|Days are getting shorter, front entrance|
There are moments throughout my day where I am clicking my heels on the inside, counting my lucky stars that I am here, that this school has found me. I teach social justice, to 9th graders and some ESL to 7th and 8th graders. I was given the choice to teach all social justice classes, but for variety's sake, I decided to take just the 9th graders and my coworker was given the 8th graders. Its good for them to have different teachers. I am creating my own curriculum, my managers who are my co-teachers, are transparent conspirators, good people, real educators, who went to grad school in the States and appreciate a liberal Western education. This is a subject I care passionately about, that I went to graduate school for. I worked 7 years like a slave for this job to fall in my lap, like the Judaic narrative of Jacob working 7 years for his bride. This is my year of jubilee. Even the petty annoyances of kids losing their papers here and there aren't enough to rattle me. I am just too damn happy to be here.
The 15 minute drive to Yuanshan is gorgeous. I skim the outkirts of Yilan city, the fields of flooded rice patties near the sports park, the mountains reflecting in their waters and head towards the mountains, never the same perfect color on the morning drive in the scooter, tho the car is safer and I have tunes. The campus is beautiful, immaculate, surrounded by fields of fruit orchards, dragon fruits vines growing on the fences, nestled at the base of the mountains. Wisps of fog and clouds trail the small peaks, the air is sweet from farmers burning grass in the distance. Every morning the kids are busy cleaning the floors and classrooms, all is spick and span. I teach 28 classes but amazingly I have time, more than enough time. Teaching the same 2 subjects and materials to different classes, prep is minimal and by the 3rd repeat class, I would have tweeked and perfected what didn't work the first time.
The kids are comparatively well behaved, compared to my semester at their competitor Chung Dau in Zhuangwei (which really isn't competition). The lowest level 8th graders who my manager thought might be too much trouble actually are the sweetest class, all 36 of them. After junior high hell at Chung Dau, where the wealthy socially challenged controlled the classroom and their paying parents bought the board, these kids at Huey Deng are absolute angels. I think my current "bad" class just didn't test so well, actually their English is good enough. For Teacher's Day on Friday, they sang me a song which they rehearsed independent of their homeroom teacher. Acutally I have a few students who were in my nightmare classes in Chung Dau and here they are totally different students, dare I say they are thriving and so am I. The culture of this school is positive. I can teach at a slower pace for the kids to genuinely learn, I don't have to dumb down tests (yes that's a thing) and I am not seen as a babysitter/entertainer, but an actual teacher.
I am really enjoying this age group. Maybe its God's way for preparing me to parent a teen soon. Teenagers are just little kids in bigger bodies and even some of the 7th graders still literally are little kids; not all the boys have hit puberty and they are dwarfed by the girls and bigger classmates. On Monday morning they cry quietly for their parents, still homesick, getting used to life at a boarding school (they go home on weekends).
On Friday afternoons I am free. Between prepping I was walking around the track listening to my headphones just flabbergasted at the civility of the students, some playing basketball in the many courts, some jogging, a few playing catch with a baseball and gloves, others raking leaves and bagging old grass. Kids feel invested to care for their school, there is accountability for their behavior in and out of the classroom. Sure they are extremely wealthy and pay 82,000NT a semester, but they don't act spoiled rotten. Its obvious most live in a bubble, they haven't known much hardships and its difficult for them to relate to some topics such as human rights violations in Taiwan, poverty or even people with disabilities. Their comfortable lives is their biggest hurdle in educating them about social justice, but their EQ as a whole are high, so they are open and kind-hearted enough to listen and that's everything.