Chinese Homeroom Teacher
Che Qing brings her several years of experience in international schools to Keystone Academy. Besides her wealth of expertise in teaching in bilingual environments, Ms. Che also brings her particular skills in early education to the school. She is living her dream, and as an inspiring teacher, talented singer and dancer, it is no surprise that Ms. Che is one of the many primary school favorites among students. In this article, she tells us about her journey as a teacher.
It was her childhood dream to “always play with kids” and it is this dream that makes Che Qing the teacher she is – bright-eyed, radiant and full of energy. It is the ideal characteristic combination for any teacher, especially for someone experienced in early years education. Dreams are not easy to achieve or live by, but neither are they impossible if one follows the words of the world-renowned author Paulo Coelho, “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” Che Qing does not know what this means, not because she hasn’t confronted difficult situations, but because she is not afraid to try, to give it her all. A painting of a flower of eight colors that hangs in her living room is a testimony to this fearless dedication and devotion to teaching.
Pink, Orange, Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, Black, and Purple
“Six years ago, my class welcomed a student diagnosed with autism, let’s call her CiCi for now. She loved to paint, but only in blue; she never spoke with other people though frequently murmured to herself. I constantly consulted with special education teachers for guidance, and talked with CiCi’s mother on a regular basis. Though initially she flatly turned me away, she gradually warmed up, and even began to respond to me in short sentences!” Ms. Che also saw improvement when shades of green began to appear in her paintings, and from time to time she would even give her a quick hug. “Such actions wouldn’t be remarkable for any other student, but for CiCi, it was simply tremendous!” recollects Ms. Che. The most special moment came on her wedding day. CiCi, already a third grader by then, “took the initiative and hugged me to express her best wishes. She also gifted me a special painting – a flower of eight colors: pink, orange, red, yellow, blue, green, black, and purple,” Ms. Che reminisces fondly.
She has another student to thank for her reformative experience with CiCi, Doudou, whom she met much earlier in her career. Her memory of Doudou is, perhaps, not as colorful but it is an experience she will never forget. Just in the second year of her teaching career, as homeroom teacher for 5 year olds, Doudou became her student. Ms. Che recalls, “Doudou was extremely rebellious, he was definitely a ‘problem child’ in my eyes back then. Everywhere I looked, I saw his shortcomings. I had very few encouraging words to say to him. His unruliness only grew with his age.” She remembers employing every remedial measure to support Doudou, who was also becoming emotionally unstable and increasingly violent. “I even began to question my own ability as a teacher.”
As someone who does not give up so easily, Ms. Che says, “I thought to myself, there has to be a solution to every problem. I began reading books written by experienced educators, and realized that I might need to improve my teaching methodologies. I had to make an effort to adjust my attitude, and shift my focus towards Doudou’s strengths. I had noticed that he’s an extremely imaginative and persistent child; actually, I was truly amazed by some of his works!” Though Ms. Che was excited about finding a way to communicate with Doudou, the student was less convinced. Her heartfelt praise for Doudou’s work was met with disbelief. “He just didn’t believe me…I was completely dejected, and kept saying to myself that I was wrong, that I didn’t do a good job helping him.’ Ms. Che did not stop trying; she paid more attention to Doudou in an effort to build a rapport. The trust she was hoping for started forming, but only moments before Doudou’s graduation from preschool. “It came too late for both of us. I didn’t have enough time to help him or make amends for my earlier shortcomings.”
This was a turning point in her personal and professional journey; she began to look deeper into the meaning and purpose of education. “A meaningful education should not be entirely rigid, it should adapt to the different needs of children. There is no shortcut to discovering their needs either, it is only through an extraordinary level of patience and care that they can be revealed.” She quickly realized that she was part of a play without a script – the only certainty is the play or the journey marked by special moments and the full range of emotions. “After the episode with Doudou, I was especially mindful of keeping my patience, and used a child’s specific interest as an entry point for cutting down any communication barrier.” Each child is a different flower, of a different color says Che Qing, “Those children who are labeled as “problematic” are often overlooked gems waiting to be discovered!” Every child needs careful attention and nurturing to be prepared for the world. At Keystone Academy, Ms. Che believes this is possible.
Preparing Students for the Future, for the World
“Our world is changing rapidly every day, and we want our students to be always at the ready for this new world,” the Head of School remarked at the school’s Dedication Ceremony. Keystone’s ethos maintains that cultivating the right skills and qualities is more fundamental to education than curricular content. Such skills and qualities not only include learning capacity, but also deep wisdom and open minds. “Kids of this generation tend to be overly self-conscious. We must help them to learn how to respect others and cope with differences,” Ms. Che explains.
In her opinion, although direct, explicit guidance is veritably important in addressing this issue, subtler approaches and influences may be more effective. Ms. Che practices this by bringing her own life experiences to her students’ education. “My father and mother are of Mongol and Evenki ethnicity respectively, so I grew up with two languages and two different cultures. This was before I was introduced to the Chinese language and culture at the age of five. I have been immersed in the fun and joy that a multicultural environment brings, which also teaches me to respect people from different cultural backgrounds, and gives me confidence when meeting them,” she says, adding, “I make an effort to help my students learn about and get a feel for other cultures, and understand the diverse world that they live in. My hope is that through my efforts, they will expand their horizons and mindsets, learn to respect and accept people from different cultures.”
A worldly vision is only one side of the coin: an understanding of the world and its many cultures must be nurtured without losing one’s self-identity. Keystone advocates this importance in one of the three pillars of the school. “I appreciate the fact that Keystone Academy, promising to be a world school, also takes a strong position on the importance of Chinese culture and identity as one of its central missions. This has inspired me to dig deeper into the Chinese culture, and motivated me to share and spread the Chinese heritage,” says Ms. Che. “Weaving the Chinese Thread and our other school goals into one harmonious whole is no simple task. But I believe theories, reflections, practice, and perseverance will produce the answer I seek. This is a meaningful and enjoyable task,” she recognizes.
This is the ever-optimistic Che Qing. She firmly believes that she has found her calling and relishes its every moment even in the face of challenges. “Children are all blessed with great potential,” Ms. Che says with enthusiasm, adding, “They are eager to explore their surroundings using all means available to them, and are insatiable for information. Then they gradually grow towards independence. This is simply an incredible process!” Her joy cannot be contained as she continues, “To me, this is not only a job, it is a responsibility. I constantly tell myself that this is a career that enables me to bring joy to more children and families, and that is a cause worthy of lifelong learning and devotion.”