Saturday, 15 October 2011

Teacher Lee vs Dragon Sausage: my latest musings from Taiwan



A few weeks ago saw the advent of Chinese Teachers' Day which prompted me to write this post seeing as it seems like an absolute age since I last posted. This was pretty cool because I actually got a couple of cards – albeit complete with bad grammar and spelling mistakes – but who's complaining when it's an acknowledgement of appreciation or sucking up =p. My first class today were quite down but I think that has more to do with the overhanging seemingly endless drizzle than the lesson at hand – that's what I'm going with anyway.

I recently returned from a holiday to the Philippines with my friends Paul and Jo. Actually that was a couple of months ago but we had a good time and it was nice to chill out in the countryside and on the beach and see some weird looking creatures called Tarsiers, if I had the opportunity of naming them I'd call them Owl Eyed Hamster Monkeys but unfortunately I'm not entrusted with such honours :(... We went to an island called Bohol and also had the opportunity to go dolphin watching and snorkelling amongst other activites such as checking out coastal caves and scoffing Filipino scran like a dog eating hot chips. (I'll take solo credit for the last one)... it was really cool but as it was a while back my rather limited recent memory is struggling to recall the intricacies – there was a really big fossilised clamshell and a shitload of hermit crabs and star fish though. We also saw a couple of Bamboo bridges, which I always find pretty cool, and my expert advice is to take your time when crossing them. One of these bridges looked about as sturdy as a whicker basket woven by a paraplegic swimmer. My rather offensive simile aside I was cacking myself when I had to cross it. We also saw some rather pleasant hills known to tourists as "The Chocolate Hills" and these were a very pleasant way to spend an hour or so perusing. They were green at the time though because it was wet season – I guess their true majesty is at sunrise in the dry season. We arrived around 3pm so expecting to see them in their full glory probably would have been expecting too much, but they were very nice nonetheless.

Recently I've had a couple of beginners classes that have started. They are generally very fun and while a refreshing change from teaching grammar to semi-interested teenagers they present their own set of challenges. The first of these two new classes is large and having that many beginners in a small classroom can be quite difficult. I have a boisterous 6 year old in there and while he is very capable he is also impossible to keep in his seat and as he learns faster than other children he makes it difficult to individually check the other fifteen or so members of the class. My TA for this class is also quite amusing because he doesn't really know how to assist in classroom management, so the kids are pretty much free to scream "Teacher Lee!" continually until every aspect of their handwriting worksheet has been thoroughly inspected and verified with the royal seal of approval that is the badly drawn smiley face. This would be a minor issue in a small or medium sized class but because there are so many children demanding so much attention instantly – while the class clown looks on with his head between his legs trying to smell his own farts and inappropriately slapping his own derriere while shouting "Lee Teacher Bung Bung!!"... This seems quite normal and has alluded the attention of my local enforcer. Without being nasty I imagine the situation in this class at the moment is akin to hiring Graham Norton and Alan Carr as body guards... colourful but probably ineffective ;) ... My other beginners' class is a bit older with the average age being around ten. The kids pick things up a lot faster and the style of game can be a bit more competetive and diverse, that is if the sweet little 6 year old doesn't bumble in the way. She is very funny but can sometimes hinder the progress of classroom activities. We often do an activity where the incentive is to smash the correct answer with a plastic hammer and how she doesn't ever get accidentally knocked is impressive. She has a Mr Bean type quality to her that makes her cute and funny. Imagine the difficulties that arise when asking another student their name or how old they are, is interrupted by a small child with a rant about how the oversized hairy teacher is a pretty three year old girl or better still decides to pick her nose and wipe it on another kid's desk while lining up for her book to be marked.

In regards to the continual progress of other classes, I am still presented with the challenges of everyday teaching and trying to reinvent the same style of material to a captive audience. Usually students amuse themselves by disgruntling each other or drawing pictures of animals and labelling them with relative insults to the teacher or another member of the class. Students seem to get very jealous of each other here and exam results are a highly desired commodity and perhaps that is tantamount to the high level of competition in class. There have been a couple of incidents in the last few days that would have probably bothered me when I first arrived but I think after the first few months in a new country you adapt and learn to cope and brush off cultural differences. Here everybody is very emotional and quite sensitive but they can also see the funny side of games. Yesterday we were playing a review game where two students compete with their backs to the whiteboard while a particular vocabulary item to be reviewed is written on it and their team mates have to use their English skills to explain what is written on the board without saying any of the words before they have been guessed; I wrote "I want to kiss you" as the vocabulary item for a quick joke which obviously resulted in very excited outbursts of "Teacher, Teacher I want to kiss you!" and then very red faces and slight embarrassment when they have realised what they have just said!

Hugz xxx

P.s. If you're wondering about the name of the title my chosen Chinese Name translates to one of them ;)

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