Do you remember “Johnny” from the people profile last week? He is about to leave for UWC’s Norwegian campus to continue his high school. But, behind every successful student are amazing parents. He owes a lot of his success to his amazing mother!
Prior to Johnny’s cochlear implantation, Johnny’s mother was an excellent female entrepreneur in Suzhou. She left her enviable career to help prepare her son for his academic journey.
Language training was often mentioned by Johnny’s mother during her conversations with us. “Before 2005, it was difficult for children wearing cochlear implants to find professional language training institutions outside Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, including access to specialised equipment and professional teachers for the hearing impaired.” As a parent of a “pre-speech deaf” child, Johnny’s mother remains optimistic. “Parents need to be able to step up and help their children through the toughest parts of their development”. Her situation forced her to be strong, sacrificing her career for her family and teach her son to talk. She ferried him from Suzhou and to Shanghai three times a week for his classes and when they returned home helped him with his homework.
Now, if you have read the story of Johnny, you will know that he is a very candid, confident and inspiring child. His mother while training his language abilities, also wanted him to have his own “unique voice” but more importantly “be able to succeed in mainstream society and lead a happy life with dignity.”
In the process of educating her child, Johnny’s mother realized the importance of cultivating her child, but at the same time she wanted to make her life more meaningful as well, so she began to study psychology and passed the second counselor exam. As her child entered the UWC Suzhou campus, she realized that the process of studying abroad is a constant, gradual process, just like Johnny’s own path for language acquisition.
Her focus on positively influencing her child was a perfect match for Curio. Curio’s network of information about further education in the United States, a team of experienced counselors and thoughtful mentors helped Johnny’s mother prepare her son for the application process.
During the Spring Festival this year, Johnny went to Boston with Curio on the school tour. He got to experience ten university campuses but it was Harvard University that impressed him the most. In China, both online and offline, Johnny actively participated in Curio’s Firesides and also joined many public welfare activities.
Johnny gives a voice to students with hearing impairments.
Inspired by her exchanges with Curio, Johnny’s mother has set up a “Parent’s Guild”. It will hold interactive lectures to help parents understand the overseas education industry, understand new education policies, and share common problems parents have encountered while looking for solutions.
Curio’s Parents Guild.
Recently we had a chance to talk with Johnny’s mother about:
Q: In the beginning, you need at least one language that is needed for communication, so which one do you start with?
Johnny’s Mother: Before 5 years old, it is necessary to develop basic speech functions. The initial language training takes at least three years. You cannot waver in your language learning and you cannot let other languages interfere. There was no question that he first learn Chinese, as I couldn’t accept that my son would not understand Chinese in the future. Although Chinese is a very difficult language to learn, we decided to let him start in China so that the Chinese would remain his first language.
Q: How did you teach your child Chinese?
Johnny’s Mother: It is important to focus on everyday language. Every day as soon as my children returned home from the classroom we would train some more at home. Also every day at 8 in the morning we would also have a morning lesson. In the beginning, we focused on simple to learn words, like what items might be found in a kitchen. We then learned how to pronounce the words one by one.
Picture source from the movie: “Pretty Mom”(Piaoliang Mama)
Q: What are your most memorable memory from that time?
Johnny’s Mother: Teaching my child was very painful to me. It wasn’t having to repeatedly teach him pronunciation time and time again, it was the look others gave us in public. They watched us with pity or with strange looks.
Picture source from movie: “Pretty Mom”(Piaoliang Mama)
After teaching Johnny at home for a year, I once took him out to eat KFC. Because I had developed the habit of repeating the words I say again to my son loudly, when a Coke arrived I would turn to my son and loudly say “Coke” to him. This startled the people nearby and they looked at me strangely. I remember that day very clearly, and I had to turn back to the people who saw us tell them, “Sorry, my son is deaf. I’m teaching him to speak.” This is the first time, but I never wanted to run away from my son’s condition. Over time, I discovered that as parents, we learn how to accept our children’s situation.
Q: What surprises you most about your child learning English?
Johnny’s Mother: When he hears English, they are a different type of sound. Learning the words hundreds of times, he has to build a new database of words. How thick is an English dictionary, how big a database did he have to create? I think he is braver than me. As he grew up, he demanded more from himself. When he was learning English, he could feel that he was behind, and he was often upset. I told him that you will learn, it is just a matter of time. He just needs to persevere. He improved from 40 points to 92 points in the TOEFL test. It was not easy. I am very proud of him. He has been working hard, and of course, it has paid off. But sometimes, I also know that not everyone can follow this path. Whether he has a disability or not, the road he has chosen will not be easy. The beginning sometimes is easy, but sticking with something for 2, 3, 10, or 20 years becomes the real test.
Johnny’s Mother organizes Curio Parents’ Guild.
Q: Johnny plans to do an exchange program at UWC’s Norwegian campus. Can you share your thoughts on this with us?
Johnny’s Mom: My son played a song for me called “You Raise Me Up”, which really moved me. When your child finally grows up, it is their time to shine. Support them. I cultivate him in the hope that he can achieve higher goals. Of course, I will always worry. There is not a mother on earth who would not worry as her child plans to move thousands of miles away.
Q: What are your last words of encouragement for your child?
Johnny’s Mother: To grow from a boy to a man, you must get up after falling down. This is an inevitable process, and this is a lesson that must be taught during growth. As a mother, I am very afraid of all the problems he will encounter in the future, but I hope I have prepared him with the strength to never give up.