Friday, July 31, 2009

Touching Writing assignment

Today was Friday so that meant it was Creative Writing lesson. Today's lesson was writing a paragraph. I asked my students to write a paragraph about what they thought was the best or worst thing about school and to give reasons. Most kids wrote that computer class was the best part because "you could talk to your friends on MSN or Yahoo; it was easy; and you don't have to sit properly"
All pretty good reasons.
One kid though (the best student in the class) wrote the following:
" The best part of this school is teacher Brian. He loves to teach and always answers our questions. He gives us a lot of work but if we are good he gives us less homework. And he always plays games with us and makes English more fun. He is the coolest teacher in the school and that's why I think it is the best part"

Stark contrast with another student who wrote
"I think the worst part of school is all of it and everything! The End"


Monday, July 20, 2009

RIP Frank McCourt

This does not have much to do with Taiwan, but does have to do with teaching...Frank McCourt one of my favorite authors and a dynamic, inspiring NYC public school teacher passed away at the age of 78. Despite his poverty stricken and chaotic childhood, he was still able to reach, inspire, influence and most importantly TEACH a diverse and notoriously demanding group of NYC public High School students. His writing style is fluid, self-decapitating, wonderfully descriptive and most importantly genuine. As a writer and teacher he helped many around the world. Anyone who is considering teaching, should read "Teacher Man". To see the positive affect this man had on so many check this out.
NYC public schools, and schools around the world need more creative dynamic and genuine teachers like him. And the literary world needs more talented writers like him as well.



As I wrote previously, my freckles have been a fascination here, an oddity that causes great confusion and wonderment, like a bearded lady or some kind of seal boy you'd see at Coney Island. Even grown-ups have asked me about them. At first all the interest was flattering but not so much anymore....I did have to following conversation with my new class on Friday give you all a glimpse as to some of the responses my freckles elicit.
Student: "Teacher why do you have so many dots on your arms?"
me: What these? They are called FRECKLES. Let's say it together F-R-E-C-K-L-E-S. Good" (I always use times like this to teach new vocabulary which I find they will more easily remember if it is in the context of something new or interesting)
Student: "Why can't you wash them off? Are they Permanent?" (a vocabulary word we just learned)
Me: "Good use of the vocabulary word. Yes they are PERMANENT. Not TEMPORARY (another vocab word). Who remembers what temporary means?"
Student: "lasting for a short time, not forever"
Me: "very good!" Yes these are not temporary and they come from sitting in the sun too much."
Student: "Why don't you put on lotion?"
Me: "They still come up. Even if I put on lotion"
Student: "Nei ge chi guia!" (Chinese for very strange)
Me: " No Chinese!" It's not strange in my country a lot of people have freckles"
Student: It looks like not healthy. Do they hurt?"
Me: "No not at all"
Student: "well I don't want them they look too strange"
Me: " Well in America we say that the more freckles you have the more money you'll get when you are older. Every freckle you are supposed to get one US dollar!"
Student: "Really? Is that true? Wow...I do see one here on my arm"
Another Student: " Me too I have two by my foot!"
(The rest of the students than looked around themselves to see if they had any)
Student: "Wow teacher you must be rich! I want freckles now!!!"


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One more year ! One more year!

Just picked up my new ARC (alien resident card). The ARC is the key to unlocking all the mysteries of Taiwan...ARC ARC is to teachers what the Golden Ticket is to Charlie OR what LSD is to the Merry get the idea.. With it I can work, rent an apartment, pay taxes, get National Health Insurance, buy a car, rent a car, buy a house (if I'm so inclined), get into R rated movies, maybe adopt a dog (I haven't looked into that one), rent movies from blockbuster....etc. The ARC will be valid until July 28, 2010. I just got a new job as well teaching exclusively adults at a VERY popular cram school here. Popular equals expensive here. I'll start there full time around September. It's amazing that a little over a year ago I just basically showed real plan, no job and to be honest I was pretty sure I'd be back in NY...tail between my legs sometime in August of last year. But one year later....I've extended this crazy adventure another year.

Usually I get restless if I spend more than a year doing one thing or living in one Taiwan must be doing something right to keep me here. Even though I do feel the restlessness simmering....I'll see what happens....jiao yo jiao yo!!!


Oh yea I updated my pictures on picasaweb from my trip to Korea last week. Some got deleted but I managed to salvage some of them. ENJOY!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I haven't yet and don't think I can get used to the weather here in Taiwan. 34 degrees Celsius (that's right I'm metric now) everyday, torrential rain, and although not technically categorized as "weather" the stifling pollution. As if that's not bad enough Taiwan also has seasonal typhoons (starting about nowish and continuing until November), several dormant volcanoes (Taipei's most popular day trip spot is one such volcano- Yangminshan), and earthquakes. Until last night I haven't had the privilege of experiencing the it in Taiwan, or the States or anywhere else. We don't really have many earthqaukes in New York. But Taiwan has them. A lot of them. The last and most serious one occurred on September 21, 1999 the epicenter was close to Taichung on the West coast and measured 7.3 on the Richter scale.

Obviously and thankfully this earthquake wasn't as serious (no reports of injuries as of late) or as severe. The epicenter was located way off shore a few miles of the East coast. Still it was my first experience with an earthquake and it was a freaky feeling. Waking up feeling like someone is violently shaking you awake...and not knowing why is a little disorienting. Thankfully after a few intense minutes it was over. No harm or serious damage (so far reported).

Eh I'll just add that to the long list of things I've never experienced before I came to Taiwan. I think I'll file it under "things that scared the Sh** out of me"; right up there with Typhoons, Taipei taxi drivers, reckless scooter/truck drivers, and the bar Carnegie's; the last of which, some would argue, can be considered much more traumatizing than any Earthquake.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

long time no post

So my fans have been clamoring (maybe that's an unfair word...let's say requesting politely) that I update my blog and in truth it has been a long time. Probably the longest I've gone without updating. But it's too hot in Taipei and typing burns precious calories. It's been an eventful month and half and I've done and experienced some great things. The highlights include but are not limited to the following:

Hiking and camping on a 3,400 Meter mountain top

riding a scooter 5 hours through the rain to get to said mountain top

A trip to Taichung, by far my favorite city in Taiwan so far,

Quiting work at my adult school,

celebrating my year anniversary of being in Taiwan (wow still hard to believe)

brimming with pride as my students graduated from the school and one actually told me "Thank you"

Starting a new Chinese class

Starting a new class with a great bunch of fun, smart and happy students

Finding out that due to lack of students my kids' school will have to let me go and therefore as of September I'll be jobless once again...

And most recently a spontaneous and amazing trip to Seoul, South Korea (I just got back on Sunday)

Each of these deserves a serious post and I promise that in the coming days I will expand and discuss all of these adventures including pictures. So stay tuned...updates galore will happen soon :)