Alright, I've now officially been in front of Taiwanese children, introduced as "Teacher Kyle," and everyone walked away unscathed. I haven't actually taught much beyond where Wisconsin is and what I looked like as a baby (one kid asked if it was a photo of my son), but it was just the first day of class for half of my sections this past week. Because of the way my schedule is set up, I actually have four first days before I see all of my students. I'll give you a more detailed look at the first one.
Last Wednesday, Nancy, my co-teacher at Dayin Elementary School, picked me up on her scooter at 7:40. Riding on the back of a scooter is still new for me, so I spent our 15-minute commute clinging to the bike for life and nervously looking over Nancy's shoulder. But riding through the Taiwanese landscape is also still new for me, and I found my gaze drawn to the hazy mountains in the distance, highlighted by the morning sun.
Like many of the schools I've visited in Yilan County, Dayin is a tall building with open-air halls hugging a courtyard. The detached gymnasium/assembly hall/auditorium, standing 40 paces from the main office, is where the day began. After filing in, the students stood in line at varying degrees of attention for half an hour. I could see beads of sweat run down their temples as introductions of new staff (including myself) were made, safety reminders were given, and the principal gave her opening remarks (during which she ordered the students through several stages of attention and at-ease). One girl got sick from standing in the heat.
Classes that day consisted mostly of writing names on textbooks, practicing a couple of sentences, and introducing me. I prepped a slideshow that shows some photos of me and my family and gets the kids to guess my age and home location. While some classes were very good at guessing my age, some ranged from 18–47. The questions that they came up with after were amusing, including "Do you have a girlfriend?" and "Can you touch the ceiling?" (I'll save the rest for another post).
At Dayin I have my own desk! Most schools seem to have an office room where nearly every teacher and staff member has a desk, and I'm right in there with them. The staff were friendly to me, although many were shy due to limited English skills. My even more limited Chinese skills make me equally shy, so we'll see how well I get to know everyone over time.
Overall, the day went very well, especially because the staff celebrated Ghost Month after the students left. I got to partake, and.... what is Ghost Month, you say? I'll cover it in greater detail in another future post!