Managing My Classroom with Heart

(Effie Chen, Special Education Teacher)

This year marks my second year working as a public school teacher. I am a special education teacher, and most of my students have multiple disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy, which severely limits their speech and physical development.

In my classroom, besides me, there are multiple classroom aides, nurses, and different therapists, such as speech therapist, physical therapist, vision therapist, etc. All the specialists work together to enhance students’ development in all areas. The key to increasing the effectiveness of the team and maximizing the interest of students lies in good communication and coordination among all team members. Through qigong practice, I have an abundance of energy, a habit of positive thinking, and a love for helping others, which allow me to bring positive energy to encourage the team to find effective tools and strategies for students' best interests. These qualities enable my co-workers to enjoy working with me. Our effectiveness in teaching allows students to significantly improve within a short time, which helps us gain the approval of many parents.

Many parents commented that their children are delighted to go to school in the morning; some even get up early in anticipation of the arrival of their bus. One family even cancelled their plan to move so their daughter could stay in my classroom. Seeing the joy in my students brings comfort in my heart and reinforces the importance of my work. What I can do for these students living with disabilities is to do my best to let them grow in a loving and warm classroom.

When working with parents, I tried to empathize with them, to understand their worries, and to help them find the solutions. This sincerity soon earned me the trust of the parents. One of the mothers even mentioned me in a news article. Her daughter was afraid of school due to negligence by the school. Now she’s able to go to school happily again because she has an excellent teacher who truly cares about her.

I think the key to all those successes is to use your heart. I used my heart to connect students, parents, and school staff together to enhance mutual understanding and collaboration among them. This allows my classroom to become a warm and positive environment that encourages improvement. This practice made me win the Spotlight Teacher of May 2019 within the district. My graduate school professor also recognized my teaching effectiveness and efficiency, especially my ability to see my students’ needs, and awarded me the Peter Lincoln Spencer Fellowship Award. My ability to use my heart to connect with people comes from the teachings of my Shifu in Tai Ji Men, who has taught me to use my heart to understand others’ feelings. I believe this is the essential aspect of education--to use the warmth of your heart to inspire students, and to motivate them to improve themselves. This is what Shifu teaches us: if you want to help someone, start from the heart.

I’m genuinely thankful for the years I spent learning in Tai Ji Men. It allows me to be healthy, confident, and have the energy and wisdom to use my strengths to help children in need and make a difference in their lives. In return, my life has become happier and more meaningful.

Photo Caption:
Effie Chen (middle) receives the Peter Lincoln Spencer Fellowship Award at Claremont Graduate University.