It is now summer, and I have successfully completed one year of teaching ELL (English Language Learners) in Taiwan at Morrison Academy Kaohsiung. Recently, many of my blog posts and email updates have been about His Hands Taiwan, an on-the-side ministry in which I’ve been involved. However, I also want everyone to know more about my primary ministry of teaching missionary kids, other international children, and local Taiwanese students with foreign passports. God has been so good to teach through me and to teach me during my time at MAK. Here are five highlights of the school year:
- I had been working with a second grade student in ELL. He was from a country in Europe, and he was new to the school this year. He was an incredibly intelligent student, but after learning and speaking his native language at home, studying in Chinese school and learning Mandarin, and then coming to MAK to learn in English, his language skills were suffering. He had very low performance in reading and writing, and he was trudging along in his progress. We had worked on various tasks like learning how to spell his last name, writing legibly, finding books in the library through use of the online catalog, and lots and lots of reading practice. Some days we made slight progress, but most days I felt like Sisyphus trying to push the boulder up the hill. Then came the breakthrough. I gave my student freedom to complete the normal library routine by himself one day, hoping that he would not need my help. To my delight, he logged onto the computer by himself (i.e. spelled his difficult last name correctly for his login), looked up his book alphabetically on the shelf, and sat down to read the book to me beautifully with almost no mistakes. After that day–and much praise given to the student and a glowing report sent home to his parents–my student continued to make progress by leaps and bounds. I was so blessed to be part of this success story.
- Our school-wide theme for the year was “Love Your Neighbor,” and as you can imagine, there were lots of opportunities in a school setting to teach, reinforce, and encourage this character lesson from Scripture. One day, a second grade student came into my ELL classroom after P.E. with tears in his eyes. It was a one-on-one setting, so I had the freedom to ask him what happened. He told me some students were mean to him in P.E., telling the teacher that he had cheated, but that he had done nothing wrong. I talked to him about forgiving the other students even if they had not said they were sorry. I also told him that if I have a hard time forgiving someone, I usually pray and ask God to help me forgive. We then prayed together and asked God for help. A couple of weeks later, this young man came back from a weekend trip with immediate and extended family. He told me that during the short vacation his mom had gotten angry with his uncle for something, and he had told his mom that she was supposed to forgive her brother even if he hadn’t said sorry. His mom said, “I’ll try,” and my student was satisfied with her effort. I was so excited that my student not only remembered this important lesson from Scripture but that he also passed it along to his family. There is more to teaching than just curriculum.
- I had one young student who came from a single-parent home and has never met his abusive father. He was greatly loved by his mother, but because of his abandonment, he was an angry child who got into fights daily with other students on the playground and lashed out in class. At the beginning of the year, I dreaded his class because of the uncertainty of how he would act in the day. I felt like there was little progress in his learning because we spent so much time working on behavior. I don’t remember when his attitude took a turn for the better, but I do know that by the end of the year, he seemed to really respect and even love me, and he was learning how to control his anger. He also loved learning! He was writing interesting stories with lots of newly learned vocabulary and proper grammar. He truly cared about his work, to the point even of not wanting other students to write on his rough draft during revision because it wouldn’t look nice anymore. I will be working with this student again next year, so pray with me for continued progress in his learning and character.
- For the second half of the year, I taught one seventh grade girl in a class by herself, and we used a book from the seventh grade LA curriculum. The book is called Bruchko, and I highly recommend it as an inspiring story of a young missionary in the jungles of South America. My student and I read the book together to allow for discussion of content and vocabulary because the book is not an easy read for an English language learner. Reading this book together allowed for a natural discussion of Christianity, salvation, missions, and faith; my student comes from a Taiwanese family that, like many Taiwanese people, believes in various different religions like Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and even a bit of Christianity. Through the reading of the true story of a missionary, I was able to clearly share the truth of the Gospel with my seventh grader, and though she has not yet made a profession of faith, I am confident that she will one day be part of the family of God. Pray for her with me.
- I had many opportunities to work with my family members this year, and that was quite a blessing. Sara teaches at MAK with me (she is the second grade teacher, and in fact, she was there first!), and my dad led the Spiritual Emphasis Week at MAK, assisted by Mom. Sara and I worked closely together as we had some of the same students, and it was a lot of fun to be in a professional setting together. Sara is an excellent teacher, and we have had a great time collaborating. It was also a joy when Mom and Dad came to lead SEW and the four of us were able to work together to create a meaningful and impacting program for the students. I know that my transition to life and teaching in Taiwan would have been much more difficult were it not for my family members (especially Sara) who supported me here.
I have been truly blessed at MAK this year, and I have seen much fruit from the Lord. My contract is for another year at MAK, and next year I will continue to teach ELL and I will also add Grade 6 Reading and Composition (two separate classes). I am excited about what the Lord will do in and through me during my time at MAK next year. I am also quite open to the idea of signing another two-year contract if the Lord leads.