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My husband made a comment about my junior high article after he had read my blog. He thought that the way I described my past may give people the wrong impressions that I was a rebellious student. (See post note) Well, I wasn’t. I might be rebellious in spirit, but in fact, I was a good student with just a touch of free spirit of my own.

As a student, I was always polite and respectful to my teachers. I conformed to the school authority and the expectations of others’. I worked hard, but I also struggled to keep up with others. It was not easy to keep my free spirit high in that environment. I was always helpful and energetic at school. I had my group of good friends and certainly didn’t fall into any “wrong crowds”. Seriously, I might have terrible memories of how I struggled to fit in academically in my class, but overall, I did all right at school. I just had my doubts and questions about the education. At that age, we could not do anything about it!

I think I was frustrated with the learning environment and the educational framework that confined students in such a pressured environment to the point that I simply wanted to escape. The education structure did not allow us to learn interesting topics, nor to be inspired to learn in a positive setting. If I did not have high enough grades in academics, I was not considered as a good student. That was so wrong! Now I always try my best to relate my personal experiences to make learning fun. If I do not have fun teaching a lesson, that means my students are not having fun learning it from me either. Learning should be fun and we should have fun learning! (Ha.ha.ha, too many “funs" and too much fun! Having fun is the key.)

I had my most memorable experiences with the marching band in junior high, which fostered my passion for instrumental music. I had a great opportunity to learn different musical instruments and to expose myself in a music appreciation environment. I played a trumpet in the school marching band. Our band performed at so many events and formal occasions. I sang and conducted in a few choir performances. I was also involved in many other extra curricular activities. I entered countless speech competitions and poetry recitals, and won many as well. Another important thing was that I entered the world of English songs and started to develop my love for learning a new language during my junior high years. (See Post Note 2)

One thing about my learning a language is that I am pretty good at “imitating” (or pronouncing) sounds. My university professor gave me 96% for my Spanish Conversation Level 1. (If I am not mistaken, I skipped quite a few Spanish classes. Maybe that's why I don't remember much of my Espanol.)  I remember people used to think that I was probably raised in a family from Beijing because my pronunciation of Chinese Mandarin was so perfect.  Whenever people make comments like that, I would usually show off my “imitating talent” again to prove to them that I can speak perfect Taiwanese-style Mandarin as well. (Hahahahaha) Well, maybe 500 hundred years ago my ancestors did come from somewhere in southern Mainland China, but my gene pools were pretty much developed from the country side of southern Taiwan, the City of Chia Yi.

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The other day when my husband and I were having some trivialconversation in the car, I suddenly realized that he is able totake his early retirement in 10 years. My Golly, I always like to jokeabout wanting to retire as soon as possible, but retirement isreally the last thing on our minds. Now it is in fact not too farahead in the future for him. Ten years will fly by sooner than youexpect. (I am not usually a jealous type, but I am very jealous onthis one.)

I always think that only those people who can not retire woulddream about their early retirement days. (I do that all the timewhen I have a bad day. ha ha ha.) I came to Canada after a fewcareer moves in my life. By the time I moved to Canada and finishedmy degree from the Faculty of Education in Ontario in 1992, therecession had already hit Canada hard for quite a few years in the90’s. It was very difficult for me or any new teachers to secure afull time teaching job in Ontario at that time. I, therefore, did not get a fulltime teaching position until a few years later.

To re-establish a new career in a new land means that I will not beable to retire at the same age like some of my colleagues whostarted teaching immediately right after they graduated from theFaculty of Education. Instead, I will have to work a few more yearsto accumulate enough work years in order to get a full pension. Thejoke among my friends is that I probably have to teach till I use awalker to get into the school. I can not picture myself walkingaround with a stick and supervising four hundred little kids in theschool yard. (Ha. Ha. Ha.) I think the day I need a walker to goanywhere will be the day I say Sa-yo-na-ra to my job whether I get afull pension or not.

PS. My DA-PONG husband said, "Don't worry, Shiao-Pong. I won't retire until you are ready to retire." How sweet is that!

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My life in Taiwan was quite ordinary. My stories from the bygone past were nothing exciting at all. This series of articles, however, are my written thoughts for my own reflections and for family and friends who care very much about me. If you happen to enjoy reading them, I thank you for your time. 

