by Adriana Torres, a member of the SkillCorps® China-Nanchang October 2018 team
To put this experience into words is an impossible task, but I am going to try. So far, I can sum it up in a couple of words: funny, emotional, eye opening, amazing, inspiring.
Besides learning how to get our needs met with gestures (thank goodness for Isabelle and our wonderful translators), the team and I have made extraordinary gains in learning key phrases, eating with chopsticks and adapting to a new method of releasing bodily fluids (Welcome to China!). We’ve laughed together and bonded in such a short amount of time, which is part of this remarkable experience and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sometimes when you put a group of strong clinicians together, there is a fear of conflict or clashing of ideas. However, that’s not an issue with our SkillCorps team! It’s impressive to see the level of collaboration and shared passion as we work towards a common goal.
Over the weekend, we visited an ancient village about an hour away from where we are staying in Nanchang. One of the walls of the building was described to us as the “tofu” wall (tofu is not always bought, eaten, found, etc); the reason being that the gaps in between the bricks of the wall were filled with raw material that wasn’t easily available or accessible. It is that material that helped to strengthen the wall, ensuring that it would withstand weather or anything else that might threaten to break it down. The material that filled the gaps wasn’t meant to alter the wall, but instead a reinforcement for what was already standing.
I think of SkillCorps as comparable to this. We aren’t here to “fix” or “change” anything in organizations; rather , we are here to fill in the gaps to an already existing “wall” if you will, and help make it strong enough to sustain over time. We are reinforcing the system that they’ve built and supporting them in the areas that need “filling of gaps” to keep the wall strong.
I observed a group lesson the other day at Huicong that was teaching the concept of same and different. I learned many things while sitting in the observation. One of course being the words for same and different: yi yang and bu tong. The teacher’s presentation of the concept was fun, engaging, and comprehensive. She walked around holding objects up to the students and they had to identify if the object was yi yang (same) or bu tong (different).
It was absolutely amazing to see this teacher apply ABA techniques in such a large group setting! When she asked us for feedback afterwards, it was really just a moment for us to build on her already strong skills, reinforce what she is doing already, and “fill in the gaps.” When providing positive feedback, her response was that she has never really known she was actually applying techniques of ABA because she was doing lessons on her intuition. I remember telling her, “Follow that! Keep doing what you are doing, and know that you are already strong!”
I first embarked on this journey thinking that I was bringing a lot to the table, that I had a lot to offer the teachers at Huicong and was going to do my part in helping the school stay strong in providing service. The truth is, I am not the one bringing a lot to the table. The teachers at Huicong are teaching me so much about passion, love, integrity, and this field as a whole. The teachers dedicate a huge amount of time, effort and heart to these children -which is evident by the genuine laughter and smile on their students’ faces everyday.
Their main focus is in growing the potential of the children and increasing their quality of life. As a result, they are open to learning, pursue further training, and apply their knowledge whole heartedly. Personally, I feel that this is something some of us forget in the states while working in the field of ABA. We need more of that: more passion, more desire to grow, more love. Being here is helping to resurface that in my life- what has been missing in the midst of the crazy and busy life of a BCBA- that i believe will help make me a stronger clinician and individual overall. I am forever grateful for the teachers and students at Huicong for being the raw material my life needed to fill in the gaps.