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“The only reason I want to come here is because of you.” I heard Jennifer’s words as I looked down into her dark brown eyes; what she had said sounded almost like a confession. Seven years old, Jennifer came to Fei Xiang Bilingual School for the same reason most of the children came there – to learn. After working at Fei Xiang for a couple of months, I had formed attachments with several of the children. Jennifer, however, had claimed a special place in my heart. Because of her, my job became much more than something I did in my spare time to make extra money. I found myself in the position of a friend and mentor, as well as a teacher.
When I first applied for my teaching position at Fei Xiang, I never expected to form a strong connection with anyone, much less a seven-year-old girl. The environment at Fei Xiang was often chaotic. The premises offered a combination of after-school care, enrichment classes, and homework help. Many Chinese parents with full-time jobs sent their children to Fei Xiang to become Einsteins. Like most of my students, Jennifer was “overscheduled” with an exorbitant number of activities: Chinese and English lessons, Math Olympiad, swimming, soccer, and dance class. Despite her commitments, however, Jennifer, a bright young girl, remained full of life and energy – and curiosity. She asked many questions, some of which I could not answer; we would do research together to solve those mysteries. I would let her sit on my lap as I helped her with homework; she appreciated those calm moments. When she was not in class, Jennifer was by my side. The effect my teaching experience had on me did not fully register until my last day of work, when I received my last hug from Jennifer. As I walked out the door, my vision blurred as tears welled up in my eyes.
My time with Jennifer taught me the importance of the human touch in the art of teaching, and that I was capable of having a dramatic, positive impact on another person’s life. Jennifer found comfort in our relationship – a respite from her activity-filled existence. I found a profound sense of fulfillment and satisfaction I had not felt before, a confirmation of my dream to enter a helping profession – and someday have a similar effect on many.
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