July 25, 2010

The days keep on zipping away…

Here we are, almost the end of July. It’s hard to believe sometimes, just how quickly the days pass. It seems like only a few days ago, ‘summer holidays’ for the schools here in Taiwan, began. Now, they’re back to school. Well, the junior high students, anyway.

Elementary students still have another month to go. Lucky them. I suppose if you call having your parents drop you off at the bushiban you regularly attend for the day, and have to do what could be termed as ‘school work’, and completing school ‘summer homework’ assignments, ‘summer holiday’, then these little kids have another month to go! Then, it’s back to going to TWO different locations again!

Sometimes, I wish I had gone to school in Taiwan. Other times, I’m glad I didn’t.

I try to explain to students sometimes, what it meant for us in Canada, or Ontario, to have summer holidays. It meant, literally, no school. No bushiban. No anginban. No kindergarten. No lessons. July and August were two whole months of NO SCHOOL. I guess for them, this is kind of a difficult concept to juggle in their brains.

There is a saying that goes something like this, “You can miss what you don’t have.” I suppose this holds true here in Taiwan. The education system as it is now, has been in place for lord knows how long. Everyone is used to it. Students, parents, teachers… During the regular school season, the students head to school around 7am. After school, it’s off to bushiban. Classes finish at bushiban anywhere from 7-9pm. Head home to do homework, then start all over the next day.

I remember going to class for 8 or 8:30, home around 4pm, play with neighbours or friends, dinner, homework, then bed. Which system is better? Who knows for sure. Are kids any smarter here in Taiwan for going to school longer hours? Personal opinion, and ONLY from an English viewpoint, no.

As in ‘my days’, there are the smarties in class, and the not so smarties. The teacher’s pet, and the rebels. Those who like school, and those who don’t. Those who have an idea of what they want to do when they get older, and those that don’t even know why they are in school.

As the ‘old’ song, “Ebony and Ivory” lyrics go, ‘…people are the same wherever you go…’. How true. Here I am, half-way around the globe, and I can see the same kids I went to school with! Perhaps not so much at the younger grades, but definitely at the junior high school level.

Beginning these classes last week and this week, is exactly that – a beginning. As an educator, whether others agree or not, rules and boundaries have to be set from the start of class. If not, and this has happened more than once, the students tend to ‘take over’ the class, and then any semblance of order is lost. As well, the ground rules have to be set and adhered to. Luckily, I’ve had enough years to do perfect this.

At the outset, some students are a little nervous. Hell, they’re a LOT nervous. Other teachers may not be as ‘strict’ as I am, so they try to test me. Wrong move. Not only do I have the ‘gift of gab’, but I also have that ‘Irish blood’ in me. It may not be a lot, but it doesn’t matter. Irish blood is pretty potent stuff.

Teaching in a school is different than a bushiban. I suppose when I was a kid, the same thing would happen. I remember one teacher, a math teacher, for my grade 9 year, Mrs. Mollard. She was a tough cookie. She was also very old. She was also very strict. However, having had her for math, I soon realized that that was just the image she portrayed. She was actually a very good teacher, and extremely fair. If you only deserved 10% on your test, that’s all you got. If you deserved a 90%, that’s what you got.

Same here.

It’s kind of like giving a speech. You have to grab the audience’s attention right at the beginning, or you’ve lost them. And once that attention is lost, it’s very hard to get back.

Anyway, this is Sunday, a new week begins tomorrow. I start my grade 7 classes tomorrow – ah, newbies! This should be interesting! Hahaha…


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