目前分類:An Educator's View (17)

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Having the pain of losing my father at his prime age, I often care much about those children who are growing up without a father figure. Unfortunately, that group of children has been increasing every year somehow. One year, more than half of my students came from single parent families. I don’t blame those parents who sought divorce as the resolution for their family because, in truth, there are too many reasons for a marriage not to work out. Unhappy marriages would lead to unhappy families. It is certainly not a great idea for children to grow up in an unhappy family with two miserable parents or in a conflicting environment anyway. It is just sad that those children can only live with one parent at any given time.
I am in touch with so many wonderful divorced parents who are trying their best to provide the best opportunities they could offer to their children. More and more parents would share the custody of their children and work out a schedule for their children to live with both parents in two different households. I have to give them credits for trying hard; however, there is a group of parents whose behaviour really irks me! The other day one child was acting up in class because his father never showed up for his weekend visit. It reminded me of another boy and his story a while ago. Here is the little story to give you an idea about this group of absent parents.
JD was not a student of mine but he was in a class next to me. I knew his older brother because he was in trouble a lot ever since Grade One. The older brother was later identified with special needs and got a lot of extra help at school. (Apparently, he is doing better now.) JD was different from his older brother though. He was a gentle child but also required remedial academic support.
One day JD was very excited and announced to his teacher that it was his birthday that day and his father was coming after school to take him out. That was such big news to him because his father did not usually have spare time for him and his siblings according to JD. It turned out that JD’s father had more than five wives and was unmarried to all of them. He had at least fathered 18 children with those mothers but he did not live with any of the women. He simply just slept around! (Talk about irresponsible! I am fuming.)
The day after JD’s birthday, he looked unusually quiet like a deflated balloon, which did not sound like a boy who just had his birthday party. His teacher asked him what he did for his birthday. He replied that he waited and waited all afternoon for his father to come but his dad never showed up to take him out for his birthday. He told his teacher, “My dad is too busy. He has too many wives and kids. He does not have time for us.”

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This is the latest headline news hot off the press. Can you imagine that a group of 8 and 9 years old kids are capable of plotting this scheme? I can laugh all I want about their teamwork and organizational skills (the teacher must have taught them well on cooperative learning), but I am not going to! It is a no-laughing matter because I teach this age group. When it comes to school violence, I just shudder!
The source of this news article: http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/2008/04/01/5164826-ap.html
April 1, 2008
Police: 3rd-graders plotted to attack teacher

A group of third-graders plotted to attack their teacher, bringing a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape and other items for the job, police said Tuesday. (AP/Waycross Georgia Police Department)

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Real Life Ironmen and Ironwomen

One of my co-workers will be retiring by the end of January. She has been our special education teacher for the developmentally challenged students in the DD class ever since the school was opened. I always say that it takes a special person to do the job she does in that DD class. When I heard of the announcement of her retirement, I told her that it would be very difficult to find someone to take her place. I have no doubt that we will find someone to fill the position quickly but I will not be surprised that the teacher will leave in a year or two as many had done before. There will always be teachers who would accept a difficult job assignment just to get their foot in the door; however, it has been extremely difficult to find someone who truly cares and would enjoy working with a group of DD students. I know that most people would quickly get tired of lifting and moving those students or changing their diapers. Those handicapped children have special needs, but they are just as dignified as the other students at school. They deserve to have respect and someone who is passionate enough and dedicated to their job.


A distant family member from Belgium decided to try out the Ironman Triathlon because he wanted to have his name announced at the end of the triathlon race as Ironman So-and-So. He mentioned in his blog that it has been proven a great challenge for him to compete in the Ironman triathlon. He is very athletic but a fairly petit athlete comparing to the other “Ironmen” in the race. He said he had experienced some difficulty with extreme pain at the bike race after being kicked by someone during the jam-packed swimming event. He got a black eye after the swim and he thought he had twisted his ankle. However, he looked at those older fellow-competitors beside him and he told himself that if those 65 year-old grandfathers beside him could do it, he should at least try to finish the race. He completed the competition with triumph and finally earned the title as one of the Ironmen.


