This week we pulled off a surprise we had been planning for a month. One student, Wendy, had spent the last semester in America. We were chatting on Facebook one day and she told me she had changed her plane ticket from Dec. 28th to Dec 11th.
“Did you tell your classmates yet?” I asked her.
“No, not yet. I wanted to surprise them,” she said.
“Too bad I’m not teaching your class this semester. You could come into my class and surprise them all,” I said.
She laughed and said she thought that would be a great idea. (Her class was one of my favorites from last year and I really like all the students.)
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Ryan teaches your class. What day are you thinking of coming back to school?”
“December 15th,” she answered.
“Ryan teaches your class on the 16th. I think this surprise can work!”
So we quickly came up with a plan. She erased any mention of her return from Facebook. (While Facebook is officially blocked in China many students still have a way around it and use it.) And she swore anyone that knew to secrecy. She then loudly complained to her friends in China that she would miss Christmas and wouldn’t see them until the end of the month to throw them off the trail.
On the 15th Wendy came back to school with her face covered and without anyone knowing. (It was snowing so she didn’t look too out of place.) She took a taxi from the bus station because she didn’t want to see anyone on the bus to school. We whisked her away into our apartment, where the curtains were drawn, and Ryan went out and brought dinner back in. It was important that no one knew she was there. Unfortunately (or fortunately) she was highly involved in different activities so many students knew her. If even one recognized her, the jig would be up.
The next day she hid in our apartment while we went to class. She decided she wanted to not just walk into the class and reveal herself, but rather, she wanted to dress up like santa, give her classmates some treats, and then pull off the beard and hair to reveal herself. Classes in China are made up of 2 50-minute periods with a break in between. So right before the first period ended she came into my classroom and hid just n case her classmates walked out in the hallway during the break. (Ryan, Wendy and IÂ synchronizedÂ watches and Ryan was strict about starting and stopping his break at the proper time.) Â I let my class in on the secret, and Wendy came and dressed in my classroom while telling my students some of her experiences in America. (“American food sucks,” she told them.)
I was pretty convinced her classmates would be able to tell it was her. But she got sunglasses to cover her eyes and the beard and wig were so huge you could barely see her face. Also, all of my students got involved so that if they wondered who was santa, they would assume it was someone from my class. (I was teaching sophmores at that time and Wendy’s class was juniors.)
So we all snuck downstairs to Ryan’s class and got ready.
I went in first, followed by all my students, but Wendy, or I should say Santa, stayed out in the hallway. I told Wendy’s class that we knew they had had a tough semester and we had arranged a little treat for them. Santa came in, with a bag of Hershey’s Kisses she brought back from America, and started passing them out to all her classmates. The best part? They had NO IDEA who was Santa. You can see in the picture at the top. The two students she is giving candy to are her best friends, and they weren’t even paying attention to Santa! In fact, Wendy was so excited she could barely contain herself and ended up just throwing the chocolate at them. We then counted down, and she revealed her face to the screams of excitement.
Some of her friends ended up crying (her best friend was bawling) which made some of my students teary eyed. The whole thing worked perfectly, and it was the surprise of the year for this class and I was so happy to be a part of it.