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Ping Cui

Upper School Chinese
15 years teaching, 4 at Country Day

How do you structure your class to build strong relationships with your students?

I believe students come before content and relationships before teaching. Every student is different, every class is different. When students sense you really care about them, they are motivated to learn. I really listen to my students—it’s not just me saying what I think or dictating how the teaching will go. I think of my students as the “hosts” of their classroom; we teach and influence each other. And because we have strong relationships, they feel comfortable telling me how they want to learn. For instance, when they are learning vocabulary, they may tell me it’s not sticking and ask if we can turn it into a game. I always welcome their suggestions because we’re in this learning process together. The kids at Country Day are all very sweet. I love seeing their faces every day. They want to share about their lives outside of school, and I want to hear it. Sometimes I can use it in my teaching. They are happy when they come into my classroom and they’re happy when they leave. On the back of the door, I have signs in Chinese that say, “Thank you,” “Good-bye,” and “Remember to Smile.”

How are you a lifelong learner?

If you want to be a good teacher, you also have to want to learn. You have to model that for your students. Technology can be used to enhance the lessons and really engage students. Recently I began exploring the website Canva, where you can get creative with designs and illustrations. I converted the textbook lessons on
vocabulary and grammar into a storybook on the website. The students are also creating their own stories on this website, and they are teaching me how to use the tools better.  I also engage students with games. Everyone loves games and the students don’t feel like they’re learning language acquisition. It’s subconscious but they are gaining knowledge. And they teach me games—I’ve learned Jeopardy, Connect Four, Who’s the  Spy, and many more.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started teaching?

Slow is fast; less is more. Fifteen years ago, when I started my career, I gave students all I had and didn’t stop to think about what they needed. I would think “they should know this. Why can they still not get it?” Now, as I’ve grown comfortable as a teacher, I know that I can teach less, and spend more time getting to know my students. In the end, the students get the knowledge they need to be prepared for the next level because they feel happy and safe, and they know we are on the same journey.