On July 7th, I left Taipei and was bussed out to Sanzhi Junior High School, about a one hour drive away. I have to admit that despite how busy and frustrating my days were in Chientan, I got very emotional leaving it. There was a sense of comfort in having a set schedule and 600 volunteers collectively struggling with you.
Once I arrived, we were greeted by the principal of the school and other teachers that would help guide us. We were also shown our dorm: a very nice house right next to the school where pairs would share a room. I was very glad and reassured to see how organized everything was for us. We didn’t have to pay for anything; all we had to do was provide our English teaching skills. During my training week in Taipei, I attended a lecture on school conditions in rural Taiwan. I discovered that it was not the lack of resources that hinders English learning, but a lack of skilled English teachers. After my first few days teaching, I can definitely sense that. If they would spend this much time and money on having 7 young native English speakers come teach at their school for a few weeks, then they must value our skill a lot.
I was extremely humbled by how dedicated the school was towards our comfort and care. I promised to do my best to teach the school children English.
The weekend before we started teaching, we prepared for the opening ceremony for the first day. We worked hard to create a fun video introducing ourselves in addition to learning a k-pop dance (my niche) for our opening ceremony performance. On the first day, 60 small children filed into the classroom. They were pretty quiet watching our video and performance, but Ida assured us that it was because they were shy.
After the opening ceremony, half the the children went to another classroom, and the other half stay in the same classroom – my classroom. Almost immediately, the children’s shyness went away and the chaos began. Even though we had three teachers for a 30 kid classroom, by the end of the day we were all beat. I started to miss my training week; at least then, I knew most of what we going on. In the classroom though, you never know what to expect. A lesson plan could sound good, but it wouldn’t be engaging enough or it was too short. I was even more exhausted than I was in Taipei. After class ended at 3:40, I still had to create all the material for the next day and reflect on what went wrong and what we can improve on. Often times, I worked until midnight to create the best plan for tomorrow.
After just a few days, I have a newfound respect for teachers, especially ones who work with children. It is tiring and at times frustrating, but I have found small moments that make it worth it. For example, our class has an extremely shy but smart girl who didn’t smile the whole first day. On the second day, we let the kids use stickers to decorate their folder. When we gave the girl cat stickers, her face immediately lit up and she would start smiling for the rest of the day. It was very heartwarming moment that made me fall in love with kids again.