Oh My God, We’re Teachers

Well, both Jon and I are now teaching little Taiwanese kids English. We are both teaching at “cram schools” which are schools that kids go to here after their regular school. The kids here in Taiwan do so much school it’s absolutely ridiculous. They are literally in some type of class for 10-12 hours a day. So we get to teach them when they really should be playing, running around, or filling their brains with video games, which means that sometimes the kids can be a little crazy. The one thing we never really thought much about when we were getting into the teaching thing was discipline.

We kind of assumed that Asian kids would be little angels who are rigidly trained to do as they are told, sit quiet and be the best students ever. Well, not the case. Because really, Asian kids are just like all other kids. They’re very energetic, they speak exactly what they are thinking, they cry and they let snot hang out of their noses. So after our first few days of teaching, Jon and I quickly realized that we would have to figure out some effective classroom management techniques fast, otherwise the kids would be reeling out of our control, and teaching English would become utter chaos… Ha, ha, I bet all you parents and teachers reading this have a nice picture in your mind.

But really, Jon and I are having a ton of fun teaching! We’ve learned pretty quickly what works in class and what doesn’t, and surprisingly we’ve found that the actual English teaching comes pretty naturally to us. We thought that it could be hard communicating with the kids, but in actuality they’re very quick to pick things up and understand what you are saying. The classes that I teach have about 8 students in each and the kids range between 8 and 10 years old. Some of Jon’s classes are a bit bigger than mine, but he’s got a pretty awesome deal at his school, he gets to teach not only regular English class, but computer, art and physed! Ultimately, the best part is the kids. You get super attached to them (most of them) really fast, and they’re friggin’ hilarious. They literally crack me up every day! The questions and comments are awesome: “Teacher, why do you always wear the same pants?” or “Teacher, why is your hair yellow?” or “Nooo… not grammar. It is very bad!” or “Teacher, you have a big bum. It is very fat” (yes, I got that one).

So far it has been a very rewarding experience. And even though we’re the teachers, we seem to be learning a whole lot.

First Impressions

(This entry was written at the end of January before we put the blog up)

Instead of looking for work right away, Jon and I decided to take a couple weeks to explore around Taiwan to see what it has to offer. We’ve discovered that Taiwan has exceeded all our expectations and that it is a diverse place with a lot of things to see and do!

Even though everything seems to be “Made in Taiwan” we haven’t seen a single factory. Main cities have an exciting energy and are filled with people, bright signs, scooters and an incredible number of 7-Eleven’s. There is shopping almost everywhere you go. Jon and I found it pretty amusing as we realized that we really didn’t need to buy anything to bring with us in Canada! Outside of main cities, Taiwan has a lot of mountains with tropical forests to explore. Hiking and camping will definitely be on the agenda in the future! Another supposed secret of Taiwan is that it is filled with hot springs… We’ve visited a few, and they have definitely been great to relax in after a long day of walking (especially at Jon’s super-human walking pace). Along the East Coast and down at the Southern tip of Taiwan there are nice beaches for swimming and surfing and getting stung by jellyfish. Next time I’m not going skinny dipping…

Kidding, kidding.

Not knowing much Chinese has inhibited us somewhat, but so far we have been able to get around using a lot of pointing and relying on people who know minimal amounts of English. The most difficult part about it is not being able to read any of the Chinese characters, it makes it challenging to do almost everything from catching buses to ordering a bowl of noodle soup to recognizing where we are. I’m amazed at how well we can be understood by simply using hand signs, it’s a universal form of communication that goes unnoticed until you really need it.

Food has also been an interesting experience. Our usual way of ordering is to look at what other people are having and to point and it and nod… very sophisticated, I know. For the most part the food has been really good. However, we’ve also had many “mystery meals”. Jon ate something the other day that looked like some weird animal part. He thought he ordered chicken, but it definitely WAS NOT chicken. It was a big hunk of fatty flesh of some kind. It was one of the first times I’ve seen Jon look a little queasy eating. We’ve got a running joke that if we don’t know what something is, we go, “Ah it’s probably monkey brains again!”

One of the great parts about Taiwan is how friendly the people are here. The Taiwanese pride themselves on being welcoming and giving people. People go out of their way to help us, it’s incredible. The other day we got invited out for dinner by some Taiwanese ladies (friends of a friend of my grandma’s) who paid for our entire dinner, bought us a big bag of fruit, took us out for coffee after dinner, and offered to let us have one of their cellphones. Pretty nice for not having met them before, eh?

So all in all I’d say that we’ve had some pretty great first impressions of Taiwan!