New Teacher Q & A with Allen Chai

Q: What is your name, and will you please spell it for me?

A: Allen Chai.

Q: What subject do you teach specifically?

A: I teach algebra and geometry.

Q: How was your summer?

A: It was great, I really enjoy yoga and surfing, so I went to yoga often twice a day over the summer. I spent time in India specifically to learn yoga a few years ago, so I really got into that whole kind of lifestyle, and then surfing is something I got into over the summer recently. I went to Costa Rica over the summer and surfed there. Playa hermosa; it’s a really nice beach. So I’ve been surfing here at Surfside, I found that’s the best spot that’s within a reasonable driving distance.

Q: So you’re hobbies are yoga and surfing?

A: And plants, like orchids. The plants in my classroom are big house plants, and they were really heavy and hard to bring in.

Q: They look very heavy.

A: Yeah, so I like taking care of plants, and I have a lot of orchids at home, some of them are really nice and prize orchids that could be up to a hundred dollars.

Q: Oh wow. So what made you decide to become a teacher?

A: I’ve always wanted to be useful to society, so I used to work for the World Wildlife Fund in Beijing, so that was me trying to help the world. But I felt really far-removed, because I was just sitting behind the computer directing things away from actual changes going on. I felt far-removed from good work, so this job is helping people directly.

Q: What made you decide to come to Bellaire?

A: It has a really great reputation, and I met the math head and my interview with her was awesome and I really liked her. I had other places, but I chose Bellaire because the people were the nicest and it seemed like there was a real community of teachers.

Q: What were or are your expectations coming into Bellaire High School, it being so big and diverse?

A: I didn’t have many expectations, I just expected it to be big and diverse.

Q: How have your first few days been so far?

A: It’s been really great. All my students have been paying attention, so nothing negative. I’m happy.

Q: What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?

A: When I see people learning. They didn’t know something on Monday, and now they know something on Tuesday. I get a kick out of that.

Q: What do you think makes a “good day” at school?

A: That I’ve done all my planning and preparations, and the lesson goes smoothly, and the students are happy that they learned and I didn’t bore them to death.

Q: What inspires you to teach everyday?

A: The growth of the students, definitely. They didn’t know proofs two days ago, and now they do, so yeah.

Q: What do you look forward to this school year?

A: I look forward to improving. Last year was a big success for me, so more success. Students doing really well.

Q: How do you want your students to remember you?

A: As someone who tried and cared.

Q: If you weren’t a teacher, what career do you think you would’ve gone into.

A: I may be unique, but this is my second career. I was doing something different before. I organized events, working for the World Wildlife Fund. I organized press events, and I produced a TV commercial in China. We did these things to get news coverage about our event. We asked everyone to turn off their lights. I used to work on bringing awareness to climate change. Anything environmental, and helping people, I’m into that.

Q: Was your room set up before you came in? Did it take you a while to make it the way you wanted it to be?

A: No, the previous teacher did a really great job clearing it out. It was just that the plants were so heavy to carry. I’m really into feelings because a lot of people are scared of math, so it’s not all robotic or something, there’s a lot of emotions involved in math. So I stress students being courageous, even in the face of fear, to face the fear. Acknowledge they have the fear, but go ahead and do the hard work of facing that fear.

Q: Do you have any words that you live by?

A: Yeah, I do have words to live by. “I am worthy of love, belonging, and connection.” But it’s not “I”, I made my students say it all together. It’s “we”, like we are worthy. “We are worthy of love, belonging, and connection”. That’s the most important thing. You have to know that you’re worthy or else you don’t have a lot of self-confidence, because it’s hard to be courageous.

Q: Alright, that is it for my questions. Thank you so much for your time.