I park my car and gather the workbooks in my backpack. I grab my dry erase markers and mini white board. It is 5 minutes before I teach my student at their home. I have been an entrepreneur k-12 tutor for six years. Much of my life experiences became reasons why I started my own tutoring business.
Education had always been exceptionally valuable to me. When I visit my parents, my mom always drags me by the hand. Her spirit is outrageous. Her eyes light up and she smiles. She would wrap her arms around me. “This is my most precious gift in my life,” she said, as she points to the two diplomas displayed on the wall. My brother earned a Bachelor’s in Architect from University of California Berkeley and I earned my degree in Psychology and English from California State University East Bay.
My parents grew up in communist China and both never had the opportunity to pass the 5th grade. It was not by choice. They dropped out of school to work on the farm. They immigrated to America, and my mom gave birth to me. A year later, she gave birth to my brother. They studied hard and later passed their citizenship test. When my brother was a baby and I was one years old, we lived under a basement of someone else’s apartment. It was just the four of us, my brother, my parents, and me.
My parents learned their English at the local adult school to learn how to take the bus, and then they landed jobs in the cooking industry. Two years later, they bought a one story, three-bedroom, one bathroom house in Hayward, California.
My parents instilled in our minds that education is the key to happiness, because they never had the chance to finish school.
From ages 5 to 13, my brother and I stayed in the safety of public libraries while our dad was at work, and my mom went grocery shopping. My brother and I found the section with the academic workbooks. I was the 3rd grade and my brother was the 2st grader, so we pulled the 2nd and 3rd grade workbooks off the shelf. We knew that we could not write in the library books. My mom managed to find a big stack of scratch papers in the recycle bins behind an office dumpster. We wrote our answers on that and confirmed our answers with the answer key.
Our parents told us to study hard and grow up and make money doing something that we love. We were only allowed to get “A’s” and “B’s” but if we came home with a “C,” it was not the end of the world. They told us to not give up, but to seek tutoring from the teacher.
When the report cards came out, we handed it to our mother with almost all A’s on it. She came home, her face drained, full of sweat and exhaustion, but our grades put a smile on her face.
In elementary school, I felt that getting good grades and helping struggling classmates was my identity. I was that shy kid and could not relate to the other kids socially other than to help them with homework.
In middle school, I spent part of my recess studying. In high school, I stayed three hours after school to keep my teachers company and utilized their tutoring hours. I sought tutoring for English, Chemistry, Molecular Biology and Calculus.
I started my own tutoring business because I saw the worth of having a tutor. The teachers who tutored me gave me not only skills and high exam scores but they reassured me as a person.
I have taught 39 children on a one-on-one basis. I care about my students very much and work hard to produce results, just like how my parents worked hard to feed us and pay off our house.
Nowadays, I teach my students what I’ve experienced. I teach them learning strategies from many books I have read. I guide them with my wisdom and heart!
I teach my students to learn with my three rules of learning:
- 1) Learn with Purpose
My parents gave me a purpose to learn and earn good grades. Those missed hours of recess asking the teacher for tutoring was worth it for me, because I made my parents very happy for striving my very best.
Every human being needs a direction to look ahead to, and to keep walking until they reach their destination and purpose in life.
I make my students realize that walking toward success is not just for their parents, but it will make them happy too. My 5th grade student realized that his hard work could allow him to do well in school and in the future go to a good college. He, says, that he then will get a job, and support his mother and father.
- 2) Learn with Emotions
I love to write and I want to be an author. I remember my 6th grade classmate asked me to write his speech while running for class president. I can still remember him delivering his speech on the podium in front of the class. After he delivered that speech, the class erupted in thunderous applause. My classmate bowed and gave me credit for his election victory. It is when I associate writing with such powerful positive emotions, I never disliked writing. I wrote my essays in school, with six drafts until I came to one that I will turn in. I took breaks between drafts to reflect and think of what else would improve my writing.
Every human needs that flame in their heart that keeps them passionate about learning. A flame that never dims out, surely lead to a road of happiness.
I teach my students that their education is about them, and that they own it! There is always a fun way to learn, doing fun things to learn the material. I have an 8th grader who found his passion in story writing. Therefore, I center learning on story writing.
- 3) Learn with Strategies
Learning is about, first, what you retain. What did you remember reading from the book? Secondly, how do you make it meaningful? What do you think about what you read? Third, once you formed an opinion about what you read, turn it into a question. Read to answer that question.
Learning is important because I once lost my ability to learn. I was put on psychiatric drugs, Lithium and Abilify because of my bipolar diagnose, and because my parents didn’t know how to help me. This was because their needs, growing up, in China were different from my needs, here in America. My parent’s childhood was driven by survival needs. There were 7 children on each side of my parent’s childhood. But, there were actually 8 kids on my dad’s side. My dad’s baby brother starved to death.
Feeling loved by my parents was not an option for them, even though they loved me a lot and are amazing parents to this day. They weren’t taught to show affection or praise, since their childhood was driven by having enough to eat. Bipolar is a mood disorder. My emotions were not in control by me, but by my brain chemistry.
At age 14, my family was devastated to hear that I’ve became severely depressed. I was taken away from my home to the Emergency Room, and was hospitalized for a week.
After I was discharged from the hospital, I wanted to read books about mental illness, teen coping, success coaching, etc…And my parents loved me and came up with money for me to take Bart to the library and signed the papers for me to seek psychological counseling.
I had psychological counseling and I was under the treatment of a psychiatrist for medications. The side effects of my medications include cognitive decline. That means that I can spend hours studying, all the right ways (no distraction, seeking teacher’s tutoring and flashcards), and in the flash of moment forget everything I mastered on the exam.
My classmate wondered how I studied more than they did and even taught them what I knew, but I earned a “D” and they aced the exam.
I’ve spent all my extra college years being a “super senior” researching ways to conquer my learning deficits. I sought counseling and tutoring from staff members. I took classes over and over again, up to 3 times, until I passed it and understood the material.
Nowadays, as a tutor, I tell my students to learn with purpose, learn with emotions, learn with strategy, because those were the key rules I stuck with.
My student, graduated from middle school, she reported to me, “I have a 115% in English, and a 1300 SAT score. I’ve followed everything that you taught me.” She decided to try the SATs early. I’ve been teaching her for 4 years and I am still teaching her.
As I sit at home, updating my goals list, and planning my student’s lessons. My eyes catch a glimpse of her 4th grade brother’s essay, titled “Dreaming, Believing and Inspiring.” He insisted that I keep a copy. Then my phone rings. His mom informs me that he had won the statewide writing competition with that essay. “Thank you for your guidance.”
I see him Mondays. It was a delight to see such an intelligent child standing in front of me with his award in hand, smiling.
Aside from this 8 year olds’ fame and popularity from his victory, I know that he has a passion to learn. I’ve taught him that learning can greatly impact his life, his family and friends.
THAT is my purpose in this world, to give my students the passion and reason to want to learn!