It’s still a bit hard to believe, but I am *officially* a retired teacher.

 A year ago I wanted to regularly update my blog about work and life in Taiwan. Those dreams quickly evaporated as I learned how draining teaching is. Now that I have a lot of time in my unemployed hands, I thought I would reminiscence about my year at JinWen.

Fall semester was a big learning curve. How to lesson plan, how to create tests, how to grade tests, how to earn students’ respect. With so many new variables, I decided to make my life as simple as possible and follow the book’s suggested lesson plan. It was easy but boring. I knew spring semester had to be different. I stopped thinking of the textbook as an all-mighty power and more of a reference tool. This shift created so many memorable projects, lessons, and laughs including yoga, piñatas, cooking classes, and directing theater performances!

I put my UGA Flagline Captain skills to use and directed 16 student plays!

Each semester the bilingual program expects the students to prepare an English presentation for their parents. The fall semester’s presentation theme was water. They performed a short skit about the water cycle, and gave informative PowerPoint presentations about worldwide water festivals and statistics of water usage. They even went so far as to begin and end the presentation singing a water-themed song. Yes, it was adorable. 

Spring semester the homeroom teachers wanted the students to recreate famous plays from Chinese and Ancient Greek dramas. The students were required to select a play, translate it, write a script, create (buy) costumes and props, and rehearse during and after class. It was definitely a lot of stress for a performance that had to be under seven minutes. WHEW.

Ian and I nearly went insane editing (read: rewriting) bizarrely translated scripts, cajoling students into emoting, scolding misbehaving students, giving stage directions, more scolding, directing night rehearsals, and creating props. As unpredictable and chaotic of an experience as it was, I loved every second of it. Some kids swore they couldn’t act, couldn’t speak loudly, couldn’t pretend to cry, but with a lot of support they did it. I will say, some students should be on Disney Channel, others should stick to academia. Either way I’m so happy that they explored a new aspect of themselves, and that I got to mentor that growth!

Stupidly, I didn’t take any photos during the final production, but I managed to get this one video of the kids doing the wave for me.

I put my yoga certification to use!

After the final presentation, there were two weeks left of school before the semester ended. Seeing as we had nothing to do (no tests, no projects, no presentations for any class) my natural inclination was a movie week.  From time to time madness strikes, and during a bike ride I convinced myself that yoga would be a better use of that time. I checked with my boss, Angela, to see if it was feasible and she thought it was a great idea! Ian and I combined our classes and took them to an indoor dance/martial arts studio on campus.

Lemme be real, the first class was a shit show. I stood in the middle of a large mat and asked the students to circle around me. Mistake. Most of the students couldn’t see, kept bumping into each other, and seemed embarrassed because this was such a new and weird activity. This led to a lot of giggling, pushing, then me yelling “breathe deeply and relax. I said RELAX!” Angela had to step in and scold the students in Chinese for 10 minutes before they settled down.

With even more preparation and a thorough plan, the second lesson was much more cohesive. Ian greeted the students and bowed to them before he allowed 2-3 students to  walk into the studio. Then I gave each student an assigned seat with enough space to move and asked them to begin meditating like the students on stage. A great use of 15 minutes! Because the students entered a calm environment and knew they could not play they followed my directions, didn’t laugh uncontrollably, and (I think) felt more connected to their bodies than the previous class. At the end of the semester, I received numerous thank you notes from students just about the yoga class. It was definitely a memorable experience!

I put my limited cooking knowledge to use!

While flipping through the National Geographic Teacher’s Book brainstorming spring semester lesson plans I saw a chapter about food. My immediate thought: let’s cook! 

The ever-encouraging Angela approved of the cooking class and offered so many great suggestions to make it happen. To simplify the process I asked each class to prepare the same dishes: pepperoni pizza, chicken quesadilla, crepe, guacamole, and chocolate chip cookies. I provided the English recipe and the students were responsible for bringing the correct ingredients and making the food.

The final products were mostly good, but there were a few strange concoctions (hello ketchup on bread and calling it pizza). Overall it was a lively yet relaxed environment where the students practiced their English reading, speaking, and listening abilities outside of a predictable class assignment.

I put my art hobby to use!

For the students not enrolled in the bilingual program, the teaching objective is culture and fun with the language. A former employee of JinWen told me he made piñatas with some classes which inspired me to do a Mexican culture lesson plan. We learned how to make piñatas, and about Mexican music, food, and Dia de Los Muertos using the movie The Book of Life as the primary teaching tool.

This was a fun project, but logistically difficult because of the weather. We created paper mache piñatas using balloons as the mold. I did not realize that February-April is the rainy season, which means it rains all day everyday for months. The moisture affected the drying times and made the balloons slowly deflate, which created abnormal shaped spheres. What should’ve been a three week project turned into five weeks for some classes.

Each group designed their piñata which led to some funny, goofy, and amazing artwork. The best part, of course, was going to the park across the street to smash the piñatas with a baseball bat, eat candy, and relax outside for 50 minutes.

I learned so many lessons on becoming a better teacher and human. Managing hundreds of students is difficult. Period. I constantly told myself that each student is a complex human that’s just trying. Allow space for mistakes, uncertainty, open communication and love!

I really do love each student, even if they made me pull my hair out from stress. Students, if you’re reading this I LOVE YOU. Oh, and do your homework. <3

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