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For those children who are not doing well in my class, I generally have an interview with the parents right away to discuss about the child’s difficulties. I hate to wait until after the report cards get sent home. It would seem to be a bit too late for me by then. I want the children to do well and I want to help them overcome any obstacle as soon as possible. Often, during the interview, I get to know the personal side of their family stories.
One day I had to talk to a parent for the third time regarding her child’s progress. The family just moved to Canada about a year ago. The child is still receiving additional language support from the ESL program. It usually takes an ESL student three to five years to fully function at the regular grade level. For this particular child, she has sufficient oral language competency to communicate in class. I am more concerned about her learning behaviour at school because she does not seem to acknowledge whether she fully understands a new concept after the instruction or she needs more teacher assistance. I can not help a student who simply stares at you blank with two big bright eyes, no nodding, no facial expressions or no words of YES or NO.
The parent was very supportive at the interview, and she told me that both she and her husband are aware of this problem. They are working consistently at home to help the child bridge the gaps. Afterwards, she started telling me about their family situation, which is just like many other family stories that I have heard over the years.
This family just came from Asia. Both parents were university lecturers with PhDs in their native home country. They came with a dream and a hope of securing a similar position here in Canada. Both of their credentials and qualifications have been evaluated, converted and recognized by the professional institutions here. The mother has to stay home with the youngest toddler and two older school-aged children due to the expensive child care cost. The father has been looking for work for the last six months in his field but is currently pumping gas at a gas station. They are distressed and disappointed that they can not find jobs in their professional field. It is only the matter of time when their saving runs out. When the family is distressed, the child usually reacts to the distress in their own way.
I call this one a typical immigrant story because I have heard many others like this one over the years. I have met teachers working as school custodians, engineers working in the factory, doctors working as maids at nursing homes or as taxi drivers, accountants working as cashiers or architects working in constructions. Historically, Canada is a country of immigrants but has not been able to fully utilize the highly skilled workforce they have welcomed with open arms in the recent years. It takes a long time for these foreign trained professionals to finally find suitable jobs for their skills. It is a waste of human resources and intellects in my view.

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A few months ago, a movie was recommended to me. My friend BR told me that this movie reminded her so much of me. I suddenly was drawn to it out of curiosity and wanted to get hold of this movie. The other day, I found it on the bottom shelf of a video store in the previously viewed section, so I bought it. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to watch it until yesterday. To most people, I am this one tough cookie, tough to chew on and very guarded. Unless you are extremely close to me, you will not understand how sentimental I could be sometimes. Yesterday, however, I cried... and cried… through the whole movie. The movie was based on a true story, but it is SO too real to me and too dear to my heart.
I am no Erin Gruwell, the real life teacher in this story. The movie, however, brought back some bits and pieces I had personally encountered and dear to my heart. What Ms. Gruwell had been through was not unusual in our modern society, but what she had done for her students was exceptional. How many teachers out there would go extra miles to work two more part-time jobs in order to earn money to purchase classroom reading materials for the kids? She did. Most people would probably give in easily to save the marriage and keep a more balanced family life instead. But, she struggled.
It hurts to my stomach because I know how she felt! I don’t want to make it sound like I am blowing my own horn here. I know for a fact that many teachers, including myself, spent their own money on their classroom materials. I am not stingy on spending money on my kids. (They are my kids for 7 hours a day!) In fact, I quite enjoy doing that for them because some of these children in this community don’t have much either. The faces of those children, who were evicted or neglected in the past, came to my mind throughout the whole movie. I just want to tell the world that there are many teachers out there who really care about what they are doing in the little corners of every school in our community around the world!
Teaching is never just a job to me. It is my passion but now sometimes it becomes my charity work as well. (See Note 1) Years ago before I started working with children (Note 2), two books changed my view on professional teaching, The Essential 55 by Ron Clark and There Are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith. After reading these two books, I pondered whether I would like to become an ordinary teacher or an extra-ordinary one who could make an impact on some children, even just one child at a time. You probably have figured out what my decision was but, let me tell you, it is not easy though! I am trying my best to make a difference every day against so many obstacles and red tapes. Maybe one day, just the day before I expire, I can honestly look myself in the mirror and tell myself that I have made it, guilt free.
Note1: To those friends who are laughing reading this one:

