By an Anonymous SWS Student
When I was in kindergarten, I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and see a dim light coming out of my dad’s room. I would sneakily peer in there. Eventually, he would notice me. “What are you doing daddy?” I would ask. “I’m working, little man,” he would smile gently. “But why are you working at night?” “Because this is the time when Western countries work.” He invited me on his lap, and then I saw these “wormy letters,” long and short, on his computer screen, and my dad told me it was the language that they speak. Since then, in my little mind, there was a whole other world called the “Western countries” that wrote the “wormy letters” and worked during the night. Exploring that world became my dream.
As I grew up, my dad who travelled often, stoked my curiosity about the Western world by telling me how American and European children are encouraged to pursue their hobbies in their own way, play their favorite sports and express who they are. Whereas in my Chinese school, even wearing a necklace that my aunt gave me with Chinese prosperity symbols was enough to get me in trouble. I wondered what it would be like to live in that other place. At some point, my parents and I both decided the Chinese educational system was just too rigid; being forced to stay within the box and only focus on rote-learning destroys the kids’ creativity and capacity for critical thinking. My desire to come to the U.S. grew. I researched about American high schools, and the pedagogy of the Sacramento Waldorf School appealed to me. SWS focuses on nature, art, practical science, and most importantly, creativity and critical thinking. I convinced my parents to let me study at SWS, and in September of 2016, my American high school life started.
For me, it was hard at first when I was asked to be creative in class. I remember when the teacher asked us to play with tangram to create animal shapes in ninth-grade geometry. I wondered why we even waste time doing this. Isn’t it more useful for us to do more practice problems? Later on, I learned that this was an exercise to improve our operational ability and critical thinking. The process of figuring something out by ourselves was more important than just listening to what the teacher told us. Similarly, I was really uncomfortable at first when I was asked to put a presentation together with a group or when I had to act as a leader. As I gave my first presentation, though, I realized that it feels amazing when you lead others into a new field of knowledge. I saw that I understood the material better by communicating what I learned. I even discovered that I was quite good at helping others understand the material, and I began to volunteer as a tutor. The philosophy of encouraging self-learning and creativity that I encountered at SWS really amazes me. It has helped me understand the purpose of learning.
Last summer when I went back to China, I got a chance to put all my newfound skills to work while interning at my dad’s company, an international shipping business. I was able to help my dad throughout the communication and negotiation process and even got involved in the drawing up of the contracts and problem solving in the realm of logistics. Being able to get involved in my dad’s business was very exciting, and I felt like I had been given the chance to come full circle and give back to my dad who had inspired my learning journey at SWS in the first place.
At SWS I not only discovered a whole new world — I discovered me. I discovered what my gifts are and how I can contribute to the world in meaningful and fulfilling ways.