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How our instructor Rachel came to terms with never feeling ready
Sometimes, people spend months, years, and even decades telling themselves they are not ready, that they still need to do a lot of studying and preparing before they can take action. But aspiring teacher Rachel, a JEI Instructor at the Irvine-North, California center, knew that she would never be “ready”--and that it is okay. Rachel felt connected to JEI Learning Center’s Self-Learning Method during her journey of self-discovery, as she had many doubts about her teaching abilities despite being an advocate for education. She opened up about such doubts, admitting, “Honestly, I did not know that teaching was right for me. I always wanted to help people and I knew I wanted to make an impact. [However,] I felt that I had so many weak areas that I wanted to strengthen before I ever become a teacher. I just never felt ready or prepared.” However, she did not let those doubts take over her life. She took the necessary steps to help students in any way that she could and proved to be wiser than she gave herself credit for: I chose JEI as an opportunity to learn more about my decision on becoming a teacher . . . [W]hen I entered JEI, I realized that my idea of readiness was completely wrong. Being ready to become a teacher was not something I needed to learn. Instead, I needed to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. To me, being ready is the same as being stagnant. I don't want to be on the mark and ready. I want to be running. I don’t even need to be sprinting. I just want to be moving in some direction. I don't want to be ready. I want to grow. I want to learn. I want to push myself in ways I never knew I could. Already, Rachel proved that there was a lot that students could learn from her and that she was an Instructor to look up to. She is the epitome of grit, defined by Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, a professor of psychology, as perseverance and fortitude. Rachel agrees that it is all about moving forward when facing challenges and uncertainty: To me, grit is having heart. I think of grit as someone running. It doesn't take much skill to run, but it takes two legs and the heart [to] keep going. People don't get faster by walking, standing, sitting or lying down. People get faster by running and pushing their bodies to limits that go beyond comfort, even if it's a little. Ultimately, grit is having the perseverance to keep going even if the obstacles get harder. Grit has proven to be on her side, as she felt that she was making the exact impact that she always wanted to make as an educator. “When students come in and update me on how well they did on an assignment or test, I get excited to be part of their experience in what they see as success,” she told us, and added tips on how to see such positive results, like encouraging students to revisit concepts if they forget definitions or main ideas. “By doing this, I feel that students feel more in control of their learning instead of being reliant on their educators to give answers.” To further help students take control of their learning under the guidance of educators, Rachel advised, “Never be comfortable! Always ask questions! I may not know the answer to everything but we can find the answer together.” Thank you, Rachel, for being such a passionate and active member of the teaching community at JEI Learning Center! There is no doubt that her students are well on their way to perfecting the Self-Learning Method and taking as much control of their lives as Rachel has with hers. Whatever she decides to pursue, we support her and look forward to her bright future!
Director talks cultural understanding and advice for Asian-American parents
It is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (APAHM)! As JEI Learning Center is all about diversity and inclusivity, we reached out to one of our Directors to learn more about all that she has done to bring greater awareness to the Asian-American experience. Stony Brook Director Jianping Schoolman has been an advocate for cultural awareness, particularly regarding Asian Americans, for most of her life. She earned herself a Master’s in Language Education and Cross-Cultural Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, then proceeded to teach linguistics and culture courses there and at Stony Brook University. She has also been an active member of the Asian-American community outside formal education. She explained to me that one of the things she does is judge the annual Social Harmony Writing Contest, which asks middle and high school students to open up about their own stories and experiences for the purpose of cultural understanding and social harmony. “Just before you called me, I finished grading the essays for the high school section,” Jianping told me excitedly. She also personally hands out the awards. Even before her involvement with the writing contest, however, Jianping put in a lot of effort to raise awareness about the Asian-American culture. She told us, “It’s in my blood. I am so into helping or creating an appreciation for Asian Americans, especially because I am Asian American myself.” She went over her history as an advocate, explaining that it all started in 1996: In Philadelphia, I worked for Asian American United and was the co-director for the youth leadership camp for kids from Chinatown. From 1997 to 2002, I was at the International House Philadelphia to promote internationalism and Asian-American activities. During those five years, I worked at University of Pennsylvania, where I interviewed about 100 Asian-American students regarding their paths and identities. This inspired me to educate kids and parents on cultural awareness and celebrations. In 2002, I started working as assistant to the director at an Asian-American culture center called Wang Center at Stony Brook University. At Stony Brook University, she taught language, linguistics, literature, and cross-cultural communication on the side. She also participated in cultural programs, inviting people from other countries, like India, China, South Korea, and Japan, to do performances at the center and raise awareness about the different cultures. Her passion even seeps into her duties as the director of her own JEI Learning Center. She revealed that most of her students are Asian American. While this means interacting with the students, she admitted, I spend half my time talking to the parents based on my experience [as an Asian American]. I want parents to give their own kids, Asian-American kids, more freedom to explore their own interests, their own passions, rather than being a stereotypical Asian American who just studies, studies, studies without caring too much for their own community or anything else but their grades. That’s something I’m very proud of and very good at promoting. There is no doubt that Jianping will continue to tirelessly support the Asian American community, even after a busy May! Her passion for educating others on culture and tradition is an admirable quality that makes JEI Learning Center proud to have her on our team. The Social Harmony Writing Contest may be done for this year, but you can always keep an eye out for next year, as well as stay tuned for JEI’s own annual essay contest in the fall! In preparation, check out our Reading & Writing program.
