Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Passion for Teaching

The owners and Chinese TAs at the night market branch of the Gloria English School

In March or April I began teaching two days a week at the Gloria English School in Chungli and Taoyuan. When I was teaching in Taipei, I taught adult conversation and beginning composition to people who were planning to take the TOEFL exam to come to the US and study. Many of the students came late after work, and most of them had not done any homework, so the classes moved slowly. Things at the Gloria English School were very different.

The Gloria English School was an afterschool “cram school” that taught English to children from preschool up through the end of high school. It used the English books from Singapore’s elementary school curriculum, and then the school added its own touches like songs, basic conversation, games, and “direct phonics.” Instead of teaching the KK phonetic system like Taiwan’s junior high schools, the Gloria English School taught the alphabet with phonics. This helped the students with pronunciation and reading.

Each class met for two hour sessions twice a week. The class had an American teacher and a Chinese teacher. The Chinese teacher acted as TA when the American was there one day a week, and then she would explain the points of grammar and review the lessons on the second day. The Americans spent two hours a week with each class.

All the elementary schools were in session for only a half day on Wednesday and Saturday, so the school ran classes all afternoon and evening. Classes started around 5 pm the other days of the week, and the schools were closed on Sundays. I was given classes on Tuesday and Friday evenings to start with. I only worked half days in Taipei on those days so I could get back in time for the classes.

They were so much fun. Most classes had a row of mothers in the back learning English with their children. We would come in, review the previous lesson, sing whatever songs I wanted to teach them, play some games to review grammar, and then learn a new lesson. The mothers took notes on what homework had been assigned, and the students usually did it all. The parents were paying quite a bit of money to have their children taught by real Americans, and they made sure that the kids got the most of the opportunity. The method of teaching was fun, too. Every concept was practiced through contests and games. At first it seemed that we were moving more slowly than the other schools (Big Bird’s English, for example), but because we had six books to our curriculum, our students were able to stay with us for a long time. By the time they got to the later books, they spoke, read, and wrote very good English. Many of them won English competitions in speaking and writing when they were in high school.

I thoroughly enjoyed the classes. It was like I was playing word games for several hours a day, and I was getting paid big bucks to do it!! The students and parents liked me, so as my classes in Taipei ended, I added more and more evenings in Chungli. Over the summer, the owners of GES (who were also Hakka) decided to give me classes for nine hours a day, five days a week. By this time, I was feeling the pressure of the monthly mortgage payments, so I immediately accepted. I quit my job with the church publishing company and became a full-time English teacher.

For the most part the morning classes in the summer were for new students. They met five days a week, and we were supposed to teach the entire alphabet, phonetic reading, fifteen songs, and enough conversation for the students to be able to introduce themselves in English by the end of the 8 week course. Since they were coming daily, they only met for an hour a day. We had to keep everything fast-paced and fun because we needed these students to make up our classes during the school year. The goal of summer session was to make them fall in love with learning English. In general, my classes had a high retention rate.

When I started, GES had three branches: two in Chungli and one in Taoyuan to the North. I was in Taoyuan for two days a week and in Chungli for three days. Some days in Chungli, I would be at the branch near the train station in the morning and have to rush to the branch near the night market in the afternoon. Eventually, Pa Liu decided that I should learn to ride a 50 cc motor scooter, so I could get to classes on time. When I went to Taoyuan, I took the bus to the train station and took the train, but when I was in Chungli, I puttered along on the family’s little red scooter. I did not need to take a licensing test because before our honeymoon, I had gotten a reciprocal license to drive a car with my regular US driver’s license. That was all I needed to drive a 50 cc motor bike. Life got easier for Pa and Yuntian, too, because they only needed to pick me up at the train station two nights a week, and since I was teaching children, the classes ended earlier.

Over my three year stay with GES, they eventually expanded to five branches all in the Chungli and Taoyuan area. They even got the contract to teach English to the flight attendants for the new Evergreen Airlines. And after we came to the US, I organized two cultural exchanges for GES students. They came to the US and did some touring, then I took them to a school or summer camp to meet and mingle with American kids. Working at that school was one of the best jobs I ever had.


murat11 said...

I'd have thought "Polk Salad Annie" would be high on the list of songs you taught! You were probably too busy with songs from the musical "Oliver."

What a bustling life this was; I caught the energy and the joy you had in doing all this.

Loved that "real Americans." You're one of the least "real" Americans I know (a compliment to you, that is).

Gloria as in "gloria in excelsis deo," or Gloria as in "and her name is G...L...O...R...IIIIIIII...A," Van Morrison's first hit? Maybe you were teaching "Brown-Eyed Girl" along with "Polk Salad Annie" to the Glorians.

Your word verification today is "foopodis." I think I just committed an act of foopodis in this comment. Foopodis: nonsensical blog commentary.

Happy Foopodis Day!

Teresa said...

Hey Bro Murat,

A happy Foopodis day to you, too. We mainly taught children's songs with lots of repetition and melodies the kids knew. In the higher levels, we could teach longer more interesting songs. I did teach one class "The Sun with Come up Tomorrow" from Annie. When they got to that level, they were usually old enough to tell us what they wanted, and sometimes even bring in the tape and pages of the lyrics. They did the job for me!!

I am, too, a "real" American. I just got my passport renewed, and the US government is still willing to claim me!

The owners' names were Henry and Gloria. Gloria was an ex-junior high English teacher. It started out as her project and eventually swallowed up the whole family. It was quite successful. They were Buddhist, so I don't think that "gloria in excelsis deo" played much part in their selection of names. I don't know if they listened to Van Morrison in private.

So instead of "Dueling Banjos" we play dueling foopodis on each other's blogs? I can live with that!!

Thanks for stopping by.

Kathy said...

Hi, Teresa!

I have been considering applying to Gloria and I was wondering if I could email you with some questions about your time there.

Teresa said...

Sure. It's been awhile. I guess the last time I had contact with them was in 2004 when we were back for a visit. But the same owners were in charge then.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping you could possibly answer some questions. I've been offered a position from Gloria in the Taoyuan area and was wondering how the area compares to Taipei. I've heard Taipei is great but would love a first hand account of your opinion. If you would like to email me you can reach me at Thanks so much.