Pingtung, Taiwan – July 16
by Rosalie Chan, Web and News Editor
I’m finally at Pingtung, where the school I will be teaching at, Cheng Wen Elementary School, is located. It is a total change of scene from Taipei. In some ways being here is better than being at Chien Tan Center, but in some ways it’s worse. For the most part though, it’s better.
One thing that I like is…no more sitting through boring classes and lectures! Not much has happened at Chien Tan since I last posted. On July 4, Independence Day, which frankly, I forgot about due to being in Taiwan, we had two three-hour classes about classroom management and activities. At night, we discussed what to do for our teaching demos with our partners and made props because the next day, each teaching pair had to go up in front of a large group and pretend to teach. That’s what we spent Thursday doing, watching teaching demo after teaching demo after teaching demo. My partner and I taught about numbers, but since we were teaching second graders who have never learned English before, we had to completely simplify everything. The good thing is, we don’t have to actually teach them reading and writing words—just listening and speaking. So for our teaching demo, we showed everyone large number cards and went over them with everyone, and then we taught how to play the game Heart Attack, but everyone has to say all the numbers together. After watching every possible game and song and method of teaching the alphabet, numbers, colors, animals and body parts, most people got really bored and stopped paying attention. The one redeeming factor was that where we were doing our teaching demos, there was actually Wi-Fi! Normally at Chien Tan, there is Wi-Fi, but it is very weak because there are about 300 kids trying to get onto it, so usually what happens is that I would connect to the Internet, and just when I get onto my email or Facebook or something, the Internet gets disconnected.
However, Thursday night, We went to Shilin night market, the biggest night market in Taiwan. A night market sells so many different things, from food to jewelry to clothes. They open only at night, and they’re usually really crowded. The girls in my teaching group and I walked around, buying and eating different foods such as mango and strawberry shaved ice, milk tea, sugar cane juice and ice cream with peanut bits in a soft flat dough roll. It was a lot of fun, and our feet were really sore afterwards. That night, my roommates and I stayed up really late talking, until past 3 a.m. Unfortunately, we had to bring our luggage downstairs between and 7:20 a.m. the next morning.
On Friday morning, we had to watch the best teaching demos from each group. Everyone was exhausted, so many of us ended up nodding off and falling asleep during the demos. After the demos ended, we sat through the closing ceremony. Then at around noon, we loaded our luggage onto the bus and started our five hour drive towards PingTung. During the drive, our teacher was playing karaoke songs and singing them, but for most of the time, we fell asleep.
When we finally got to Cheng Wen Elementary School, people drove us to our host families’ houses. My partner Tiffany and I are staying with the cousins of one of our students. There are three kids: a girl in middle school named Peggy, our student (a second grade boy named Shane) and a really hyper 6-year-old. Tiffany and I share a room, and there’s an air conditioning and fan, plus there are no mosquitoes, which is a plus. Also, the home cooked food here is actually delicious, way better than the food at Chien Tan. Moreover, the kids we’re staying with are ridiculously cute. Our host family has been treating us so well. Unfortunately, we cannot speak Chinese with the children or in front of the children, so it has been very difficult. The first night, we saw how hyper the two younger boys were, and they made us play Yu-Gi-Oh cards with them. We had no idea what to do, and we were totally exhausted. But like I said, they’re so adorable.
Today we went to an aborigine (native Taiwanese people who live in the mountains) village and park, where we learned how to make a food called ai-yu. The mountain scenery was so beautiful. Then we walked around the village and went to the Dragonfly glass bead studio, where we learned how to make glass beads, an aborigine art. Each month had a corresponding glass bead, so I chose to make the glass bead for my birthday month, February. It’s called the Pearl of Eyes, and it’s supposed to guard things from getting lost or stolen. The woman who taught me guided my hand the whole time, except when I slowly turned the glass bead in the fire and rolled it to smooth it out. It would be difficult to make by myself because it involves melting layer upon layer of colored glass circles onto a small glass bead. We will put these glass beads on our name tags for when we start teaching.
We also had lunch there. The restaurant served really delicious food, including rice, a kind of sausage, different kinds of Taiwanese vegetables, fish and ai-yu jello. It was also the most food we’ve had in a while.
After lunch, our teaching group went to Cheng Wen Elementary School, where we ate mangoes and played a card game called Mao in the principal’s office. We had to leave in the afternoon, so we went back to our host family’s house. Tiffany and I took a long nap, ate dinner and we spent the evening either playing with the kids or just hanging out in our room.
After meeting the kids living in the house, I’m really nervous for teaching. They either don’t know English, or in the case of the older girl, too scared to speak English. But although we have trouble communicating with them and they can get really hyper, we couldn’t stop smiling when all three kids came to our room to say good night to us.