Long-term effects of the summer slide: how it follows your child into adulthood
After a long ten months of grueling office work, you put aside your glasses, rub your eyes, stretch in your chair, and think, “Finally, it’s time for my two-month vacation.” You put in the notice to your boss, who okays it without a second thought, and you leave without looking back. You are buzzing with excitement. You see amazing weeks ahead, weeks of splashing by the pool, eating unreasonable amounts of barbecue, and spending time not doing much of anything. You know what you do not see? Any work whatsoever. True bliss, indeed. You may have read that with a puzzled look on your face, wondering, “What dream-like workplace is this and where can I find a job like this?” but you probably know instinctively, “This cannot be real.” And you are right. It is not real. What workplace gives you two whole consecutive months off to do whatever your heart desires without concern for money? However, you may have very well realized: school does this. It takes the summer off every year, releasing your child into leisure and freedom. Unfortunately, this system is also giving children an unrealistic expectation about the real world and forming the habit of tuning out at the same time every year. Their attention naturally starts dipping by May and into June--and it is hard for them to recover until much later in the year if left unchecked. You may already know about summer learning loss, or the “summer slide”--it is a phenomenon that happens every summer when children lose a significant amount of what they learned in the past school year. One study shows that upcoming fourth graders lose approximately 20% of what they learned from third-grade reading and 27% of what they learned from third-grade math. As for upcoming eighth graders, they lose about 30% of seventh-grade reading skills and 50% of their seventh-grade math skills. This is not to say that children need to endure grueling schoolwork every single month of the year, but they do need to remain invigorated when it comes to self-learning and growth. Summer vacation creates complacency that the real world just does not provide, leading to a disjointed sense of responsibility when entering adulthood. They are used to having long periods of break. They are used to healing burnout this way. They are used to putting their brain on sleep mode. However, this may affect them as working adults who realistically would get around two weeks of paid vacation time the whole year, as well as never-ending “homework,” whether it is work-related, like checking emails, or life-related, like tuning up the car. On top of that, there is no excuse for learning loss in the workplace. No boss wants an employee who forgets how to make an Excel spreadsheet, no hospital wants a doctor who forgets how to suture, and no government wants a president who cannot remember the Constitution after a summer on the golf course. The usually overlooked task of being a parent, as well, takes on a rigorous 24/7 schedule. June to August seems like a good time for your child to relax because school can be challenging and taxing mentally, but you, as a parent who continues on that 24/7 schedule, have to be careful that he or she does not stop learning altogether. It is a harmful habit to take two or three whole months to prioritize leisurely activities. Unfortunately, it does not seem likely that education will reform in time for your child to have school year-round with shorter, more frequent breaks. This is where supplemental education steps in, in possibly the most important way--by significantly preventing loss of learning. Beyond making sure your child retains what he or she learned in the past school year and advances ahead for the next, JEI Learning Center instills a belief that learning and progress never ends. Through a steady workflow that is optimally created for stress-free but productive learning, your child will be more prepared for not only a new school year but also adulthood. The adoption of self-learning and self-motivation is key. We do not want children to tune out. We want to help them to take responsibility for their own learning and thrive! Summer learning does not have to be as intense as school learning, but it does have to be there. Find a Center near you and enroll your child in one of JEI’s summer program to keep their brain on full power mode!