April 23, 2010


Today’s topic, of sorts.

I am a firm believer, whether you know me or not, whether you believe or not, that one must take full responsibility for their choices in life. As much as I’d LIKE to believe it, I do not believe there is some higher being making my decisions. There is no one in my life telling me what to do or what not to do. No one would dare TELL me what I should or should not do, not even my mother!

As you know, again, I have six cats. I choose, consciously, and in sound state of mind, to adopt these six cats and give them a good life, or at least as good a life as I could. I choose to feed them, give them fresh water, change their litter box as often as necessary, play with them, love them – basically, give them a good home and a good life and grow up to be healthy, beautiful cats.

I think, as much as I can, I’ve completed that task. However, the task is not finished. The task ends when a) I can no longer care for them (i.e., I return to Canada and am not able to bring them back with me), or b) and this will eventually happen one way or another, they pass away. The latter, I am definitely not looking forward to. I know it is inevitable, but it is still not something I count down the days until!

Nonetheless, I feel the same holds true for anyone who adopts an animal, adopts a child, or has a child. You have made a conscious decision to do one of these things. Therefore, you are responsible for the well-being and raising of said animal or child.

One of these responsibilities, especially when it has to do with real, live human children, is to give them a good home, feed them, make sure they get a decent education, and grow up to be responsible citizens of the human world. One area that I find parents, and NOT all parents, but a good majority fail in, is education. They feel that the education system is the be all and end all of their child’s (or children’s) learning process.

Education, again in my opinion, is a life-long process. There is ALWAYS something to learn. From little kids, we learn from our parents and/or siblings. When we get older, we learn from our teachers, friends, parents, and/or siblings. When we get older, we learn from our partners, employers, friends, teachers, parents, and/or siblings. One of the common denominators here is, PARENTS!

As parents, you are responsible for your child’s life-long adventure into adulthood, whether you like it or not. Your beliefs, morals, judgments, attitudes, likes, dislikes, are all imprinted on this young and impressionable mind. I’m not going to go into a debate here on what is good or bad to teach children. I am not a parent, but an educator. Therefore, my only concern is children’s learning, and in particular, English language in Taiwan.

A few years ago, an anginban asked me to write an article detailing how students can learn English. It took a lot of thought on my part, but as you can see with my blogs, it was not a small article. Interestingly enough, they reprinted the whole of my text on the inside cover of the notebooks provided by the anginban to the students.

One thing that I had mentioned, was for students to do their homework. Among other things, I suggested things like, reading magazines and books in English, watching the English-language T.V. stations, and listening to the radio. There is one station in Taiwan that broadcasts in English (and intermixed with Chinese).

In more recent years, I have come to the conclusion that parents must also play a bit of a role in their child’s (children’s) education. Only makes sense. As mentioned and reiterated, ‘you’ brought this child into the world, it is your responsibility to raise this child into a productive and responsible human citizen!

I read my mother’s blog about how her parents, and of course her in later years with children, could not help their children with their homework. Okay, certain ways of solving problems, or the language has changed, or some other crazy thing has happened that make it almost impossible for the previous generation to help the younger. However, there are basics that can help.

Now, in Taiwan, most parents are unable to, or are not willing to use the English that they have learned. They are afraid of speaking to the foreign teacher, just as their children. What you do, gets imprinted on your kids! If you show them that you are afraid to speak, then how the hell do you expect them to react to foreigners!

I do notice a difference between the children that I teach. Those whose parents TRY to communicate with me directly, their children do the same. I see a consistent improvement in their child’s English abilities. Those who refuse, and still want to speak Chinese, figure that I am not doing my work in getting their kids to speak or do their homework in English. Again, how can I make these parents understand that, what they do, their children will copy! Simple!

I do have another interesting situation. I have a parent who refuses, flat out, to try to speak with me. He finds it easier, of course, to complain to my supervisor, about problems he perceives with my teaching. He states that his child will not speak in English; the child doesn’t understand anything I say; the child doesn’t do their homework; when homework is done, the parent doesn’t understand why I do the corrections I do!

Well, let me answer a few things after my 8, hardworking, somewhat quick years, educating students in Taiwan. First: your child will not speak in English, because you, parent, do not encourage it – either at home, or anywhere else. You’ve proven that by refusing to speak to your child’s English teacher in his language! Second: the child understands the language at their level, but since you refuse to speak the language, how can you possible know that they understand or not? It’s easier for the child to say they don’t understand, than try to explain to a parent who DEFINITELY doesn’t understand. Third: the child will only do their homework if they perceive from YOU, parent, that the homework is essential. If you don’t care enough to check the homework, then why would the student care whether it’s done or not. Fourth: when I do corrections, my question is: am I teaching the student or the parent?

I proposed a situation in my grade 8 classes today. I gave an example of where a non-English speaking parent was questioning my correction to his child’s grammar. I then asked the students, why in Chinese, when there is a word for ‘2’ (er), why they don’t use it, except in counting? In all other instances, they use a different word in Chinese (‘lien’). No one was able to tell me or give me a good reason… the response was ‘… because that’s the way it is!”

Language is an ever-evolving thing. It’s not like math. In math, there is ‘black and white’ – there is an answer! In a language, there is black, white, and grey! Yes, I can give the rules and situations, but there will always be ‘an exception to the rule!” Take vowels for example. We are taught, as little children, there are 5 vowels: a, e, i, o, u. Suddenly, somewhere in about grade 7 or 8, once our little minds begin to think beyond comic books and cartoons, that there is another letter that is ‘sometimes’ a vowel – ‘y’!

Why? I can’t answer that. I don’t know who in their right mind would decide that in the English language, one of the oldest languages of mankind, decided to say that ‘y’ could be a consonant or vowel. I can only teach that it is! Why do we put a ‘k’ before an ‘n’ word, and then not pronounce it? Who knows? It just ‘is’!

To have someone who refuses to speak MY language question my ability to correct their child’s work, ticks me off! It’s one thing to have another English teacher, or an English-speaking person ask me a question like this, but if you blatantly refuse to speak my language, who are you to ask questions! You are encouraging your child not to ask questions, not to speak, not to practice, not to do their homework!

I feel that this question should have come from the child! And, since the child is only in grade 6, this level of question would not, or should not, have even occurred to the child. This is a parent that is trying, with all his might, to find fault with my teaching. I have been teaching English for 8 years! I have been teaching (period), for over 20 years of my life. As with any career-oriented position, I would much rather the question come directly to me, rather than a third party!

Have a little more concern with the fact that your child is actually doing their work. Take more time to get to know the teacher. Ask questions of the teacher, and not go through a third person. Explanations and ideas and reasons get lost in translation. I am better equipped to answer a question, if it is asked of me directly.

By the way, parent, have you considered taking private English classes? Perhaps you will learn something!


1 Comment

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One response to “April 23, 2010

  1. Bilbet

    Do you really enjoy beating your head against a brick wall? Sometimes the only answer is to turn a deaf ear, do your best and forget everything else. There will always be some who can not or will not learn. I pity them as there are so many more who can not learn for medical reasons but still try.
    The first go in the “loser” class and the second would go on my list of”enjoy life to the fullest”.
    Now go have a coffee and tell yourself you have done the best you can , now it’s their turn at bat.

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