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Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

Semi-autobiographical

I had a young student who lived in the Taipei equivalent of a mansion.  She didn’t like to be read to, but she loved being the teacher and leading me in activities that she would do in a normal school day.

This stick-figure collaboration came from an offshoot of “Writing Workshop” called, appropriately enough, “Making Books.”

The best part, I think, was when she actually sat still for the 2 minutes it took to read the book, and then we named all of the heads in the last picture.  It included her teacher Mr. Couch, her mom, dad, baby brother and herself, as well as her grandmother and maybe her aunt.

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Out of the blue

On Wednesday nights, I teach a corporate class that really has me torn in two.  On the one hand, I usually have fun with the class, especially the three ladies.  On the other hand, the two gentlemen are way out of their depth and it’s hard to keep everyone learning without embarrassing the guys.

This Wednesday, the louder yet less skilled guy was on business in Hong Kong and that made it quite a bit easier.  The class proceeded pretty normally, ending in a discussion of favorite stars and celebrities.  At the very end, as we were packing up, the quiet guy who never asks his questions in English, but rather in Taiwanese (or Chinese, out of deference to me), suddenly began muttering to the “translator” of the class, a kind and bossy woman who I cannot stop from translating for the slower students.  She said, “Jason would like to ask a question,” and I looked straight at him so he would speak.

And the question knocked me for a loop: “India, 你們美國…..words…..words…..words…..黑人嗎?”  I couldn’t even parse it because it was so out of context, so I sat for a minute to make sense of it.  He was asking, apropos of nothing, about racism against black people.  I answered that it was getting better, but he went on to ask about whether we looked down on Asians, and all of it was just far too difficult to explain at his level.  I settled for saying that it’s mostly a problem of language.  If you sound American, you’re better off than if you don’t.  I also joked it up by mentioning how much people everywhere hate tourists.  Too light?

I love these kinds of conversations, but I wish he’d been at a level to really discuss it…

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Giggles

It was so much bigger in real life...

Halloween just passed, but let me show you a little picture of what greeted me in the stairwell a few days ago.  It was not fun and I definitely screamed a tiny bit.

Now, on an unrelated note, I’d like to talk about a strange mistake I’ve been hearing from my students more and more these last few weeks.  It really cracks me up because they sound like Gollum: clothes said as “clotheses” and eyes said as “eyeses.”  It’s definitely an understandable mistake, but it’s a new in my experience.  I wonder if there’s a TV show or personality who’s been doing this as a joke…

On that Gollum note, one of my highest level students also speaks German and is studying French right now, so she has a very peculiar accent.  When she talks about hobbies and habits, the words meld and twist until she’s talking about hobbits.  I wanted to let her keep saying it that way, but she works for the government and I thought it would just be too mean.

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I should have just lettered them off A-Z, my new class of travel agents.  There are 26 and it’s possible that I might have more next week (I’ll go into Greek letters).  Then again, it’s possible I might have less, but I’m not hopeful.  This class has nearly two times what a standard corporate class should have, but am I being paid for two classes?  Of course not!  I work for a company where my cataloging proposal for the teacher’s resource shelf has to get past the CEO.

All that aside, it was not a terrible class.  I was able to wrangle a better classroom right off the bat and there are multimedia capabilities, so I’m thinking of working in plenty of video.  Do they have Muzzy for English?  How magnificently creepy that would be!

Now for the pun: some weeks ago I went for a Kung Fu Panda 2/X-Men: First Class double feature.  It was fun enough, but the best part was reading and comprehending a Taiwanese joke on a movie poster.  It puns “we” and “blue” and I love it (probably too much).  My Taiwanese teacher and classmates were not as impressed as me (except possibly the other American), but that’s okay.  For your enjoyment, I present a dark, slightly fuzzy poster for the Smurfs movie’s Taiwan release.  Have fun!

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Life news round-up

Last Friday I was walking home from the bus stop when I saw three boys practicing weapons in my neighborhood park.  When I asked what they were doing, the boy with the rattling spear said it was for a temple fair in Luzhou.  Tragically, as it was the end of the night, my brain and my Chinese were shot and I couldn’t really formulate any good questions before he lost patience or interest and turned away.  I do have some video of a temple’s fighting group somewhere; I’ll have to find it!