Eons ago when I was in junior high school, prior to my attempt for the high school entrance exam, I had decided that I would never want to go to a regular high school. I simply could not stand to spend another three years to prepare for another tedious nation-wide university entrance exam. I knew I would not be able to make it to the top three female public high schools in Taipei, nor did I care about going to any top high school. I hated the way we studied in junior high. Heck, I certainly did not want to repeat that kind of life for another three years! What little did I know was that life has its twists and turns! 

At the time, in Taiwan, junior students generally had to take many entrance-exams in July to determine the destiny for our future. The first and foremost was the entrance exam for public high schools. The second exam was for five-year junior colleges. There was also an exam for public vocational high schools, and finally, if all failed, we still had the option of entering private high schools. You see, it was quite mind boggling for a little Grade 9 girl to decide her future, but that was just the way it was and the way it had always been in Taiwan. (Apparently, there is no more entrance exam now! I don’t really know much about the new Taiwanese education system.) 

I was so full of myself, young and ignorant, I guess. Since I had completely dismissed the idea of going to a general high school at the time, my options were either to attend a public vocational high school or a five-year junior college. At first, I thought my marks should be decent enough to enter a public vocational school easily. Then I realized that a high school diploma, however, might not be sufficient enough to secure a job later on. So, after much thought about my options, I decided that maybe I should go to a five-year vocational college to get a college degree and get it over with. You see, I got it all figured out and I was very happy with my decision. I declined to take the exam for public vocational schools and saved the fee for the exam all together. “Why waste the money since junior college is a better choice for me!” I thought. 

As the results of the two exams came out, I was facing a really tough decision. First of all, I was lucky to pass the public high school exam and got into the last public school (the 7th at the time) on our wish list, Fu Shing Municipal Public High School. On the other hand, I also got accepted at Ming Chuan Commerce College. (Apparently, it is a university now.) Of course, I wanted to go to Ming Chuan for her famous International Commerce Program. English was the only subject that I enjoyed in junior high. Since English was emphasized so much for this particular program, it was quite obvious to me that I should just seize the chance. 

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In many people’s eyes, I am a typical workaholic. Whatever I do, I do it with more than 100% of my work time and effort. I enjoy goingto work. I am a teacher; therefore, I enjoy going to school everyday. I guess if the school was open on weekends, I'd probably drop by when I had some spare time as well. (Hahahahahahaaaaa…..) No, I am just kidding. I won't go to that extreme, but I do love working on school related activities. I volunteer for social programs that benefit parents and students. I run homework clubs to provide some remedial support for my students. I organize extra curricular activities for students at lunch time. In the summer, I take art lessons or university courses, so I can be better at teaching my students or running a club. I go to workshops and then bring the ideas back to my classroom. It could be boring to run a rigid program because I am already big on routine in my class. I certainly don’t want to be like a "drill sergeant" all the time; therefore, I like to research fun ideas online or through a varietyof books for science experiments, games or plays at my spare time to make my programs interesting and innovative. Put it this way: I am a big kid myself! If I am not having fun learning in my classroom, neither do my students. If I was not passionate about learning, I couldn’t possibly expect my students to be motivated as well. Honestly, sometimes it is really difficult for me when I get sick and have to stay home. I LOVE SCHOOL! It is hard for me to plan fun activities for someone else to take over and run the fun program in the class. Oh heck, I get jealous because I will missall the fun time. Plus, I simply can not expect someone to come in to continue or finish the program that I have planned and taught the day before. This is why I hate to take a sick day. People tease me because I don't have a life. My friends think that I am nuts. Maybe I am. I AM crazy about school though. I certainly hope my students feel the same way. Last time I checked, they all loved to come to class. One kid even cried before he left at the end of each day for a few days. He said, “I love school!” (Hahahahaaaa……) Am I teaching a group of little nutty kids? Time will tell.

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I found this article online yesterday. The writer has good points on parenting issues, which many teachers are not in a position to express to parents. No matter in the East or the West,  people generally blame our society as a whole or criticise the teachers particularly for the declining of education quality. I think it is time for everybody, especially the PARENTS, to reflect on their own responsibility of parenting and family education. Bravo to Ms. Krista Boryskavich! The following is the article from the Sun.

