Meet my friend Lilian Ng! She is the first person to be interviewed for new section of my blog “Faces of Chinatown”.
What is your profession?
I am an elementary public school teacher teaching 2nd grade this year.
Where is your school located and what are the demographics of the children?
My school is in the Lower East Side borderline Chinatown. A little over 50% of the children are Chinese and the rest of the percentage are black, Hispanic, and white.
How did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
I knew I wanted to be a teacher since the age of 5. I still remember lining my stuffed animals in rows or “playing collaboratively” in groups on the floor. I would hand out tests and actually put in grades in a grade book that I found at some 99 cent store. I remember, and I laugh just thinking about it, putting a book cover on every single children’s book that I owned and using an index card to create my own check-out system just like my teachers did. For our 5th grade community service, I would volunteer during my lunch times to visit Kindergarten classes to do read alouds. Teaching just felt natural and gave me joy in seeing the little ones smile and learn.
What are some of the greatest challenges in your school?
It can be difficult to get funding and have a good budget for everything we need. It is also a very diverse community so there can be difficulties with finding translators, making sure we have plenty of support for our English language learners, and communicating with the families.
How can everyday people contribute or help?
I think with families involved, it’s a huge help when children are reading and writing at home as well as socializing and learning to play outside of the school environment. Children then come in more prepared at school and have more confidence in their abilities. Because we struggle financially, people can also help with donating to the PTA or to specific classrooms through this incredible non-profit website called Donorschoose.
Favorite teaching moment
Oh my. There are so many great moments it’s hard to just pick one! But if I have to pick, recently I had my class do a ripped paper collage of a bird of their choice for their final projects. After weeks of studying birds of New York City, their eyes lit with excitement when I told him their task and the silent applause was in the air. They picked their top three choices and I formed their groups. After researching their bird, they worked together to make the collages and practiced rehearsing their writing for the other classes. I have never seen a group get so excited about perfecting their presentations and making sure they knew their information and spoke with clear voices! That was probably one of my favorite moments in my career thus far.
First Chinatown Memory
Dumplings! The first time that I really hung out in Chinatown was in high school when my friends all went to purchase dumplings on a tiny street on a hill across Columbus Park. We would then bring our takeouts over to the park and hang out until dawn. Those dumplings are still my guilty pleasure till this day!
What does Chinatown mean to you?
Strong cultural roots. Authentic Chinese food from different regions and provinces. Good hearted people who care strongly about the community and trying To balance the modern ways while still keeping the traditional ways. I get grossed out from the feeling of some streets being super dirty but honestly, there is so much history and so many wonderful things going on. I used to hate Columbus Park, but after studying the park and its purpose for different visitors, I’ve learned to appreciate the uniqueness of it and all the social opportunities it offers for everyone, especially the nearby elderly.
Favorite ice cream flavor
I love coffee ice cream, but when it comes to the ice cream factory, black sesame wins!