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2 at once! January 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 3:11 pm

These are completely unrelated so I’m just making two separate entries.  If you just want to hear about the scooter crash, skip this one.  This is a pedagogical reflection and may only interest my fellow educators (and maybe some family members)

It’s the end of the semester, almost, so I figured I’d share some thoughts.  For one,  I made a new friend today =)  One of my 5th graders had been very difficult for a couple of weeks (I only see that class once a week) so I talked to his homeroom teacher.  I told her that he had a very bad attitude towards me and maybe I had said or done something that he didn’t like and we needed to get it sorted out.  I’ve had him twice since then and he’s been just fine.  He still gets in trouble for talking from my co-teacher  but he does his work, which is completely new.  I realized last week that once he actually starts working on something he really likes affirmation that he’s doing a good job.  So I kept walking by his desk to say “oh, very good!”  even if it was one of the more simple things.  Today he even gave answers in class.  It was amazing.  After class I went to his teacher to let her know that he had improved ( I don’t want to only complain about them, they need to know I’ll give compliments too).  He was terrified when I walked up to his teacher and called him over but then was beaming from ear to ear after she translated what I had told her.  When I was walking away I turned back around and he was peeking out the door at me smiling and waving, lol.  It was really cute and I’m glad the situation was resolved.

The previously discussed boy was just one of many problem children I have at this school.  The 3rd grade as a whole is ridiculous.  It is just a bad combination of an age level I’m not familiar with, and a language they’re not familiar with, making it almost impossible to keep them stimulated through the whole 40 mins.  Actually, forget that,  I cannot keep their attention for 3 minutes.  There are so many “naughty” boys, as we call them here, that I don’t get to spend any time teaching.  I don’t get much help from my co-teacher until I get really irritated and have to get her attention to come help me.  I discussed with her several times that I don’t have experience with this age group and they obviously don’t work well with the same activities that the 6th graders do and if she has any advice to let me know.  I also told her that I need her presence in the room the entire class period just during that class.  I want her walking around the desks and speaking to the children who are acting out.  I don’t ever get to teach because I have to put so much energy into disciplining and then making  them understand that they’re being disciplined.  I get that at home, it would be rare to have a co-teacher and you would have to be able to discipline and teach at the same time, but the key point is the language barrier.  That’s what makes a second body a necessity.  They’re 3rd graders so they understand about 4% of the things I’m saying.  They (when I use “they” I’m talking about the majority of the class but there are 4-5 who aren’t included in that group) don’t seem to have any interest in committing anything to memory or attempting to learn.  They just want to repeat words back to me like parrots and then laugh and play and throw spit balls…oh, and write the f word in the desk in white-out!  Seriously, that was a 3rd grader, ridiculous =/

So, I thought about it, and I decided I’m going to lose my mind or physically harm a child if I have to spend a whole 2nd semester with these kids without a change, and so far I’ve been trying to make changes that just aren’t working.  I talked to my director (at my other school, because I tell her everything and the director at this school I’m talking about doesn’t speak English) and told her that if possible, I would like to drop 3rd grade next semester and pick up 2 more classes of 6th grade instead.  There is an A and B class for each grade level, so with 3rd-6th, I have 8 classes total.  They all have English with me once a week and with my co-teacher twice a week.  With this new plan, the 3rd grade will not have me at all, and the 6th grade I will become their primary English teacher.  I cannot lie and say that I’m not doing this for selfish reasons, I am, I’m stressed to the max with this class and I always dread Fridays.  BUT, I wouldn’t have actually gone through with voicing my idea if that were the only reason.  I don’t think the 3rd graders benefit any more from having an American English teacher than they do from their Taiwanese English teacher.  It hasn’t occurred to them that they could be learning a lot from hearing me speak, even if they don’t understand it all, and instead they treat it as really funny gibberish that I’m speaking.  It’s a waste of my time and theirs.  Plus, the 6th grade could really grow I think if I could get some more time with them.  They have a strong enough English base to stay in tune with what I’m saying and a desire to learn that prompts them to ask about what they don’t understand.

