An education in Penghu

This is Mike, Nick’s dad, writing a guest post. This is the 7th terrific day that Gina and I have been experiencing Nick and Liv’s world. We are getting quite an education.

From what I can tell, there are two types of English teaching positions in Penghu and the rest of Taiwan for native English speakers.

Nick, Liv, Gina and fellow English office staff Anly, English Program Coordinator and Sophie English classroom teacher.

The FIRST is with the ministry of education (MOE) teaching English in a public school. This is what Nick and Liv are doing. You have to be a certified teacher (US certification is preferred). They teach English in classes with three other Taiwanese teachers who are fluent in English.

The SECOND is in what are affectionately called “cram schools.” These don’t require certification. Getting ahead through education is so popular here, that kids go to these private businesses at 4:00 i

n the afternoon into the evening.

In Nick and Liv’s case, they work for MOE in a public school of about 900 students that has an English Village–rooms dedicated to teaching about various aspects of life in Taiwan, but in English. Other schools bring students in (like a field trip) to be taught in the English village. So far most of Nick and Liv’s teaching has been in the regular classrooms, teaching the standard curriculum there. Each lesson plan, they may teach to seven different classes. Nick and Liv have also been boated out to a couple of outlying islands a few

times to teach there. Soon winter will set in with high winds and put that on hold. They are told that in April, when the winds have died down, they will make more trips to outlying islands, possibly even for a whole week at one island. I was surprised that people of all ages work th

ese teaching jobs. The DOE recruits in Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan.

Teachers are greatly respected in society here. When we tell people our kids are teaching and that Gina and Emmelyn are school teachers, their esteem for us seems to go up.

Because the cram schools meet after regular school gets out at 4:00 and many students (whose parents can afford it) go to these schools. It makes it very hard for the church to have teen ministries, because students are so busy with cram schools. An expat from the U.S. 20+ years ago at Nick and Liv’s church owns a cram school. On Sunday he was encouraging them to come and work for him next year. I think they prefer the environment of working for the DOE (Better hours, pays for housing and gives a free visit for one blood relative [like Nick’s dad : )] within the first three months).

Nick, Liv and Anly, English Program Coordinator and friend of Nick and Liv.

At an ex pats dinner last Sunday evening (in front of a surf shop, of all things) we met some cram school teachers. Some of those we met impressed me as young adults wanting to get out of Canada or the U.S. for an experience. Others are wind surfing fanatics, who use the job as means of income to continue their sport in the windiest place in the northern hemisphere.

Yesterday we got our own personal “Take Your Parents to Work Day.” We ate lunch for the second time this week with the school staff. For lunch each person brings their own bowl, chopsticks and soup spoon to school. On a counter are 3-5 containers. The first contains white rice, the second a meat, the third a vegetable and the fourth a soup. You scoop from the containers into your bowl all you want. Yesterday was shrimp and pineapple with cabbage as a vegetable. Yum!  I passed on the pigs liver soup. Staff members  eat at their desks, which are all in a large room. We ate in the conference room with English speaking teachers. People seem to focus on eating and not talk much while eating. After using chopsticks each day, I have even gotten at least adequate at consuming a meal with them. Shoveling from a bowl does make it much easier. After lunch we, along with the rest of the people at the school, washed our dishes in an outdoor sink with cold water and some dish soap.

The schools here seem to be built in squares with a large courtyard. Hallways are all outdoors around the courtyard side of the building. Thus with windows on both sides of a room, the sea breezes can easily blow through the rooms to keep them somewhat cooler without air conditioning.

The education system encourages creativity. The creative way the English village is laid out is evidence of that.  I love the use of music through the PA system to tell that class is over, rather than a bell. It is much more soothing and encouraging than our harsh North American bells.

Nick teaching THE GIVING TREE

We got to watch Nick and Liv each teach. What a wonderful experience! They taught in classrooms (not in the English village). They each co-taught with a bi-lingual teacher who gave the kids more complex explanation of instructions in Chinese. Nick and Liv each did most all of the actual instruction. Nick taught out of a story book—THE GIVING TREE. Nick had scanned the pages of the book, pulled out vocabulary words, added appropriate pictures and created an electronic reading book which he used on a smart board. He taught some pretty hard concepts, like the difference between one “leaf” and many “leaves” (not leafs).

Liv was asked to teach a unit on Halloween. She could not find a good Halloween story, so wrote one herself (!) and made a terrific electronic reading book with it, including the trick or treat song, for which she found a recorded rendition and the kids sang and danced along. She had the kids volunteer to come up front and do the motions twice with the songs. Gina and I even joined in up front.

Gina and I both thought they did a wonderful job. Their lessons even kept us “young” adults engaged. They both taught in an expressive way encouraging the kids to be more expressive in their readings, used consistent gestures (like pointing to their heads when saying “remember”), brought in similar concepts from previous stories for review and were holistic in their approach (using a story to teach vocab, concepts, North American habits, spelling, pronunciation, irregular verbs, concluding with a fun kinesthetic game that worked on vocab/spelling and more, all around a story). These children are competitive, so the competitive games were a hit.

Olivia teaching the students about the Halloween holiday

Liv has some great ideas for creative additions. There is high interest here in North American traditions. She has a college friend teaching this year in a Christian elementary school in Kingwood, Texas. The idea is for her friend to video her students talking and teaching on various holidays like Christmas and Easter and then show that to Liv’s students. Liv’s students will do likewise with holidays here like winter solstice and Chinese New Year.

Nick and Liv love the respect they get here from the students and the fellow faculty, all older than them. The classroom control allows them to spend 99% of their time teaching creatively, which, you can tell we’re proud to say, they do an excellent job at.

A creative way to identify bathrooms

Wen-Ao Elementary school courtyard.

Children sliding on cement slides.

Outdoor hallway.

In English Village: Display for Winter Solstice. Turtles are considered good luck.

In the English Village: The newsroom.

In the English Village: The restaurant.

In the English Village: The transportation room, includes a mockup of the inside of an airplane.

In the English Village: The transportation room. You exit the airplane to find that the hallway is painted like the outside of an airplane as well. We get on a jet in a couple days to say good bye, Nick and Liv. We love you, are proud of you, thank God for jets to allow us to visit you like this and will miss you!

Categories: Education, Friendship, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Post navigation

8 thoughts on “An education in Penghu

  1. Clay

    An excellent guest post, Mike. Belva and I are so glad you and Gina are getting to spend this time with the kids. We are so looking forward to our time next month.

  2. Belva Bowers

    Great post!! Thank you Mike for the detailed explanation and pictures!

  3. Rebecca Bennett

    Very well done Mike! Love the perspective from an outsider 😉 Thanks for all the pics!
    One thing I really respect about asian countries is their dedication to cleanliness! Everything is so clean. What a beautiful school!!!

    • Thank you Rebecca. Actually, I notice here that a lot of buildings are old and grungy, instead of clean. I could have also written about contrasts. Last night we were in a beautiful clean home 5 stories tall less than a year old (very narrow), standing next to an over 100 year old falling apart home (two brothers are fighting over it and thus do not sell or improve).

  4. Lynn Otto

    Enjoyed hearing about Nick and Liv’s teaching–thanks!

  5. Gert DeKruyf

    Thanks for your post, Mike. What a nice experience for you & Gina! We’ve enjoyed your vacation to Taiwan too through all the pictures you’ve posted on FB. Blessings & safe travels.

  6. Pingback: Day 2: Penghu! | This & That {{& a little bit of craft}}

  7. Pingback: Year one in review: what we’ve learned | Nick and Liv go abroad

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: