Posted in Taiwan, tagged 5th grade, 6th grade, Chang Long, depressing, junior high school, kindergarten, me, pre ban, problem kid, Rong Fu, teaching on Wednesday, 23 June 2010|
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This week started poorly and has not been improved by the ever-warming weather. Today continued the pattern: I was tired in Chinese class, one of my kindergarteners came back from a mini-holiday only to be sulky and uncooperative, the very thought of my evening classes filled me with a mild but insidious frustration, and budget calculations show that I’m not going to have any fun until at least September (and only if I’m lucky and get a lot of hours).
Even though I wasn’t looking forward to teaching, I knew I could count on the early class today to pick me up–and was then sorely disappointed by apathetic, mostly out-for-summer 6th graders. Not only that, the problem kid in this class, who is usually not too big a concern, actually caused some big distractions today. I got back at him by withholding bathroom privileges for 10 or 15 minutes which felt far better than it should have.
I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m in such a mood lately, and I’ve boiled it down to job satisfaction: I don’t have much. I see kids 50% of the time they come to class (the Chinese teachers see them every time) so there is a lack of consistency. The school policy of 100% English is an impossibility that serves to create a gap between me and the kids that only the Chinese teacher can bridge. In addition to the gap, there’s the added frustration of resolving questions and managing homework and classroom activities in limited language that the majority of the class can fully comprehend.
And to top it all off, I have discovered I can’t stand teens and pre-teens, who make up about half of my classes. I believe I said earlier that I like mid- to higher elementary school students best, but I was wrong. It’s lower elementary I like because they still have enthusiasm.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I couldn’t stay angry and frustrated because my junior high class actually cheered me up. They were mildly responsive, and then my CT (Chinese teacher/co-teacher) suggested and implemented a seat change so we sat in a rectangle rather like a small college class. She also brought out her stash of fake money so we could start a system like I had in high school Spanish: responses get money, students hold the money to buy test points or candy and class parties. I have been wanting to do this for a while, but I haven’t had the money to buy… money, so I was glad when the CT brought up classroom ideas and volunteered her money for my idea. I only wish she had brought it up before class, instead of just before break. I won’t argue the results, though! I’d be hard-pressed to say the class was on fire after break, but they were more involved due to proximity, and the CT sat in the desk-square and we had a real co-teaching relationship going on.
Another good thing: I know with certainty that I may be a good explainer, and even a decent teacher, but I am not and should never (again) be a foreign language teacher. And it’s always nice to check something off the possibility list and narrow options down.
So now I’m happier. Rebecca, this is how I do it: be angry and huffy in my head until something good happens. When the good happens, let it outweigh the bad.
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Posted in Taiwan, tagged Chinese, culture, dragon boat, food, Fu Da, language, pre ban, Rong Fu, sick on Thursday, 10 June 2010|
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…had better be an improvement on this one. Somehow, I got sick (I’m blaming the kindergarten monsters), and I’ve been really busy with the start of school, a new kindergarten class, and my normal workload. At least I had payday at the beginning of the week!
And today… today, 2 out of 3 children got hurt in my kindergarten class, which is a frustrating and worrying occurrence. I reassured myself that the injuries were way below minor and that the class is all boys, but I still wish they’d behave better. On the bright side, the cook at Rong Fu is a wonderful woman who set aside a lunch box for me and will continue to do so until I don’t work there anymore. See, on Thursdays I have two sessions of Chinese, and this means I miss my free lunch, and if you know me at all, you know I am all about free. At least I got one thing at Rong Fu running smoothly.
Tomorrow is our first dragon boat race, and that at least will be very fun. The forecast shows rain, but we’ll already be soaked in the filthy Keelung River, so the rain will actually be an improvement. Unless I can wrangle my way out of being the flagcatcher in the first race, there’ll be a lot of pressure in that race, but if we make it to the next level, I’m absolutely pawning the task off onto one of the slackers who didn’t come to 2 or 3 practices. Do they really want my eyes, depth perception, and hand-eye coordination to be the determining factor in our success? Talk about building your house on a shaky foundation!
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In just a week, I’ll have a tiny kindergarten class all to myself. There will be four students whose parents want extra prep for their kids (or need the little boogers in daycare sooner than August), and since I have a Chinese-speaking homeroom teacher, we’ll have a teacher-student ratio of 1:2. That is pretty awesome, I must say.
I am quite excited, and I hope I get to name them. I had some input on renaming one of my younger students who was going by Feifei (pronounced Fifi), but that was initiated by the Chinese teacher, not me. She’s now Sophia, by the way, which is far more dignified, suitable, and appealing. Go team me, CT, and Sophia’s mom!
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On Thursday I got a supplementary paycheck because I work at two branches but rarely go to one of them. I was surprised to see my own Chinese name on the paystub, since my main paycheck had a different name, assigned by the main office and unchangeable according to the accountant at my branch. This confused me, because a few weeks ago I told her I had a Chinese name and wrote it down for her, which pleased her both because I could write it and because we shared a character (文–pretty common). I figured it would make its way onto my time cards and paystubs and eventually, my tax documents, but now I don’t know, since my primary check calls me 曾笛愷, but my secondary one calls me 汪莉文, which is the one I’m used to!
