|Passing Thru the Rift Valley|
I don't know if the nearly 5 hour train ride there had knocked the stars out of my eyes, or what, but I just wasn't that impressed. I was getting the sinking feeling I was going to be a slave again, and I've been so free since Chinese New Year. There seemed to be a lot of unknowns and mixed messages and I came away from it overburdened with confusion. The presence or absence of peace is a major indicator which way I decided. Of course my ego is like, "I want this" because of past rejection, because of it been under a formidable leader for sustainable development in Taitung, because my kid could go to a Waldorf school, because its aligned with my personal values, was the biggest thing for me.
On the train ride back (another 4 1/2 hours) I realized I have a good thing going here in Yilan. Why would I give that up?
1. I think the climate in Yilan is better. I don't mind the rain, I quite enjoy it and this year hasn't been as bad as everyone warned. I don't have to exaggerate that each day is fresh and smells amazing. Its pleasantly cool and sunny. I'm glad I'm not melting in the dry polluted airs of Tainan. If that means dumping liters of water out of my dehydrator everyday so be it. Everything but the parking here is serene.
2. My kid goes to an awesome school. Her class size is small in comparison to most schools, and they seem to balance academic, music and sports. My kid was having trouble in math (she got an 80% on her midterm, which is basically failing by Asian standards), so now the school appointed a volunteer tutor (fabulous lady) twice a week to help her after school for an hour. I don't need to go to an after school anchingban or hire a tutor. She plays recorder every morning and guitar on Friday and she has half days twice a week.
Her school is amazing, very supportive from the get go, and my kid isn't the easiest of students to have in your class. There's the language and cultural barrier with me as her mom, that takes extra time. I've been having growing pains with her homeroom teacher who is young and inexperienced. She called me into a meeting a month ago for Z's attitude. To my dismay my daughter was organizing a class revolt, instigating the class to reject teacher's homework assignments. She would stand up and say, "This is too much work, who thinks we can do less, let's all unite and tell teacher..." I wonder where she gets it from? I had to explain that her class isn't a Democracy (maybe teacher can try "Flipping"), teacher is the captain and there will be no mutinies. And there hasn't been since.
There was a recent incident, where her teacher made flippant, disrespectful comments, but she apologized (sort of, not to me, but to my translator and the principals) and blamed her statements on being seriously grieved, her grandmother just died. Fair enough. we all have our moments. She wants another meeting and is big on using LINE, so I think boundaries are an issue, I don't mind enforcing boundaries from time to time.
|Long train ride, digging our heels in|
The Waldorf school in Taitung just didn't sell it to me as a parent. The kids in that elementary school don't write until 3rd grade, my kid is currently top of her class in Mandarin (midterms 2 weeks ago), why would I want her Mandarin to slip and become mediocre? That's one of THE big benefits of living here. They also don't use any books or technology in grades 1-6, which I think is excessive. My kid is a bibliophile and spent the time of my interview and demo in their (small) library.
Also, the foreign teachers in the Waldorf school in Taitung, are trying to bring more sports into their curriculum as they, "Have more aboriginal kids from the mountains who need to run around." Also foreign staff see the importance of team building and sportsmanship. So if they aren't big on books or computers and apparently sports, what exactly do they do? If its run around wild, enjoying the fresh air and nature, doing art, my kid does that literally everyday already. I dont need to move to Taitung for that.
3. My current job is also pretty darn good. I work for a Canadian guy with kids whose been here for years and he has loyal employees. He is easy to talk to, assumes the best, gives teachers a lot of flexibility and on his word, promised more hours next semester. It is also a relief to work for him. No managerial good cop-bad cop games.
|Breakfast burritos on the train|
I got the impression that there was too much internal conflict with the staff in Taitung between progressives and old school minded educators. I assumed because of the high profile leader and his reformist values that everyone would be on the same page or they would at least hire educators with similar forward looking values, but apparently that is not the case. I was forewarned to be "flexible".
I also got the impression that there was no real defined point between being teacher and having a life outside the school. We had to spend at least an evening in the dorms providing that homey atmosphere they need and also that night 2 teachers had evening classes until 7:30.
I have a kid, my off time is my time to be with her. I think its possible to be a good teacher, even be a parental role model without taking away my family time, but I got the impression that would be an issue if I took that job.
I like how much free time I have at the moment. I will be able to say how many hours more I want next semester. Not everyday I' m thinking.
4. My current living environment is fabulous. My apartment building is new and I'm across the street from the most sublime park in all of Yilan County, if not all of Taiwan (see Yilan's Best Kept Secret). I also started regularly going back to the gym for TRX and kettlebell classes, even Tainan wasn't offering that when I left it 9 months ago. I also think Yilan has way more bike trails than Taitung and better weather to bike in. (See Living Clean in Yilan and What's Not To Do).
5. Plans for going home in August remain. I dont have to put anyone out or change schedules. I need to go home and see my grandparents and not worry about making waves with a new job. My current boss is supportive.
What a relief to be happy exactly where I am!