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The Students Who Taught the Teacher

From the series Special Education in China

This is the final post in a three-part series on special education in China. You can read part one here and part two here.

When teachers are asked why they chose teaching it’s rarely because of an innovative method or a great salary. It’s a student story that comes to mind. Mr. J is no different. It began with the little girl going from only speaking in three-word phrases to singing a song. Through the years, many students have found their way into Mr. J’s heart—some in person and some in his online work.

Mr. J shares two stories.

Ping Ping Becomes a Writer

When I first met Ping Ping, he was in the third grade and attended his local elementary school each morning. Though he had cerebral palsy, he had to climb three flights of stairs. He described how he slowly moved up the steps with a cane and the help of his mother, while other students ran past him. Although he had faithfully attended school for three years, only a few of his assignments had been graded, and he had rarely taken a test in class. He was allowed to sit and listen to the class but was not officially enrolled. At home, his mom, an eighth-grade graduate, tried her best to work with her son but was unsure how to do so. She knew Ping Ping was smart and very good at explaining his thinking out loud. Sadly, Ping Ping was not able to write with his hands due to the cerebral palsy and so he rarely wrote anything.

During our Zoom meetings, I encouraged Ping Ping’s mother to use dictation programs to help him get his ideas down in writing. I recommended he make a weekly journal entry. When I received the journal and read the entries I was impressed by his interesting and engaging writing. It was clear that there were times the dictation program did not hear his voice accurately, but he is now a proud writer! And his mother is happy to have a way to help her son and not feel so helpless.

Love Impacts Hannah and Her Father

Hannah was a little girl who showed me how a teacher relays so much more than facts. A teacher can also convey hope to families who have come to believe their situations are hopeless. When I met Hannah and her family, I told them I was a Christian and my God teaches me how to love. So even if it is hard sometimes, I will treat Hannah with love. When she was diagnosed with autism, Hannah’s father blamed himself and slipped into depression, rarely leaving the house. Through the work with Hannah, he slowly came out of his depression and saw hope. He started volunteering at the school and his local church. Her parents asked more about my faith as they saw Hannah developing new skills and the patience of our team. I clearly saw that teachers have a powerful position, especially in a family with a child who is struggling with a learning disability. Everyone in the home is affected. Over and over, I saw—and continue to see here in the US—that parents of children with special needs want and need training and support just as much as the children.

Trusting the Father’s Plan

Mr. J and his wife have heard that the center is opening in China to serve students with special needs. As they look at the pictures of the classrooms, they are excited about the work being done for these children and families. They wait on paperwork, and he continues to teach in the US. Their plan was to be at the center in China this year, but as he says:

Our Father’s plan was to have us support from a distance right now. I will do this by participating in a weekly team meeting, answering questions about daily needs, and helping with the development of Individualized Education Plans and behavior support.

Hannah and I were having lunch one day and she asked me why I closed my eyes and folded my hands. I explained that I was praying to God. He created me and I thank him for my food. The next day I saw her close her eyes and fold her hands at lunch. I asked her what she was doing. ‘I’m praying to your God,’ she replied.

It’s my prayer that one day all Chinese children with challenges like Hannah’s will pray to my God as well as have the educational opportunities they need.

Mr. J would be encouraged to hear comments or questions. Write to, and I will pass them on to him.

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Image credit: “Integrated Environments in China” by DDA604 via Flickr
Barbara Kindschi

Barbara Kindschi

Barbara Kindschi has been privileged and challenged to teach English in China, Myanmar, Laos, and most recently, Mongolia. Her classes have been filled with undergrads, professors, accountants, hotel employees, monks, government workers, and beauty pageant contestants. They continue to be both her students and teachers as she now tutors online. Barbara …View Full Bio

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