Well, I asked, and Doris called, and it’s set.  They actually okayed it which surprised me because I thought that it would require difficult rescheduling.  I was happy at first, but now the guilt has started to set in.  I feel like a quitter.  I feel like I should have tried different methods instead of just pushing off the problem on someone else.  What’s done is done though, and I really do think it will be better and not just for me.


another notch in the scooter crash belt =O

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 2:07 pm

GEEZ!  What is the deal?  This time it wasn’t my fault, really.  There was actually someone else involved besides me and the pavement.  So here’s the story (and for once I’m going to try to shorten it instead of over-detail it=) )

I was turning left at this intersection behind a truck.  Well after turning, the truck stopped, abruptly, which I then had to do the same.  I ended up stopped right, right behind it.  Then I saw its little white reverse lights go on and went into a full-fledged panic.  I don’t know if you’re familiar with scooters, but there’s no such thing as throwing it into reverse and hitting the gas.  Reversing consisted of putting my feet down and pushing back as fast as I could.  I was also trying to get my brain to focus on honking the horn while back pedaling but I found it very difficult to concentrate on the 2.  I managed a honk right as the truck was backing over the front of my scooter.  It got knocked to the side and I tried to hop off but my leg was caught under it.  I didn’t get hurt really (maybe I should have mentioned that from the beginning haha)  my foot and ankle are just a little scratched and bruised.  Nothing like last time.  But this one felt worse because I didn’t know if the truck would stop and I was just watching myself getting squished under it.  awful.  It turned into a big ordeal because they tried to leave?!?!  and I had to stop them and call Doris and have her talk to them and then have her drive over and by the time she got there he had called his insurance company (it was some sort of business truck) and a cop had arrived.  He tried to tell everyone that I had run into the back of him.  When Doris told me that I turned around and just stared at him with my mouth wide open.  I then retold the story using big gestures so everyone could understand that I saw brake lights come on and I was trying to move backwards, not forward.

End result, I’m okay and my scooter runs, lots of new cracks and scratches, but runs.  If I discover I’m more injured than I realize or my scooter doesn’t work I can call his insurance company and they’re going to take care of it.

I will say I should have put a bit more distance between us because  I know better with the unpredictable way people drive here.


Dick Van Clark and some chickens January 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 11:32 pm

Most people know my English-speaking skills have been going down the drain over the past 6 months but today was just a little worse than usual.  Hence my title (I was going for Dick Clark during a New Years conversation) followed shortly by “Don’t count your chickens before their hatched!”  Which Jacqueline of course had to point out made no sense and I meant eggs.  I’m sure there were some others but it happens so often now I can’t remember them all.

Anyway… it’s been awhile.  I think the last time I wrote I said Chris was coming.  And as the few of you reading this already know (unless some random internet person stumbled upon this blog) he just got back to the states from his visit.  He came for a little over a week.  I was super busy the whole time he was here, and have been since he left, and haven’t talked to people much so I’ll go through all the details of his visit in here.  His flight came in late Monday night so I went to school that day and then jumped on a 5:10 train to Taipei.  I got there a little before 8 so I met Karin for dinner and then she showed me how to get a shuttle to the airport.  Chris’s flight was supposed to be coming in 9:55 and we had to catch an 11:05 train to Hualien.  The airport, I was told, was about an hour shuttle bus ride from the train station and of course it would take time for him to get through customs and get his luggage so I was oober worried about not catching the  train in time (which was the last one out of Taipei for the night).  However, his flight ended up getting in early and aside from the long customs line he had to wait in we were able to get out of the airport by 9:45.  I decided to take a taxi instead of the shuttle to shave off 15-20mins even though the price difference was ridiculous ($35 vs $8).  We ended up making it to the train station with a few minutes to spare and were headed back to my home, Hualien.  There are about 3 different types of trains and ours was the slowest one so we didn’t get back until 3am.

