Friday, August 29, 2008


So it has been a while yet again since I've posted. It's tough keeping track of who knows what I'm doing from back home at any given many mediums to talk to people (facebook, AIM, gchat, email, skype blah blah blah) But anyway I have been really busy lately. First off I do want to say that I got my ARC card and my health insurance!!!!
It's great. I'm legal and the best part is even as a FOREIGN teacher, I get full health insurance from the Taiwanese government! It's unbelievable considering my own country does not even give me any health insurance. And here I am just three months in Taiwan and I get full coverage. Basically if I am sick, all I have to do is bring my health insurance card to the Hospital, pay a fee of about 100 NT or like 3 dollars and I am fully covered. It really is pathetic how primitive our health system is in the US. It's pathetic. really pathetic. If I were in the states, I'd have no insurance at fact as a anecdote....
Right after I graduated from Bing, I got my job at the law firm in January...but before my insurance from that job kicked in, there was a month when I didn't have insurance. My insurance when I was a student expired when I graduated (December of 2006) and my new insurance wasn't to kick in until a month into my job at the law firm (February 2007) low and behold due to all the running I do, my knee starts hurting a lot! I'm not one to complain about pain so I put it off as long as I could, but it becomes unbearable....
I go to the ER because I don't have insurance, and the doctor literally moves my knee around, no xrays, nothing else .......... and tells me I have to wear a brace to fix my tendons that I hurt due to over use fine, that seems simple enough...

the fee.....a mere $1,400. Thanks assholes. So I have to pay that off .......because the US government doesn't believe in universal health care. forward to the summer of 2008....and I am fully covered, fully insured, have to only pay 3 dollars for a doctor's consultation (which by the way, will get reimbursed by the school where I work ) for whatever is wrong with me, in a country where I'm not a citizen, and have only lived for 3 months......whereas my native country won't pay for ANY health problems I may have......the US health care system is disgraceful....I mean any country in the world has a better health care system then America does (I've stopped using 'we' to discuss the US for obvious reasons)...........anyway I hope Obama can help change it, but I remain skeptical. Despite my hope for universal health care I don't think we'll see it in our lifetime...maybe my grand kids will be lucky enough to get it......

ANYWAY in other news....
So I've been subbing for this class at my kids' school with 4 8 year olds in it...the problem with the class is that there are only 4 kids in it, and the amount of work our director assigns is not enough to fill up the entire 2.5 hours. To be honest 2.5 hours with 4 eight year olds is a tough thing to do. I basically have to follow the curriculum but after's all up to me and I have freedom to do what I want. The problem is that the assigned work is literally like 2 or 3 pages per 3 hour session so with 4 kids I finish that in a heartbeat. I needed to do something else to keep them busy yesterday and we were doing this reading and they had a part where the kids had to put the right endings on each the question would be TEN __________ with NT or TA as a choice(the answer is NT)....
One question had the word Chimney the questions was CHIMN____ with EY or AR as choices

So one kid said "I know, the answer is Chimnar." The rest of the class said "NOOOOOOO it's CHIMNEY" ................And I thought "I know how to kil some time"

so without any planning I asked them to imagine what a chimnar was. I said I think a Chimnar is some kind of monster...tehy caught right on..."Yea it sounds like one" I think It's hairy" "No it's a fish"
I asked them to each come up to the board and try and draw what they thought a chimnar looked like on the board. They all drew some kind of crazy monster. One kid drew it with three heads, and octopus legs. Another (which I thought was what a real chimnar would look like) drew a hairy Bigfoot like animal with one eye and wings and fangs....then I asked them to write a story about their chimnar,
where he lived,
what he ate,
who his friends were,
what made him angry
.....and before I knew it these kids were all quiet, calm and actually thinking (shocking ) about what to write. And the stories were great !!! I made sure they used proper grammar and what have you....but some had their Chimnars fighting demons and living in the ocean. It was fantastic...they were learning, having fun, and best of all it was completely unplanned! I really felt like an actual teacher...

But today, I had more time to kill, so I decided to play a game with them. This game was a favorite of other classes....I write the vocab words,with the letters all mixed up and there are two teams. One person from each team has to run to the board and try and unscramble the letters to make the vocab word.
Innocent fun right?
Well it turned into a bloody mess. There were two teams, I put the two smartest kids on separate teams to make it fair. But this poor kid Klee (Pronounced Clay and the one who drew the scary looking, one eyed chimnar) isn't a very strong student.

So he could never unscramble the word fast enough. After two times he sat down in the corner and sulked....then he started to cry! I felt terrible. He then packed up his bag and tried to leave and go home....saying between sobs, "I wa wa wa want to go home"
I felt awful...
SO I walked with him outside and tried to convince him to come back...but he wanted to go home (he had his book bag on and everything!) So I told him if "you go home I'll cry because you're my best student" He then laughed and said "But teacher's don't cry" I said "I know it would be the first time I did" He laughed, came back in the classroom and was happy to go on with the lesson....

