5 Lessons Learnt from Teaching in Taiwan

The transition from the classrooms in South Korea to Taiwanese classrooms was going to be easy, or at least that’s what I naively assumed before arriving on the beautiful island.

Photo by Yellow on Flikr

Photo by Yellow on Flikr

After a year of learning a new set of work and office rules in South Korea, I was expecting to come across something similar in the schools of Taiwan. What I was met with, however, was completely on the opposite end of the spectrum.

While I realized that the complexities of culture from country to country couldn’t possibly be small (after all I’m not a complete kook), but still a small part of me was expecting the strict unspoken rules I found in the Korean office when I moved to Taiwan. What I did find in Taiwan was so unexpected – and refreshing, to be honest – that I had to share the 5 most unexpected lessons I’ve learned thus far in my Taiwanese classrooms.

1. The English Level Here Is Amazing

It may be my school is particular, but I really wasn’t prepared for the high levels of English I found in Taiwanese classrooms. My Elementary school children are learning actual English grammar and literature. There are no English bomb games or rehearsed conversations in these classrooms (Thank god, because I was ready to rip my hair out in Korea each time I received the response “I’m fine and you?” to a simple greeting like “How are you?”).

Students here practice reading and writing to become fluent in English, not simply for a better looking University resume, which is important too but not the end goal for studying English.

2. There’s No Emphasis On Beauty In The Classroom

My little Taiwanese students are still so innocent and childlike. They don’t spend hours staring at themselves in princess mirrors or combing their hair. I love their little unruly ponytails, mismatched clothing, and sun-kissed skin. It tells me that they’re still enjoying their childhoods. [contextly_sidebar id=”rh5S3EoETBoBoggWA1sGRC0Zf53HAuxy”]

3. Teachers Enjoy Casual Dress

Wow, did I look foolish showing up in my best pretty Korean dress with a full face of make up and perfect curls for my first day of work in Taiwan. While the other teachers are unbelievably kind at my school, I couldn’t help glaring at their comfy blue jeans and sneakers in jealousy while my pinched feet were squeezed into little high heels.

Emphasis in the class is on teaching, not on dress codes. As long as we don’t wear anything wildly inappropriate, we’re basically given free reign over our clothing choice. My school is especially laid back, allowing teachers to wear their piercings and tattoos in plain sight. No one freaks out here if you forgot to wear make up or decided it was more of a Nikes-and-yoga-pants kinda day.

4. Party Days And Holidays Are Junk Food Fests

This one might really be school specific, but I’ve noticed that school festivals and holidays are a deliciously painful day of junk food and tummy aches. Because special days are so spread out, the kids really get spoiled when it’s time to p-a-r-t-y.

Candy, pizza, cookies, French fries were on the menu our guilty pleasure feast, which our school has fed to our little kids on more than one occasion. No complaining here! I just remember to bring along a bottle of Tums that day….for myself.

5. Kids Will Be Kids

I think most people have this idea in their head that classrooms in Asia are like little boot camps where no laughter or B’s are allowed. It’s a silly thought, really, that even I entertained before setting out for the Eastern hemisphere.

My favorite lesson I’ve learned since teaching around the world is that no matter where you are geographically, the children of that region will always be children. Sweet, mischievous, precious, and naughty at times, kids are innocent and act the same around the world.

What lessons have you been surprised to learn abroad? Whether it was a lesson you learned in a classroom or out in the streets of a new country, share your answer in a comment below!

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