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Any educational system has its flaws; therefore, Taiwan’s education system is not exceptional. I have heard that, after the last ten years of educational reform in Taiwan, the direction of education policies just got worse and the quality of education is dwindling on all levels. Apparently, universities are sprouting from all corners of Taiwan. The admission rate for university has been risen up to higher than 90%. I don’t know whether the rumor is a true reflection of the education reform since I have been absent from Taiwan for the past 17 years. Judging from the stories I have heard, I am not so sure that the “free-for-all” approach to admit as many students as possible is a good idea for betterment in education. I am just wondering if the drop-out rate for the first year university students is also high to sieve out students who are not really ready for the academia stream.
The proportion of labour forces in all fields has to be balanced in order to maintain a well functioning society. The training for all professional fields should not be limited to academia only. They should also include training for skilled trades and apprenticeship programs. Unfortunately, most parents, no matter in the East or the West, hope to send their children to higher education one day. The traditional Asian societies, under the deep-rooted Confucius influence, believe that a scholarly status is superior to a blue collar position. The fact is that we need people of all professions in a modern society. We probably need as many mechanics as mechanical engineers.
In fact, according a news report I read a few years ago, the only welder in one medical University made as much money as a dean in one year due to the strong demands for his service at the university. He was the only experienced welder the university could find in town; therefore, he had to work so much overtime to meet the demands. The news broke out because all public servants in Ontario who earned more than one hundred thousand dollars have to reveal their income level. The welder worked for the hospital attached to the university, so his name and income was listed. Unfortunately, if a teacher tells parents that their kid should take an apprenticeship program to become a welder or a mechanics, the teacher would definitely get a very negative response from the parents.
When I went to school, it was not easy to get into a university. We had to work so darn hard to take tests after tests to prepare for that entrance exam on that hot judgment day in July. Some people were really good at the book-learning; they would do well on those paper-pencil tests. However, their luck also depended on the blue moon. If you happened to be in a day of the bad moon arising, such as getting sick or having something out of ordinary happened to you, that day might just become your doom day in your destiny, at least the destiny for the next few years anyway.
One of the popular sayings before I went to university was:

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For the last few years, Terry Fox Run has been the first school-wide fundraising event we organize at school every September. Last Friday, we had the assembly to launch the campaign. This week, I decided to read a book on Terry Fox to my students. For anyone out there who is not familiar with Terry Fox, Terry has been recognized by most Canadians as a national hero. Here is the link to the book I read, so you can have a brief idea about Terry Fox’s life story. (http://www.maxinetrottier.com/fox.html)

I always enjoy reading aloud to my students. Whenever I read to them, I model the reading with great passion. I dramatize a story, read with voice expressions, and sometimes add little sound effects to intensify the story. I love to see my students so intrigued when listening to a story because I myself was fascinated and intrigued by it. We don’t want children just to decode when they read. We want children to immerse themselves in reading with deeper understanding. So, once a while, I do have to clown myself to ensure that they have full comprehension of a text and are enthusiastic about reading. I want them to be so eager to grab the book off my hands and read. (That might be a bit stretched exaggeration.)

