Growing Up With Hugs

Since our preschool program was created in Kunming in July 2014, all of us, children and teachers alike, have done a lot of growing up together.

For example, as the only male teacher, I have learned a lot from my female colleagues (including how to change my first wet diaper, which made my colleagues laugh!).

But seven-year-old Mei has had the most dramatic transformation of us all!

When I first met Mei, she did not have any language skills, could not do simple tasks independently, and liked to pinch other people as a defense mechanism. Every teacher got pinched at least once by Mei, and many children as well.

And she cried almost constantly.

She did not trust anyone. When I held her in my arms, she would immediately turn away, seeking someone else. She did this with all the caregivers.

So all of the teachers gathered and discussed how to best help Mei and it was decided that I would be her primary caregiver.

I made sure to always have Mei in my arms, even if she was unresponsive to me, and I observed her very carefully, to try to identify and anticipate all her needs.

It was difficult at first but slowly, she started to respond to me with simple gestures, and later, with simple words. Trust was building.

Then, one day, I noticed that after snack time, she pushed her chair back under the table after she was done, like the other children.

Another time, she picked up a piece of trash and followed her classmates to the garbage can to throw it out.

She was starting to imitate others and follow our classroom routine!

I gave Mei lots of positive reinforcement. Lots of hugs, lots of thumbs up, and I continue, to this day, to tell her often how proud I am of her.

There is still a lot of work to do, but our bond is solidifying and together, we are growing and learning every day.

By Half the Sky Preschool Teacher Xu Liang