating to his students. That’s one of the reasons why I prefer to teach teens and adults over young children, and one of the reasons why my classes and I connected so well.

Now that it’s time to say goodbye, I’m realizing how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to guide and inspire so many eager learners, even if I was only with them for a semester and a half. It’s usually easy for me to say goodbye to people, but this time around, it’s a struggle. I’m not just saying goodbye to students. I’m saying goodbye to friends.

I’ll end this post with a big-hearted goodbye note I received from one of my students today.

Teach ESL

Author: Kevin Cook

I post stories, videos, advice and photos about living abroad in China. I also eat bananas.


  1. Hello Kevin. The student who wrote that letter seems to have a gift for writing in English – very impressive and touching! Do you think you will experience heartache over the town of Rizhao itself after you have left? Were the beaches some of the best in China? It’s great to see you made such a connection with your students. I am sure the positive imprint you made will endure in their lives for a long time.

    • Brian,
      There are certainly things about Rizhao that I’ll miss, especially my job, but it’s just too small of a city to keep me for another year. When it isn’t too smoggy outside, the beaches in Rizhao really are beautiful, but they usually have a ton of locals–and tourists, during the summer holiday–crowding them.
      I’ll miss my students, but like all things in life, my time with them must come to an end.

  2. Where are you headed to, home or another locale?

    • Ben,
      I guess I should provide some kind of update on the blog, but I’m waiting until everything is set in stone before I announce my next whereabouts. Basically, I’ll be moving to Shanghai to begin my new job in August, but during the summer, I’ll try to travel around China as much as possible.

  3. Hi Kevin,

    “You are sunshine!”, I think that is really sweet :) I completely agree that the satisfaction you feel when you connect to your students like that is priceless and always outweighs the fact that you’re not paid as much as you probably would be in other jobs. When I volunteered to teach basic economic concepts to young women in a tribal community in Vietnam and ended up with lasting relationships with each of my students, I felt far more satisfaction than I ever had in my high paying corporate career.

  4. Seems there are Asian ladies that find you handsome … how is your personal life? Filled with sexy rendezvous?

  5. You must have had a good school because teaching in Thailand has a poor performance and attendance. Did you teach there too? I think any paying job is a good one and as you put it the reward of life experience compensated for the lower salary. I must say that hand written note is much tidier than I can write.

  6. Such a cool time. Kevin, do you know how long you will remain in Asia teaching? You are leading the good life very few in the US would truly appreciate. I’m so envious.

  7. Your blog is creepy. Honestly, taking photos with your students is creepy enough, but actually being proud of a college student writing how great you are is narcissistic with a capital N, What a creep!

  8. I have also just noticed that on the whiteboard you have written your email address and your phone number. Why on earth would you want to give your students these personal details? The word paedophile comes to mind.

    • They’re not children, they’re vocational school students aged 18-20. I still regularly talk to more than a dozen of my former students via WeChat you pitiful, lonely troll.

  9. Hi Kevin, I was happy to come across your blog and videos. I signed a contract to start teaching at a college in Hangzhou in about six weeks…if all the paperwork goes well. Reading your articles is a great way to prepare for my new job. I got very hungry just watching the food videos. Do you have any recommendations about using the Internet there?

  10. Hi Kevin,
    well done and I am happy you are enjoying teaching. You mentioned you have a dog back home. Any chance a photo ? When is the last time you visited home? Not a hater just curious. PS the Asian girls like you because 1) you look part asian 2) great personality 3) yes, handsome to the Asian eyes.

  11. Cooee Kevin! I am a Gay Australian, and I teach a young [24yo] Chinese [Gay?] man [Australian/British] English. The relationship with your students is amazing. I find my student also holds me in high esteem. I try to phone him and help with his studies. He seems to know the words but not how they are pronounced. I like to call when I know he is with his Father, family or fellow students, but he is embarrassed to speak English in front of them. I used to speak/read/write Chinese 40 years ago, so it is a mutual relaitionship

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