Who Is in Charge of Destroying The Bright Future of The Girl?

It is important for a German teacher to keep the balance between losing face and saving face

Thank You Notes
Published in
5 min readAug 19, 2021


Mrs. H in Taikoo Li, photo by author

PanPan is my school friend. When she told me that her daughter would give up the German course, I thought the latter lost her mind.

She was studying at a famous university in the South-West of China and was supposed to be sent to Germany for further study. If she didn’t learn German, she would lose this opportunity.

“Yes, I know, but she doesn’t like her German teacher. The lady was pretty strict with her in the class and made her feel like losing her face. That teacher is destroying the bright future of my daughter!”

Two years later, a new teacher came to the college where I worked for. She has taught German at the same university where PanPan’s daughter once studied.

Is she the one who embarrassed that girl? This question flashed through my mind.

“I just met Mrs. H, she spoke to me in German. She spoke so fast that I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what she meant.”

“Yes, it happened to me too. Mrs. H has lived in Germany for many years. She is more direct than we are. I think she just didn’t realize that she was making others feel like losing their faces.”

I overheard that two colleagues gossiped about the new teacher.

Later on, more and more stories about how Mrs. H. made others lose their faces spread widely.

She criticized a student in the class so severely that the girl started to cry.

She spoke German so fast that only a few students could follow her. As a result, just the best students who sat in the first line participated with her.

“Mrs.H speaks excellent German. I admire her and enjoy her class very much.”

Good students valued her job, while others complained that she didn’t care about their faces.

I was curious about Mrs. H but haven’t had a chance to get closer to her.

One year later, I was assigned to take over the class for Leseverständnis für Fortschrittene (in English: Advanced reading course). This time, I would work with Mrs. H together.

With curiosity and a little anxiety, I called Mrs. H (She refused to use any social media) to make an appointment to discuss the class. As I expected, she replied to me in fluent German decently and in a friendly tone.

On the appointed day Mrs. H and I met in a coffee house. After going through the teaching plan, our conversation moved to our students unconsciously which appears to be a timeless topic among teachers.

“Mrs. S, do you have any ideas why the students are so quiet in the class? They are also very vulnerable. You can’t criticize them!”

I remembered that my German teacher complained exactly the same thing about us. More than twenty years have gone by, many things have changed, but the attitude “Don’t lose your face!” hasn’t changed at all.

What Is Face?

The abstract concept of the face has nothing to do with physical features. Instead, the face can be described as a combination of social standing, reputation, influence, dignity, and honor.

Causing someone to lose face lowers them in the eyes of their peers. Saving face or “building face” raises their self-worth — obviously a better outcome for everyone.

So sometimes letting someone be wrong is just better than pointing out they are wrong.

But language students with this attitude cannot make any progress. On the contrary, the less the teacher points out, the more mistakes they would make. In the end, the teacher saved the face of the students indeed, but the students failed to master a foreign language.

What is more important? Face or skill?

Many students have talent. They failed just because they were not confident. Once I had a student. She was intelligent and studied hard, but she was so terrified when she spoke German. I called her to speak many times in the class, then she felt so insulted that she resigned from my course.

By disclosing her experience, Mrs. H solved the mystery that has been hidden in my heart for many years.

As I knew, after graduation instead of studying in Germany, PanPan’s daughter landed at a local company and has been working as an accountant.

Nobody can anticipate which way is better. But for sure, studying in Germany would have opened her mind widely and inspired her. Additionally, mastering a foreign language would have probably given her more opportunities.

“Mrs. S, how would you handle the conflict if you were in my position?

I think the key is to find the balance between losing face and saving face.

On the one hand, I would try my best to provide students with a relaxed environment and encourage them to speak up.

On the other hand, I would be strict too, which would inevitably cause the students personal embarrassment and lead to loss of their faces. So, I would treat them from person to person to save their faces to a certain degree.

I admire Mrs. H even though her way might be not always appropriate, but she bravely insists on being herself and takes responsibility for the students.

The discussion with Mrs. H reminded me again, both teacher and student have to get rid of the traditional thinking way.

As German teachers we should face the challenge, speaking out in German as much as possible and as often as possible without worry about losing our faces.

And Students must be aware of the following:

If you want to gain a better face, you have to “lose” your face first.

A bright future is not a gift. You got to pay your price. Losing your face now and then is just part of the price.

No one can destroy your future, because you are the one who is in charge of making your dream true.

Thank you for reading!

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Thank You Notes

Storyteller, traveler, and yoga lover, on the way to finding a place to rest my heart. Join me by clicking the link below https://mshe8092.medium.com/membership