I called in “sick” on Tuesday (headache due to lack of sleep haha)  and we slept in until almost noon but once I got up and saw what a gorgeous day it was I had to get him up and moving =)  As soon as I mentioned that our first stop would be the train station to pick up my scooter (I scootered to the train station to go get him but we took a taxi when we got in at 3am) AND rent him one, he was ready to go lol.  His scooter was a lot newer and nicer than mine (which isn’t hard to find) and fast so he was excited.  We got some lunch, ran some errands, and then headed out to a favorite spot of mine, the beach.  It’s about a 15 minute drive out of the city so Chris got to really cruise down the roads and take in the scenery.  We were able to get some good pictures at the beach and then headed back to town to go to my hair salon for a shampoo and massage.  Haha, I know it probably sounds weird, especially for Chris but it’s really normal here.  The salon is super super cheap and a lot of people, male and female, go often just for a shampoo and massage.  They do your scalp, neck, and shoulders and it’s amazing!   My roommate Cassandra had family in town also so we met up with them and Jacque for dinner at a Japanese restaurant that our friend Doris’s husband owns.

Chris had a busy and tiring first day and then had to get up at 6am to go to school with me Wednesday =/   He was able to meet my staff at my favorite school, who of course adored him, and see all my kiddos.  Their reaction to him was sooo funny.  Before he came I made sure to learn how to say this is my boyfriend in Chinese and as soon as my kids saw him and I said “Ta shi wo du non pon yo” (that’s my own spelling lol) they were all sorts of excited and giggling.  We were trying to walk down the hallway and he could barely get by with the kids walking backwards in front of him and pretty much standing on top of him circled all the way around.  Finally someone understands what I went through when I first got here =)  I explained to him that in America we’re used to seeing all different colors, shapes, and sizes of people, but here, they don’t see much variety.  So we would very rarely see someone who looked “foreign” to us until we hear them speak.  But here, we are very, very clearly foreign and some of my kids have rarely seen that, if ever.  SO, they just stare, and then stare some more.  They literally put their face about 6 inches from yours and just take in every detail of your face.

Wednesday is a half day for students, and teachers meet in the afternoon, but it’s usually all in Chinese.  So my director said Chris and I could leave early to go do some sightseeing.   I took him to a couple of well-known spots that are near my school, the power plant and Liyu lake.  They both are incredibly picturesque and he was able to get some great pics and video.  That evening we met all of my staff for dinner in the city and my principal LOVED getting to introduce Chris to Taiwan Beer.  They are so proud of their “Gold Medal” beer here and I told the principal before Chris came that he really enjoys beer.  Principal Lee prides himself in having “good feet” the translation of a Chinese saying they have for people who are always up for some social drinking and wouldn’t be the person to cut out early- can stay and drink beer with the last of the group.  I told Principal Lee a few weeks back that Chris has good feet too so he wanted to drink with him first thing.  Chris gave his approval of Taiwan’s Beer (the food was a different story though haha) and seemed to have a good time with everyone.

Thursday we headed back to Nanhua again and he was able to see me teach my classes.  Let’s just stay he is definitely not, nor ever will be an elementary school teacher.  He pooped out after 2 classes and had to head back to his computer in the office because he couldn’t stand to sit through another Dr. Jean Kindergarten song about “Color Farm” or the alphabet, lol.  Thursday was Dec 31st, New Years Eve, so right after school we headed to the train station to turn his scooter back in and hop on a train to Taipei.  We spent New Years sitting directly under Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building, currently, and it was incredible.  Incredible doesn’t even come close to being appropriate for what we saw.  They shoot fireworks out of the building top to bottom, all the way around, and we were completely awestruck.  You’ll have to check out the pics on Facebook and video on YouTube to try to get a better feel of what I’m talking about.

