Interview with Ryan Hevern, an American Teacher in Taipei
We caught up with Ryan, one of our latest writing interns, to talk to him about his move from the depths of the jungle in Borneo to the more concrete jungle of Taipei, Taiwan. Read his interview below to find out more about his experiences.
1. Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Ryan Hevern, I’m from San Francisco Bay Area but have been outside of the US for a couple of years now. Last year I was living in the jungle of Malaysian Borneo, guiding people through the rainforest and simultaneously feeding hundreds of leeches.
Now, I’ve traded the leeches in the jungle for teaching in Taiwan, and children are a whole other animal!
2. How have you enjoyed teaching in Taiwan to date?
I have been in Taiwan roughly seven months and have enjoyed the kids so much. Teaching at HESS has been a great way to get my feet wet, as the lesson plans are ready for you, and basically the same for each day. Connecting with the kids has been fun, and I feel like they really look up to us and look to us to break them free of the full schedule grind they go through every day.
3. What advice can you give to new teachers interested in teaching in Taiwan?
Be aware that the kids want to have fun, and will be crazy at times in the classroom. I feel that’s ok, but their parents have high expectations that you will have to meet. So it’s important to find a balance of a fun classroom and a serious classroom. Classroom management is often key.
4. Can you tell us about a particularly powerful moment in your classroom?
I am having a hard time thinking of one particular moment, but every day when I come into the school, all the kids sitting there yell “Teacher Lion!” even if I don’t teach them. To see the joy and ear-to-ear smiles these kids have every day is powerful. Kids can be some of the most thoughtful people around, and you will realize that when you teach.
One day I told a student I loved durian (the stinky fruit), he waited until it was the season and surprised me with a whole durian fruit! He’s nine years old. It was really touching!
5. What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Taiwan?
This probably depends on the region, but living in Taipei can be whatever you want to make of it. There really isn’t a reason to be bored, or not to try something new, which I think is a positive.
Nature surrounds us here, so it’s easy to get outside of the city (something important to me). A super minor negative is the trash pick up time. Working in a buxiban means late hours and that’s when garbage trucks come, so it can pile up in your house.
Overall, everyone is so friendly here, and if you ever need help with directions, translation, etc, there will be a local here to go above and beyond to help you out.
6. Have you had the opportunity to travel much in Taiwan or in Asia?
I have been living in Asia for two years now, first in Malaysia and now in Taiwan. I have been traveling and working all over SE Asia and have now been starting to explore Taiwan more and more.
It’s great because the surrounding countries are so accessible by plane and very reasonably priced. You can check out my adventures on my blog (see the end of this interview)
Have fun, be patient, the kids you teach are incredibly adorable. Unless they are teens, then they are typical teens and you may find yourself answering your own questions in class! Be fun, be silly, you will find the kids respond so well to it.
I feel it’s important to get outside your comfort zone and explore, and if this is your first time doing that, Taiwan is a great starter kit.
8. Do you have any favorite blogs or websites about Taiwan that you’d like to share with our readers?