When I first met LeLe, I entered the nursery room and saw her sitting on a mat, playing with her nanny and other children. I squatted down and asked her, “Do you know who I am?” LeLe shook her head and smiled: “I don’t know.”
“I’m your teacher,” I told her. “Would you like to join in my class with other children?”
LeLe smiled politely, but didn’t say a word. The nanny told LeLe: “The teacher has a fancy classroom. You’d better go with her. ”
LeLe nodded, giving me her hands. We went to the classroom together and I introduced the other children to her. It didn’t take her long to fit in with the rest of the class, participating in all of our activities. Because she was at age 10 the oldest child in the China Care Home, I set up individual teaching plans for her, and she often shared class with another older student, TaoTao, in the mornings, followed by games with the other children in the afternoons.
Shortly after she arrived at the China Care Home, LeLe was hospitalized for surgery to fix a protrusion of her sternum and ribs that is known as “pigeon chest”
After recuperating in the hospital, LeLe resumed her classes with me; I began to teach her more complicated pinyin and math.
My experience with teaching has shown me that the learning process for many children is full of reversals and zigzags. I soon discovered that LeLe sometimes lacked self-confidence, especially when there were difficult problems she wasn’t able to solve.
In order to help LeLe build up her confidence, I gave her a special homework assignment: think about her strengths and weaknesses. The day after she completed the assignment, we sat down and discussed the topic. As we went over some of her strengths, LeLe suddenly said, “I’m not afraid of surgeries. I want to be taller after surgery.”
I knew she was preparing to go into the hospital for a second surgery, this time to correct her scoliosis, so I responded by praising her: “LeLe, you make a good point. You are not afraid of surgeries, which means you’re brave, aren’t you?” LeLe nodded confidently. “I am very happy to see that you are so brave. This is also your strength,” I told her.
When we talked about her weaknesses, LeLe admitted that sometimes she wasn’t confident.
I smiled: “Look! You have many fewer weaknesses. We can work hard to improve your confidence in the future.” LeLe seemed appreciative that her strengths outweighed her weaknesses. I videotaped our discussion and wrote what we had learned down on the paper, hoping it would remind LeLe to always be proud of herself and her bravery.
LeLe had successful surgery to correct her scoliosis shortly after the Spring Festival; she has gained weight and stands straighter. She has also expressed greater interest in studying and her confidence has risen. No matter where life takes LeLe, I hope that she will always be happy, discover the beauty of life, and remember forever that she is a brave, brave girl.
Hei Jing, China Care Home teacher