I have no idea how to handle a situation like that....It may have been all wrong but I felt so bad for the kid, and didn't know what else I should have done...anyway I guess the main point is that this is sooooo hard sometimes, living here, teaching 8 year olds without ANY training. I just hope I can make it through a year. But that's what I came here for right?

OHHHH also signed up for my absentee ballot it should arrive in Taipei in September!! We can't afford not to vote,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I miss poppy seed bagels with cream cheese (not toasted); and when I say cream cheese I mean CREAM CHEESE; where the kind workers are very liberal with their cream cheese the point where the hole in the bagel is completely filled-up with cream cheese, the more cream cheese the better!
I miss bagels from the following places in order of tastiest bagels (They have bagels here in 7-11 but they are cheese flavored! Not quite the same)
Anyway this list is open to debate, but these are my personal favs:

Brooklyn Bagel Factory (Astoria, Queens, NY)
Myrtle Bagels, Inc. (Glendale, Queens, NY)
H & H Bagels (various locations in New York, NY)
Emmons Bagels (Sheapshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY)

As an aside, I would give my left foot for some Roll 'n' Roaster (Sheepshead Bay)- google it if you must. and Carrotcake from LLoyds Carrot Cake (located in the Bronx, across the street from Van Cortland Park, North of the Burger King.......... again google it if you must, but if you haven't eaten there before, I'm sorry)

that is all,
that is all...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

teaching karoke, etc.

Ok so it's been over two weeks since my last post. I apologize, been really busy mostly with teaching but also with going out and having fun. Just to let you all know I survived the typhoon (obviously) it wasn't too bad, just really rainy and windy. It's crazy rain'll be sunny as can be and pouring. So strange. School was canceled which was great and I started teaching the little 6 year olds.
So because it's been so long, a lot's been going on, mostly fun stuff. Cause it's boring to write about all of it, I'm gonna break it down into a few posts.
I'll talk about teaching in this one,
Homesickness in the next one
and a crazy night at this great Karoke place called KTV (with pictures :)) in the post after that, but that time it'll be the weekend and since I'm planning on heading down to the east cost the weekend of the 16th, to try my hand at surfing, these three posts should segway nicely into whatever I do down there...

Even though I've only been here two or so months now (man is time really flying), I feel I've grown a lot in many ways, but I think I've learned more from teaching and how to be a better teacher in that time. I've taught all ranges and ages and I can honestly say each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.
(I'll go in reverse age order to make it interesting)
TOEFL: The advantages of TOEFL are that these kids or adults have a very specific purpose for why they want to learn English. Also you really feel like you are helping them achieve an important goal, studying in the US, for most of them, has been a dream since they were very young. It does feel good to help them accomplish something like that. Also they are obviously well behaved because the course costs a ton of money.
The disadvantage: They are very serious, I can't joke or laugh with them. Also many of them do know the rules of grammar better than me. There is also a serious gap in the language abilities. Some have near perfect English and only really need to learn more vocabulary, while others can barely understand me. It's tough finding the middle ground.

Adult Conversation Class: Advantage: It's actually a lot of fun. I can just talk to them about anything, and really let my personality come through. I can joke or tell stories, or better yet listen to them tell stories. Plus I think they enjoy learning from each other, most of them are my age....... give or take a year or two, and I really have a good time getting them to talk with each other or about themselves.
Disadvantage: It's sometimes difficult to illicit responses from them. Many are shy. One class I went around the room asking them to explain something about themselves and this girl said I am Wendy, I'm 23 and very nervous. That's terrible she should be relaxed. So I try my best to make it less formal and have them talk together.

11 Year Olds: Advantage: They are not teenagers. And do I do not have to deal with all that being a teenager brings with it. Also when they ACTUALLY want to do work, I feel they are learning the most out of all my classes. And they still have fun and enjoy games. Also there is no real discipline issue, I just add more homework and they shut up, or sit down, or whatever.
Disadvantage: They hate English. And resist at every point. But that's ok they are kids.

Now my biggest challenge: 6 to 7 year olds.
I'm gonna talk about them a lot because even though I've only been subbing for them for about 2 weeks (tomorrow is my last day with them :( ) I think they are the most challenging but also most rewarding class.
Advantages: They are really cute, and fun. And most surprising of all have really strong English skills. And if I give them work, even if it's just coloring or writing their name, they do it very quietly until it's finished. They still respect teachers and adults so when there is work to do they do it.
Disadvantages: Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. Like I said everything is fine when they are doing their work but as soon as one is finished, or two, there is complete chaos. They run around, scream, yell, hit each other. I have to deal with fights, stolen pencils, biting, scratching, hair pulling, fighting over sharing a desk, jumping up and down for no reason (one kid loves to crawl backwards on the floor when I call on him to come to the front to read his homework), crying, standing on chairs, everything......even peeing, and pooping.
(I had one girl raising her hand like she really had something very important to tell me. I thought she was going to give me an amazing sentence with the spelling word NET. She had her hand raised shouting "teacher teachaaaa! Teacher!" So I went over there and said "yes Joanne waht is it?" " Teacher I have to poop" haha "well you may go to the bathroom")

