About Me

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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

February is my Jubilee! Blissfully Unemployed

Mid-January I gave my month notice to the bosses of my new school. I only lasted a semester. They decided to take me up on the offer (after begging me to stay) halfway, my last day was Jan 31st, not after Chinese New Year so  I have been enjoying a long overdue, vacay. This is the first time  I have been able to take winter break with my daughter since she started school. I don't have to work and pay an anchingban to babysit her and drill her with Mandarin while I work.

The common questions I get are, will I move back to Tainan,  and do I regret moving to Yilan. Truthfully, had I known it would not work out, I wouldn't have moved to Yilan. But I am so glad I did, I am grateful to be here, although its cold and the sky had been permanently grey for 2 weeks. I also feel more courageous, bolder. I have my APRC, why not use it? I don't have to be a slave to a school anymore. I should make an effort to do what makes me happy, when I want to.

I would never imagine in my wildest dreams that I as a single mom, basically living paycheck to paycheck (I can't seem to save in Taiwan, like I did when I was working in Tamsui 15 years ago, but I think being childless was a major factor), would just up and quit my job without first finding one with the same salary. By all outside accounts, this seems reckless, irresponsible, messing with our financial security, yet it was the only decision that gave me peace. Of course I felt guilty for my bosses, having to find a teacher for 2nd semester, but I feel they let me down most of all.

Like most schools, they have a revolving door with foreign teachers, but there is a core of 4 or 5 who have been slaving away for 3 years or more. I was working 27 classes a week, a mix of Junior High, Elementary and kindergarten. Prepping for that was insane, the kids are conditioned to paying attention to whiteboard screens and I was making ppts for everything. The middle school kids for the most part were a nightmare, there was daily disrespect, foul language, sexual disrespect, Confucius is rolling in his grave. Of course there are good students and classes, but for the most part the generalization holds that the students body in all departments are wealthy, spoiled, with little motivation, personal integrity and lots of entitlement.

Obviously it wasn't all bad, I learned a lot- about making ppts and new games and met some kids who I truly cared about. My coworkers were all outstanding. But the joke among teachers, especially the Taiwanese, is that, " If you want to kill yourself, work at Ch--D--." My daughter's class a prime example, they went through 2 homeroom teachers in one semester because the class is unmanageable even for a retired, well experienced expert who couldn't believe how ill mannered the kids were. I took my kid out and into public school as soon as the semester was over. I prefer she be with normal kids.

In many ways it wasn't their fault, especially the boarders who live there during the week. I think the Taiwanese education system, lack of physical exercise, (see, "The Real Reason Kids Fidget" and "How Low Muscle Tone Affects Academic Performance" )  as well as their parents "throwing them away" (because that's how those kids perceive the whole boarding experience.) I found the boarding students generally have the worse emotional problems and were a nightmare to teach, at least 90-97%  of my boarding students had behavioral problems. (Read, "Why Boarding Schools Produce Bad Leaders").  I suspect the school leadership caters to paying parents/customers over whats best for the school, or whats best for students and teachers (26 classes minimum is insane). I was shocked to learn that the boarders are packed into a makeshift bedroom (a classroom with bunk beds) with 8 or more students. They have breakfast, lunch and dinner in their classrooms, there is no cafeteria, and worse there is no common area where they can sit on a sofa, watch TV, interact socially in a home like environment, sounds more like a prison. After dinner, they basically study 'til bedtime, which for Junior High and High is too late to be healthy. Its no wonder the kids act out the next day in my class, hungry for love first, exercise second, learning anything is not a priority, let alone English as a second language.

I was babysitting first, teaching was secondary. I wont mention how I had to make tests easier so the students didn't totally fail. Before I worked here, I believed for years, that grades were arbitrary, but after working here, I totally think kids, these kids need grades. Even then, getting 60%, they don't fail them, elementary school and junior high students all over Taiwan would do well to let kids repeat a grade if they didn't deserve to pass, which most of mine did not-yet they do.Prepping for 27 classes, meant I didn't do any prep for kindy and the joy was just taken away from teaching. I was working thru my lunch breaks and working out for only 10-15 minutes in the morning. The workload stress had subtle effects on my body, although I am the same weight on the scale, I feel like I lost muscle mass, my metabolic/endocrine system and is out of whack.

I could totally have stayed, but at what cost to my quality of life? I lasted a semester because I had to dramatically lower my standards and expectations, which were already pretty easy going. My whole waking self was consumed with the school, I hardly know my neighborhood. As for them telling me the 2nd year would be easier because I could just reuse old materials, I say look at those teachers who have been working there years, they come in early, work during their lunch breaks, one even coming in on Saturdays (unpaid) because thats how much work she had. All the teachers worked so hard, while the students were lazy. The board met for meetings but I don't think they had any idea about what teachers were going through or what was best for the school, other than profit, competing with the competition, and drawing more students. They would be wise to look at the public Waldorf school down the road which has a waiting list, or listen to the suggestion of teachers who have tried introducing ideas in the past, only to be shut down (having a gardening class/club). I suggested during Christmas some kind of used clothes drive for the two local orphanages, the response was, " But we never have done any community service before."

So for my well being, I quit and haven't regretted it, even though I just came back from my trip to KK and am leaving for Thailand soon. March rent will be paid by Providence. I believe God has something better for me. I found a nice tutoring job, great kids and family, just down the road from me, which has been enough to fund our recent trip to Tainan (highs-peed tickets were 4400 NT total, not counting buses). I'm sure more tutoring jobs will come.

Veggin' with the cat and cartoons on our winter break.
After Chinese New Year I will make it a priority to hang up tutoring posters around the University, and not just for English, but Yoga too (I am a certified teacher from the States). I dont know what happened, but maybe someone turned on a subtle switch when I turned 40, that I don't want to do something I don't enjoy, even if the paycheck is good, because the money just isn't worth it to me. I'd rather take a bite out of my salary if it means I still have joy. Time will tell if I can maintain Joy come March when I am down to zero and the bills are coming in, but until then at least for this blessed month, everyday is "Easy Like Sunday Morning."

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