One of the most influential people we encounter in life are teachers. At some point, a child will spend more time with her teacher than her parents. Is teaching simply a skill or something more? There is often a temptation to think of education in terms of the academe. In the article “Roles, Empathy and Leadership”, young China-born writer Nikita Liu shares how her ongoing education has been the fruit of many out-of-classroom encounters, insights, and experiences. And the consistent and defining thread in them all is empathy.
Liu passionately believes in empathy and leadership. From 2013 to 2017, she was deputy secretary of the Student Party Branch at her university. Previously, she held served at the Promotion of the Office of Entrepreneurship, Public Relations Department of Media and Art Group. Her full essay can be found in the book Leadership that Triumphs: Moments of Greatness in the Work of Leadership.
When I went to college, I majored in English Translation. I did this because I knew that if I wanted China or the world to hear my voice and ideas, English was the medium I would have to use. I therefore chose English as my undergraduate major and Education as my postgraduate major. With great enthusiasm, I devoted myself to practicing my English skills and absorbing new knowledge about education and educational psychology. In my sophomore year, I was selected to be an exchange student at Taiwan’s I-Shou University for a term, due to my outstanding performance. I was so grateful for the opportunity that I strove to be best in every course, maintaining a position in the top five. During my time in Taiwan, I saw the vast differences between mainland China’s education and the successful Western-influenced system in Taiwan. The college I went to in China was a research university, while the one in Taiwan was a practical one. For me, combining the two concepts and drawing strengths from each was an exciting prospect.
However, though I felt elated to have been given the opportunity to experience different kinds of educational concepts, I couldn’t stop thinking of my childhood friends. I was a fan of superhero movies, and I wished that I had superpowers to destroy the “bad people” and prevent injustice from happening again. I wanted a happy ending, but unfortunately, in real life, I don’t have any of these superpowers. I have to achieve my goals step by step, using whatever powers I have in myself. On campus, I gave full attention to my psychology courses because, in my opinion, mental-health education was very important. There is a Chinese phrase, “The body is the capital of revolution.” I intend to understand more about education in Asia before I finish my degree. I also intend to work continuously in the education industry and create opportunities to educate more people. In order to do this, I have actively participated in various internships, working in kindergarten and middle-school classes to accumulate the practical experience I need. I did this in both China and Malaysia. Through these activities, I observed the varying mental development of children at different ages, taking into account the different teaching methods. I worked with toddlers, teaching them manners, gender-difference awareness, safety awareness, and survival skills. I realized that these common-sense topics were normal in the city but were not given enough emphasis in rural areas. With teenagers, Ispent time discussing the challenges of growing up and encouraged them to change some of their extreme views about behavior in the classroom or puberty. I saw that it was important to give counseling and advice to the students to improve their mindset as they matured into young adults.
Education does not happen only in educational institutions, such as in classrooms and university buildings. It happens anywhere, everywhere, and in all phases of a person’s life. So what is the future of education in Asia? How can I help to educate children in China and perhaps in Asia more broadly? Where do I belong? I admired Mark Zuckerberg’s wife, Priscilla, when she told the media that she wanted to build “The Primary School,” which would not only accept children who couldn’t afford tuition fees but also provide medical treatment and counseling for free. She inspired me to think about other aspects of education, so I decided to do some research to find out the real situation in Asia. This was when I volunteered to attend the educational project in Malaysia and teach kindergarten and primary school.
The experience created the path to my future aspirations. I want not only to educate people in China but to help them build dreams and find their own aspirations by learning useful skills. This will give them more than one option when they want to get a job or help others. I was excited by working with such young minds and was proud to be able to spread my own culture and language. I put a lot of effort and heart into this project and wanted to make a positive impact, my lifelong dream. I adhered to the Chinese phrase, “Man’s nature is good at birth,” meaning that young minds are a fresh place to start sowing seeds of goodness. This is essential in building better communities. Sometimes I even had to balance myself in handling those children between being a good teacher and being a friend.
Empathy is an important word in my life. It is important in all aspects of our daily lives, as we continuously live in some kind of social situation. Putting ourselves in other people’s shoes is an admirable virtue that everyone should strive for. Comforting others is a comfort to oneself. All this accumulated knowledge and experience I have received has broadened my horizon, given rise to original ideas, and established my own systematic way of teaching others. My Master’s degree will be the last step in gaining the technical knowledge and the qualifications I need to crystallize my goal in life.
By Nikita Liu