2017 AID Winter
志工感言 (Reflection) >> Boston
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Tung, Joshua (童喜樂)
One rather memorable moment during my time teaching at HuPu Elementary was when one of my students had called me “sensei”. It was at that moment that I realized how important my bonding with my students was to their education. That student was part of my home stay host family, and we had become close friends; if it hadn’t been for that, he could’ve become a problem child for our class.
During our lesson, my teaching partner noticed that this student was disobeying and not participating in the class’s activities. He refused to listen to my teaching partner’ instructions. When I stepped in to get the student back on track, he, quite surprisingly, listened to me immediately, saying that he would not obey my partner but would only obey me, his “sensei”. I was shocked at how his attitude and attention to the lesson changed as soon as I spoke to him. I saw clearly how my home stay and personal experiences with the student, something my partner hadn’t had,influenced my ability to teach and connect with the student. It made me realize that teaching was a job that demanded being personal as well as professional to be effective.

Wan, Amanda (温佳恩)
At first, I was very hesitant to come to this program because I do not speak Chinese. I thought that the whole situation would be truly uncomfortable, but my friends helped translate and made me feel much more relaxed. I had a lot of fun getting to know the girls in my group, and we immediately felt like a team starting the first week.
Teaching the kids proved to be difficult. Making the specific lesson plans and working on things for class the next day took hours. I had a group of fifth graders who were rowdy and hard to control, just wanting to play games and not do actual work. So we tricked the students into learning by using games, and eventually I learned it was ok to just have fun sometimes instead of strictly teaching them. Their lives are quite different from ours, and talking to them and living their lifestyle made me realize how so. I liked getting to see their outlook on life and what made them happy, instead of only seeing the American view. But the time went by very quickly, and the two weeks teaching were gone soon enough. Everyone cried during the closing ceremony, and we didn't want to leave. Some of the kids found us on Facebook and video chatted the days following our departure from the school.
Even if I didn't know Chinese, I think this was still a worthwhile adventure that anyone should get to experience. Having never gone to Taiwan before, I think this was a great way to be introduced to the country, especially with the tour week and exploring the whole island. Although one thing that could be changed was because the classes were grouped by age, not English level, it was hard to accommodate the whole class. Some kids knew how to write multiple sentences, while a few could barely recall the alphabet. Also, after these two weeks the kids might not remember any of the words taught, but they will remember the hopefully fun times they had. And the importance of learning English should be stressed, so they will continue to study it.
Shiue, Jocelyn (薛文鑫)
In the beginning of this trip, I hadn’t been able to put too much thought into the adventure that was awaiting, simply because my life was far too hectic. Before I’d gotten on the plane, however, I had thought to myself how I would likely come back as a different person. Today, at the end of the entire experience, I can happily say that I’m not exactly a different person. However, the experience has allowed me to develop myself further as a human being.
Coming to Taiwan was a struggle in itself. My father was against my visit in the first place due to my life threatening allergies, and I’d hurt both my ankles playing Frisbee. However, my hardheaded character persevered throughout all the warnings and I’d found myself in Taiwan in Chiantan. Little did I know, that was the just the beginning of the struggle.
At Chiantan, the constant barrage of three hour lectures, terribly aching ankles, and friends who were also suffering and complaining throughout the week made the experience quite unbearable. I hadn’t thought that such a program would be like being locked up in a jail cell, and I certainly hadn’t thought that my ankles would get worse from then on. My family wanted me to return to the states. At the week right before heading towards the elementary school, I was pulled out by my great uncle for me to get some rest with my ankles and to think about whether or not to return to the states. I’d cried for the entire night before, because I wanted nothing more than to be with the kids. In this state of time, I’d felt completely alone in my group because I felt like I was the only one who had devoted their entirety to this trip.
When I went to the elementary school, things slowly changed. Those around me changed the most drastically, since they too had their hearts into what they were doing. I’d come to love the kids. However, there were still huge challenges that came along the way. I didn’t have a laptop while teaching and of course not everyone gets along perfectly. There was also a more challenging kid in our class who had some major emotional issues so it took a lot of time and energy to make sure he wasn’t disrupting the other kids.
The touring was also taxing on my soul, since there was so little sleep and the talent show was extremely taxing. However, I’ve come to see that communicating and working as a team is extremely important. I’ve also come to see it in action that it’s super important to have fun and love what you’re doing in order to do the best job, and have the best experience possible.

