"Are you Chinese?"
After presenting two sessions of a workshop at the Berryessa Unified School District's Parent University on Saturday, I set up a table to hand out flyers for this upcoming STEAM Event and this Summer Writing Camp. Rose asked me a seemingly simple question but this question always makes me pause. It's a loaded question. Yes, I'm ethnically Chinese and culturally American. But the real zinger was that Rose, who is Chinese, asked correctly if I am Chinese**, which meant she probably already sized me up. I braced myself for the next question.
"Do you speak Chinese?"
I knew that was coming! Again, another loaded question. If I said yes, then the unspoken expectation was that I should continue to converse with her in Chinese. If I said no, then how could I even claim to be Chinese? So, I gave Rose my honest answer and hoped that it would satisfy her curiosity.
"Yes, but I only know enough Chinese to order food at a restaurant."
We both laughed. My laughter was more like a nervous giggle, but Rose's wholehearted chuckle told me she thought it was funny. Whew! I averted a super uncomfortable situation! I was glad she did not ask the next question typical in this type of conversation, namely "Why did you study English in college?" Sensing that our small talk was over, she made a comment, which caught me by surprise.
"So, you're one of the few."
"I'm sorry, what do you mean?"
“I mean you’re one of the few who grew up in this area, went to college locally, and stayed here to work and to raise a family. You could have moved away to follow your dreams!”
I never saw it that way, but I guess you could say I am one of the few. Yes, I attended BUSD schools as a kid. Last year, I visited my 5th grade teacher, Mr. D, who still teaches at the same school. How amazing is that! (Full disclosure here - I was a lousy writer and failed my 5th grade writing sample. Despite that little hiccup, Mr. D still believed in my potential and recommended me for advanced classes in middle school.)
A total late-bloomer, I somehow managed to do well in high school. I attended Santa Clara University through the Future Teachers Project and was one of the first seven FTP graduates. While I was a teacher at Rancho Middle School, the school received its first designation as a School to Watch. Currently, my own children attend a BUSD school where I am involved with their education. My family and I live in the lovely Bay Area where we contribute to the community and practice “loving our neighbors.” My parents and siblings live close by. My husband’s family also lives close by. As an Education Consultant, I have this awesome opportunity to connect with parents and share reading and writing strategies with them to encourage literacy at home.
No, there is need to move away to follow my dreams as God has already given me a wonderful life here in the Bay Area. I may not have been articulate as a 5th grader, but some goals have remained the same. I'm trying to do what I can to help make the world a better place right here in the place I call home.
"Yes, Rose. if you put it that way, I am one of the few. And I absolutely love it here."
**Interestingly, people have also asked if I am Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean or Filipino.
P.S. In case some of you missed the BUSD Parent University, here are a few pics from my workshop. I hope to see you at a future event!
Parents wrote down their thoughts to an exercise about family values and standards.
A parent volunteered to read a small part in a role-playing scenario.
Parents shared their thoughts with a table partner. Parents from 10 different elementary schools attended the BUSD Parent University.
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