On Friday, when I was reading the Terry Fox biography to my students, I guess I immersed myself TOO MUCH into the book. They listened so attentively to my reading and we were so empathetic and touched by Terry’s life struggle, I started to sniffle and then wept in front of my students. I usually present myself as a tough one in front of all students at school; however, I am often moved by sad life stories including this one. My students suddenly became so quiet and, I guess, they just didn’t know how to react to their teacher’s bizarre behaviour. When I finally pulled myself together after getting a few pieces of tissue to blow my nose and wipe my tears. A few hands went up and this little voice came out of a little girl, “I bet Terry’s story reminded you of your dad who died of cancer.” My God, I had to turn back to grab a few more tissue after I heard that comment! Their teacher just shed her iron tears in front of them.

I have been trying to teach my students the importance of making connections when reading (Critical Literacy: focus on making analysis, inferences, and synthesis in reading comprehension). I told the little Grade Three students that we often connect a story we read to another story we had read before, to a personal experience we had encountered or an event that had happened in the world around us. Terry Fox died of cancer and my students also know that my father died of cancer. They immediately connected the two things together and applied their empathy to conclude that I must be crying because of my own connection to Terry’s tragic life.

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My friend FY called me this morning to ask me if I know a particular person at the board office. Then the conversation lead to if I could make a phone call for her instead to enquire about the registration for some international visa students. Sometimes, FY thinks that I am a wonder woman who knows everybody and have all the contacts to get information. Well, I don’t! But, I do have thick skin and I am not afraid of asking questions around.


I am actually a very quiet person who enjoys observing others rather than blabbering all the time. One thing I’ve learned in North America is that you can not be shy away from asking questions though. “You snooze, you lose.” At school, I always encourage my students to ask questions for clarification and to be able to speak publicly in front of the crowds. Public speaking and attentive listening are two very important parts of oral language skills as far as I am concerned.


I remember when I was at junior high school, I was always assigned to represent the schools to participate in formal speech or poetry reading competitions. I might have shown some interest in the beginning of my Grade Six class for poetry reciting, but I was not good at it at all. Then I got better after all the opportunities I had been given throughout the years. In fact, the schools always sent the same students because there were not enough people who showed interest or were brave enough to attend public speaking competitions. My family used to joke about what to do with the awards I won, not enough to wallpaper the wall, but too many to hang up on the wall. Hahaha. So, since my Grade Six class, I had been trained not to be afraid of standing on the stage and facing the crowds, but to speak loud and clear in front of the large group of people.


Later on when I went to Fu Jen Catholic U, I was in love with performance arts. I directed an English school play and was involved in a few performances myself. The experiences were added to my public speaking skills, so I became a natural when I had to speak on the radio, in front of the students or with clients for business dealings. I am not afraid to ask questions, either. I am actually a very quiet person but certainly not shy.


Now I often apply my performing skills to deliver instructions to the little ones in my class. It is sometimes funny to listen to the students’ comment about me. Some students at school think that I am very funny, but they are also afraid of me because I am very strict. I am not a clown and certainly do not portray myself as one to entertain my students in class; however, I have to be able to deliver my instructions to my students in a very effective, efficient and exciting manners so that my students are able to direct their attention to me for a prolonged period of time. They have to be willing to listen to me and understand me clearly. This is the skill that we absolutely have to encompass as a teacher. The truth is that public speaking is absolutely vital nowadays. We need it for every day work life, but most schools seem to ignore the importance of this particular skill development.


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TO All Readers: 

Due to report card crunch time and moving (back to my brand new classroom, Yehhhhhh!) at school, I will refrain myself from writing for personal enjoyment for a week. However, I will still read your lovely comments everyday. Thanks for coming by. 


To CFPing: 

Welcome to my blog. Thank you for your visit. I love to read people’s comments and learn about their experiences. I also like to know what readers think of my writing. 

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To friends who enjoy visiting my blog every day:

I am very sorry to post this message here. As a teacher, I thought I have the duty to speak up and educate this particular blogger who has been leaving nonsense on my blog. I just want all of you to know that I welcome all visitors. I am very grateful for the kind messages I have received from many readers. Whether you agree with my view or not, words posted openly should be exchanged with good manners. I am an educator and that’s just what I believe in and how I preach to my students. The following letter is posted only for the person (or the persons) who seem to visit frequently with ill intention.