He, Luke (何敦平)
To be honest, I forgot about AID soon after finishing up the application process. I hadn’t really thought about living in Taiwan for a month, much less considered the prospect of teaching English to local students. But within a few weeks, a number of strangers invited me to a group chat. After sifting through all the dank memes and useless chatter, I realized that it was for Da Keng Elementary, the school we’d all be teaching at.

Over the course of the training week, I created close bonds with the seven other teachers in my school group. Most were people I’d never even consider being friends with at school. But the sheer amount of time I spent with these guys and girls caused even the most unlikely friendships to thrive. Jeffrey, who I initially wrote off as a complete nerd, turned out to be a funny, energetic guy. Our time in Jian Tan Youth Activity Center wasn’t perfect, though. The classes were boring, based on meaningless content, or some combination of both. The work we did over the course of a week could have been completed in a couple days, and the numerous posters we made turned out to be useless.

For the teaching, we ended up having to change all of our lesson plans other than the daily topics. On day one, we realized that we’d severely underestimated the proficiency of our students’ English. The next two weeks would involve our experimenting with the difficulty and volume of vocabulary in order to find something that would occupy the entire day while maintaining the kids’ interest. Behavioral problems kept popping up, but we found that separating kids and involving them in competitive games helped to channel their energy into something productive.

Da Keng Elementary School had a beautiful campus, and its faculty were more than welcoming. But I’ll miss my seventeen students the most. I really did not expect to develop strong connections through teacher-student relationships, but even today, I can recall all of my students’ unique personalities and attitudes towards learning.
Tung, Emmanuel (童園善)
Hi, my name is Emmanuel Tung (ID 2450, B3-4). In my AID summer program experience, I've learned a lot about both teaching and the Taiwanese education culture. Over the past weeks, I've come to realize many of the unexpected facets of teaching a language.

For one, I learned that teaching is as much about inspiring and motivating the students as it is about delivering the course material. Students are there to learn, but they're not always perfect, and can easily become bored or distracted, or just lose interest. Most of the time, teachers have to find a balance between being a figure of respect and authority and a relatable, approachable friend. In that way, it's important to show students why the learning material is important, and make real connections with the students in order to get the most out of teaching them.

Second, I learned that teaching is different for everyone. Every teacher has their own teaching style, their own expectations for their students, and so on. And the same goes for students; every student has their own, unique background knowledge, their own perspective on the subject, and their own way of absorbing the material. What really matters is being able to identify each individual student's abilities, interests, and motivations. A good teacher will teach a class of 100 students, but a great teacher can 100 students in a class.

Third, I learned that while teaching, one must be flexible. This idea goes hand in hand with the previous one, but it pays to regard this point as its own. While there is certainly a lot of value in preparing and scheduling a teaching plan, it also helps to be ready to improvise. Especially with the younger children, unexpected events can really disrupt a class. For instance, a student starts crying because someone called them a bad name. What do you do? You need to think quickly and act on your toes. I learned to stay calm and collected in times of disorder so that we could remedy the situation and get back on track as quickly as possible.