April 19, 2007

Parents, not villages, raise kids


  Hillary Clinton once said it takes a village to raise a child. But if today's generation of youth is any indication of the level of parenting skills possessed by the proverbial village, it may be time to think about moving.

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My deepest sympathy and condolences to those victims who were killed or hurt yesterday at Virginia Tech

I am extremely upset and saddened by the tragedy at Virginia Tech! Every time when I heard about this kind of gun violence tragedy at any school, I fear for my students and my school because this kind of senseless killing always happened in a school that is so mundane and common. The matter of fact is that it could happen to any school, any ordinary schools like mine.

Even though, unlike USA, we have gun control in Canada, many inner city schools are still concerned about the gun violence infringing the education sanctuary. Last year, we had one incident at Dawson College in Montreal. A young man walked in the college and shot many in the school. Yesterday at Virginia Tech, a student did exactly the same killing with even greater magnitude of brutality.

We live in a very different society nowadays. There are many angry children who grow up to become troubled adults in our society. They blame the school system, the family, the peers and the society in general, but never about themselves! We try to promote self-reflection in education, but we still get people who blame others for things that don’t come their way. These adults generally do not take rejections or failures well. Some of them eventually become parents who don’t give a damn about others. They raise children of bullies or become bullies themselves. The powerful and strong ones brutalize others and the brutalized ones take their revenge later. Violence goes in vicious cycle that never ends. The only sad outcome is that innocent bystanders are victimized in the process of power struggle.

Throughout the years, I have seen a few odd students who seemed to be misfits in the school community. Occasionally, these students might verbalize a few threatening remarks to the teachers but then the school would discipline them for their defiant behaviors as consequences. Sometimes, their parents might be frustrated with the discipline strategies at home, but they seemed to be grateful that the school has been trying their best to help the child. 

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In every October, I usually pick Canadian Pioneer Life as the theme for my Grade 3 class. It is one of the subject areas for elementary Social Studies in Ontario curriculum. Last October, my class went on a field trip to visit a Pioneer Village. While we were reenacting in a pioneer one-room schoolhouse, the lady who dressed up as a teacher from the past taught my students about the routine in her pioneer schoolhouse. One of the routine instructions was “a thought of the day", which became the motto for my class. My lovely students just adopted the thought immediately, and I was quite happy to "emphasize it" through out the year. It is a great motivational tool to those little kids who are trying to advance themselves. We had a big lesson on this motto. The sentences from the teacher of the past have made a big impact on my students! You are welcome to share it with your own children at home or students in your class.


Whatever you do,

Do with your might.

Things done by half

Are never done right.

Unfortunately, we only learned about "one" thought for that day. Some of my students should be put in a pioneer school to learn a few more. Hahahaha. 

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Since the topic of ability grouping came up (To Stream, or Not to Stream, on March 25), I have this memory relapse about my junior high school in Taipei. No one at my school would believe the traumatic experiences I had with testing and ability grouping in junior high school except our ESL teacher from India. I guess she was traumatized in her past as well. I don’t remember much of the fine details because it was way too farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrback in my past. Maybe I have been trying to suppress my memories of junior high trauma. There were incidents, however, that I would never forget no matter how old I am.

Once upon a time, I went to a very competitive junior high school, Da Li Girls’ Junior High School in Wan Hua District in Taipei. The female principal at the time was notorious for the “tight grip” and“quality control” on her students’ academic performances. I remember she used to live on the school property, and had a tight control of the school from close by. Furthermore, she made sure that her graduates have one of the highest admission rates to the top 7 senior high schools in Taipei. At that time, we had to pass city-wide and nation-wide exams in order to go to a senior high or a university.

My first year in junior high was a fun year though. I had a male teacher who really promoted sportsmanship. I was the leader of the class and heavily into track and field like everybody else in class. I had the high time of my life until my first IQ test, which I did not know much about then. I was naïve, and I could care less at the time. I still remember the day when my teacher called me to his desk, and asked me with a stern face if I actually took the test seriously. Apparently my score was 75. (Ha.ha.ha, 75 is considered developmentally challenged.) He was very upset with me because he knew me well, and no way that I would only score at that level. He was a very kind teacher. In fact, I went to school with his son in elementary school.

