Thursday, October 11, 2012

Teaching Taiwanese Tots

My indolence as a blogger is shameful; however, adjusting to life in another hemisphere is rather time consuming and often exhausting (in a good way), so I won’t be too hard on myself. Hopefully, merciful reader, you’ll pardon my (almost three month!) silence as well? Much obliged!
            There are so many aspects of Taiwanese life that I want to describe, but I’m finding it difficult to start in a manner that’s bearable to read. My initial planning of this post comprised of generalized categories like, Teaching!, Food!, Day Trips!, Chinese Is So Hard! MRT!, and Culture Shock!. So I suppose I’ll just start with the main reason why I came to Taiwan: to teach! Or, rather, to permanently damage the youth of Taiwan and its English acquisition due to my complete incompetence and lack of experience as a teacher? he laughs nervously, eyes flitting left to right in search of some reassurance that clearly isn’t there. Just kiddin’ yall, I know I’m not that bad!

            But, seriously. Teaching. I’ve always respected teachers and known their job is super hard (a huge understatement). But what I’ve gleaned from my experience so far is the appreciation and affection I now harbor for those students who just try. They don’t necessarily have to be good, but if they’re at least semi-conscious and not depositing boogers on their desk or licking their house-sandals in the corner (things I’ve witnessed and wished I never did), then chances are, some English is getting through and nestling into their new, little brains. Their willingness to listen to and make sense of the strange, garbled monotony that we call English is a brilliant gift they give us teachers, especially because by the time they reach our classrooms, they’ve already slogged through a complete day of regular school. Their stamina is impressive and mystifying; I don’t know where they get that extra mental focus! Then again, I did hear some six year olds were selling Adderall for NT$200 a pop up in Neihu.. For realz, though, what horrifies me about this mini-revelation is looking back on all the hours of class time I spent doodling in the margins, avoiding eye-contact with the teacher because I didn’t read, or desperately willing the clock to speed up so I could go eat lunch like the shameless glutton that I am. I could have made their job much easier if I was a more present student during those bouts of educational laziness and apathy. Granted, they weren’t that frequent, but they definitely cropped up from time to time. So I extend a thank you to all my students that put forth some effort (and to kids who shriek and jump and run on tables and say “Teacher Noah, you are bad!”, well.. I’ll curtail my profanity here…).

           When I first started teaching, I felt like the kids where constantly looking at me thinking, “Really? This is the best they can give us…” I’d drop stuff, fumble through papers awkwardly, run out of marker ink, and maybe even forget to teach pronouns, all under the reproachful eye of my manager from the back of the class. Suffice it to say, I was riddled with nerves and thought I was doomed as a teacher. As the weeks went by, though, I slowly settled into a routine, picked up a few tricks, and now I feel like I have a relatively steady rhythm. But I still have a ton to learn!

Some of my classes are hilarious fun. The kindergarten kids are so cute and they love and laugh unconditionally. One slightly higher beginner group seems to find endless entertainment in my weirdness, which in turn, prompts them to talk. But the older they get, the quieter they become, unless you find a gem class that knows how to simultaneously have fun and pay attention. I do have a few students that sit like monolithic glaciers of boredom, where no amount of dancing or craziness thaws their steely, mirthless gazes. For nine years old, they can be pretty intimidating… But you just have to plug along and take the little victories when you can.
            Oh, and to end, I’m actually pretty proud of myself. As a germaphobe, I thought being in constant contact with children was going to send me into paroxysms of gagging and crippling revulsion. I mean, a lot of them are still disgusting hosts of influenza and pink eye (like the other day, I accidently inhaled the sneeze of a kindergartener and contemplated a way of safely saturating my lungs in Purell), but nowadays, their grubby little hands and running noses barely make me cringe! It really helps that my schools have sanitizing spray stations. ‘Cause you know I nurse those suckers alllll day long.

More to come soon!

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