Growth Spurts, Spiritual Growth, and Character Spotlights

   Posted by: Teacher Ruth   in News Updates

Hello dear ones! I’ve got some green tea brewing on the counter. Pour yourself a cup and come join me at the kitchen table.

Life, as I am sure you know, has a way of running full steam without slowing, often leaving us behind on our endeavors to catch up with and maintain relationships with others. Since the Polar Bears started second grade back in August, I decided that I was no longer going to give them ‘easy English’. What is ‘easy English’, you ask? It is bare bones English without connecting words, often just using the topic of the sentence to get ideas across. An example would be instead of saying, “Do you know why I asked you to stand here?” one would say, “You stand here why?” These are the kinds of sentences beginning ESL students make with their limited vocabulary. It is easy to fall into the habit of talking like them, just to make sure they understand what is being said.

However, by the end of their first year, I was getting frustrated with this for a number of reason. The main reason is that my English was suffering and deteriorating quickly. I had trouble finding simple words to describe topics I normally would have used in daily conversations. As a result of most of my conversations being primarily with my students, I was quickly losing anything that wasn’t used in the classroom. The second reason was that I felt my students could understand much more than for which I was giving them credit. If they could remember words like “exercise” and “healthy” when learning about what makes for strong bodies, then they could handle having real sentence structures and complex vocabulary.

I am pleased to share with you that this endeavor of speaking like a native in my classroom was a success. For all the ESL teachers reading this I am sure you are rolling your eyes at me right now. Honestly, I had no idea how to teach ESL when I first came to Taiwan. Sure I had taught ESL learners while in the States, but most of them had been there for a while and had a fairly good grasp of the language. The Badger class was a huge learning curve for me and at the end of the year, I still wasn’t convinced they could absorb vocabulary. I have since come to understand that each class is different and can absorb more or less than another class. Badgers had a singular knack for forgetting vocab but could absorb and adapt games like no ones business. The Polar Bears, on the other hand, grasp concepts, ideas, and vocabulary like sponges. Since my co-teacher and I made the conscious decision to speak to them like native speakers with the idea that if a student does not know a word or doesn’t understand they can ask for clarification (again, a huge eye roll here, I know!), the Polar Bears have accelerated their learning pace. They often surprise me with their retention and application. For instance, merely by using “correct” or “incorrect” to answer guessing games, my students have picked up on what those words mean and even have started applying it to their workbook. I remember the first time a student did this and completely blew me away. He came up to me one day and asked, “Teacher, the book wrote incorrect and we need to write correct?” That was the first time I became truly aware of how quickly my students were adding to their vocabulary.

Since that eye-opening moment, my students have added words like, “exoskeleton (and skeleton), calcium, organ, endangered, hunter, death (die, dead, and dying), shepherd, frozen (freezing), nervous, apartment, address, Internet, Facebook, television, spammer, and many many more words to their active vocabulary. I have also sped up my speaking pace to that of a native, no longer slowly and clearly saying words or repeating them until I see comprehension on the students’ faces. We have a policy in my class of, “If I don’t understand, ask.” They know that I am there to help them ~ not to judge them.

That being said, it brings me to the first Student Spotlight.

Student Spotlight #1

Student: Leo
Age: ~8
Previous Behavior: temper tantrums inclusive of falling on the floor and crying, complaining, bullying others, disrupting class to get attention

Our Change: Knowing that he is the youngest child in his family and often not given much positive attention, we rewarded him with kind words, attention, and coupons whenever he showed a positive behavior (even if it only lasted for a split second). When he was in need of discipline, we did it privately and assured him of his value in God’s eyes as well as our eyes and reminded him we still loved him. I took this a step further and would hug him while I talked with him.

His Change: His tendency for temper tantrums severely diminished until by the end of the first grade, they were completely eliminated. He no longer complains and instead will share his concerns. When he feels they are adequately addressed, he says, “Thank you” and begins his work. Leo is no longer outright bullying to get his way. He is still learning the difference between persuasion with the intent of being a friend and bullying to put others down. Leo no longer disrupts class to get attention, instead choosing to participate in class to get positive attention.

Leo’s behavior has completely changed since coming to us in first grade. This year he continues to grow into his new role of a good student and has made several more friends. He can be friendly and encouraging to all his classmates and has even learned how to apologize or accept an apology when he is feeling angry, sad, or hurt. Leo was also invited to go to church with “Joe” and several other friends. His mother did not let him go because she had had a bad experience with a church. After Joe’s mother started to make friends with her and invite her to go to church as well, Leo and his mother and sister have attended church several times with Joe and his family. May God be praised and glorified! What a difference He is making in our class ~ reaching out to those who are lost and need Him and using those lost to reach their families!

Student Spotlight #2

Student: Ginny
Age: 8
Previous Behavior: sweetheart with a thirst for vengeance, avid liar, and ability to shrug off any emotional responsibility

The Fulcrum: She passed a note saying nasty words about a classmate who had wronged her. This note included encouraging her classmates to no longer be friends with the said classmate as well as saying she “needed to die”.

Our Change: Knowing that this student believes in God, enjoys her “good girl” status, and always wants to please others, we addressed this as a sin issue. We talked about what the Bible teaches about words: the tongue is a small muscle but it can do the greatest harm. We can speak life, or we can speak death. In a mock up of what God’s judgement after death would be, we used her as a seemingly random example, saying the exact words she had used about her classmate. Then, “looking” at the Book of Life, it was noted that her name was not listed and so she was not accepted into heaven. A classmate who has similar behavior was chosen as the next example. He was said to have used the same words Ginny had used, yet his name was “found” in the Book of Life. He had accepted Christ as his Savior and asked Jesus to grow him. He was forgiven and accepted to heaven. We then reminded the class of Jesus’ sacrifice and how our behaviors, words, and thoughts don’t have to condemn us to hell. That we can be saved, even now that we have done these nasty things. We then prayed with them for forgiveness and to accept Christ.

Her Change: Ginny was deeply affected by this. Her mother asked us to talk with her some more. After talking with her, we learned that she had prayed with us to accept Christ and be forgiven. Although she still struggles with telling the truth as she wants to be viewed as the good girl, she can now be encouraged to tell the truth. She struggles deeply with her desire to win and her desire for God to see her as a cleansed heart. For me, this struggle is amazing to witness in someone so young. God is doing wonderful things in this girl’s life and I know He has an amazing plan for her. Let’s be praying for her as she is starting out on her walk with God!


Many more things have happened in the months since my last posting. This post is already quite long so I will save them for a future post. This year so far has been a blessing and a joy to me. I have seen the Cubby class grow in so many ways, encourage their friends and families, and truly become a family in and of themselves. There simply are no words for me to convey how blessed I am to have this class to grow with, learn from, and praise God together. God is a great and loving Father who has our every need in mind when He gifts us things, whether those things are situations, people, or classes. May you be blessed deeply, my friend. May He bring wonderful situations to your life where you can grow to know Him and love Him more. May He bring people into your life who will speak truth, who will show you Him, and will guide you back to His Word.

May He bless you and keep you,
Teacher Ruth


Christmas and Chinese New Year Shenanigans – My parents came to visit for CNY!

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 5th, 2017 at 12:58 and is filed under News Updates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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