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by Jessi H '11

Teacher of the Month: Ms. Lily Shen

1. What kind of student were you in high school?
In China, there are three criteria students are graded on sports, academics, and behavior. I was a very good student, but I liked sports, mostly volleyball, track and field, and ping-pong. But I was also good at singing, which I did in chorus.

2. Did your friends play sports too?
My friends were all nerds, they paid attention to academics only.

3. Did you enjoy school?
At the time, the idea of not liking school did not even exist. Being a student was our job. There was no second thinking. You just have to do what you have to do. This whole concept of ‘I hate school’ is new to me.  In China, you had to do well.  Well, not everyone did well, but they tried.

4. Is this what made you want to become a teacher?
In third grade, I knew I wanted to teach. I admired my math teacher, the way she explained fractions and her excellent timing. I’ll never forget it. It was like a piece of art, beautiful art. My math teacher taught fractions before there was even pizza. But we could still see the fractions.  And she always finished the lesson right when class ended.

5. Do you try to think of her when you’re teaching?
Yes, she is a great influence even on my own teaching. I try to get to that point.

6. Did you have second thoughts?
I never changed my idea for one second; teaching is my passion. If I had a chance to do it again, I would still do this.

7. How long have you been teaching?
I started teaching in China after the Cultural Revolution. I was the first graduating high school class in China. My teachers nominated me to remain in the school and teach. I was just a teenager and teaching English as a second language to the seventh grade.

8. Were you happy doing this?
I liked teaching, but Chinese was really my passion. I taught it after school at the China Institute. But I first started teaching Chinese full time at BSGE. I grew up with BSGE.

9. Was there anything unexpected? Did it work out as you imagined?
Bill hired me to teach Chinese. I remember, he said, “I know nothing about China, do everything to bring the language and culture to BSGE.” It turned out well; students learned music, history, movies, philosophy, art and a lot more.

10. Have students differed from year to year since then?
Each grade has different kind of students. It’s like kids in a family; each grade has its own personality and academic levels.

11. What about the students you’ve had since the eighth grade? Have they changed?
They have definitely changed. Not just physically, but academically, maturity wise,  and are more interested in class. It’s amazing to me that they can stay interested for six years.

12. Do you have an age you prefer to teach?
I like teaching all of them. I can have more discussions with older grades, and have fun with the younger grades. They appreciate the culture and experience more as they get older though.

13. What is your favorite kind of student?
Students who work hard and are willing to learn, that’s my favorite.

14. Are class clowns amusing or just bothersome?
Usually they are not bothersome to me, I think we need different kinds of students. But when they affect what I do, I deal with it. When you are in school you have to control your personality.

15. When do you see the biggest improvement or changes in students?
There are usually the biggest improvements from the ninth to tenth grade. Students become more mature and goal-oriented. They start thinking of the IB diploma. From there it just goes up and up.

16. Do you find yourself having to act or teach differently towards some students?
I have to use different approaches to deal with different groups. But BSGE students are really just excellent.

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