Posts Tagged With: English class

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare says that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and although he’s right about that, I think it would lose some of its appeal if it was called an ox, or a fork, or a seat.  It’s just not doing it for me.  Wake up and smell the forks.  See what I mean?  Names are important.

In our job, Nick and I have had the privilege of picking English names for some of our students.  This is a fun part of our job, but it also carries some pressure, I mean some of these kids will use these English names for the rest of their lives.  Other kids will change their names five times in the course of their school years alone.  Take Eagle for instance.  Last year his name was Summer, he comes back for school and says his name is now Eagle (even though he can’t spell it).  We think he got tired of hearing “Summer!” from the teachers.  Unfortunately, the name change did not help change his behavior, and next year he’ll be tired of hearing “Eagle!” and change his name yet again.

Picking English names is kinda fun.  We try not to just pick names willy-nilly, but instead try to find something that sounds like their Chinese name.  So we’ll listen to their Chinese name a few times and then pick something that has a similar sound in it.  This way it’s easier for them to remember and say (which is helpful for students who don’t know English very well).  Of course, every once in a while we’ll come across a name like Cake, Ocean, Pink, Boots, Wacy, or Doraemon, and those get us giggling each time.

It’s the same way with us.  For our banking and other important things, we need Chinese names.  Our co-workers picked names that sound like our English names.  It’s quite fun and I feel special having a Chinese name.  I’m sure you’re wondering what they are, so I’ll be kind and share them with you!  Olivia- 孫麗薇 (Sun Li wei) Nick- 孫尼克 (Sun Nicka)


We are currently teaching an evening class of adult postal workers.  We also had the privilege of giving some of them English names.  We suggested Vincent to one man, and he seemed to like it until another man brought up Vincent Van Gogh and the fact that he was crazy and cut off his ear.  Needless to say, Vincent is now Paul. 🙂

Categories: Education, Fun Stuff, FYI, Taiwan | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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

A Hard Day at Work

On Friday Nick and I went to teach on a small island called Jeibei.  This island is known to be very beautiful and therefore a popular tourist destination, so needless to say, we were very excited to be going here!  This was our first lone expedition, meaning that no one from our school would be going with us.  I was a little nervous about that, but then we were told that we would be going with the dentist that traveled with us to the other island.  (If you don’t remember that adventure, look here).  That calmed my nerves, because he seemed like a nice man.  So when Friday morning came, we met him at his dentist office, and rode in his car to the boat dock.  Riding in his car was an experience all of it’s own.  Most people here ride scooters because they are more convenient and the roads are narrow, so riding in a car is usually a little scary.  He was weaving in and out of traffic and honking at everyone, but after 20 minutes we arrived safely. 🙂  We only had to wait a few minutes to get on the boat, and while we were waiting, the dentist gave us drinks and snacks of pineapple cake (which is a specialty here, and very tasty)!  He also gave us maps of all the islands and pointed out which one we would be going to.

The dock.

Our boat.

The boat we took was filled with tourists going over for a fun filled day at the beach.  The ride only took about 20 minutes, which is good, because the water was pretty choppy.  As soon as we disembarked, we came to a huge scooter depot!  There were seriously hundreds of scooters lined up just waiting for someone to rent!  We followed the dentist to a scooter stand and he rented one for us.  The scooter we rode was smaller than the one we own, and much slower!  We had to go over a big hill to get to the elementary school, and we didn’t think the poor guy was gonna make it.  I seriously considered peddling with my feet! 😛  Surprisingly it made it all the way to the school (which was really just a 5 minute ride).  We parked at the public health center that the dentist was working at all day, and walked over to the school that was next door.

When we got to the school, the Military Service guy at the school was sitting in this tiny chair digging rocks out of the cracks (notice that the bucket is bigger than the chair)! I felt for him.

When we showed up at the school, the English teachers greeted us, and told us that we didn’t need to be back until lunch time.  They told us that we could go to the beach, or drive around the island if we wanted to.  But we felt the need to be responsible, so we decided to wait at the school all morning and perfect our lesson plans.

