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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Teacher-Parent Conflict Resolution and Cultural Differences

The honeymoon is over.

Z's new school and new homeroom teacher continue to overwhelm us with their positivity. Z's recent midterm grades, especially her math and science were higher than her Chinese for the first time. In fact now my daughter loves math all because her brilliant teacher loves math and he loves teaching more. We love this school!


Unfortunately we live in a world with imperfect humans and once again we are having another experience with an abusive (music) teacher. I say once again because in her previous school, her homeroom teacher aka Evil Lyn, was just not able to be impartial, played favorites and was grossly over critical with my child. She took away Z's outdoor recess, gave her more homework, didn't really teach and subsequently my kid hated math. I tried meetings with Evil Lynn (lovingly nicknamed from one of He Man's many enemies) for almost 3 semesters, several times she got reprimanded by the principal, with little improvement.  Let it be known, all of our meetings were civil, I never "lost it" with her, although she "lost it" on my kid several times. But thats history, that was Kai Shuan Elementary near our older apartment. Good riddance.

Other than that, Z's teachers have been phenomenal. Her kindergarten teachers and 1st grade homeroom teachers in Tainan were outstanding. (There was an incident with a Taiwanese language teacher filming Z in a commercial without my knowledge, but the school and teacher apologized, it blew over.)

Bear in mind I am coming from a culture where  job performance is constantly getting assessed and workers constantly get feedback from each other, management and customers. Its much easier to get fired in the US for incompetency than Taiwan, so I think American workers are more apt to respond to glitches and evaluations more positively than in Taiwan, where here they often are in the form of a personal attack. I  know this intimately having worked for Amy/Rebecca a sadist manager in Tainan. Of course she eventually did one big sweeping sincere, umbrella apology for all the times she, yada yada, so I had to forgive her, but her style of management is legendary, unforgettable. Its the reason we all suspect she changed her name.

Another cultural anomaly is the role of a teacher and discipline. Taiwan is a Confucian society and teachers have have a kind of status that parents respect. Thus teachers have significantly more power to discipline students (harshly) here. Taiwanese parents have a kind of social contract with teachers that they can chastise students more so than American teachers. More often the American teacher will call the students' parents for them to do the severer punishment. This has been quite challenging for me as a teacher, but usually my Taiwanese co-teacher plas the "bad cop". I don't think its ever ok to yell in a child's face in front of the class or have students physically fear you, its just not anything close to a learning environment.

When a kid loves music and now she hates music class, someone failed as a teacher
Since I find myself going around this same mountain again, I am not insane enough (or am I) to make the same mistakes. Face to face meetings, talking civilly, stating the facts as I see them, or how my kid perceived them have been in my experience, unhelpful. So this time I asked a coworker, a Taiwanese computer teacher- with kids- what he would do. After I told him the incident (next blog post), he said, "That's ridiculous! This would make it on Taiwanese TV news." He said if it were him, he would go to the Dean of our school to talk with the principal of her school. I immediately dismissed that as underhanded, sneaky, also I didn't want to involve more people who probably had better things to do.

Nevertheless, because the thought had never occurred to me, perhaps his suggestion was right after all. I talked it over with more Taiwanese friends and they concurred this was the best method of conflict resolution for Taiwanese: using someone more powerful, using connections and influence. This felt so wrong, so alien to me.

This friendly computer teacher told the dean and the dean said to first leave it to Z's homeroom teacher and if he cant handle it then he'll get involved. (Her homeroom teacher's reputation proceeds him, teacher Jack is a superstar in these parts). Unfortunately  a talk with Z's Vice Principal did nothing to deter this music teacher. The next class, she was just as mentally abusive and emotional as before.

So back to my method unless something else presents itself. She is only at their school twice a week and I hope to arrange a meeting this Thursday.

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