Can it really get worse than admin work?— yes it can. Kindergarten ain’t always sunshine and lollipops, it’s got an ugly mean side. Let’s begin with the germs and the filth: almost every week one of my students was sick and still at school. In Asia they wear masks when they have a cough to protect, I’m not sure who from I’m not sure what. Well it was an everyday occurrence that a student of mine would have a mask on and you’d know they had something. But it got better, on many occasions in first and second semester my class got a “case” of something. Whenever this happened, we were quarantined forced to remain either in the class or outside, to use separate washrooms on the 3rd floor, and to sit sequestered during school gatherings. I took care of the students through sickness and health, I went above and beyond the call of duty and even got sick myself. My Chinese partner and I were basically their mothers: we fed them, we clothed them, we cleaned them, we loved them. My partner more than myself did everything for these kids, without a thank you from many parents.
In addition to being a mother to 18 students, I also had to be an entertainer to their parents. The pageantry, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I despise pageantry. It was endless preparing and rehearsing, all for nothing. We had a teaching demonstration, Thanksgiving show, arts-and-crafts night, activities at the zoo, Mother’s day fair, and Graduation the biggie at the end. It is said that this is a service we offer because this is what the parents want, and I say if this is what you want do it yourself. Maybe if this was a special Montessori school were they really emphasized parent/child interactions and made an effort to involve the parents in the school, then I could understand the necessity for parent/child events. But I find the events and event planning takes away from the numerous other daily tasks. Especially when it’s a performance where my class is on stage for under 5 minutes, or an arts-and-craft where I have prepared everything and the parents just take pictures, or teaching demo in the first month I have with the class. All the events were just opportunities to take pictures and to sell an idealized version of the school to parents and prospective parents. I think if you’re school is a good place you shouldn’t have to do a song-and-dance to show everyone, it should be evident in quality of the students when they leave the school.
I did so much, yet still wish I could have done more: this education system is an ugly thing. I wish I could have had more fun with my students: I wish we could have made more projects, gone on better field trips, had better resources to use, I wish we could have been 4 year olds. The way the school has created their curriculum, it needs an update. Every week, we had so much on our plates to do and teach like vocabulary, phonics, sight words, songs, speeches, science, tracing, and worksheets. On one hand, it ensures the teacher is never stuck trying to figure out what to do. On the other hand, it sucks the fun out of kindergarten. The school demands so much from a bunch of small kids and random foreigners, who’s only skill is speaking English. If I had the support that was written into my contract things would have been smooth. I did have it roughly 70% of the time but that’s not 100%; if you don’t give me 100, then why should I give you 150. It’s a system of exchange and what both sides brought to the exchange did not equate. Throughout the on going relationship, one side gave of themselves completely, while the other only gave the barest of necessities. In the end they part ways amicably, but I am left feeling slightly used up; maybe this is the way teaching works, though.
In the end, there was way more good than bad and ugly combined to teaching in Taiwan at a kindergarten. My school has been striving to make improvements for the foreign teachers and I hope the Taiwanese teachers as well. The school is open to constructive criticism and I think they’re beginning to take a good long look at themselves, as they realize their house is not in order. I love my students so much that despite the bad and the ugly, I stayed. Even though there were many mornings, where I woke up and didn’t want to go anymore, I stayed. Even when the list of things to do became unbearable and I was all alone in the room with them, I stayed. Even when I was sick, I was there to take care of my class because who else would. I started something, I didn’t want to fail and I wanted to see it to the end, so I stayed. And I am glad I did! Now would I recommend my school?— yes and no. Yes, because working with children can be and has been an amazing experience, one I wouldn’t change for the world. No, because the school is still a ways off from being ideal, I don’t want to be blamed if your experience is bad.
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Please check out the good parts of working at a kindergarten, if you are considering this as a potential job. If you have any question feel free to ask 🙂