Nick with the tiny scooter.

NOT!!!!  We jumped on the opportunity to go to the beautiful beach!  We got back on our tiny scooter and high tailed it to the beach.  We had to stop along the way to buy some cheap bathing suits, but it was totally worth it!  The beach on Jeibei is beautiful! The water is so blue and clear!  The water was a little cold, so we didn’t actually swim, but we walked all the way around the beach in the shallow water.  While we were walking and talking, it dawned on us just how amazing God is.  I should say re-dawned, because we realize this frequently.  It’s funny how sometimes we forget and get caught up in ourselves.  We talked about how He knew exactly what He was doing when He brought us to Penghu.  This has been the perfect place to start our adventures and our marriage.  We get to work together everyday!  Since we seem to have less distractions here, we have been able to get incredibly closer to God and to each other!  The people here are so kind to us and help us with whatever we need!  AND we get paid to spend the morning at the beach!  God’s plans are definitely better than our own!!!!

There is a stone weir behind me. Stone weirs are man made walls that trap fish when the tide goes out.

Here we are, having a BLAST!!!

Isn’t it beautiful?

Meet Nick’s new flower shorts 🙂

Next, we decided to drive around the island.  There is a road that circles the island along the water line, so we took tiny scooter on a trip.  We were thankful that he made it! 🙂  The island is pretty small, so the whole trip took about 30 minutes.  Along the way we saw some more stone weirs, boats, beautiful views (of course), a light house, and some interesting grave sites.

Cute houses

Don’t you love the trees lining the road?

After our morning of adventure, we went back to the school just in time for lunch.  The English teachers asked us if we wanted to eat alone or with the students.  We told them that we would eat with the students because we thought they might be excited to see us, and man were we right!  When we entered the room, there were two desks set up at the front of the class, facing the rest. We sat down at these and waited for all the students to get their food and sit down.  Before they started eating, they all said some type of prayer in Chinese.  I was surprised because I didn’t know they did this.  After that, they were eager to talk with us.  Unfortunately these students were only in second grade, so they didn’t know very much English.  Thankfully the teacher helped to translate, and we enjoyed the questions they asked.  They wondered how tall we were, where we were from, if we had any babies (lol), how old we were, and other things of that nature.  After lunch they started bombarding us with questions in Chinese, apparently they didn’t understand that we didn’t know what they were saying, but it was still a lot of fun!  Then they showed us where we could take our rest (nap).  They held our hands and tried to make us hold hands, and talked the whole way.  It was very cute and heart warming.

After lunch time, we started teaching our classes.  I taught about things around the Library, and Nick taught water sports.  After our classes, the students asked if we would play basketball with them.  They are all in love with basketball, especially the Houston Rockets because Jeremy Lin is from Taiwan!!!  We played with them for a little bit and then had to go back to the boat to go home.  When we got back to the dock, we got back in the dentist’s car and went home.  He took us a back way, which meant he went down roads that cars really don’t fit on and used his four wheel drive to climb a hill that over looked the city.  The view was pretty, and he took our picture!  He is a really nice man, and we hope to see more of him 🙂

This is us on the hill.

We were exhausted by the time we got home, but we had a blast!!!  I hope you all had a great day at work on Friday and had a great weekend as well!!!  On Sunday, we bought a couch, it will be delivered today, so we are very excited about that!  We will post a picture when we get it!!

See ya next time

Categories: Education, Island Teaching, Nature, Taiwan, The Beach | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

A little more info about our job

Nick and I have been getting tons of questions about what exactly it is that we do here in Taiwan, so I will make a quick post to try and answer all the questions.

1. Do you have the same class  schedule for the whole semester?
–No.  Our schedules will change from week to week depending on whether or not other schools make an appointment to have a class in our English Village.  If no schools make an appointment for the English Village, we will teach English classes at our school.