In addition to everything I stated above, I also was lucky enough to experience my time with AID at Hot Springs Elementary in Taitung. The culture there was certainly something special, even with the typhoon that had just recently hit. Many buildings were damaged, debris was spread all across the street, and agricultural produce (and therefore our meals and local food availability) had taken a big hit. There were several things that culture-shocked us at first, but that we eventually embraced. These would be things like the hot climate, excess of bugs, the cuisine, rural-ness, and the gorgeous environment. Not to mention, we were able to experience the special hot springs there. It was certainly an experience to remember.
Chiang, Jeremy (江彥龍)
The two weeks of AID Summer 2016 at RuiFang Junior High School allowed me to experience a new side of Taiwan I never had the chance to explore. Although all my parents, relatives, and childhood friends grew up in Taiwan, I had never set foot inside a school in Taiwan for more than a few hours before this week. OCAC offered an opportunity to teach Taiwanese middle school and elementary school students English. After our intense week of training and meeting other American and Canadian Born Taiwanese individuals at Chientan, I found myself on a tour bus heading to this junior high in the Taipei district. Our group leader and ambassador for the junior high, Claire, had given us a brief introduction to the school, but it fell quite short of what RuiFang Junior High truly had to offer. The first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful rainbow mural that lined the walls of the school and led the way to the track in which the campus was built around. I was blown away by the hospitality of our academic director, Nico, and her supporting staff which consisted of Max, Pan, Bill, Ivy, and many many others. Not only did they arrange delicious meals from local restaurants, they introduced us to the delicacies RuiFang was known for as well, which meant that even I had the chance to try new foods despite living in Taiwan almost every summer since childhood. And of course there were the students. Each with unique personalities and interests but all joining the program to explore English with the eight of us.

Before arriving at the junior high, Claire gave us a teaching outline and a general schedule of classes and field trips we would be participating with the students in. We designed our lesson plans with these guides in mind. After working in the briefing room all weekend, we felt ready to take our first day with the kids. My eighth grade class took a pre­test to determine their English competency, but Jeanette, Brian, and I quickly learned that their skill level range was very drastic. One student was able to answer all the questions correctly, while some students scored around the 60% range. This difference was further exemplified when we played icebreakers and went through the team cheers and classroom rules. Certain students had the ability to understand what were were saying and translate it into Chinese while others would frequently turn to their friends to ask, “What did he just say? Can you translate for me?” All the students, however, had difficulty expressing their ideas in English and finding the proper words to use which ultimately discouraged them from even trying at all. After discussing this issue Monday night, we attempted to diminish their fear of using the wrong words by breaking down our lessons into three groups of six. In these small groups, we were able to have a more personal conversation with the students as well as promote conversation because the topic centered around our lives in the United States where they were free to ask any question they were curious about. The students also drew a picture and wrote a sentence of where they would take us in RuiFang which they presented to the whole class. By having a sentence already written down, they felt more comfortable speaking and reading as opposed to struggling onstage in front of their class searching for the appropriate words. Throughout the day, we mixed in games and icebreakers and the team cheer to bring more energy into the room. I found this day to be one of the most rewarding days of my time teaching because our team was faced with a problem we needed to address. I felt that we were able to step up to this challenge and find an appropriate solution that helped all the students in the class learn.

This entire week and entire journey so far has been one of the most rewarding and difficult experiences in my life. From planning activities, games, and lessons to keep the class engaged and interested to traveling to various historical spots in the RuiFang and New Taipei area, I realize how lucky I am to speak English and Chinese well. Furthermore, I have made seven new friends who I was able to share this experience with. I hope I will be able to return to Taiwan after I graduate college in order to find these eighteen kind, cute, and smart students to see what they have become.

