Working Hard

Another 11-hour work day completed and I am spent. A few weeks ago, I wondered how long I could keep working this many hours. Now, I fee that I have settled down into the regime and just accept it as the way things have to be. Still, I wish that there were more hours in a day to accomplish what I want to. How did the great ones, like Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Graham Bell, do it? I mean, they had the same 24/7 that I do. I asked that same question to Shu Mei and she said, “Organization”. However, doesn’t organization take time too?

Years ago, I saw a movie about stopping time. It was kind of a cheesy movie, but the premise was interesting. There was a couple that possessed an old stopwatch that, when opened, could stop time. Time didn’t stop for them, just everyone around them. Everything froze (people, cars, airplanes, etc.) except for them. They could do anything they wanted, even change the future of things by moving them to different locations. Although the movie did not quite tap into the idea of stopping time very deeply, it was thought provoking to me. Why, if I had that stopwatch, I could do marvelous things! As is, I’m left with the same 24/7 as everyone else and I feel like I’m being left behind in the human race.

Colin was a challenge today. His energy seems to be without limit. This is good and bad. It is good in the fact that he has the ability to learn a great deal in a short amount of time. It is bad in the fact that he loses interest quickly and doesn’t want to learn anything at all. I have always believed that potential is nothing, unless it is realized. Like Spider-Man said, “With great power comes great responsibility. This is my gift and my curse. I am Spider-Man.” (Spider-Man the movie)

After the challenging tutoring session, I went to the school and experienced an even more-challenging situation there. For some reason unknown to me, the children just weren’t in the mood to pay attention. It seemed that they all just wanted to draw pictures on the whiteboard. Of course, I tried to incorporate their desires with some sort of education. I tried to get them to draw things I said in English, simple things like a bird, a hat, or a car. Even though they understood me completely, they continued to draw other things. So, I took a break for about 30 minutes and let them draw.

Moving the students to a different locale, the big room in the front part of the school, I showed them a couple of Mr. Bean television episodes. They really enjoyed that and paid attention to me, when I froze the show and asked them questions about what was occurring. This is the type of situation where giving them “tokens” works. You see, we give them small round plastic rings that we call “tokens” when they do good. They can exchange these tokens for candy and toys. (Also, dried seaweed seems to be a favorite exchange item for them. Yuck!)

The clay project they were working on had problems. The clay that Linda made did harden okay, but it grew mold on it. I don’t know if that is due to the eighty percent humidity here or if that is just normal. Regardless, we had to buy commercial-quality clay in the store and start the project anew. That was a good thing, as the store-bought clay came with several molds (not the type of “molds” that grew on Linda’s clay, of course). Linda helped me in getting the students to remake food items for our Lunch theme, bananas, apples, and pizza.

For the kitchen period, we ate ice cream and melon. I taught them simple phrases during this timeframe, such as, “I want…” and “It is…”. Also, I taught them basic table manners, something many Taiwanese adults could learn. I mean, it isn’t uncommon to hear people belching in a restaurant, or smacking their tongue against the roof of their mouth as they eat. Also, resting elbows on the table is acceptable behavior here. As a child, growing up in the US, doing these things was met by a stern look from my father and a threat of discipline if I repeated them.

After counting the children’s tokens, an end-of-the-day daily task, I took “Abby” home. The two others that I take home are not there on Wednesdays, today. They attend another school on Wednesday. I don’t know what type of school. Normally, children here attend several different types of schools, besides their basic core curriculum school. I know that a couple of our students attend an art school on certain days.

After dropping “Abby” off at her house, I drove to Shu Mei’s parent’s house to teach the Ch’ing-shui students. I brought along some crayons and copies of letters I had made at the school. My plan was to have the children make their own letter and ending suffix flashcards. Then, they could make their own words by combining the two. Unfortunately, the actual coloring and cutting out of the flashcards took up the brunt of the hour-long period. I did manage to squeeze in about 10 minutes of instruction at the end. I feel kind of guilty about that, having not taught them much today.

After the Ch’ing-shui class, I went back to the school for the evening adults class. The adult setup is different, as I never know who or how many to expect for each class. Sometimes, everyone shows up. Sometimes only a few show up. The latter was the case this evening, as only two students showed up, “Watson” and “Theresa”.

Actually, Watson is 16 years old, but he speaks English fairly well and therefore belongs with the adults. Theresa has difficulty understanding me, even though I speak slowly and use the simplest words. Often, she speaks to Watson in Chinese, asking him to translate. This is taboo at our English-speaking-only school. I have scolded her about this many times, but she continues to do it. Oh well, it is her dime. If she doesn’t want to become fluent in English, that is her own decision.

When does a person become fluent in a language? I used to think that it was when a person begins to think in that language. I remember learning Portuguese, when I was a missionary in Brazil. Initially, I translated words in my heard, from English to Portuguese. After a time, I began just thinking of things in Portuguese, without having to translate. It was then that I felt I was fluent.

Although this definition of fluency may have worked with me, and other adults, it doesn’t work with the children I am teaching. Many of them are learning their native tongue, Chinese, and English at the same time. When they speak Chinese, they think in Chinese. When they speak English, they speak in English. By the way, they are also learning Taiwanese, which is a separate language altogether. They are truly are becoming poly-lingual.

To say that children are fluent in English, because they think in English, just doesn’t seem correct. They lack proficiency in the language, so they obviously cannot be fluent in it. So, I may have to redefine my definition of fluency. A quick trip to the dictionary shows me that fluency is: “Able to express oneself readily and effortlessly”. I’ll agree to that, until I can come up with a better definition myself.

I’ve noticed that I haven’t mentioned Shu Mei recently. Suffice it to say that things are going okay for her. She still suffers from morning sickness, but the frequency of the episodes are diminishing. She is almost 4 months pregnant now and we will hopefully find out if it is a boy or a girl next week, when we visit her doctor. She makes me talk to it, which I find uncomfortable as I do not know what sex it is. I just don’t know what to say to it. To make her happy, I talk to it as much as I can. I just hope that this pregnancy goes smoothly, as Shu Mei is not a young girl.

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