Friday and Saturday we did some sightseeing around Taipei, mainly just in the 101 area.  We went to the top of Taipei 101 which I hadn’t experienced yet and Chris LOVED hahaha, then we met up for a little bit with my friend Staycie (a fellow Hoosier).   Saturday afternoon we went back to Hualien and enjoyed a nice buffet dinner at…Pizza Hut =)   After dinner we walked around the night markets of Hualien and started picking out gifts for people.  I mentioned to Chris before he came that maybe he could hold off on getting Christmas gifts for people and get them really unique gifts from Asia.  He decided against that and went ahead and got things at home so that he would have gifts for family on Christmas day.  But then when he got here, the list of people to buy for seemed to grow haha.  Suddenly we were consumed with tracking down gifts for 10 people.  But shopping here is great and we got to travel around to a lot of my favorite spots to try to find great gifts for everyone, and people who know me well know that I LOVE to pick out gifts for people.  Sunday we drove around (I rented him another scooter when we got back on Saturday) and saw some more areas of the city that I really enjoy and sought out more gifts.  Sunday night we had a Mexican fiesta night at my apartment with Cassandra, Jacque, and Linda.  Yum.

Monday it was back to school.  My director Doris told Chris what his Chinese name was and I told him he should get a stamp made.  So over the weekend we had picked out a marble stamp for him and his friend Julian.  On Monday we left at lunch to take the stamps to have their Chinese names carved in them.  Chris is “Ka lee si” and the “lee” part has three different characters he could choose from.  Well we learned that one of them meant “power” so of course that became the one.  We were able to go pick them up that evening which was really nice because it typically takes a few days to finish the marble ones.  Tuesday Chris got to go to my other school for the first time and saw what it’s like for me there, ridiculously behaved kids and a staff who doesn’t really talk to me (with the exception of 1-2 people).  It’s a completely different environment from my other school and again, it was nice to have someone from home experience it first hand.  After school on Tuesday we had to catch yet another train to Taipei.  Chris had to be at the airport early Wednesday morning so we needed to take the 2 hour train ride the night before.  I called up my friend Karin when we got there because she’s a pretty cool cat and I really wanted Chris to meet her before he left =)  We met her at one of the more well-known touristy night markets for a little stroll.  Wednesday was an even earlier morning than school days to get to Taipei Main Station and catch a shuttle bus to the airport.  I fell asleep on the bus but I guess we got caught in some traffic and were cutting it close, getting their around 9 when Chris’s flight left at 9:45.  We had to say our goodbyes quickly so he could get through security in time and then I suddenly found myself all alone in the airport trying to find my way to the place to buy a shuttle ticket back to the city =(  it was really hard after having company 24/7 to be traveling all the way back to Hualien by myself.  But, I had a good book I was in the middle of so that kept me pretty well distracted.

Whew, that was a lot, haha, I love that I gave you all those ridiculous details even though they really weren’t all that interesting probably.  I’m sure the pics and videos we both got are much more entertaining than reading through my novel of an entry =)  But, I will end this with sharing that I finally chopped all of my hair off today =D  Some of you already know this but I grow my hair out to donate to Locks For Love.  This was the 5th time I’ve done it (started in high school) and each time it seems like the minimum length gets longer and longer.  The first time I donated it only had to be 6 inches and now it’s 10.  My hair grows really fast which is why I like to do it, but I’ve been working on growing it out for a while now so alot of  people have gotten used to it long, especially people here, even though I’ve had it short many times in the past.  I teared up just a tad when she cut the ponytail off, I always do, but after that it was fine.  I even had her go back and cut it shorter after she was all done the first time.  It’s quite a difference, but I’m satisfied with it.  I have bangs again which is good, it was getting a bit shabby and out of control.  Even Chris who loves long hair admitted that it was a bit too long lol.  I took before and after pics but they’re on my friend Linda’s camera so I’ll have to post those later.

Okay, that’s really it now =)