Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Who are these kids? Coach's Perspective

Teaching in Taiwan has certainly been very interesting so far and after 2 and a half months here, I have come to one overall conclusion: it really is not that different than teaching in America! Obviously there are some fundamental differences with the cultures and as a result the kids act and react differently to the way I teach. In the States I tended to be very sarcastic with my students, some even call it my love language. Here in Taiwan the culture is very literal and even rigid at times. Breaking rules or not saying what you mean is not the norm. Most of my “witty jabs” that would have my students in the States laughing (maybe AT me but still) completely miss the mark here in Taiwan! Also I am realizing just how many southern idioms I have in my repertoire. First of all there is y’all. I am pretty sure most of the high schoolers have heard this phrase before but you can tell they are definitely not used to it! But just imagine if that great uncle or grandparent of yours that has never left Alabama were to travel to Asia and say something like “Man y’all sure are eatin’ high on the hog!” The Taiwanese would be more than puzzled. Maybe their conclusion would be that for lunch we would have pig ear (which I have tasted and actually enjoyed). Or maybe on a cold rainy Taiwanese day a southerner might say something like, “Good Lord its cold as blue blazes!” Now I am from the South and I do not even know what that means! My point is sometimes my inner “Bama Boy” lets loose with a “dadgum” or a “good gracious!” and I notice it more when everyone else has a blank expression and wanders what the heck I am talking about.

Another major difference with Taiwanese kids is their intense fear of rain. Some kids in the US might fear rain because they do not want to get too much water on their nice jacket or get their hair wet. The reasoning is a little different here. Asians apparently believe that direct exposure to raindrops is one of the major causes of hair loss! Folks, I could not make this stuff up if I tried so you know I am not lying. So, yes, this means that they basically believe that I grew up without an umbrella! Also, kids here are totally enamored with the fact that white people look so different than they do. If you have forgotten what I look like I will remind you; I have blue eyes and I am quite hairy. Both of these attributes make little Asians stare at you for several minutes at a time. I have little kids during PE come up to me and just look at my eyes and say, “Wow blue eyes, so cool!” At first I felt like a rock star but now I just say something like, “yeah but you have brown eyes, that is WAY cooler!” But my next story takes the cake. I will never forget when Alan, grade 4, saw my arm hair and immediately began to pet me and say, “so soft, so soft.” Normally that would weird me out but for some reason it was kinda cool so I just let him feel my hairy arm until he had had his fill.

Other than a few major cultural differences these are still kids with some of the same issues, fears, interests, hobbies and attitudes as any other student you would come across in the States. Here are a few examples The number one game of choice among middle schoolers is dodge ball. Girls in 5th grade think that boys are gross….and vice versa. High school students see how much they can get away with and manipulate what you say to benefit them. They glow when you complement them. Forth graders cry when they get out in kickball. They whine when it is hot. They rejoice when they win. Elementary girls get out on purpose so they can sit in the shade and play their own version of patty-cake. They like to talk about their pets, especially their dog that has a haircut to make it resemble a lion (seriously, more on this phenomenon in a blog to come)! They are addicted to first player shooter video games and looking up funny stuff on YouTube. High school boys like basketball and rap music. The girls pretend that they do too. Now I ask you this question: is that much different than the youth that you have grown accustomed to in America? Not to me. We are different in so many ways but at the end of the day the truth is….we are the same.


Abbey said...

Oh that is very funny, Chris. I had no idea that you were"so soft"! Matt & I enjoyed this post very much! Keep them coming!
And happy bday???
When is/was it???

Teresa said...

oh my goodness...thankfully we don't have to worry about rain and hair loss... can't imagine the extra pressure to not get wet!!! :)

mindy said...

hey...I appreciate your entry, especially since we've just returned from Vietnam. You guys need to read our blog when you get a chance!