2013-11-18 My dandelion experience – Shelby Bennett

 My dandelion experience

Shelby Bennett


During my time at Dandelion Middle School, I have felt so alive. I have been surrounded by so much love, generosity, sincerity, and enthusiasm. While I love the colorful walls, the mosaics, the creative classrooms, the good food, and the beautiful trees, the people are what make this school truly special. Part of my heart will always be at Dandelion School because of these people and how they have loved me.

I came to the school with very little as far as finances, so I had no money to spend on extra things. But I still remember how nearly every day, a different teacher would simply give me some delicious treat just because they wanted to. They had no idea how much it meant to me, even such a little thing. It demonstrated to me that the teachers here are not so focused on their tasks or their job that they miss opportunities to bless people. Rather, their focus is to bless people, whether their students, the volunteers, or each other.

Many of the teachers can speak English very well, and they are always so welcoming and eager to talk. But I have been also very impacted by the teachers whose English is very minimal, and who still go to the effort to communicate with me. I know it would be easier for them to just walk past me with a smile and a wave, but instead they will stop and slowly ask me “how are you?” or “what did you do this weekend?” Their focus on building relationships is a huge part of what has built this school.

I personally work with 于菲菲 (Kitty) in our character class, and I absolutely love everything we do together. She is so easy to work with, and always encourages my ideas. She supports what I want to do, but fills in the gaps with great activities, stories, and games of her own as well. She has gained the students’ respect, but she is also their friend. And of course, she is a great translator in our class. Without her, I don’t know what I would have done this semester. She brings a smile to my face just by thinking of her, and I am so grateful for Kitty!

I am also so grateful for the principal, Dr. Zheng. While I love and respect many people, there are very few persons to whom I really look up to as a role model. Dr. Zheng is one of those people. She inspires me in how she took an idea and turned into such a life-changing program in such a short time. She has done so many great things, and yet she also takes time to stop and do the little things, like notice the little girl who was falling asleep during the opening ceremony, and go buy my milk and bananas to enjoy with my coffee. She demonstrates “servant leadership” by leading through support. And that special leadership is probably the biggest reason why this is such a special place.

And of course, there are the students. They are all so different that there is hardly anything I can generally say about all of them except this: I love them all! Some, like Sally and Lisa, are so sweet and encouraging that I can’t stop smiling when I talk with them. Some, like Li Jia, are so hardworking and dedicated that it is my honor to help them learn. Some, like Bill, are so energetic that it’s hard for him to focus in class, but he has so much potential to do amazing things with his skills. I have so many treasured notes, emails, pictures, and memories with my students that I will never, ever forget. The idea of leaving these precious faces and hearts seems impossible to me. But I know I will only be here a short time. When I leave, I most of all want them to know that I love them, that they are important, and that they are alive to Love others. If they live to love others in whatever they do, these Dandelion students will make this world such a beautiful place.

The more I write, the more I feel like I have barely begun to truly describe how grateful I am for this experience. I may be here to teach, but I am learning so much more than I am teaching. I treasure every second I get to spend here, and I am so grateful to everyone who has made this possible. Thank you; I love you all!