Well, today is the first time in a long time I’ve felt old!
When I first came to Taiwan, I was 40 years old. After deciding to come to Taiwan (instead of Costa Rica), I had read as much as I could about Taiwan. One of the things I found interesting, and perhaps a bit upsetting, was the idea that schools and bushibans generally (not always) did not like to hire ‘older’ foreigners to teach.
I suppose I can accept the idea. The bushibans have students who are anywhere from kindergarten age to about grade 6 or 7. Not unlike us North American people, we look at ‘older’ people as those who are unable to or don’t understand the ‘modern’ world.
In many societies though, and even to a degree in North America, the sign of age can also be looked at as wisdom. People who have lived a few years, have insights and patience and ideas that younger people, due to the mere fact that they are young, don’t possess.
I guess the idea of having a younger teacher teaching younger students, allows students to feel more comfortable. They look at a younger teacher as someone close to their age, and therefore, can understand them better.
So, part of my mission upon arriving, was to try, in my own small way, to change that thinking. Show my employers that just because I was a bit older, that I wasn’t ‘out of touch’ with reality. And this, I do believe, I have accomplished quite well over the years. When I consider that I have been employed by my schools for years, and not just months, shows that I must be doing something to accomplish this mission.
I always maintain, after hearing this statement somewhere (probably on a television program), that age is just a state of mind. You are only as old as you feel. I’ve tried very hard to maintain this attitude. This year I entered the half century mark. However, I don’t feel, and if I say so myself, I don’t look like I’m a half century in the making!
When it comes to teaching my little ones, those pre-kindergartener aged kids, I sit on the floor, I play the silly little games, I try to act like them, and make them feel comfortable when I am in the classroom.
However, there are those days, and thankfully for now, they are few and far between, I do feel my age.
Occasionally, I have been sitting cross-legged on the floor, and I’ll tell you, some days it is a bit of a challenge to get into a standing position! Sometimes, I get the kids to ‘pull me up’. They find it fun and are more than eager to assist, thinking that it is just Teacher Bill acting silly. Little do they know, it is a heartfelt and much needed request. Mind you, a few little kids don’t have the strength to be able to pull me up off the floor, but it does help to create a bond with them.
Today however, was one of those particularly strange days. My plan for today was to act out and record a video, of each of the stories for the students from our school participating in the Giraffe National Storytelling Competition. While I was trying to prepare the area to begin the taping, I was standing on a small chair, and the next thing I knew, I was standing on the floor!
The chair tipped over, due to me not being balanced properly. The chair is still okay, but my lower back is not fairing so well. Within a couple of minutes, the pain was searing! It really did hurt. Just like how students will imitate an older person by bending over while standing, that was the only way my back felt good.
Nonetheless, I had to continue. I continued to get things set up, but standing on a ladder, and just trying to get things prepared, was taking its toll. I laid down on the floor, on my back, relaxed for a few minutes, and tried to ‘crack’ my back. Normally, this would be okay. I’ve done it many, many times before. When I’ve had a ‘kink’ in my back, lie down, relax, then twist, and voila, back to normal. Unfortunately, this time it didn’t work.
I almost had to yell out, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” This would have been funny at another time, but it sure wasn’t funny today. So, I eventually did get up, and continued what I had originally wanted to accomplish – videotape the stories.
The first story I started with, which is also the shortest story, is about the Three Little Goats. In our story, the little goat likes to jump. Fair enough. The first time I tried to jump, the pain was almost overwhelming. I did a number on my back. Who knew that falling a few inches was going to be as painful as this?
So, stop all recording for the day. Take it easy today, rest up tomorrow, and then go back in on Monday and see if things are better. Hopefully, it will be. A couple of the teachers suggested I go see a doctor, but, stubborn me, I’d rather see if my body can heal itself first.
My friend Gary, went through basically the same kind of problem a few months ago. I don’t really want to, but I suppose I’m going to have to start ‘acting my age’. I’m not a kid, nor a teenager, nor a young adult. I have to start realizing that there are some things that I need to do differently, if I want to maintain my youthful attitude.
I may not FEEL a half century old, but I can hide the fact that, I am!
That’s it, that’s all… for now!