Pan, Ann (潘安)
I hadn’t really known what to expect from the AID program, I was excited because I’d heard that it was a lot of fun, but at the same time I was really anxious about having to meet new people, face my fears of public speaking, and become a teacher, but I now realize that I had nothing to worry about, as everyone I met was very welcoming, and even though teaching could be difficult and I was always exhausted by the end of the day, the students’ excitement for class made it all worthwhile. The two weeks of teaching went by really fast, and I was really sad when we had to say goodbye. Teaching was a really great experience, not only were the students learning, I was too. I realized that things don’t always go according to plan, my teaching partner and I had spent a lot of time filling out the lesson plans, but as the two weeks of teaching went on we rarely consulted the lessons plans because we realized that improvisation is a key part of teaching. Additionally, I also learned how to get used to the different living conditions at Dong Rong elementary school as I sprinted down pitch black hallways to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night and survived only having air conditioning from 7pm to 7am. I really enjoyed my time at Dong Rong, and I will always be thankful for the warm welcome from the school’s teacher, the administration, and of course, the students. I’m thankful for having the opportunity to be in the AID program because through it I managed to make many great friends and memories that I will always remember, from playing Uno with the students to staying up to 2am watching movies with my teaching group.
Lin, Cassandra (林家瑜)
First thing’s first: AID was — without a doubt — the most challenging experience I have had so far. Really, I am not kidding. This was the hardest thing I have done in my sixteen (almost seventeen) years of life. Let me set the record straight though… if I had the chance to, I would do this a hundred, two-hundred times over. AID was doubly as rewarding as it was challenging.
The struggle began before the program even started, gathering the motivation to do the work to prepare for teaching just as junior year was winding up to wind down with finals. This was the least of it all, however, because a week before August (and the beginning of the program), I flew on my own for the very first time. It was quite an experience; leaving my parents at one in the morning, arriving in Hong Kong at four in the morning, and arriving in Taiwan at nine in the morning, preparing myself to begin battling the 12 hour jet lag. Being on my own, really, for the first time was scary but it was a great testament to my independence.
Then came lesson week at Chien-tan. Every single day consisted of waking up early, sitting in lectures for long hours and working hard at putting together cohesive plans for teaching our kids. There was barely any time to reflect at the end of the day since my brain was done as soon as I showered and my head hit the pillow. There was no wifi and barely any cellular signal. Yes, I know it seems like a petty issue, but in the world we live in, life is not complete without wifi. Most importantly, no wifi meant cutting off all communication to family and close friends. For a bunch of kids who have just left home (the country) on their own for the first time, it was a formula for home sickness. Though I did not fall under it myself, I did have friends who did and it was painful to see them suffer. We struggled together though and, though it may sound cheesy, it made us closer than ever. Then the typhoon came and our group, along with a couple others, were forced to stay for an extra day. It was a strange, lonely feeling because the majority of us 450 volunteers were gone; it was quiet. That day, however, let us have a fun adventure in the nearby area with our representative teacher and very soon, close friend. Eager to finally teach, it felt like the time was passing so slow, but as that week came to a close, I remember talking to my newly made friends. We agreed on the fact that the week went by so quickly (way too quickly), how we had become just like lifetime friends in such little time and that we had such a fun time together already; it felt great.
Upon arriving at our school in Taichung, 大坑國小, we were greeted by a whole host of people, all of them lovely, kind and as we came to realize, incredibly hospitable. They welcomed us to their beautiful school and showed us where we were to do everything for the next two weeks. I remember the coughing started on the way over, but I blew it off as allergies. Sure enough, the day before teaching, I realized that I was sick… very sick. My throat was on fire, my head felt like it was going to explode at any second, and I had a high fever (I will spare you of the other details). I was in a predicament; I wanted so much to ignore the sickness, fight it so that I could help prepare our pre-test for the next day. I ended up passing out and I thank my friends that they were understanding and made the pre-test without my help. The next day came, however, and I was even more sick. I bared through the sickness so I could participate in the opening ceremony and greet all the students, but right after, I was taken to the hospital (I also payed out of my pocket for the visit and medication). Being sick doesn’t sound that bad, and I agree, it really isn’t… that is, of course, when you’re at home and can lay in bed all day, your parents caring for you. When on the other side of the world, it is not so easy. All eight of us volunteers slept/lived in the same room together and we slept on mats on the floor. Though I did not mind it when not sick, it felt kind of horrible when sick. Being sick, however, gave me so much more love for my friends and the people of our school. Every single one of them demonstrated so much worry and care for me, and that was exactly what I needed at the time. Even better, coming back from the hospital that same day, I entered my classroom and was greeted by a chorus of, “teacher’s back!”