Category: Teaching English

Leaving the Teaching Field

After two years I’m leaving school.

While I’m happy to leave, I was touched by the send off I received from my students.

The fifth graders, with whom I spent the most time, of course, had nothing positive to say. They were more excited about the snacks and drinks I told them they could bring, and extra ones I brought in myself. I made my last day a party day, waiving quizzes and homework right and left.

I asked them if they would miss me. “Maybe,” one answered. I did hear one very quiet “Yes,” from one of the quieter kids.

At least one of them would miss me, I thought. That’s something.

Unfortunately, because we had a rain day in Taipei the day before I left, I didn’t get to say good-bye to my kindergarteners. Basically, one day I was teaching them, and the next day I was gone.

I knew they liked me because every time, they would come running after me shouting, “Hi teacher!” It was cute and I will miss them the most.

My last class of the day was late on a Friday night. This particular class had recently been merged, and so, for the first time ever, I had my Monday night and Friday night students in the same room in addition to another class with some kids I didn’t know very well. There were 17 kids in that class in the weeks leading up to my departure from the school.

I told them all that on the last day they were welcome to bring in snacks and drinks. They were pretty excited about that.

Predictably, not too many of them seemed to care that I was leaving. However, considering that teachers at buxibans are like a revolving door, this didn’t surprise me too much.  They were more  concerned whether the new teacher would be “an angry” teacher, by which I took they wanted to know if she was nice or not.

For the last twenty minutes of class, I let them pull out their snacks and drinks and play games.  I walked around among them, chatting with my favorite students. The ones I didn’t like I didn’t talk to at all.

A couple of the girls wanted to take a picture of me which I thought was flattering. Until I saw one of them putting my image into an app on her phone that would add a mustache and give me a bunch of goofy hairdo’s.  Thanks, kid.

At the end of the day I chatted with a couple of girls from my Monday class. Amber, in particular, seemed sorry to see me go.  One of the other students told me she had snapped my picture earlier when I was still teaching. So I walked over, and asked if she wanted to take one with me. She got all red and shy and quiet, but eventually came bouncing over.

When class ended I gathered my books together and headed down to the teacher’s room. Hovering outside was Joey, the brother of one of my fifth graders, and a recent addition to my Friday night class.  He quietly asked me, with a nervous air, casting furtive glances behind him, if he could have my email address.  It was so cute. I asked him if he was going to write me, and he said he would.
And that was it. That was my great big send off.

I’d like to say that I will miss teaching, but I’d be lying.

But, I enjoyed the experience of getting to know the kids. I learned a lot.

I learned how to make children cry, and how to make them laugh. I learned how to talk to them, and I even learned a little something about teaching.

And now, it’s onto bigger and better things. A new career in Editing.

I can’t wait to get started.

I love the English nicknames in Taiwan.

Many Taiwanese adopt an English nickname.  Either the student or the parents, or sometimes the school, choose an English name for them based on a whim so that their English teachers have something to call them.  The foreign teachers  can’t pronounce the vast majority of Chinese names nor are inclined to try.  These names aren’t legal in any sense of the word. They don’t show up on any IDs, nor are they logged anywhere officially, yet these nicknames are so prolific that many people come to be known  by their English nicknames sometimes more than their Chinese names.

They were surprising at first because they aren’t your typical popular American names as well you might imagine.

Sure, there are some common names like Sean, or Kenny.  Kevin is very popular for no reason that I can discern.  I currently have in one of my classes a Brandon (very fashionable)  Eric, Brian and Justin.  But those are my youngest kids. For girls I hear names like Emily, Dora, Flora and Michelle.

Then I get the slightly less common names like Selina, Harry, Ariel, and Ellina.  Not too out there, but not quite common either.

There are entirely too many little girls called Angel and Candy around here.

We then move onto the truly old-fashioned names. And so I have Wilson, Gary, Gordon and Allen.  Not exactly popular names for kids these days.  For the girls I have Jasmine, Ginger, Nancy, Mabel, and (gah!) Miranda.  None of these will be making the top ten most popular names’ list this year. Or any time soon.

And then there are the kids and adults who have really odd names. I have an adult male student named Shine. I love his name.  He told me he picked it because it sounds like the first part of his Chinese name.   And he doesn’t see the absurdity of it at all.  I have an adult female student whose nickname is Mavis, pronounced Ma(ah)vis, rather than Ma(ay)vis. I have a Hansom (neither Handsome nor Hanson either of which would make more sense), a Mimi, a Soldier (pretty popular) and one Royal. I used to have an Ivan. Ivan?! Why for god’s sake?  That’s an anglicized foreign name for crying aloud.

I can’t forget Berffy.  Seriously, the sweetest nicest kid you’ll ever meet. How in the world did she get saddled with a name like that?

And then there’s Nemo. I think I like his name the best. He looks like a Nemo and acts like a Nemo.

Just look at him all Nemo like in his costume.

Nemo will destroy you.

Do they like me or hate me and why can’t I tell?

Friday nights have been my most challenging school nights all year.  For whatever reason, I have two of the most annoying classes one right after the other.  Every week I look forward to Friday with mixture of anticipation and dread.

