Shared Stories: A Magical Learning Experience

Candy Wong has a grown son who is a medical student.  Her driving passion now is to master English and attend an American college. She is grateful to her first professor at Cerritos College who quoted Will Smith, taught her life skills as well as English, and introduced her to a life-changing exercise – the full plank. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Candy Wong

How would you feel if you could never read a book? Never understand what people around you are saying? 

When I first came to the United States, I could do none of the above. I felt helpless when two people were talking in front of me, because I didn’t understand what they were talking about.
With this built-up frustration, I decided to study the spoken word.

Since I began studying English 20 at Cerritos College, there has been a big change in my life. My English has improved and I have become an active learner. I consider my English professor, Dr. QB, as my mentor. 

Before taking Professor QB’s class, I was a lost college student who didn’t know what to do, but Professor QB taught me how to be a better college student through encouragement, practicing the full plank exercise, using time management, linking up with student clubs, writing essays, and benefiting from her college story and her attitude to students. I have learned what I need to do in my academic path.

Dr. QB made me believe that I could advance my English through hard work. Even when I was in English 20, I found that writing was difficult for me. I didn’t have the confidence to study at a higher level, but Dr. QB told me firmly that I could pass the next class - English 52. Now I am taking Dr. QB’s English 100 online course, and it is a huge challenge for me.

I learned a new exercise when I enrolled in her class.  My class started at 7 a.m. Some of my classmates were very sleepy. Dr. QB asked us to do an exercise called a full plank because it can make our blood circulate better. We wouldn’t feel so tired in class. 

She demonstrated how to do it. We put our hands and feet on the floor and straighten our bodies like a pieces of wood. 

We did full plank only few seconds the first time.  Each day we held it longer than the last time. I have continued to do this exercise for more than three months.

I found my asthma condition has been improving. In the past, I was attacked by asthma every month and took steroids to control my condition. There were side effects to my body using steroids such as weight gain, grayish skin, and insomnia. 

My son is a medical school student. He warned me if I didn’t take steroids to control my asthma, I might die of respiration problems. I could not imagine that full plank could relieve my health condition. I have improved my English in English 20, and I also got the benefits from doing full plank.

Dr. QB taught me time management. We needed to record our activity for five days. From the information on my log, I analyzed that I was a person using most of my time to help others to do urgent things. It often made me lack time to do my important things. 

Dr. QB asked students to do a daily planner, a weekly planner, and a course planner to guide us to study, to work, and to rest. After I learned how to do this, I have procrastinated a lot less. The pace of my life seems easier than before.

Dr. QB led students to link up with different students’ clubs in Cerritos College. She divided us into several groups to do research and use PowerPoint to introduce Cerritos College student clubs.

It was a very useful activity; some of our classmates joined the clubs after the presentation.  Dr. QB emphasized that students should make good use of school resources to help them advance.

Dr. QB taught us how to write an essay. After many practices in writing, I could recite the writing procedures without thinking. I have learned writing an essay since I was in elementary school, but no teacher could help me totally remember all the steps of writing correctly. Under Dr. QB’s very clear instructions, each time I wrote an essay I could apply these writing rules spontaneously.  

I enjoyed the 10-minute writing prompts in her class. They were great warm-up writing exercises at 7 a.m. I had a comfortable feeling after using my all my strength to write out my thoughts.

Professor QB set herself as an example to teach students how to succeed in college. She told us when she was in college, she didn’t know her goals and dreams. Therefore, when she was in her sophomore year, she dropped out.  From her working experiences, she encountered many unfair situations. 

Those experiences made her know that if she wanted to have meaningful life, she would need to go back to school. Even after she went back college and got her degree, for many years she still could not find a job she really loved.  Until she found her element; she saw that she was advancing towards her goals. She reminded each student going to college to set up his/her goals and drive himself/herself to accomplish them.  

College was a place for us to grow through seeking out our experiences and opportunities. Her college experiences lifted my spirit to study, as I could relate to her.

Dr. QB is an effective person. She prepares her lessons very well. Every activity in the class was connected smoothly. I didn’t see her in a rush or forget to bring something in class.  I appreciated when I observed her talk to students. She was very serious about her teaching, but in her heart she is very kind to students. She really wants to help students successfully transfer to a four-year college.

Dr. QB taught us not to abandon our goals and to persevere through our obstacles. Studying and taking the class English 100 is extremely difficult for me. Someone had once told me that there were many students who had to retake English 100.  

Dr. QB had quoted Will Smith’s view on success to teach us about studying hard.  Will Smith stated, “I’ve never viewed myself as particularly talented… while the other guy is sleeping I’m working… while the other guys are eating, I am working… I’m working really hard.” 

I really connected with these words and that drove me to do my best. The learning experience from English 20 is magic in my life. The magic combines everything I love and requires everything I have to offer. It requires dedication and practice. To be a student of Dr. QB, I believe it is one of the most precious experiences I have had in my life.