Differences b/w American and Taiwanese Students

5 Aug

By popular request, one, I’ll attempt to pin point some cultural differences between the U.S. and Taiwanese school climates. I will also send rain to the United Sates, priority on Texas, and mail one Taiwanese student to you, Aunt Carrie. You’d better cross your fingers that it’s not Peter.

P.S. Peter is actually really cute now that he’s stopped crying all day. He still only says “Mamma?” because he’s not even 2 years old. But, he points to things constantly, and I believe he’ll fit in just fine once he stops asking all his classmates if they are his mother.

P.P.S. I cannot feed anyone else while Peter is eating. As SOON as you help him take a bite, he is ready for the next one. Peter is a honey badger (look it up on YouTube), so he doesn’t even give a shit, he skips the chew and goes right for the swallow. Fortunately, this causes little chaos in the world of feeding 11 two and three year olds simultaneously because honey badgers also finish their food in 82 seconds. And, over half of my students can manipulate a spoon through rice, cabbage, carrots, bok choy, tofu, red bell peppers, chicken chunks, and soup very skillfully. Only three wear bibs. And, there are on average two teachers feeding this group which includes harassing them. Because in Taiwan, you do NOT waste food. I have been so brainwashed (improved?) by this mentality that after my student Ray threw up his food, and I saw him being fed white bread instead. I went to the school manager and explained that it seemed that he was spitting out the food because he doesn’t want to eat it, and that he didn’t really “throw up”. In other words, I was thinking, “Don’t let him get away with NOT eating!” She very sweetly explained that he had a stomach virus recently and his stomach is sensitive. Ooops.

Okay so this leads me to my first cultural difference:

In Taiwan the teachers (and it seems parents have founded or joined this crusade) create specific expectations for the students, and enforce them more consistently and effectively than in the U.S. Let me name some of these expectations. In these generalizations, I am thinking of my two and three year old students, excluding the newbies- the students who came in the last few weeks as a trial for next semester; they are all young and/or in shock.

1.) They can go to the bathroom completely by themselves. Unless they poop, in which case, because Taiwanese are DEATHLY afraid of any student under the age of eight wiping their own bum, they are instructed to announce that they need to poop, and upon receiving permission, go do it and then wait for a teacher to help. The white teachers are discouraged from doing this duty. Here is an update from my previous blogging on this topic when I said I had never actually seen a kid poop in the four weeks I was there. Towards the end, I sought out this duty in diaper form, and the Chinese teacher’s face was one of horror mixed with shock. Then she said that next time I should tell her. I couldn’t tell if she felt obligated to say that or if she was thinking, “There is NO way you, with your American genes, wiped him properly”. Sorry if you are uncomfortable reading about poop. Okay, so the point is the students all pull their own pants down and up. Sure their shirt is always halfway stuck in their shorts, but this is a secret way to tell if they actually used the restroom or not. Even though you can just ask; they seem incapable of lying.  So, imagine this…NO students have buttons on their shorts. I taught three year olds back home for over a year, and each day at least one of these newly potty trained kids had pants he or she could not unfasten/fasten without assistance.

2.) The students finish all their food almost every time. The slow or picky eater is encouraged to eat and then spoken fairly harshly to if they are too slow. Then, when lunch time is over, they are calmly herded to an area where the food WILL be finished. No ifs, and, or buts about it. Few students need to be herded, usually it is just 1 or 2 students in my class.

3.) The students take off and put on their own shoes. Practice makes perfect? The shoes are almost always velcro.

4.) The students do not hit or push each other. They come REALLY close to it; this is how I know they are real kids. My current class is actually an exception to this because of 2 or 3 students. They are grabbers. And, the grabbing and subsequent hitting of the grabber often happen during clean up time. This  type of student will get REALLY bent out of shape if another student grabs a toy that he was going to put away! WaaaaaAmbulance!

5.) The students will sit and listen to a lesson about … anything, especially if you point to a picture or draw one. Even the students who seem a bit ADHD can sit still when the lesson is actually happening. When you are trying to get a new kid to understand that he needs to sit down, then the ADHD kid starts to crawl under the table, but if you are teaching him how to read the word caterpillar, he is sitting nicely and listening. I kind of remember the three year olds in the states being able to do this also, but the lessons seemed much shorter there and less ambitious. That was not an expensive language school, though. It was an infant – sixth grade private school/daycare. But, that’s the point. There are many of these English schools here, not in the states. And, the Chinese public and private schools, I believe have similar standards and expectations even though the curriculum is less English heavy. The schools in the U.S. have access to a broader range of materials though; here, the public school curriculum is missing the bells and whistles due to fewer funds perhaps? Overall, this culture has less waste, so materials are used wisely.

If you can’t tell, I am speculating when making many of these generalizations. I will let you know if I change my mind as I see and hear more information.

In the next paragraph are some questions my three year olds can answer in English when I give them the end of year assessment (this is a 10 minute oral test that is recorded on MP3 player for the parents mostly). Five students answered in the A range, one with a perfect score. And the other six students have attended this school for only a month or less.

The test includes questions like: What is your name? How are you today? What day is it? Are you a boy or a girl? Can you fly? What color is this..? What shape is this…? Count to 10, Say a rhyme (like One, Two Buckle My Shoe), Sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, What letter is this?, What sound does it make?, What word starts with that letter?, etc. Are these common questions for three year olds in the States or elsewhere? It changes too when you take into account that they are answering these in their second language. Someone who’s familiar with this age, please comment.

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4 Responses to “Differences b/w American and Taiwanese Students”

  1. Linda August 5, 2011 at 1:59 am #


    Gotta watch this!!!

  2. Linda August 5, 2011 at 2:01 am #

    Oh… upon closer reading, I’m gathering you’ve seen this. DUH!!!! Too funny!!!

    • Emily Clark August 9, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

      Yes, that’s the one! I’m glad you posted it because it cracks me up! ROTFL… okay, not really, but my bed is on the floor so, LOTFL

  3. Jeanne August 5, 2011 at 8:04 am #

    It’s all very interesting. Your students sound more mature than US students in most respects. I do believe that we do not have high enough expectations for our children in general. Unfortunately many parents here are more worried that their child is “happy” instead of learning. The children soon learn how to manipulate that to their advantage to get out of doing things they don’t want to do. Your students seem to be very happy and mostly compliant as well.

    The teachers insist that the children must finish the nutritious meal that they are served. I wonder if that helps with childhood obesity because the kids can’t just wait until they get home to eat all the junk food they want.

    You’ve given us lots to think about and it will be interesting to see how your awareness grows the longer you are there.

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