I won’t bore you with all the details of teaching in Taiwan and what it was like to have to figure out lesson plans and all that fun. But instead, I’ll summarize what that experience left me with and some of the things that really stuck with me after that experience, both good and bad.
When I went to Taiwan to teach, I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into. This experience really opened my eyes up to the fact that my Chinese was pretty terrible. Working with these kids was such a great experience to learn from them and see the world that they grew up in. They also really forced me to figure out how to better communicate in Chinese. The kids that we taught lived a very different life than I experienced in Boise. They lived at school Sunday night through Saturday morning. They would commute home on Saturday mornings or even Friday night if they could catch the bus early enough. And then return back to the school on Sunday night so that they could be at the school in time for class. The students lived in the dorms on campus even though they were in middle school and it was their responsibility to maintain the school. Every night they would sweep the classroom and make dinner before they studied till about 9PM. At 9PM they would get the chance to watch some TV and be kids before they went to bed only to start the next day with making breakfast for the school. The kids each took turns with their chores for the school and they took full responsibility for each of their chores every day.
The classes every day were an experience. Working with these students to help them improve their English so they could pass the high school entrance exam was rewarding and kind of sad at the same time. Knowing that some of these kids may not be able to go to high school because their families wouldn’t be able to afford to put them into a private school was sad. And their lives ahead of them would be working in a local shop rather than going into an industry and getting an education was eye-opening. They were smart kids who wanted to do well and they were giving up their summers to improve their English so they could create a future for themselves. I got lucky with the students that I got to spend time with. They were smart and determined to do well. And since they spent their week nights on campus, we got the chance to bond with all the kids during the evening times.
After three weeks of spending time with these students, I felt immediately bonded to them. When we were getting ready to leave the school forever, the students showed up on a Saturday with gifts and to say goodbye to us. I, obviously, sobbed uncontrollably. I cried because these amazing kids were so sweet and generous. I sobbed because I knew that the chances of me seeing them ever again would be slim to none because keeping in touch was difficult since they only had two computers on-site at the school and the kids had limited hours they could use the internet. I cried knowing that not all of my students would get the opportunities they deserved. I cried because they were younger than me but at the same time had grown up to be more adult than me. I will forever be grateful for the experience I had with these kids and I will always treasure what they taught me.
*Photo courtesy of Rebecca*