February 28, 2010


Okay, so I was, as far as this weblog is concerned, a bit lax yesterday.  However, I was far from lax!

My normal Saturday schedule is like this:  08:30-10:00 (Private student); 10:30-11:30 (2 classes at bushiban); 13:00-13:30 (1 class at bushiban); 14:00-15:30 (Private student); 18:00-19:30 (Private student).  Sunday is: 11:00-13:00 (2 Private students).

Now, I cannot change the education system in this country.  It has been operating the way it does for probably more years than I’ve been alive.  After all, Taiwan is celebrating 99 years as the country OF Taiwan this year.

For those of you that have been to Taiwan to teach English, the same as myself, understand this.  And quite frankly, if it wasn’t the way it was, there wouldn’t be a need for foreign teachers.  Okay, so back to the system.

It is my understanding that in Canada, the education system is controlled at the provincial level.  That is, each province is responsible for how students are taught in the schools.  We are a huge country.  There are 5 or 6 time differences from one end to the other.  It would be ridiculous for the federal government to control it all effectively.  Fair enough.  If you attend a school in Ontario, and move to another community in Ontario, chances are, the students will be basically at the same point in their education.  Changing schools just means that… changing schools.

Here in Taiwan, changing schools means changing – period.  There is a difference between type of school (private vs. public), geography (north vs. east vs. west, etc.), area (city vs. county vs. village), and level (elementary vs. junior high vs. senior high), etc., etc.

As a foreign teacher, teaching at many different locations in and around Tainan city, I get to see and experience these changes.  Okay, so everyone is confused now, and haven’t the foggiest idea what I’m talking about.

February 12 was the ‘unofficial’ beginning of Chinese New Year.  According to one of my calendars, it actually started on the 13th and ended on the 16th.  Another calendar shows the start as the 13th, and the end as the 18th.  Even in their own country, the calendar makers can’t get things straight.  A good example why the SOLAR calendar is much easier.  Dates are set, end of conversation.  With the LUNAR calendar, every year is different and everyone has their own idea of when holidays begin and end.  AND that my friends, the word HOLIDAY, is an oxymoron!

My experience is that there really is no such thing as a ‘holiday’ in Taiwan.  The students actually refer to Saturday and Sunday as holiday, because they don’t go to ELEMENTARY school.  Junior and Senior students would probably think only SUNDAY is a holiday, because they go to school on Saturday’s – sometimes, depending on where you live, and what type of school you attend, and what grade you are in, and whatever…

This past Chinese New Year, the federal government (apparently) also gave the students their winter break at the same time.  So, I think my one calendar is correct – CNY ended the 16th, and 17-19 were winter break.  Oh yeah, another oxymoron – WINTER!  For those of you in Canada, you know what winter is.  Winter here is anything less than 23C!  There are only two seasons in Taiwan – summer and typhoon!   Hahaha… But I digress…

Okay, so the kids were given 9 or 10 days holidays.  Some people take this time to go on a vacation.  Some stay in Taiwan and work their fingers to the bones.  Others, like myself, stay and learn how to use Facebook and clean their homes.  Now, the schools, depending again on all the criterions above, want to make up those lost days.  They cannot claim back the Chinese New Year time, but the winter holiday time, they want the students to make up that time.  That also means that teachers (foreign and local) are required to make up that lost time as well.

My one Junior High School, (private, jr high, city, central area) has decided that they want to make up 3 days.  I get back to work on Tuesday, and they tell me that I must make up those three days on 2/27, 3/13, and 3/27.  At first, they didn’t want to tell me what the other days were, other than the upcoming Saturday (yesterday).  For me, that would have meant that I would have to cancel a couple of classes.

Fortune has it though, that my first class (08:30-10:00), the student actually attends this school, but at the SENIOR high level.  Nonetheless, he must also go to school and had to cancel the private class.  Okay… my next class begins at 10:30, the class at Junior High ends at 10:10, therefore I have 20 minutes to get across town.  Damn good thing that I am a foreigner, and that the police in Tainan are pretty lax compared to the larger cities.  I only ever get stopped to remind me that my lights are on!  Crazy…

I am also in the process of assisting with the national Story Telling contest for Giraffe school.  A task that I am actually really excited about.  Therefore, I’ve asked my private in the afternoon, to move his classes to Sundays until the end of July.  He’s a decent kid.  He grew up from grades 2-6 in Vancouver, and upon returning to Taiwan, had to go back to grade 6 here because his Chinese wasn’t strong enough!  Poor Jeff…  But his English is incredible.  He is very bilingual.

So, everything okay there.  Then, the Giraffe school that I’m helping for the story telling, I have a the one class (13:00-13:30).  We’ve arranged that that class will be 13:00-14:00, every OTHER week, so as to help the students that are competing in the contest.  OKAY, so now the schedule (until the end of July) is as follows:

(EITHER) 08:10-10:10 or 08:30-10:00 (Jr high or private); 10:30-11:30 (busiban); 12:00-15:30 or 13:00-14:00 (story or bushiban); and 18:00-19:30 (private).  And some people think that I’m just screwing around here having fun and drinking my ass off!  I don’t have time for that.  One of my friends here says that I work too much, and that when I complain, I have no one to blame but myself for taking on all these classes.  Fair enough.  And yes, there are times (maybe a lot) where I do get a little annoyed at how classes are cancelled and rescheduled, and moved…  but overall, I still LOVE THIS JOB!

I sometimes wake up on Saturday mornings and think, ‘do I have to….’, but then once I have my coffee, get off to the first class, and the day begins, the evening rolls around rather quickly… maybe too quickly…

I put 110% of my time and effort into this work.  I rarely complain (to the employers!) about their changes, and yes I scream like a banshee to my friends, but once it’s off my shoulders, I’m ready to tackle a new day.  Well, today is Sunday.  My first class is usually at 11:00, however, I’ve been asked to help a student going into university to improve his English.  So, for the next little while, I now have a class at 9:00-10:00, then 11:00-13:00, and Jeff at 14:00-15:30.  It will almost seem like a Saturday.

Man I love this job!

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