. Though I barely knew these kids at the time, and they only knew me through my name and my interests, the kids looked so happy to see me. It made my day and though I was told to rest for the remainder of the day, I ended up staying for the rest of class. I would have felt horrible if I left while these eager, excited kids were clinging to me, pushing me to play with them. Those kids were why we were all there, halfway across the world, in the first place.
Teaching was exhausting. There is so much more that goes into teaching than I previously thought. Every day consisted of — of course — the teaching, the screaming kids, the fighting kids, the emotional kids, the being dragged outside to play (and lose at) dodgeball. Though I won’t go into detail (this reflection would be ten pages long if I were to do that), I had to deal with the class not quieting down, certain students acting out, certain students fighting with one another, students that cried and students that threw temper tantrums every. single. class. Classroom management is hard. I was stretched to my limits trying to help or deal with the kids; I will admit, I wanted to cry sometimes. To be able to get the right balance, keeping the kids in control but still giving them enough freedom to learn English in a fun and versatile environment, I had to be on my feet at all times, vigilant at what was going on everywhere. I realized that I needed to be stricter but still remain a softness and caring that kids need. All these experiences really opened up my mind to how children are and how it works (and doesn’t work) to manage children. Undoubtedly, it made me tougher and made me develop new skills.
After teaching, us volunteers, retired to our room and passed out. Like I said, we were exhausted. Sometimes I would take five hour naps, sleeping from four to nine in the evening. We couldn’t just rest at night, however, because we needed to prepare for the next day. That meant planning out what we would be doing each single minute of the school day and preparing the materials for it. Flashcards, a necessary part of teaching vocabulary: copying images to a document, resizing, printing (only when the office was open, if the printers are working), cutting, writing words, laminating, cutting again. Do that 20+ times. You get the point. Sometimes we would work until midnight (or later) because 1. we were already so exhausted from the day that we would end up slacking off for most of the time 2. the more you prepare the night before, the less stressful the day is. So we put in the hard work, long hours, so that we could give the kids the best English lesson they could have and so that we didn’t have to stall or improvise to fill the time. When we developed good plans, good games and activities, the flow of the classroom was not disturbed. One thing went after the next and it was great because the students were learning and they were enjoying themselves. I realized, hard work pays off.
I cannot explain how much I wish I could go back to 大坑國小 and go through the whole thing again. I love the children there and I loved connecting with them. Though they almost drove me insane, there were great moments and I am happy to have been able to teach them English. Hopefully we have inspired them to learn more in the future. On the last day, kids who have hung onto me for the whole two weeks now hung on tighter, not wanting to let go. Some asked for our contact information so that we could catch up later and others who looked up to us as “大哥哥姐姐” asked for our signatures. Now I have connections in Taiwan, outside of my family, people who have welcomed me into their home or who have already invited me out for the next time I am there. The school directors, teachers, principals, our caretaker “哥哥”, parents of the PTO, throughout our time there, they were who directed us, supported us and really took care of us. All of them have shown us so much love and have been more welcoming than I could ever ask for. Sure enough, we became like a big family and the love and appreciation I have for them is more than you can imagine. I don’t think there is anything I could do to really repay them for what they have done for us. Connecting through Facebook and other social media, I have promised that I will contact them and visit because there is nothing I’d rather do than spend more time with them.
After saying some bittersweet goodbyes, we were off to tour Taiwan. Everyday, we woke up at the earliest hours, sat on the bus for who knows how long, and saw some of the best places in Taiwan. We came back late, usually, and sometimes stayed out even later (as a bus) to prepare for our talent show. This was all directed by the counselors that we all came to love. They were who supported us for the last few days, keeping us safe, directing us where to go, waking us up before arriving at our next destination, cracking awful jokes, and a number of other things. Throughout the tour our group of eight bonded some more, playing games on the bus and more importantly, sleeping simultaneously on the bus. We experienced Taiwan together even though the group half fell apart in certain moments. When we were in Taichung for a night, the rest of our family came to visit us. It was a short and sweet reunion, ending in watery eyes and reading out cute letters.