I’m sweating so hard, and I’m exhausted. Today was the first day of teaching. Our group had spent all of yesterday preparing for today’s opening ceremony performance, planning lessons, creating posters and just hanging out at the principal’s office. Tiffany and I ended up staying up late to do last minute preparations and to hand wash our clothes after playing with the kids in our host family. Today, we donned our green school shirts and arrived at school. The English camp began with the opening ceremony, where the students performed by playing instruments and doing a temple dance. Then our teaching group performed. The girls sang, “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” from “Mulan,” while the guys danced to it. Then, we did the cha-cha slide and invited all the kids to join in when we replayed the song.
Then, we led our students to our classes. Tiffany and I are teaching the lowest level students, so most of them have not learned English before. We started by introducing ourselves, basic commands like stand up and be quiet, the rules and the reward system. It was difficult though because they did not really understand us. Then, throughout the day, I tested each student individually by giving them a pretest, while Tiffany led the kids by teaching them songs, making name tags and a game. In the pretest, they were tested on reading, speaking, listening and writing, but all the questions either had to do with the ABC’s or repeating or following words. However, the most difficult part was making the student understand what the question was. Our class was supposed to have 16 kids, but four kids did not show up, and we have a new kid, so we had 13 kids today. Testing them took the entire day, but in between periods, kids had breaks, where they would run outside and play. I ended up playing tag and catch with my students during two of the breaks. Our kids were really cute, but they don’t really understand what we’re saying. Also, there are a couple of troublemakers. I was tired just from testing the kids, but I’m sure my partner was even more tired. For the most part, this day was spent getting to know the kids’ names. I’m pretty sure I can recognize all my students, but I’m not sure if the students know each other’s English names.
After school, our teaching group had a meeting with our teacher, Christine, who told us what we needed to post on the AID website. When Tiffany and I went home, we ended up spending two hours taking pictures and videos of the three kids at the home. They were either playing the drums, playing on the computer, playing with a hamster or just simply being cute. Before, it was difficult for us to communicate with the kids because we only spoke English, but we basically gave up because we found out that we wouldn’t be teaching Shane. Now it’s much easier to communicate, and during the afternoon and evening, we learned so much more about them. After dinner, we went biking with them, which was really fun. Shane rode the scooter, while Peggy, Tiffany and I biked past different types of Taiwanese countryside houses of all backgrounds and palm trees. There was also a nice breeze as we biked along in the darkness. Then Shane took us to his house, where we all sat around and talked, and we met Shane’s sister Angel, who just came back from China (she is 13).
Overall, today was a great day, and most of all, I enjoyed getting to know my students, Shane, Peggy and Kai-Kai (the 6-year-old) better. I especially had fun biking; it felt so free to be biking through the southern Taiwanese countryside village, in the middle of nowhere.
It’s been a long week, but at the same time, it went by quickly. Not painlessly though. The second day was pretty terrible, but every day after that was okay. Still, teaching is exhausting. On Tuesday, we focused on numbers. Most of the students already knew the numbers in English, but they had to count in their heads. We started by reviewing introductions, then we showed the students flash cards of different numbers. Then we shuffled the flash cards. I guess we didn’t expect the students to know the numbers that well. After we taught them how to say how old they were, we taught them the bubble game and the card game Heart Attack, which includes counting. In the bubble game, we blew bubbles and showed a number, and then the kids have to pop the bubbles by clapping them and saying what the number was in English. Unfortunately, that game started to get somewhat violent. Then we taught Heart Attack, where they had to count in English. Unfortunately, they quickly got bored of card games, so I ended up playing Big Two with some kids. Next, we had the kids play hopscotch outside. Some kids kept on complaining. Tiffany and I were really excited because we had planned on going to the computer lab to play number games after lunch, which for us meant three things: Internet access, air conditioning and the students all seated and focusing on computer games. Unfortunately, we found out that the computer lab supervisor left. What ended up happening was that we tried to teach the kids to play a game outside, but they would not cooperate by refusing to listen to us or by running around or by fighting or by complaining that it was too hot. It took an entire period just to get them outside. Then we teamed up with another class to play dodgeball, but the girls just sat in the shade while the boys either played too violently or did not want to play because it was too violent. A bunch of kids got hurt, so I ended the day by making the kids sing, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on the top of their lungs.
I’m amazed we survived that day. After school, our entire teaching group gathered in the principal’s office to vent. Also, it was someone’s birthday, so we had ordered a cake for him to celebrate. We stayed at the office for a couple of hours, talking, playing card games and using the Internet. When Tiffany and I went back to our host family, we spent that entire afternoon taking pictures and videos of the kids in our host family. They are so cute! Even though they spent the entire time banging on drums.
Wednesday was better. That day we focused on colors. We started by showing the students colored paper and teaching them the names of the colors. The nice thing was, we spent two periods having the kids do color by numbers. This way, they stay in their seat, and we don’t have to do much. Also, we played color scavenger hunt and a game where someone from each team must run and touch a color first.
