becoming the teacher I longed for


Att&s At the art reception, one of my student’s mother asks me in Chinese, “So how is T in your class, is she shy? Does she raise her hand?” I tell her that T is indeed quiet in the class but that it’s not an issue. “I am also shy…she is doing amazing work and is clearly enjoying the process.” Then I tell her what a pleasure it is to teach T and how wonderful it is to see her work alongside her best friend every class. Her Mom looks at me and says, “She loves you.”

I felt myself getting very emotional because T reminds me so much of myself when I was a shy Asian girl in school and how much I (unknowingly) longed for a teacher that looked like me, that spoke my mother tongue, and that understood what it was like to be the other. I did not have one Asian teacher when I moved to the U.S. (besides weekend Chinese school) until undergrad. When I took a course on Asian American history with Gloria Chun at Bard, I finally felt the profound loss from years of invisibility, of not seeing myself reflected anywhere in the curriculum and in the folks who taught me. Tonight I am humbled to know that I am slowly becoming more and more the teacher I longed for when I was a kid. I am so grateful to my parents who encouraged me to become a teacher when I wasn’t sure if I could do it.

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