Closing ceremony, here is the only way to describe it: tears, memories, tears, and more tears. We were all reminded that the last four weeks were coming to an end, all the friends, all the students, all the people at our schools, all the hardships and the victories. That night, we all went out and enjoyed our last real time together as a group. Saying goodbye was difficult. After spending a straight 28 days together with these people, I knew how lonely I would feel without them by my side at every moment. We went through every single challenge together and we bonded more than ever, always stuck in the same room for hours and hours. We all sat at the same desks, talking, on our laptops, eating dinner, watching tv or anime. There were other important moments that etched our friendship(s) into stone; those I will keep to myself, because they are too special to share. Just two nights before writing this, we video chatted as a group, catching up, having just as much fun as we did before. AID was an experience of a lifetime. It was a program that pushed me past my comfort zone and built up my character because of it. It was chalk full of firsts, challenges, and hard-fought triumphs. I would not trade these memories and these friends I have made for anything.
Phung, Caitlyn (馮美恩)
I can only describe my AID experience in this way: crawling cockroaches, crazy children, and lots of Chinese. Would I do it all over again? Without a heartbeat. When I was first accepted into this program, I underestimated how priceless the opportunity to teach would be. As a result, training week at Chientan felt like a drag. Forced to wear jeans and the ever so lovely program shirt, I dreaded the long lectures and busy schedule. Though it seemed as if everything was pressed for time, I couldn’t be more grateful as it helped us better prepare for what was about to come.
Seven girls, including myself, loaded our giant suitcases and left for Jhutian (Pingtung). A typhoon had swept across southern Taiwan, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Perhaps it was the aftermath of the storm or my unconsciousness coming to life, but I had never seen a true rural town until that day. The debris and destruction that skirted around the small and old looking buildings made it look unrecognizable to the eye. We arrived to Jhutian Elementary School and were led to the kindergarten room—the place we would call home for the next two weeks. The first night was horrendous as we spent our time killing many ants and flies. Geckos, snails, grasshoppers, and cockroaches were avoided at all costs. Extreme heat and weak AC was another matter. At the time, rural life seemed impossible. But after meeting the kids and teachers, it was all worth it.
We were assigned a class of 18 students, ranging from grades 3-5. The first day was exhausting, not because we taught them so much, but rather we taught them nothing. Full of energy and shouting furiously in Chinese, we were overwhelmed by how crucial classroom management was over teaching English itself. Not to mention the language barrier. I knew and understood various Chinese phrases, but couldn’t read or write. My language disability helped me realize how hard it must be for the kids to understand English. Especially since our kids had various levels of proficiency, using gestures, carefully mouthing words, and slowly talking was the best you could do. Nonetheless, the kids were curious about our language. Classroom management tip #1: if you quickly rambled in English, the class will stay silent, fascinated. They wanted to learn, and as the days went by they became more comfortable to speak in English, no matter how silly their accents sounded.
Within the next two weeks, I had grown accustomed to the shrieking sounds of geckos and the bright eyes of our students saying: “Good morning teacher”. I fell in love with the simplicity of rural life and our kids. Reflecting upon this unforgettable experience has made me appreciate the privileges we have at home, including the chance to learn English—a foreign language that Taiwanese students are eager to grasp.

Care, Emily (黃恩莉)
This experience has truly taught me a lot about teaching, student behavior, and myself. It takes a lot of flexibility and open-mindedness to be able to accept seven strangers as your new family for a month, and to be able to work with them what seems like 28 hours out of a day. However, I am really grateful I've been able to meet these people and to work with them with the goal of teaching English and inspiring kids to keep up their education in English. Teaching is no simple job, and I thank my teaching partner Nathan Liang for helping me to tackle this considerable task. Communication is key to a succesful class as we've both found out, and learning to adapt is equally important in facilitating the optimal learning environment for the students. Being able to spend so much time with students and getting to know them has also taught me that I am able to have an effect on their lives when I think I have accomplished nothing on my worst day. Seeing their smiles when they walk into class and seeing them tear up after the closing ceremony has finished really touched me because they did take something away from the camp. I took away happy memories of hard work, joking with my group, and having a lot of fun while teaching during this program. Knowing that I made an impact on my students' lives makes it all the more priceless to be an English teacher.