Thank goodness our host family is so good to us. They took us swimming and biking that afternoon, and at night, we went up to Sandimen to a café, where we had different drinks and desserts, such as hot milk tea, mango shake, fruit tea and cake. It was fun hanging out with our host family, and plus the view from Sandimen was gorgeous because we could see all the twinkling lights below.
On Thursday, we focused on animals. We showed them pictures of different animals and taught them the names, and then we spent two periods having the kids make animal masks, which was cute, and once again, nice because they just stay in their seats. When they finished, we also had them draw pictures of animals. Before lunch, we played a basketball game, which we called MONKEY. It’s the same thing as HORSE, but we taught the word “monkey,” and all the kids knew that word. It’s kind of weird because showing them all the different pictures of animals, the kids already knew, of all things, “lion,” “monkey” and “fish.” They also knew “dog,” which wasn’t surprising, but most didn’t know “cat.” At the end of the day, we went over songs for the closing ceremony, and we reviewed how to pronounce the animal names correctly. The students tend to pronounce the names and emphasize the last consonant. For example, for the word “mouse,” they would say, “mouse-SIH.”
As frustrating as our students can be, I always enjoy going back home to our host family. They are kind to us, and the kids are so cute and fun to be with. We spend our afternoons and evenings playing with them, and we’ve grown close. Since last Monday, Tiffany and I gave up on speaking only English with our host family, especially since they can’t speak English. But since we speak Chinese with them, I’ve learned so much more. However, we still speak English in class, and our kids still haven’t figured out we can speak Chinese yet, even though they speak to us in Chinese, and we respond in English.
On Friday, we focused on family members. This was difficult because the kids talk like this: “MA-duh,” “FA-duh,” “gran-MA-duh” and “gran-FA-duh.” After saying those vocabulary words over and over again with the students, I started saying, “grandFA-ther” and “grandMA-ther.” When Tiffany and I realized what we were doing, I had to stop myself. I swear, my English is getting worse each day from either saying English in the simplest version possible to my students, speaking Chinese or speaking Chinglish to my peers.
That day, we also had the kids draw pictures of their families and play the flyswatter game, which they actually enjoyed. After ending the day with closing ceremony practice, we were more than happy to get home. Tiffany and I took a long nap, and we went out with our host family that night to a nice café that served drinks such as mango ice and snacks such as shrimp bread and waffles. We played Uno and fed the fish with Kai-Kai, Shane, Yo-Yo (Peggy) and Jia-Jia (Angel).
Tiffany and I felt relieved that it was the weekend. Still, we had to wake up early on Saturday because our teaching group was going to Tainan. In all honesty, we spent most of that day riding a van and sleeping. It also rained that day, so it was ridiculously hot and humid. First, we stopped at a Taoist temple. We rode a boat through a stream nearby and then walked into that temple. Someone there told fortunes to two of the people in our teaching group. Then we went to a new life science museum. We walked through the museum and looked at various exhibits. At one point, many people in our teaching group needed to use the bathroom, but the bathrooms weren’t correctly labeled so we all walked into the wrong bathroom. After that, we went to the Eternal Golden Fort, which was built by the Dutch. On the way home, we got bean jelly from Anping. Bean jelly is famous there, but I’m not really a huge fan of it. Tiffany and I were exhausted when we got home, and we decided to opt out of the tour on Sunday. I have no regrets because we got to sleep in: we got a grand total of 12 hours of sleep.
We spent Sunday hanging out with our host family, and in the afternoon, we went swimming. Then, we went to a park, where we walked around a pond. I feel like I talk about how beautiful the mountains are all the time, but it seriously was really beautiful there, especially since it had just rained, and the green mountains in the background of the pond were surrounded by fog.
Not going to lie, Tiffany and I did not look forward to Monday. Today, we taught about food. We showed them different pictures of foods and taught them the names of them, as well as how say simple sentences that have to do with food. Then we taught them how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The students thought the combination of peanut butter and jelly looked like the grossest thing ever, and many were reluctant to try it, saying that it looked disgusting and it made them want to puke. We ate it in front of them and kept on talking about how good it was, and we forced them to make the sandwich correctly and try it. Fortunately, most of the kids actually ended up liking it.
That day, people also came to videotape, photograph and interview us. Everybody had to take a group picture, and people also came to videotape our students making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
We had our students play Pictionary and sing songs in the afternoon. There was a thunderstorm that day, so dogs kept on coming into our classroom. One even ate a student’s lunch! Anyway, we lost patience with the kids by the end of the day, and we were more than happy to leave.
Like I’ve said before, as much as I get annoyed with our students sometimes, I really love the kids in our host family. We went to a mall with them, and at night, we went to a hot pot buffet. Hot pot is when soup is cooked on the table, and you add raw ingredients to it. After the water boils, you can eat the food you put inside the soup with sauce, and you can drink the soup. It was so good, and I had a great time talking and laughing with everyone over dinner.
Hopefully, I can survive tomorrow.