Dear Troll (or Trolls),

I don’t know why you are leaving gibberish messages on my blog, and I do not know nor care about your intention. If you are so much inclined, why don’t you leave a clear message to me? I would be willing to read and respond to you, either in English or in Chinese. I can write in Chinese, but I just haven’t got the time to fix my Chinese input keypad yet. If you want to leave a message in languages other than Chinese or English, I pretty much can find a way to read it, too. If you have an issue with me personally, why don't you express it to me and let’s sort it out? Seal the message if you want. But, no gibberish, PLEASE!

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I caught two students passing notes to each other. One notewrote, "When do you want to have sex?” I was so shocked to read thatnote. What do they, two eight-year-olds, know about “sex”? It isquite alarming and scary. I didn’t even know what “sex” meant whenI was in high school. I think children are growing too fast toosoon! Whenever I have found notes like these, I would have toquestion the children about what they know and why they wrote thenote. The sad truth is I have to find out if they have been exposedto sexually explicit materials or abusive situations at home beforeI can contact the parents. There are a lot of sick people outthere, and unfortunately, some of them are parents.


Yesterday, police in Toronto charged the mother of a twelve-year-oldgirl, who traded her own daughter for drug. She forced thetwelve-year-old girl to take drug and had sex with six, possiblymore than ten, men. I was shocked (and disgusted) that this kind of crime wascommitted by the girl’s own mother. A drug addict would do anythingto get high. I have seen it first hand before but not to thatextent.


One of my students was acting up the week before Christmas. Ifinally had enough with her, so two days before our Christmasbreak, I called her aside and questioned her about her out ofcontrolled behavior for the whole week. She told me that she wasjust very angry that her mother had stolen her Christmas presentsunder the Christmas tree, and her grandmother told her not to tell. Well, I knew the child did have pastrecord of lying and cheating in class, so I immediately contactedher guardian, her grandmother, regarding her behavior problems andthe story she told me. Sure enough, her grandmother confirmed thatthe child’s mother, her own daughter, did ripped open all thepresents given to the family from social agencies and tookeverything of value. The girl was the first one to discover thatall the presents were missing. That is a real-life Grinch story tome! I could not believe that anyone would steal from their ownmother and daughters, but she is a drug addict. An addict would doanything in order to buy drug and get high.

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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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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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The other day while I was surfing on the Internet, I happened toread an article about children with reading difficulties. Childrenwith learning disabilities or ESL students are often integratedinto the regular classes. The writer thought it was awful to putthose children who couldn’t read well in a regular classroom. Thosechildren apparently were totally lost in that classroom and endedup being ignored by their teacher. People in our society simplyblame those children for being lazy, their teachers for notteaching them properly or giving enough homework, or their parentsfor not spending enough time to work with them. There are manyreasons for a child to experience difficulties in learning;however, regardless what the difficulty is, there is only oneultimate goal for teachers, which is to help the students succeedin their education.

Many thoughts and debates have run through my mind about how tomeet the needs of children who require extra support because I haveseen many of them fall through the cracks in the education systemyear after year. Children with reading difficulties lag behindtheir peers in many subjects that require adequate reading skills.Do we stream these children and put all children with the sameabilities in a class? Or, do we integrate these children into themainstream classes?

The truth is there are benefits to integration as long as extrasupport is provided to these children for their specific needs.These children remain in a regular class so they can interact withtheir peers and to learn the regular curriculum. Cooperativelearning encourages children to help each other in the classroomsetting. I personally think streaming or ability grouping can bringshort term benefits to ESL students who newly arrived with zerolanguage skills. A small ESL class can prepare these ESL studentsto obtain basic language skills to communicate for their immediateneeds. These students, however, eventually require opportunities tointeract with their peers in order to further polish theircommunication skills. I could see the benefits of ability groupingin the beginning and gradually release and integrate them back tothe regular classes.

