“Even though I cannot guarantee that I am able to solve their problems, but as long as it is within my capability, I will try my best to provide help,” said Chua Yong Le, who is participating in “Mentoring With Love” online mentoring support programme 2.0. Chua, one of the volunteer teachers in the programme, is a first-year student studying in the Chinese Department of Nanyang Technological University. His commitment to the programme has not only benefitted the students, but also inspired his own desire to teach in the future.
Although this is Chua’s first time participating in Tzu Chi’s activities, he did not feel unfamiliar with Tzu Chi. His awareness of Tzu Chi traces back to an overseas learning journey he had in secondary school, where he visited Tzu Chi’s environmental education Centre in Taiwan. In early January, Chua, who lives in Yishun, was jogging in the vicinity of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. In the jog, he chance upon the Humanistic Youth Centre (HYC) and was attracted by its architectural style. Chua subsequently mailed his personal particulars to Tzu Chi’s Youth Centre, expressing his interest to be a volunteer. Guided by Tzu Ching (Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association), he later participated in the online mentoring support programme initiated by Tzu Ching.
“Mentoring With Love” Online Mentoring Support Programme 2.0 was organized by Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association (a.k.a Tzu Ching) to provide online mentoring support for the children of Tzu Chi’s care recipients. The programme involved visiting the children at their homes in the company of Tzu Chi’s home visit volunteers, which provide an opportunity for face to face interaction between the Tzu Chings and their mentee to gain a better understanding of the children’s background.
As long as you teach with care, that is professionalism
Participating in this program for the first time and being in charge of teaching primary school English, Chua felt nervous, but he prepared to the best of his ability to be more confident and have greater certainty. Chua said, “I did not have any teaching experience, and was assigned to teach primary school students. Having to teach, and also be conscious on how to communicate with them made me a little worried at the beginning.”
In order to overcome this difficulty, Chua spent two to three days of his after-school hours weekly to think of teaching techniques and content, to ensure that his students can absorb and understand more easily. Not only did he analyze online materials of Primary Five English Examination Papers and its grading system, he even consulted his primary school English teacher to make sure his teaching technique was correct.
He also added, “I mainly look at what students wish to learn, and from there, I try my best to create visually appealing PowerPoint slides. This is because my student likes art, so I want to match her interests by creating suitable teaching materials. Initially, it was to pique her interest in lessons, but afterwards, I realized she has a personal desire to improve.
When the lessons first started, Chua’s student, Aleysha was shy when answering questions. Chua then decided to try breaking the ice with her by having an informal conversation before the lesson. Up to the third lesson, Aleysha was already more open to share her thoughts, and was also eagerly looking forward to her online lessons.
In the process, Chua received help from fellow graduate Tzu Ching Poh Yu Gui, who was touched by Chua’s dedication and effort in his planning and preparation of teaching materials. Chua even discovered new ways to motivate Aleysha with the use of a series of Disney animation videos. He also started to use his newly found Jing Si Aphorism teaching to relate to Aleysha.
Inspired by his teacher to contribute selflessly
Upon inquiring into Chua’s reason for his dedication, he mentioned how he was impacted by a teacher from his junior college. Due to his interest in the subject of Humanities, his grade in Mathematics was not very satisfactory. However, even as his grades continue to slide further, this teacher did not give up on him and continued to encourage him. He said, “I hope to emulate this teacher, and help students selflessly.”
“The original intention behind participating in this activity was to help others, but during the process, I feel that I too have received a lot too. They (children of the care recipient families) have inspired me differently.” Throughout the process of volunteering, Chua did not feel burdened, but rather benefitted tremendously from it. His volunteering experience not only allows him to experience the joy from helping others, but also helps him understand the value of life in a different perspective. Seeing how his students show filial obedience and the actions of caring for their grandparents had taught him a lesson that he should show more filial piety to his own parents.
Other than online teaching, Chua also visited Aleysha with the other team members. On the day of the home visit, they specially prepared gifts, and even wrote a note to Aleysha, with encouraging words like “Believe in yourself, you can do it!” and more. The day before their visit, Aleysha’s grandmother also specially cleaned the living room. Evidently, both parties took this home visit ‘appointment’ very seriously.
To Chua and Aleysha, the first meeting in person was very different compared to that online. The talkative person Chua was online, became a bit shy upon seeing Aleysha, while Aleysha too appeared reserved. Seeing Aleysha’s shyness, Chua mustered up enough courage to share that he is also an introvert similar to Aleysha. With this confession, Aleysha seemed to feel the sincerity of her ‘teacher’. Under the encouragement of her grandmother, Aleysha gathered the courage to share her dream of being a neurosurgeon in the future.
Growing together as mentor and mentee
Aleysha’s grandmother enthusiastically received Tzu Ching on the day of the home visit, and also passionately shared about her granddaughter’s growth. She revealed that when Aleysha required other students to remain quiet on the bus, she had a fierce attitude. This followed with an immediate correction, “It should be ‘stern’, not ‘fierce’, right?”. Her attitude and careful choice of English words brought a knowing smile to the volunteer’s faces.
It turns out that in the first lesson, under Chua’s encouragement, Aleysha had described herself as ‘fierce’, but Chua had corrected her to instead use the more positive ‘stern’. From then on, Aleysha had always reminded her grandmother about this. Clearly, Aleysha does pay attention in class and enjoys interacting with the volunteers. Her grandmother constantly expresses her gratitude for the volunteers, “Today is the first meeting I have with Tzu Chi’s volunteers, but I can feel that you are full of care and compassion. I am moved by the way you teach.”
Through this home visit, the volunteers gained a deeper understanding of their care recipients. Aleysha said, “I felt both nervous and excited. Everyone looks different in real life from how they look online, and even gave me gifts, I am so touched.”
To Chua, this home visit inspired his desire to be a teacher. “What left the deepest impression on me was how Aleysha’s grandmother emphasized the importance of education, because my dream is to be a teacher. She mentioned how Aleysha was a child with great potential, but lacked the necessary resources. This reminded me on why I initially wanted to be a teacher. I wish to educate children, and to develop their potential.”
“I believe that as long as Aleysha has the courage, she can definitely achieve her dreams.” Chua added. Fu Yu Gui, who had assisted Chua in the preparation of lesson materials, saw the growth of both Chua and Aleysha throughout the entire process. She expressed that Chua’s effort and dedication has planted the seed of doing good in the child, while lesson planning has given both of them a chance to encourage and inspire one another.
Finally, Chua said, “I hope I can be a teacher in the future, and mentoring was an opportunity to train myself. As communicating with people of different ages require different methods, I learnt that it requires patience as well.”