For me, teaching is about a whole lot more than just English. In fact, I’m not entirely convinced my students improved all that much in English this year. Coming into the new semester at Su-Ao, I was a little bit discouraged about my impact this year. In America, not only did I see my students learning subject matter, but I really felt like I knew them. I could make them smile, I knew when they were upset, and they would talk to me about things that were going on. I felt I could teach them life lessons as well as school lessons. I could teach them to be accepting, loving, motivated and generous people, which is honestly why I love teaching so much. I love that I could play a small part in how someone sees the world and the kind of person they might become…not just that I am responsible for them knowing the grammar structure of a typical sentence. But here, that hasn’t been so easy. The language barrier makes teaching life lessons a lot more difficult. On top of that, there are different values here, so things like cheating and teachers making fun of students seams to be okay. To me, that’s the opposite of okay. I decided I needed to do more. So I brought Random Acts of Kindness Month to Su-Ao, Taiwan in hopes of cultivating a positive school culture.
I love school. In fact, I love it so much, I plan to spend my life in academia. School has been where I have made friends, found mentors and learned more things than I can count. It makes me incredibly sad that not everyone shares this feeling. Anti-bullying is something that I have come to be very passionate about. What started as a research paper for a senior Sociology class, turned into the path I want take. I want to stop bullying. And I think I will do just that. So why not start here in Taiwan?
At the beginning of April, I printed a huge poster in both English and Chinese. The poster read:
I PLEDGE: To be kind to others. To make everyone feel valued and included. To lend a helping hand to anyone in need. To be a positive force in the world!
I asked all the students, faculty and staff to read and sign the pledge. Then, I passed out paper strips to every homeroom teacher in school. Whenever someone in the community does something kind, the receiver of the act would write it down on a paper strip. The collection of paper strips would go into a Kindness Box in the office. Every week, I would take the strips and staple them into one giant paper chain. I hung the chain across the auditorium for the whole school to see. It was supposed to be a visual representation of the kindness of our school community. The school could see it growing each week with more kindness. They could see their pledge coming to life.
I wasn’t sure at first how it would work, because this fostering of school community is not huge in Taiwan. The school climate is very different here than it is in America. But, to my surprise and incredible happiness, it worked!!! It worked perfectly! By the end of the month my students had completed, written and submitted 1,534 kindness strips! In fact, they even kept going after April. There are still about 100 more strips in the Kindness Box now! I couldn’t believe how successful it was! And, my students really cared about it. They were always asking how many links were in the chain on any given week and when they saw me putting the chain up, they always came and tried to help. Some homeroom teachers even had to ask for more strips! It was awesome. It was really great to see the kids coming together to make our school a better place. I really felt like this was my first step in a long line of projects and policies to help make school better for everyone. So that everyone can love school the way I do.
Apparently, all of Su-Ao thought it was a good idea too, because one day, two newspaper reporters showed up to interview me about Random Acts of Kindness Month!!! They did not speak much English, but my LET Sonia helped to translate. I told them about my project and my teaching. And the very next day….I was in two different newspapers!!!!!!! SO COOL! Then, a few weeks later, the Taipei Times picked up one of the articles and translated it into English for their bilingual section of the paper. The translation is a little iffy (since when do I have blonde hair and blue eyes?!!?) but still really cool that I made it into three papers!!!!
Check them out! (: (: (: