Thursday, December 30, 2010

KGIC Keepsakes and Memories part 7

KGIC Maiko 3

It was really gratifying to get this letter from one of the many students at King George International College (KGIC) where I worked from around 2002-2003. I don't recall this particular student had anything problems other than the usual schoolwork. She was, however, one of the few extra-studious ones, who hung around after classes to get extra help with their English.

Word gets around the school, however, and I think somehow just being empathetic to the students about their lives here and their troubles with living abroad had warmed them to me and given me a good reputation. I give a lot of credit to Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People and the Vancouver Crisis Centre for training me with that mindset and giving me the tools.
I don't know if I would have done so well at the school if I hadn't started volunteering with the Vancouver Crisis Centre only a few months prior in November 2001 -- especially as I was (and am) still generally very shy about approaching anyone I don't know.

It was also really handy that I was "just" a teaching assistant/conversation assistant, rather than a teacher. Teachers have schedules and classes to teach, while TAs could be more flexible. I remember there were a couple of times when I saw a student very distressed to the point of almost crying, and I was able to just skip class to spend time with them, just listening to them or being with them.

Vocabulary can be a big barrier to communicating, but I think you'll be surprised how far you can get with happy/sad/mad/glad/bad, and doing your best to emote with hand gestures. People figure it out a lot of the time.

And something else the Crisis Centre taught me is that people are often more resilient and capable than you think. Just because they are in distress doesn't mean you have to help them solve anything -- in fact, trying too hard to solve their problems can worsen things.
Often, just being there and letting them tell their story or have their say, listening non-judgmentally and genuinely trying to understand their perspective, can be all they need for the moment.

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