2. What are your English classes like?
–The English classes that we teach at our school have about 30 students in them.  We teach with a co-teacher who is a native teacher who teaches English here.  In these classes, the students have text books that they use to learn English.  It is basically like a foreign language textbook that you would use in the states.  The books cover different topics, and the students have assignments that coincide with the textbook.  BUT, the native English teachers have requested that when we teach classes, we use a story book instead of the textbook.  They think this will add variety for the students, and it gives us free reign with what we would like to teach.  They give us input as to topics they would prefer, but ultimately we make all our lessons from scratch.

3.  How is your teaching split?
–Nick teaches the older students (grades 5 and 6) and I teach the lower grades (2,3,4).  We do not teach English to K and 1.  The most classes we will teach in a week is 20, but as for now, we only have 12 forty minute classes.

4.  What is this English Village?
–Our school has a whole wing devoted to the English Village.  It consists of 10 classrooms all based around a theme.  The themes are: Penghu Culture, Having Fun in Penghu, Penghu Cuisine, Penghu Natural Resources, Penghu Souvenirs, Health Center, Airport, Library, Newsroom, and Water Sports.  The lesson plans that we wrote for these rooms consist of vocabulary based on the room’s theme. For example in the Newsroom we teach vocabulary dealing with a news room and news report, like anchor, via satellite etc.  Other schools in Penghu county can request to have classes in our English Village.  Whenever that happens, they make an appointment and select the rooms they wish to go to, and our English Village secretary will tell us which rooms we are going to teach and when.  As far as we know, our students will only come to the English Village from time to time, but not for regular classes.

5.  Do you travel and teach?
–Yes!  Occasionally, schools on rural islands will request the mobile English Village.  These are schools that are so remote, you have to take a boat to get there, so they can’t bring all of their students here.  Instead, we go to them!  They still request which rooms in the English Village they would like, but we take our ppts and materials there and teach about the room.  It usually takes all day, so we teach for about 3 hours and then get to tour the islands the rest of the day until the boat is ready to leave.

I think that covers the bulk of the questions, but if you think of more, post them in the comments section and we’ll try and answer them the best we can 🙂


Categories: Education, FYI, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

Let the Teaching Begin!

On Monday we journeyed to a very remote island to teach English at small school there.

Let me set the scene.  Nick and I wake up at 6:00 in the morning (1 hour before we normally wake up mind you) to hurry and get dressed for our first day of teaching.  On a remote island.  That most likely will not have any air conditioning.  My first thought…what do I wear?  Thankfully Nick calmed me down and helped me pick out my clothes, which ended up being jeans, a t-shirt, and my tennis shoes (because that’s totally acceptable here ;D)  Anyway, our coworker meets us at our house to show us where we need to catch the boat.  That’s right, we are taking a boat to this island.  We arrive at the dock to find tons of people scurrying around to load things onto the boat.  We see boxes of food and drinks and suitcases and other random boxes.  And it smells like fish.

Then we load the boat.  We are some of the last people on, so we have to walk through everyone to get to our seats.  At last we embark.  The boat was loud, but pretty smooth.  After about 15 minutes, our principal calls us up to the deck to look at some of the scenery.  There are random islands around that are very beautiful.  He points out different ones that are known for different things (unfortunately I don’t remember any of these islands) and then tells us that we won’t be seeing anything else until we arrive at the island in about 45 minutes.  While we wait, Nick reads and I inevitably fall asleep.  We finally arrive at the island and unload the cargo and journey up to the community center, where all the kids are gathered.

This is us on the boat.

This is what we see as we’re getting off the boat.

A little lagoon where the kids will some times play during recess.

When we walked in there is a magician performing for the 13 students we are going to teach.  Thirteen, that’s all the kids on the island.  When the magician finishes, we are introduced, which by the way is always a little awkward because they want us to say something about ourselves, but no one can understand what we are saying.  Anyways, then they introduce some other people who journeyed over with us and then divided up the students between myself (1st,2nd,4th grades) and Nick (5th and 6th).  Nick’s group leaves to go up the school and my group stays in the community center. Thankfully there was air conditioning because it was a hot day.

This is the school. It’s located on the highest point on the island.

