Happy Sunday everyone!
Another exciting week living in Taipei in the books. We are definitely in our routine here and the weeks are already flying by! It was a fun week as we were able to help Sarah’s brother, sister, sister-in-law and my parents book their trips to Taiwan to visit us! We can’t wait to show our families our life in Taiwan 🙂
So back to life in Taipei…as the title of our blog says, “Teaching in Taiwan, Exploring Asia,” a big part of our life here is teaching. We are about to start week 7 of school tomorrow and it’s about time we give you a window into our lives as teachers.
To begin with, we work for a 補習班 (buxiban) which is known as a cram school. A cram school is more than just a school, it’s actually a mix of a couple things. First, a cram school is a business. They exist to make money for whoever owns them. They do this by offering supplemental education to the Taiwanese children as an after school program. The kids attend their normal Chinese school during the day and come to our school afterwards to strictly learn English. There are definitely pro’s and con’s to working for a business-run school. Before we started teaching, I did a lot of research and reading on what it was like working for a buxiban. I’m sure you can imagine that it totally depends on your school and how the school is run. What’s the number one rule in business? Keeping your customers happy. For us, the customers are the kids and their parents. I’m not going to get into all the “behind the scenes” of a cram school but it’s important to understand what they are because it can directly impact your experience.
Luckily for us, our school is awesome! Of course there are going to be a few quirks and hiccups that we need to deal with, but that’s the experience! Our school truly cares about the child’s learning, which is a great quality. It seems obvious that a school should value learning, but as I said before, some do it for only the money. As new teachers, it’s been quite the learning curve for us. We both did not have any formal teaching experience or training before arriving in Taiwan, so we were pretty nervous! In a sense, we were kind of thrown into the deep end. I guess this can be good and bad. Being thrown into the deep end doesn’t give you a lot of time to think, you just have to go for it! Thankfully our school has a set curriculum. Our manuals let us know what needs to be taught each day, so we don’t have to do a ton of preparation. The kids need to learn what needs to be taught every day and we just add our own flavor.
So what’s a day in the life like? Taken from our friend Spence, who we met in Korea, “Being a student did very little to be prepare me to be a decent teacher, but being a teacher has taught me everything I ever wanted to know about how to be a good student.” This pretty much sums it up for us. Let’s just say we have a new found appreciation for all our teachers! There are definitely awesome days but there are also horrible days. It can be the most rewarding job ever but it can also suck the life out of you if you let it. Now that we’re over the first week jitters, we show up 20 minutes before class and look over the manuals and print out any worksheets that need to be done. Oh, I should let you know what grades Sarah and I teach. We both teach a first, second, and third grade class. The grades are based on their English level rather than their age, so our kids ages range from 6-14. Ok, back to our day…the kids arrive and we start with review. I have my kids stand on their chairs and play the spelling game “Jump in the Water!” They go around the room spelling their vocabulary words and “jump in the water” if they spell it wrong. Next, we go through the workbooks. Each day is assigned to either phonics, spelling, writing, language arts, grammar, reading, etc. They work through their pages and then I give the younger kids some time to color. Want to know the greatest tool for teachers? WORD SEARCHES! Holy cow, word searches are a gift from God. The kids absolutely love them and the best part? They are quiet! The kids are so cute, but they can be little demons when they want to be. Sarah and I have both lost our voices from constantly telling them to quiet down and sit haha!
My first grade class.
My second grade class.
My third grade class.
Part of Sarah’s first grade class.
Sarah’s second grade class didn’t want to cooperate haha!
Some of Sarah’s third grade class.
I’ve really enjoyed teaching my third grade class. Their English level is very high, so we’re able to joke with each other. I always throw in a challenge word when teaching new vocabulary. Last week’s word? Supercalifragilisticexpialidocius. “No Teacher!!!! That’s so hard!!” They’re a lot of fun to mess with :), but they also know when it’s time to get serious and get work done. First graders on the other hand, love to be around us, but they think it’s funny to not be quiet or sit down. The first graders do not understand near as much English, so it’s a lot of giving them the answers and correcting every single word. I love seeing their little faces when they walk in and say “Hi Teacher Candy!!” that’s my nickname apparently.
Sarah has really enjoyed teaching her first graders. Although the answer to every question is either “piguh (pig), fart, poopy, or trashcan,” they’re just super cute! Sarah is a sucker for all the little kiddies. It’s hard to keep the first graders focused, so the hour and half is full of many games in between learning. A couple of their favorite games include throwing a sticky ball as hard as possible at the white board, hangman, charades for new vocabulary and the all-time favorite…UNO. Another lifesaver! Apart from the organized games, the kids love to fool around and make up their own. Worksheets turn into airplanes, journals turn into drawing books, and pencil boxes turn into footballs!
Teaching is a lot of fun. It can be super stressful at times, but is very rewarding. I love teaching my kids new words one week and hearing them use it correctly in a sentence the next. They study hard and they are becoming great English speakers. You really learn to love your students if you put in the time to get to know them outside of just their studies. We love hearing about their lives outside of school, too. They love to touch my hairy arms, and they are in awe of our blonde hair….which we don’t even have. Because we don’t have black hair, we have blonde hair! Teachers play a very integral role in a child’s life. You never know the impact you will have on a kids life, so we both try to be the best teachers we can be to our kids. Hopefully they like Teacher Kyle and Teacher Sarah!
Have a great week!
Kyle and Sarah