I began taking classes about teaching English in Taiwan. Although we were to teach the children in a boot camp, our first week felt like a boot camp to us. Wake up at 7. Breakfast at 8. Class about Taiwanese school conditions from 9 to 12. Lunch at 12. Class about teaching strategies from 2 to 5. Dinner at 5. Lesson planning from 6 to 9. Shower and laundry from 9 to 11:30. Bed check and lights out at 11:30. This was our normal schedule for the week. Most days I was so exhausted I would knock out at 10 pm.
One morning for our opening ceremony, the Vice President of Taiwan gave a speech to us volunteers at the Evergreen Maritime Museum of Taipei. He and other Taiwanese government officials talked about how thankful they are for our selflessness. While that was quite an amazing experience to be close to someone so important, it was not what I will remember the most about my training week.
I will remember how overwhelming everything was. The classes were huge information dumps on teaching strategies including how to manage a classroom and innovative games to play. The process of creating the lesson plans was stressful because you had to worry about time management and keeping the kid’s attention for a whole school day. I had imagined that being in Taiwan, I could go out and explore famous places and eat good food, but we were not allowed to leave the hotel area at all. It really was a boot camp for trainees.
The lack of sleep and freedom has been stressful, but I was amazed and humbled by the overwhelming support I received. Let’s start with the AID Coordinators. These are the twenty-something’s that have volunteered to fill the role similar to that of an RA. To be honest, at the beginning there was a bit of resentment because of how strict the rules were. They would be guarding at every exit gate of the hotel to block us from leaving at night and they would be patrolling through the hallways to also prevent us from leaving our rooms after bed check. Even when I had to use the bathroom during class, they would take my nametag and return it to me when I came back. It was very frustrating to experience this, especially as a college student.
However, as the days went by, I found out a lot more that made me empathize them. Every night after bed check, the coordinators had a meeting and then had to be up before breakfast. In addition, some nights they were required to do a night shift. That meant they only had about 5-6 hours of sleep per night. They did this all at no cost. Once I got to know a few of them through conversations, they were actually pretty cool people. I wish we could have spent more time getting to know them.
More support also came from my coach, Ida. Even while we were eating dinner, she would look over our lesson plans and make corrections. One night when we were exhausted from editing them, she handed each of us a personal note, writing to us about our good points and encouraging us to work hard. It really touched me to see someone have so much faith in us. Although the hardest part (teaching the kids) is yet to come, I am optimistic about handling it all.