I’m going to Malaysia on Friday, basically right after I take the foreign service test (and bomb, presumably).  It’ll be a lovely distraction, since I also had a big ol’ final today for Chinese.

Speaking of Chinese, I have been having a grand time with my language exchange buddy, who I feel really gets the short end of the stick.  His English is already so good that he focuses more on me.  Last time, he brought a comic book version of The Art of War (which rocked!) and this collection of Chinese ghost stories which I have in mind as a gift for a certain middle school bff.

My other personal time one-on-one is a lawyer who just wants to discuss news, which is fine by me!  He’s quite articulate and challenging; I really only work hard to keep up, not to help his English.  Last Sunday we talked about Taiwan and China, and what he thinks could happen if China were provoked.  It was a little bit chilling.  We almost got into their one child policy, but I told him to hold off until our next meeting; I want to take info about the gender imbalances in India and China.  Contrast their policy differences that have done nothing to fix this problem and such.

The last piece of news relates to a wonderful hash I attended that same Sunday.  The weather has been rainy and gray this past week and half or so, but that day it was perfect for a mountain run.  The cloudy sky kept the temperature comfortably low but never let fall any significant rain, and the hares led us through some crazy trails including a piss-scented valley, an illegal canyon (man-made), and about 3 hours of 87° uphill slopes.  I exaggerate, but only a little.  For me, though, the best part was my Chinese fluency that day.  It recovered fully from the incident with the weapons boys and–my favorite part about the Taiwanese hashers–got few criticisms and even fewer compliments.  As it should be!

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Philsophical biology

I haven’t written about students in a while, so here’s a sweet story about a great reading class I have.  This type of class is my favorite textbook class, using a really well-designed and well-written National Geographic textbook.  It doesn’t hurt that the students aren’t bad either: 2 high school students and one woman who’s a little older.  I used to have another high schooler, but time constraints caused her to drop the class.  She’s the reason I’m writing, though: I want to talk about one of the funniest things I’ve heard a student say recently.

As our first class was about animals doing unusual and surprising things, we played that game where you write your three favorite animals and some adjectives, and then discover that the first means such and such, the second means this, etc.

As they searched for the best adjectives, Kiki was looking for good descriptors for dinosaurs, and our conversation went almost exactly like this:

K: I don’t have a dinosaur with, so I don’t know what to say.  I have big, friendly, and cute.

M: I… don’t think dinosaurs are really like that.  Big, yes.  Maybe strong?  Powerful?  I would have to say violent.  [demonstration of violent]

K: But that’s not the dinosaur in my heart.

Adorable!  I only wish I could accurately portray her tone and manner as she said it…

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A strange education

On Tuesdays, I am scheduled to teach a 2-hour advanced class with 7 registered students. However, every week I have fewer and fewer people, and I had only one woman to teach tonight. Fortunately, she was fine to just chat for most of the session and based on the material we covered in the book, I was able to get answers to some questions that have plagued me since I arrived.

In a recent post, I asked my sister for some answers about Buddhist ceremonies and services, but she didn’t have much information.  I asked Gan and she wasn’t entirely sure how to explain what I witnessed at the gym.  Her first guess was a funeral, but I saw no portraits.  Her second suggestion was a birthday celebration for the Buddha, or some specific incarnation’s celebration, but when I told her about the banner, she downgraded the likeliness.

These questions led to her describing the scheduled observances of traditional Taiwanese religion.  Now, coming from a Western religion that has a history of weekly, daily, and hourly observances in public groups, I am deeply confused by other religions that don’t have these kinds of frequent and formulaic ceremonies.  The only thing I’d seen in my time in Taiwan was tables of offerings and the burning of ritual money on seemingly random days (and the occasional parade, which is easier to understand).  After nearly a year and a half, I now know that these take place on the first and fifteenth of each lunar month!  The gods worshipped on these days can be any or all of the wide selection of gods, ancestors, and deities, including Buddha.  However, the following days (the 2nd and 16th) are for businesses to honor the god of fortune, 財神爺. I am so happy to have answers.

As for the title of the post, among our topics of discussion were American geography and the (un-)importance of state capitals, Taiwanese politics and history, two-party systems, and Taipei’s progress in the last ten years.  We also touched on language and language education, especially in Taiwan.  Gan called languages other than Mandarin 鄉土語, which is something I’d like to address later.  A strange education indeed!

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