Like every Friday the last one was no different. One class in particular is packed with a host of little demons. Individually, I actually like all of these kids quite a bit. But when put together, they’re like a pack of wild animals.  They sniff around for my weak spots and do their level best to find new ways to piss me off.

Its their only entertainment in life, apparently.

Every week it’s something different.  They’ll draw stuff on the white board when my back is turned. Shake my pop when I’m out of the classroom. Take my sticky balls and attach them to the ceiling, hide behind stacks of desks and pretend they’re not there, draw all over the board whenever my back is turned and other shenanigans. One time over a ten minute break they took my dry erase markers and made a pointillist painting over my entire dry erase board.  When I came back, they laughed uproariously at my expression and then begged me to find their hidden names in the entire mess.

I was impressed with their cleverness in that one.

For months, one kid would call me handsome, after I explained that handsome is a word better applied to men. Then, when I just smiled sweetly and thanked him for the compliment, he took to calling me ugly. “Aw, teacher, you’re so ugly”. I listened to that for about three weeks before I finally told him it was disrespectful. Time will tell if that has any effect.

Instead, as a class, they’ve now reverted to calling me handsome, mean, crazy, or evil depending on their mood and if they like what I’m doing or not.

They rag on each other just as much, I have to admit. And I’m not above reproach either. I get them as  good as they get me from time to time.  But honestly, I don’t have the patience to deal with it every week.

I share this class with another teacher who teaches them on Mondays, so thankfully I only deal with them once a week.

On Monday, it being a rare nice day in Taipei, I decided to do some of my assessment and grading out in front of the school at a little patio table that no one ever uses.  It’s nice to be able to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine and the not so fresh air that is a trademark of Taipei.

I couldn’t have been out there for more than five minutes before one of the kids saw me, gave me a fake little smile and wave, and went busting into the school at full speed to tell his little friends about what “crazy teacher” was up to now.   Not even two minutes after that, he came sidling back out to peek over my shoulder and tell me I’m sooooo crazy.

When I didn’t rise to the bait he left and I heaved a sigh of relief.

Too soon.

Next, another kid came out to peer over my shoulder and read the reports I was writing.  I told him to get lost and ignored him.

Another sigh of relief.  Again too soon.

For when next I glanced up, there were five of them ranged behind me cackling like little hyenas.

That was kind of funny, I have to admit.  Why they bothered though, I honestly have no idea.

But seriously, do these kids like me or hate me? I can’t figure them out.

When I was a kid, I was usually quiet in class. Even when I wasn’t I didn’t do everything I could to get on my teachers’ nerves. Especially not the teachers I liked.

So what gives? If you know…by all means, enlighten me.

Miniatures Museum of Taiwan

Well it’s that time of the week again and where I get to thrill you with my wild and woolly Taiwanese adventures.

Last week saw the start of our winter semester break at school. Basically, the kids get three weeks off from their regular school for Chinese New Year, and since their parents don’t have anything else to do with them they get put into winter break school. Poor kids.

Anyway, we went on a field trip to the Miniatures Museum which I initially thought would be  quite boring but actually it was pretty interesting.

They had every scene you could imagine from Barbie’s family tree to traditional Chinese dolls, to robots, cars and even a mini TV smaller than a stamp that actually worked. I could kick myself for missing that part too. Somehow that was the one part of the museum I didn’t pay any attention to and didn’t even realize what I had missed until I read the brochure after we had left.

The pictures are posted  below. Some are of my students fooling around for my camera, and you’ll notice that some of them are somewhat blurry. Unfortunately my camera takes horrible pictures in dim lighting and we weren’t allowed to use  flash.

I hope you enjoy and I’ll update again fairly soon. I’ve been busy running around doing all sorts of things this week so that’s why this post is so late. On the upside that means within the next few weeks I’ll probably be posting a little more than normal.

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Teaching Kids

Teaching kids is tough, but my sister is right. It is more rewarding. Young kids, I mean. Teaching young kids is rewarding. The little monsters I normally teach don’t give me a sense of accomplishment at all.

For the next couple of weeks I’m subbing for a kindergarten class and I must admit, I like those kids a lot better than I do my older kids and the adults that I teach.

I never thought I’d hear myself saying such a thing.

I think this qualifies as stepping outside of my comfort zone since I’m so far out that my comfort zone has disappeared from view.

Today, on top of the subbing that I’m doing, I also started my very own preschool class. It’s only for fifty minutes a couple of times a week but it should be an interesting experience.

There were a few tense moments at the beginning of class with one kid bawling his eyes out and a second looking right on the verge of doing the same. We let the kid’s mom stay for part of the class and by the end he even managed to crack a smile.  A success if I do say so myself.

The rest of the parents nervously crowded around the window to the classroom for the entire time. Every time I happened to glance up, I could see eyes peering in at me through the tinted glass but hey, I don’t blame them. These kids are pretty young. I think one is three and the rest of them are about four.

After the tears were dried we learned how to tell each other our names, and what stand up and sit down meant along with a few other choice words. At the end of class we learned how to line up, and follow teacher.

My teacher’s aide was pretty helpful and helped explain things to the kids to get the ball rolling. All in all, it went off without a hitch.

I’m shaking my head over the fact that I’m even writing this post. I just never ever thought I’d be teaching kids this young. And enjoying it. I bet people who know me are getting a good laugh out of this, and I must admit, I am too.


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