Unlike the ESL students, students with learning disabilities may beable to communicate for their day to day needs, but they haveproblems working at the same level as their peers in class. Somepeople, however, believe that streaming these children to a classwith similar abilities is really the answer for helping thesechildren read. The classroom teacher only needs to plan forchildren within a small range of abilities and a reducedexpectation. It is a good idea to put them in a small group as longas the program design is based on their ability levels, andintended to help them return to the mainstream program. Once thechildren have developed sufficient skills to function in theregular program, they should be integrated into the mainstreamclasses to be with their peers. These programs, however, are oftencriticized for labeling the children and not being able to providesufficient support to ensure the smooth transition back to themainstream classroom. In fact, many children end up remaining inthe special program for years with no way of catching up to theircounterparts in the regular program.

As you know, children in the primary years are learning toread and developing reading skills. Once they have stepped into thejunior years, they are expected to apply their reading skills toacquire knowledge through reading a wide variety of materials. Forthose older students who still can not read at the appropriatereading level, it could be very degrading for them to learn in thesame class with their counterparts. Children are cruel sometimes toeach other, imagining the teases and jeers ones have to endurebecause they are slightly behind their peers.

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Years ago, one of my Canadian professors at the Faculty ofEducation used to say that English is a commodity. In many parts ofthe world, people rush to take lessons and learn English in order to create more jobopportunities for themselves. This phenomenon has generated such a strong demand forEnglish (ESL) teachers. Recently, my sister-in-law, like manyparents in Taiwan (or shall we say in Asia), paid big bucks to sendmy two nephews to an English Learning Centre afterschool. The centre, run by a Taiwanese wife and her Canadianhusband, is very reputable for its strict discipline and stringentprogram. EVERY parent in the neighborhood wants their child to getin, so I was told, and they all have to pay registration fee toreserve a spot in advance. It is like the lottery draw for gettinginto a private school.

I used to teach in a few of those so called language schools eonago. I was surprised to find out that this particular centrerequires a large sum of non-refundable registration fee up front aswell as fees for books, backpack and tuition. In additional to theadmission test, children will have to wear a uniform. Uniform? Isthis money gouging or is it truly necessary? Maybe I have been awayfrom Taiwan for too long. I know you buy outfits for Karate, TaeKwon Do, Ju-Do, or Kung Fu lessons. You need to wear a swimmingsuit for swimming lessons, but you don’t need a uniform for takinga piano or art lesson. So, why do they need to wear auniform to learn English at a language centre? Hey, wait a minute!We don’t even have uniforms for the regular public schoolshere.

Does wearing a uniform make a better student in learning English?Or, is it going too far in the scheme of English language business?I am not against uniform even though I hated mine when I was injunior and senior high schools. (Correction: I hated the uniformedhaircut above the ear lobes the most, not the uniform!) I wouldagree with having uniforms in a public school because of the largesize of a Taiwanese public school. The sheer numbers of children ata public school are usually into the hundreds and sometimesthousands, so for safety concerns, I am all for it. But, come on,you don’t need to wear a uniform to go to a language centre for twoor three hours. As far as I know, many parents have already paidtop dollars to send their children to these extra curricularactivities.

I remember the ill-treatment and embarrassment I received when my parents could not afford to pay monthly Bu-Si Fei (fee for supplementary program after school) to my Grade 5 (and Grade 6) public school homeroom teacher. I did not go to my teacher's house after school for extra"enrichment" like most of my classmates did. (Nowadays, that is called“conflict of interest”. Teachers could lose their jobs for doingjust that.) I did not fall behind my class academically, but I definitely feltleft out in my miserable little mind. I worked hard and eventuallyturned out to be all right. A little seed, however, was planted inme; I would NEVER put any of my students in that position. I woulddo free remedial or enrichment programs for my students if I haveto. My heart also goes out to those parents who are pressured to pay for all these little fees for what is considered the best for their children.