This left me perplexed and slightly philosophical. In one sense, I’m taking part in a long tradition of naming and re-naming that exists in Chinese culture. Before the cultural revolution, children (and from now on, assume I’m talking about boys and men, since the women largely stayed home and …did needlepoint?) had a pet name or milk name around the house, an official name that often followed rules or guidelines frequently still seen today, received or chose a school name, and then took another name at around 20. For an example of this tangle, check out Chiang Kai-shek, whose name in Taiwan, by the way, isn’t said anything like that.
In another sense, though, no one calls me by my Chinese name except my Hola discount card and my realtor, so…
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I started out enjoying myself, but feeling quite sure I’d never take on a kindergarten class. I wound up still enjoying myself and considering taking a kindergarten class in August. This mostly depends on whether I can sign a 6-month contract, which would be only one semester. Something to investigate!
A few snapshots: the sweet contrast of serious little Neil and Leah focusing intently on learning their phonics and then running squealing in the playroom to play monster ball, Ivy in the Chang Long middle class holding my hand and petting my arm while asking me questions, constant flattery from the big class at Rong Fu. They called me pretty at least 7 times in two days, and at least two little girls complimented my black flats from Payless with the heels starting to peel. Seriously, 5- and 6-year-olds are shameless!
Even the problems weren’t so big, like Nick and Chavelle in the middle class. Chavelle had a hair-trigger temper and constantly demanded apologies from her classmates, and also had to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes, but was generally sweet and always very quick in terms of English. Nick was slow and distracted at first, and then became clingy and was always poking my butt or leg, but… um, he helped me out in my dream last night? Well, in real life, he too was pretty sweet. I wish I could steal that class from their teacher, but odds are only so-so. I’m more likely to get the first class I ever subbed, which is okay too, I guess.
All in all, I rank kindergarten above middle schoolers and below mid- to higher-elementary schoolers.
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Posted in Taiwan, tagged Chang Long, junior high school, Rong Fu on Wednesday, 17 March 2010|
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I got a schedule change on Monday that was introduced to me as good news and more good news. I can’t disagree: starting next week, I won’t work Saturdays! This is pretty unheard of, especially for a new teacher, and I’m still unclear on the rationale, but I’m not going to argue. It also means I only work at Chang Long, instead of splitting time with Rong Fu. Rong Fu is way classier looking, not to mention closer to where I currently live, but it’s nice to only have one place to focus on.
What this means, though, is that I haven’t met all of my classes yet. Instead of teaching my Saturday class on …well, Saturday, I’ll teach them when they come in on Wednesday. After them, I’ll have a new class of junior high schoolers. This class is supposed to be a little more advanced, so we’ll see how/if that changes anything.
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Posted in Taiwan, tagged 10-year-olds, Rong Fu, teaching on Wednesday, 3 March 2010|
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Ugh, good grief, you guys, kids are assholes. No, that’s not right. They are just too energetic for my liking: at 10 they can understand enough English to try talking back, and they are hyper enough to need to be always out of their seats. I am just not good at managing them and all that energy!
How did this all come about, you might ask. Good question; I’m not supposed to start until Thursday, I hear you say. Well, the second class I was to observe tonight is taught by the mini-regional manager. Let me emphasize it is mini-region, not mini-manager, because he is big and big. He was a tank commander in South Africa before this, but amazing with the kids. Crazy, right? Anyway, he told my boss this afternoon that I was going to teach some part of his lesson I was scheduled to observe. Surprise!, but a pretty good one, since I haven’t seen real Taiwanese kids in a classroom since I got here, let alone worked with them.
I got to the school about an hour and a half ahead of time because prepping lesson plans takes me forever right now, and when the commander showed up, he just told me to prep all of it, so I did because you do not say no to that guy on your third day around. When it got to be his class, I sat in the back and watched until the break, at which point we walked over to the teachers’ office and he asked if I wanted to take a turn. I truly did, so that I could practice but still have a strong presence in the room, so we went back and I introduced myself and started the grammar part of the lesson. Boy, did I ever make a hash of that, but I still had the kids relatively well in hand. When I had gone around in enough circles, I had them get out their next book and begin the conversation, which also went okay, but when we tried to go into the song, it just went all wrong and also we had begun to run out of time, so the commander took back over to run down the homework review and the Chinese teacher took me outside to tell me her thoughts.
She was very supportive and rather complimentary, while still having some good things to say (which was more than I could do at the time!) about what I had done. When the class was done, I went back downstairs with the South African teacher and he also gave me some tips and encouragement, so I’m definitely working with a good crowd. It’s just so hard to apply everything and take into account the random nature of young kids.
Also, I need a digital watch.
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