I have worked at both of these kinds of schools in the last few years, and this is what I think about them. For those of you who aren’t aware, these are the two main kinds of schools that you can get hired to as a foreign ESL teacher in Taiwan. I will be talking about elementary school teaching, not high school, university, or other types of adult teaching jobs that are also available. With a Master’s, you can teach in universities as lecturers, outside of Taipei City (but in New Taipei City). You need a Phd to teach at universities in Taipei.
-So which teachers are Canadian? asks Student A.
-T. Range, T. K, and T. R., answers Student E.
-How about T. Br?
-He’s American, as is T. J., I interject.
-How about T. Be?
-He’s from England.
-What’s the difference between them all?
-It’s the way that they all say “out”. Canadians will say it this way. The English say it this way and Americans say it this way.
(Student E demonstrates to Student A, quite hilariously while I listen in. This whole conversation took place in Mandarin.)
As I left the school for a well deserved break, it was about 12:30 and I had yet to eat lunch, I came up the teaching director of the school shouting at someone in her office. While this might seem a common occurrence at most school, it isn’t at ours. I have never seen the TD shouting at anyone. The school is a family-owned affair. The TD’s sister is the manager, the grandmother and great-aunt also work there and all of the kids go to this school.
It’s the second week of school, but with a bank holiday last Monday (09/12/11), graduate school started up slowly. It will take until next week until everyone is finally registered to all of their classes. It took me a while to do so as well, because they changed up the system from a program that you installed on your computer to an online version. The online version is better, but you need to know where to go. I finally registered to my classes last Tuesday. I have three this semester:
Topics in Geometric Analysis: This class is with my thesis advisor and we will be exploring gradient flows in metric spaces. We will be using Luigi Ambrosio’s book of the same title. It promises to be an interesting class. Although, it’s not exactly what I’d like to do in my thesis, it’s getting there. I’d like more measure theory, but luckily, my advisor is doing research in the field. There are six students in the class, but only 4 were registered on Monday. I don’t know if the other two will be registering, my guess is yes. Two of my classmates are the other graduate students of my advisor. We are all going to a workshop in Hsinchu in Differential Geometry on Saturday. Since I work most Saturdays, it’s not really a problem getting up. It will be a break from the norm, and I have a keen interest in Differential Geometry.
Many people ask me if I love Taiwan. I don’t. However, there are good and bad things about living in Asia.
First and foremost, we paid off all of our debts. Both my wife and I went back to school fulltime and continued working fulltime, something that wasn’t possible in the US/Canada. We’ve since amassed more debt since we bought a duplex in Illinois (it’s a fixer-upper).
I wouldn’t want to do anything but teach in Taiwan, because schedules can be quite hectic in the corporate sector. I’m not interested in that. Neither was I ever interested in going back into programming and web design for a Taiwanese company.
Good article in the New Yorker about education and what it means to society. If college is a 4-year IQ test, then what’s grad school, especially in abstract disciplines like pure mathematics? I wonder. I fully appreciate being a graduate student in math. It makes your brain work in funny ways, and I like it.
[…] that the two most crucial ingredients in the mysterious mix that makes a good writer may be (1) having read enough throughout a lifetime to have internalized the rhythms of the written word, and (2) refining the ability to mimic those rhythms.
Professor X quoted in the New Yorker
In Taiwan, ESL teachers are usually matched with a Chinese co-teacher. This is true for all of my classes, but I spend most of my time with my K2 classes and I’ve known my co-teacher for over a year. When co-teachers take time off, the class starts to break down. The class doesn’t run as smoothly as before. When there is no co-teacher, the class isn’t as easy to run. This isn’t true for the older classes, but it is true in Kindergarten.
-You didn’t review!
The Grade 4 boys did terribly in the biweekly test. Shirley was shouting at them. I popped my head in after having marked their test very quickly after they finished it.
– If you did, you’d get 98% like Teresa.
– But teacher, I didn’t review, Teresa replied.
– If you’re Teresa, you don’t need to review. But if you aren’t, you need to!
This week, I’ve had two students puke their guts out. Both were from the K3 class, and not my own students. They both puked during snack time. If there’s one thing that I don’t deal with, it’s puke, pee, and poo. I let others take care of that. I don’t like seeing puke because it usually makes me retch. I’ve never thrown-up, but it’s the smell that gets to me. I used to have a puker in my class. Every single week, he threw up.
Taiwanese kids take a lot of medicine. In my opinion, a lot of them are over medicated. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve never seen kids take this much medicine before. Is it good or bad, I don’t really know. Whenever something is slightly wrong, the Taiwanese go to see the doctor. That takes some getting used to, because back home, I went to the doctor only when something was really wrong. I’ve probably been checked up more in Taiwan than anywhere else, and I’ve lived in France, Germany, and Canada.
In my class, I’ve got two children who wet their pants. It’s a boy and a girl. I’d be inclined to stick them back into diapers, but honestly, it doesn’t happen much under my watch. It’s happened once since the term has started, but my co-teacher tells me that it happens more frequently in the afternoon.
The problem with kids that are spoiled rotten is that they can be a handful when they come to Kindergarten. I’ve got a kid like that in my K2 class and he throws temper tantrums almost every day. He’s learned that this is the way that he gets what he wants and uses this with us. It’s the 3rd week of class, and I’ve never mollycoddled him. He’s been mollycoddled enough by his mother.
He latched onto the Taiwanese teacher and uses her as a surrogate mother. He constantly asks where she is and why she’s not around. My Mandarin is passable, so I understand him, but I always reply in English. He doesn’t speak much English, so he’s allowed to speak Mandarin, at least for now. No one else in the school is allowed, only new students. Personally, I would have put him in K1. He needs to learn the basics, but he picks up quickly so there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be speaking English in a few weeks or so.
He’s hit me, kicked me, shouted at me. I’ve had to physically grab him by the arms, while he flails his legs at me and put him outside the classroom. He never naps, and this drives my co-teacher insane because she can’t rest. He keeps the other kids awake. The other kids in class have started to make fun of him, and I encourage this right now to use it as peer pressure. I told the K3 class to do the same. Maybe that will work and he’ll stop his temper tantrums and he’ll sleep during nap time.
He’s getting better, but each and every day, there’s an issue. I think that tomorrow, if he freaks out, I’ll put him in the K1 class, the “baby” class. Usually that works. He’s had a lot of issues. He can’t wash his hands by himself, he can’t wipe his ass, he can’t nap, etc. I believe in tough love and don’t encourage any of this behavior. However, my co-teacher enabled him because she gave him the attention that he wanted. This week, she’s had enough and toughened up her stance.
When the other kids were making fun of him and imitating him, he went up to them and tried to put his hand on their mouths. That crossed a line for me. I don’t allow any kind of fighting, and this was pretty aggressive. He got the boot out of class for that.
In my 5 years of teaching, I’ve rarely seen temper tantrums this bad. They actually make me laugh and I don’t hide this, so that he feels ridiculed. Hopefully all of these techniques will make him realize that it’s my way or the highway.