April 20, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a two private students of mine. Today, I’m going to write about a two more. The first one being, Jeff!

Jeff, in my opinion, is one amazing kid. The one thing that I’ve always wished I could do, not really an out-and-out verbal thing, but more of a desire, is to be able to speak fluently in another language. Sure, I can speak French, and now a little Chinese, but am I fluent? Certainly not.

I always push my students, sometimes to their breaking point, to learn English. Why? Well, they may not fully understand, and god knows, I try to get them to understand, that there is nothing better than to be able to speak to another person from another country, in that person’s language.

Through no desire of his own, he was taken to live with relatives in Vancouver when he was in grade two. Now, I can only presume that his relatives spoke Chinese at home, but during the day, from grades two to six, he was doing all his studies in English. Talking to his friends, learning history and math and science, all in English, and when he got home, watching T.V. in English. I’m sure there are one or two channels in Vancouver that transmit or show programs in Chinese, but not a lot.

He learned very quickly how to speak and communicate in English. After grade six, his parents brought him back to Taiwan to continue his education. In Taiwan, elementary school stops at grade 6, and one enters Junior High School (grades 7-9). Upon wanting to enroll him in Junior High School, it was ‘discovered’ that his Chinese was not quite up to par. He was told that he would not be able to enter grade 7, and that he would have to go back to grade 6!

Now, I remember oh too well, way back when, that it scared the bejesus out of me to fail in school. Back when I was in elementary school, it was still common practice, that if a student really failed their classes, they were ‘held back’ and had to repeat that grade. Now, of course, this doesn’t happen. A student can attend (or not attend classes), don’t do their homework, don’t write or pass exams, and they will still be bumped up to the next grade. God forbid should we fail a child! This may result in their not learning anything, feeling rejected by society, feeling that they don’t belong, lose self-confidence! It’s better to have illiterate, non-educated, idiots running our countries in the future!

Anyway, I can almost imagine what could have been going through his head. Enter me. I was referred to Jeff by another teacher in Tainan, to help Jeff keep up his English. His parents, although wanting him to enter school in Taiwan and continue his education here, still respected that English is a universal language. They didn’t want him to give up on that.

A few times, I talked with him about his going back to grade 6. You know, for a teenager, having grown up in Canada, he has a pretty level head on his shoulders. He seems a lot more mature for his age. I believe this year he will be 14, although his Facebook profile says he will be 17! I’ll have to talk to him about that one!

He didn’t seem too concerned about having to go back a grade. I guess the fact that he had no friends to speak of, in Tainan, it wasn’t a big deal to him. He took in stride, and this year, is now in Junior High School – the school that I teach at. He’s not in my class, though.

We’ve been getting together on Saturday afternoons, and recently changed over to Sunday to allow me to work with the Giraffe students on their story-telling. I enjoy and look forward to my time with him. He’s fun, has a great sense of humour, seems to enjoy his time with me, level-headed, and yet, also has a bit of a frustration streak in him. He’s like any other teenager when it comes to video games, and enjoys playing with my iPhone. But get him on a game, and if he’s losing – watch out! Hahaha.

Another amazing student I teach is Jolin.

Jolin is a bit younger. She is in Grade 4, I believe. She will correct me if I’m wrong, I can guarantee that! I started to teach her about 1.5 years ago. She had won the Giraffe story-telling contest and I was asked to help her prepare. After that, the classes continued, helping her mainly with her school work.

Jolin goes to an elementary school, one of the few in Tainan, that have a totally English program. Again, her parents have the foresight to know that English, perhaps not spoken by the most number of people on the planet, is spoken in the most number of countries! They know that learning a second language can only help their child in the future! Mom and dad don’t speak a lot of English, and when I need to speak to her mom about something, Jolin is my translator!!

Jolin is very much and individual. She is good in English, and she knows it! Her level of English is miles above any student I have, including Jeff! The school she attends really pushes the envelope. I see her on Saturday evenings. She is the end of my Saturday teachings! Again, another student that I really enjoy teaching, although how much teaching I actually do, is up for debate.

The school has decided to work with a very difficult book. The words and phrases are well beyond anything even English speaking students of her age could handle. For someone who is only in grade 4, she is reading at a level that most Canadian children in grade 9 could barely understand!

At times, I tend to forget that she is only a kid! She is only 10 or 11 years old, but has the attention span and knowledge of someone much older. Although, she is still a kid. And she loves to talk! She is also in one of my classes at Giraffe. At times, during class, I have to politely, but firmly, ask her to not speak out all the time. There are about 10 other students in her class, and when I ask a question, she is always the first one to answer. She doesn’t give the others a chance to speak, and thus, the others tend to just sit back and wait. Then she explains to them in Chinese what occurred.

Both Jolin and Jeff are amazing kids. I know that they will both do very well in their futures. I can see that they are not the typical kids of their age groups. They have the passion, the desire, the want to do better for themselves. If their parents are pushing this on them, it doesn’t come through that way. Both are only children in their respective families. There is no competition from siblings. They both seem to have great a great ‘friendship’ with their parents.

I wish both of them all the success in their futures. And I hope that we can stay in contact for many years to come!

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