There is always someone who takes someone's eraser. I swear I hear "Teacher before Tommy took my eraser" or "before Tommy was speaking Chinese" at least 50 times a day (and to be fair most of the time it is this trouble-maker Tommy starting the 6 year-old proletarian revolt in my class). People talk a lot about fear, and being nervous but for walking into a room full of 13 six-year olds, after they have been on a field trip, and had "cookies and ice cream" is almost enough to make me want to hop on the next plane and go back in a cubicle. It's scary stuff.

BUT and this is a big really is a great experience teaching little kids like that, even though it is really really tough. There are a few stories that make it fun and really make me feel good despite the anarchy.

First of all I do have a Chinese teaching assistant, and she has the discipline thing down....just stares at the kids and they sit down and behave. I mean even I shut up when she does it. She said that's all I need to be a good disciplinarian; an evil eye stare
....I try working on my evil eye stare, but I'm not mean enough, and it never works....I practice and I think it is gettign better. All the Chinese assistants say "you're too nice you're too nice" (haha the story of my life). But I did need to do something about the discipline because it was a zoo in there, like a zoo where all the animals escaped and had access to whatever they wanted. Really was disrupting the class...
So what I did was I divided the class into two teams. One team has two boys who cause trouble and the other team had the other trouble-making boy (the three of them cause 90% of the anarchy in the class, once they were all outside and it was eerily quiet in the classroom). I put 100 points on the board for each team, and told them I'd take away points from the team that misbehaves. That got them quiet for sure. By the end of the first day I'd taken away at least ten points from each. All the other kids started self policing the trouble makers so they don't lose points. "Shhhhh be quiet Tommy Teacher will take away points" It works pretty well. They hate getting points taken away.

The only serious problem I had was somehow this girl brought in this little pocket knife to class. I saw her and another boy playing with it. I ran over to take it away and got cut on the finger as I went to grab it..... a little cut but still the class got really quiet. Because I was bleeding, and they were probably worried I would maybe flip out or get really mad..... I took the two outside and let the Chinese assistants deal with them, they came back and said sorry, and I can tell they really were...I said it's ok just an accident BUT, I said ....."you see what happens when we don't do what we're supposed to?"And they've been better since then.....all I know is it's better I got cut than they did.

But there are good parts too........For instance, this one girl is so cute. Everyday I have to sign their notebooks and she always says "teacher... oh... your name it is soooo ugly" Or one time "teacher you are so slow.... you are a turtle" or when I told her I was 24 she said " That's older than my grandpa"
A girl was writing very small one time and her partner who shares the desk said "you write so are an ant" (at least her grammar was good).

Probably the funniest was a kid sneezed, and his nose started bleeding, so I ran over with a tissue and as I'm helping out the door to the bathroom he says " My mom says this happens when I put my finger in my nose too much" (ala Ralph Wiggum). haha.

But I think the thing that made it all worth it was on Friday, we played a game. I drew a bullseye on the board, a giant one. In the middle I put 10 points, then 5, then 1, then MINUS 1....then; and this got the whole class excited; minus 10. Then (and at this point I'm all the way across the board) -20. And the whole class went nuts....

I had a sucktion cup ball that sticks, and there were two teams (the Ninjas against team Lion King, they're idea for names). So each student would stand about 5 feet from the board, one at a time and if they spell a spelling word correctly, they get to throw the ball at the bullseye. They loved it. Of course I stood right near them and helped them spell the word right if they were stuck, so they didn't feel bad. And I gave the shyer kids more throws and more encouragement. It was a lot of fun, one poor girl couldn't throw strong enough to make the ball stick on the target, but she finally did and hit the bullseye (actually it was on the line but I gave her the points). And one kid threw the ball straight up and it stuck about 15 ft. in the air...haha they loved that. To be fair though the Chinese teacher and I were also laughing pretty hard. The kid was 5 feet from the bullseye and threw it 15 feet in the air haha.....

For anyone interested, it was neck and neck the whole way, but the shyest kid in the class, Alan....pulled off a bullseye with the last throw to carry team Lion King to an improbable victory! There was chaos and crazy celebrations in the snack room..

Anyway the best part was all the kids, shy, smart, outgoing, got a chance to play and spell the words. And I was surprised how even the slower students got the words right. It was very fulfilling knowing they were learning and having some fun.
Next blog: homesickness or insane Karoke night....not sure yet
(sorry for the length of this post)

Oh also want to say Congrats to Jared and Jenny on getting married and all the best! Their wedding was Saturday and it sucks that I couldn't make it. But Mazeltough! (sp?).