In my grade seven class, we had about 49 students in a class and there were 21 grade seven classes! Yes, 21 classes! There were more than one thousand grade seven students in a girls’ school! The grade seven students were not streamed at the time because that was our first year out of elementary schools. We were given the opportunity to adjust to the new environment of a super big school for a year. It was not easy to be in a large school because you tend to lose your personal identity so easily in the large crowd.

I remember vividly that every morning all students would gather in the super sized school yard for national anthem, and then listened to the Principal’s daily lecture and instructional broadcast. At the end of each day, we would be dismissed after another gatheringin the field. If the weather was not cooperating, we would have the broadcast over the P.A. system.

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If you want to listen to this song, please click on the link below.     

Daniel Powter – Bad Day lyrics

Where is the moment we needed the most
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost
They tell me your blue skies fade to grey
They tell me your passion's gone away
And I don't need no carryin' on

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I presented at a conference on Saturday to a group of Chinese parents who have children enrolled in the public education system. The conference is to promote literacy to the parents. It is great to see parents who are supportive and concerned about their children’s education. At the questioning period, many of them raised questions about how to help their children achieve and succeed in the Canadian educational system. My final recommendation to them is to ensure that the golden triangle is soundly implemented.

What is my golden triangle? The positive relationship and communication among parents, teacher, and the child actually forms a golden triangle. To maintain equal balances among the three parties is the key to a successful educational development. I reminded them that when any one party is weakened within this triangle, the angle and the sides of the triangle will be skewed. Each party has to take the responsibility of ensuring a job well done. For those parents who attended the workshop, they obviously are very involved or want to be involved in their children’s education. Teachers are in school to help them move their children along on the path of leaning. The majority of teachers I know are passionate about education because they want to teach children. I encourage those parents to open the communication channel with their child’s teacher, but, first and foremost, help their children develop positive work ethics. Children at the formative years are adaptable to a routine, which is easier to help them develop a “work habit".  If the child has established a diligent work habit when they are young, they will have a positive attitude and be ready to take on anything and everything later on in life!

At the end, I did give them a few concerns that I have about the new immigrant generation because most of the parents are the first generation immigrants who just came to Canada. Their children are either recently enrolled in school, or born in Canada. This group of children will be a generation who do not understand how difficult life was when their family first arrived. The hard working attitude and endurance their parents brought with them will be faded or eventually erased in their young minds. This group of children, who are well provided for, will be a generation of new Canadians who haven’t known tough times.

Throughout the years, I have seen many students who could have anything they want or could have gone places; however, the only thing that is lacking is having “self-discipline” and “work ethics” instilled in their upbringing. Nowadays, some parents in Taiwan or in Canada alike seem to experience this inability to handle their children’s defiance or rough-edge attitude.  All I can say is, the issue of rebelling children has been reoccurring in our society throughout the history of time, and the problem can not simply be created or solved within a few days. The only way to avoid or solve these attitude problems is to deal with them up front from day one. Parents need to take control and work with the teachers to ensure a child’s education is fostered within a solid frame work of positive work ethics! 

Canada is a country of immigrants who have brought many of their old values, good or bad, from the "old country" to this new land. To all immigrant parents who are concerned about education, your family education and cultural values are very important to your children, and definitely will have an impact on their future education. Take the better of the two cultures and help your children succeed.

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This is a very simple song for ESL learners. It is very easy to learn with the subtitle. It is also kind of sweet for Asian students. The song writer is a very talented gentleman from Hong Kong. The singer also has a cute voice. I am not sure whether it has been out for a while in Asia or not. I heard of this song a while ago, but I am kind of out of touch with a lot of popular trends or fashion styles in Asia anyway. Plus, I was never a fashion follower in my other life in Taiwan. I like the song, and I happened to find it on YouTube. So, any ESL teacher who just needs a pop song to motivate their students, here you go. Go to the YouTube site and find it. Do tell students about the copyright issue when downloading from any website.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-h1a10qWUos






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