Experience sharing by Greg Huang-Dale

What a great opportunity for my family and me!  From our home in Maine we’d been looking for a chance to live and learn abroad, particularly in Asia.  We had a reason to reconnect with friends and family, but also we felt a real call to be ambassadors not only from the US to Asia, but vice versa on our return.  That’s when the Teach in Taiwan program appeared on our doorstep.

Many people find it more convenient to teach abroad during the summer when it doesn’t interrupt their regular jobs, but we knew from experience that longer time meant deeper relationship building and more meaningful memories.  That was definitely true of our year in Taiwan.  While my wife Jenny spent the year studying Chinese at a nearby University and my daughter Soleil immersed herself in Chinese 1st and 2nd grade, I got to teach 7th-9th graders in two small Junior High schools in Hsinchu County.  I often described them as my “city school” and my “country school” because of location and character of the student body.  The students in both schools were excited to have a new and friendly face in their classroom, even the kids with the biggest language learning challenges seemed to be drawn by a desire to find ways to communicate.

Oh, there were difficulties, no doubt.  It wasn’t all wine and roses.  Kids had a lot of tests to get through for example.  And in test weeks, no one seemed very interested in games and fun.  Luckily, I was usually allowed to sit out during those times.  I spent my normal teaching hours planning future lessons, creating activities for special events at school or simply enjoying cultural and professional exchange with colleagues in the teacher’s office.  I valued this time as much as my teaching hours.  My colleagues were an important support system for me while they recognized me as a great resource for their school.  It was this mutual respect that made my year much smoother than I had expected.

One main difference I had to get used to was the layout of school in Taiwan.  I didn’t have my own classroom, rather a desk and computer in a large office space with other “subject teachers.”  Another office room nearby was for “homeroom teachers” who’s responsibilities included advising, disciplining, and coordinating activities for one class (about 25 kids) of students through their middle school years.  While communicating with homeroom teachers could be difficult due to language barriers (and a mix of fear / shame) I found it very helpful to know their names and be on good terms with them, several of whom were also English teachers and therefore were able to communicate with me better.

My co-teachers and I did a few special events at holiday times and at the end of each semester that got the whole school involved in English learning.  The Christmas parties, plays, English Songs performances and camps left me with some of my best memories.  These were collaborative efforts which brought me closer to the most interested students as well as the other English teachers.  I really enjoyed sharing these activities with all of them.  Almost a year later, we still write notes on Facebook and by email.  One student, Mary sent me a snail mail letter recently that really touched me.  The card said “Merry Christmas” but the true message was, “I can’t forget our time together.”  Me too, Mary, me too.

It was hard to leave Taiwan, even though we knew we would not stay longer than a year.  It would be a joy to go back someday.

Greg Huang-Dale

FET 2013-14

Zhubei, Hsinchu, Taiwan

 

● Greg Huang-Dale’s blog regarding teaching in Taiwan, please visit

http://newbamboohd.blogspot.sg/

 

● Teaching in Taiwan Official Website, please visit

https://sites.google.com/site/foreignenglishteachersintaiwan/