The students I worked with had not had very much English before, so they were very shy and confused when I spoke.  Thankfully a teacher was there to translate for me and help, without her, my lesson would have been a complete flop.  My lesson consisted of “what is your name?” “My name is ______.” a story containing names of fruit and animals, and of course games!  It was a little difficult because the students would leave one-by-one to see the dentist who was at the back of the room, but I’ll talk more about him later.  After a while, the students started to warm up to me.  Thanks in part to the goofy faces I made at them when I caught them staring.  🙂  After three hours of teaching, everyone comes back in to have lunch.

All the students I taught with their animal masks we made. The lady on the left is my co-teacher 🙂

One of the students with the dentist.

Normally lunch here consists of rice, some type of meat and veggie, and possibly fruit, but today there was a feast!  All the boxes of food that were loaded on the boat we cracked open for this feast.  In a state of confusion, we asked our co-teacher what the special occasion was, and she tells us that it is in honor of the dentist.  Apparently he makes the rounds to all the rural islands once a year to check the children’s teeth.  He had all his equipment with him (hence all the random boxes on the boat).  It was a regular dentist’s office.  Anyways, lunch is delicious.  We eat tons of sweets like cakes, and little cookies that taste like cotton candy, and chicken nuggets, and soup, and mini pies, and tons of other things I can’t even remember. (Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a picture).

After lunch, everyone retires to an air conditioned room to take a nap.  Nick and I end up falling asleep too, and before we know it we are being summoned to take a tour of the island.  We set off with the rest of the group, and tons of guava that someone passed around, to see the island.  We walk up hill for a very long time.  Everyone once in a while a man will stop and explain something to everyone.  Unfortunately we couldn’t understand what he was saying, but the gist was that there are old houses on the island.  We continue walking, and walking, and walking, and soon we are looking out over the ocean from a very high cliff.  The view from up there was amazing!  I’ll let the pictures show you (because someone once said a picture is worth a thousand words).

The old building. Notice that the covering made of mud and dirt is wearing away to expose the rocks the house is built out of.

The view of the beach down below.

More ocean views.

This is Nick in front of the ocean. 🙂

Oh and this is a guy with fresh squid on the back of his scooter.

We then walked up hill (again) to the light house.  While the man is talking, Nick and I read the sign that’s in English and it tells us that this is the western most island in Penghu.  We then take a long rest in the shade of the light house to cool down.   After that, we all journey (downhill this time) back to the boat to go home.  While we were walking we learned that all of the families on this island fish for a living.  There are maybe 50 people who live on this island.  We are exhausted and so hot, so of course once the boat starts moving, I fall asleep on the way home.

The light house!

That was our first day of teaching.  We think it was exciting and interesting.  It made us glad that we are here and have opportunities to explore while working.  We don’t know how often we will go back to that island, or if we ever will, but it was a memorable teaching experience.  🙂


Categories: Education, Island Teaching, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Adventure is out there!!!

What’s this big adventure we speak of?

Yesterday, Nick and I found out that we’ve been accepted to teach English in Taiwan!  This is big news for us because we’ve been talking about teaching abroad for about a year now, and it’s finally becoming a reality.  We have been assigned to Wenau Elementary School in Penghu County.  Just like you, we had never heard of Penghu county before, so we did what any normal person would, and googled it.  Turns out Penghu county is an archipelago made up of about 90 islands and looks absolutely breath taking.


This is just one of the many beautiful views from our new home.  Are you jealous yet?

Where exactly is Penghu county you ask?

Well, we asked the same question, so lucky for you, we now have an answer for you.  Penghu is located on the western side of Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait.  If you’re a visual learner, Penghu is in red on this handy dandy map. 🙂


Just one more thing.

In our research on Taiwan we found out that only 2% of their population is Christian, and that has really been on our hearts and minds.  While we are not officially going to Penghu as missionaries, we plan to live our lives on mission for Christ and would greatly appreciate your prayers and encouragement as we embark on this new journey!  We’re so excited!

Categories: FYI, Island Teaching, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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