I believe it is important to learn a second language. I have heardthat English is already added to the new elementary curriculum. Idon’t know much about the content of the new elementary curriculumthough. I am just feeling very sorry for many young parents who are in terrible financial stretch because of “the trend” or “the policy”of many language centers. The whole charade of private Englisheducation in Taiwan, as I see it, is really “supply and demand”;parents want the best education for their child (or for the dream they failed to fulfill, or the status for themselves), the student wants good grade for theirfuture (or for their parents), and the language business wants toplease their clients (or to make more money for themselves).Unfortunately, this creates a perfect triad for this relationalcomplex existing in our society that is fuelled by praises and the pursuing of foreign imports. So a business operation like thisparticular language centre, a VERY reputable one from I’veheard, can demand whatever they see fit.

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I believe most parents love their children dearly. But, are we, the modern parents, over-protecting our children to the point that we are diminishing the children’s abilities to adapt to the ever changing environments? This discussion came up during a conversation when we were trying to reword a memo to parents regarding the parking issue at school. We always have traffic jam before and after school in our school parking lot. I think most schools I know have the same problem. Our school parking lot is a big one, but it simply does not have the capacity of accommodating the congestion during the peak times. Many parents drive their children to school even though our school is a no-bussing school, which means all our students live within 5 to 10 minutes of walking distance to school.

Why can’t children walk to school? Why are they late for school? Why can’t parents read the sign “Kiss and Ride” (which means do not park your car here)? Why do we have child obesity problem? I think the answers really lie on parents’ attitude. They want their children to be safe, well protected, and well cared for. I have no objection to that, but we are dealing with a major societal phenomenon that many parents shelter their children from minimal inconvenience in life. They dropped their children off while they are on their way to work. They don’t want just “kiss and ride”; they want big hugs, too. Their big giant vans or SUVs block the path in the K&R lane, but they surely don’t care about the other parents and children who are also trying to get to school. They want to see their children off to class as well. So, in order to save themselves a few minutes, they park right in front of the school. They don’t care that they park right on the wheelchair bus lane. I guess they think those children on crutches and wheelchairs should be able to walk across the street or on the sidewalk to get to school.


Are we raising a generation of lazy people? I have a student who has missed 48 days of school. When a child misses more than 40 days of school, we have to bring the case up to the round table meeting at school about his promotion to the next level. In this case, the child would sometimes go home for lunch but failed to return in the afternoon. The parents kept him from school because they had errands to run in the afternoon. It would be another trip for them to rush back to school to pick him up. So, in order to avoid the inconvenience, they simply took the child with them for the afternoon. This happened too many times. I advised them that maybe a babysitter would be a better solution to this issue. This child’s attendance problem occurs too often. When discussing with his parents about his extended absences on the entire month of February, I was told that he is allegoric to cold and snow. (I tried very hard to control myself not to laugh.) I sincerely advised the mother that if this is a diagnosis from the doctor, then she should submit the note from the doctor to our office. I have to shake my head on this one. The child was absent on cold snowy days as well as bright sunny days. I am not trying to be cynical, but WE LIVE IN CANADA where there is icy cold and snowy weather for more than four months a year!


The truth is some parents need to help their children adapt to the environment. As far as I know, the child loves to play in the snow as long as proper attire is provided. The child has been in Canada for more than five years. He is well adjusted to the weather. No one likes to be in the cold (I came from the semi-tropic, so I know how hard it could be.), but parents need to take that initiative to encourage their children to be a risk taker, seek challenges, and strive for advancement. I have seen all kinds of parents who are overtly protective of their children. My suggestions to those parents are, to encourage your child to be more resilient to minor obstacles in life, and to be a risk taker as the challenges arrive. It is all right to tell your child to toughen up sometimes on those cold windy days. Remember, we can’t raise our next generation in a bubble.

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