BGL Teachers Rock “Parent Day” in Kunshan, China

Parent Day in Asia is a big deal. The endless preparation on the part of teachers and administration can almost make us lose sight of how important it is to show parents the best of what we can do. This rehearsed display can seem trite but is essential to parents developing their trust in us. In this way, there is profound satisfaction in a job well done. Seeing firsthand parents’ heartfelt pride in their children (who, we must admit, often feel like our own) can make it feel almost like the coming together of a long lost family.

Beautiful winter paintings adorn the window of Teacher Danielle's classroom and are reminiscent of the tree-lined streets of Kunshan.

Beautiful winter paintings adorn the window of Teacher Danielle’s classroom and are reminiscent of the wintry tree-lined streets of Kunshan.

Parents, teachers and students play in XingKong's plentiful play-yard.

Parents, teachers and students play in XingKong’s plentiful play-yard.

Teacher Allison plays an English game with her students while parents happily observe.

Teacher Allison plays an English game with her students while parents happily observe.

What made this Parent Day 2016 extra special at XingKong, our kindergarten in Kunshan, China, was the collaboration displayed between our BGL teachers and their local Chinese partner teachers. When you lack a common language it is very hard to establish a functional working partnership. Our teachers had already done so to varying degrees, but with the shared vision of a successful Parent Day they employed all the tricks to get it done right – Google Translate, human translators, and even good old-fashioned pantomime.

Chinese local teacher, Sienna, rallies her troops while playing a game outside.

Chinese local teacher, Sienna, rallies her troops while playing a game outside.

The result was nothing short of fantastic. Each teacher – Chinese and American – not only planned an effective and engaging lesson, but they also helped each other deliver the content in a way that laid the foundation for a smooth and supportive partnership moving forward.

Teacher Halley models a conversation with two students while parents listen in.

Teacher Halley models a conversation with two students while parents listen in.

Chinese local teachers deliver a lesson about environmental protection - partially aimed at educating parents.

Chinese local teachers deliver a kindergarten lesson about environmental protection – partially aimed at educating parents.

We even had our share of music! Teacher Will busted out his banjo, while the requisite Chinese line dancing (in one instance to Juanes’s La Camisa Negra, which is, surprisingly, a local favorite) was a predictable hit for all the parents.

Gotta love Chinese line dancing.

Gotta love kindergarteners line dancing.

Credit must be given to our team in Taipei, Taiwan as well for their expertise and hard work presenting their very best for Parent Day at Tsai Hsing, where BGL teachers work with both kindergarten and elementary school students.

Are you (or is someone you know) thinking about teaching abroad? If so, check out our available jobs in China and Taiwan – complete with immediate openings! We are an excellent network of accomplished teachers and we are always looking for like-minded talent to join our team.

Teacher Chad’s Top 5 Funniest Classroom Moments While Teaching in Taiwan

Teacher Chad is an astoundingly popular teacher at Tsai Hsing and recently decided to stay at the school indefinitely past his two-year contract.

(Check out his GoFundMe for his upcoming service trip to Tanzania with some of his BGL colleagues, and please give if you can!)

Perhaps one reason that Teacher Chad decided to stay on are the top five funniest things that have happened to him since he started teaching in Taipei. To boot, here is our latest blog post:

Making the decision to move to a new country alone to pursue your teaching career can be one of the scariest decisions a person can make!!! There are so many questions. My major fear was thinking about what were the kids going to be like. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them or to get my ideas across. I quickly learned that this would not be an issue and that, generally speaking, kids all over the world are pretty similar to each other. I observed them playing all the same games that kids in the States play. I also learned quickly that, much like America kids, Taiwanese kids say and do some of the funniest things. Here is my top five list of the funniest things I’ve received from students.

Number 5 – Just like in America, parents have no secrets from teachers. Students feel the need to share everything with teachers, no matter what!

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Number 4 – They understand how love and economics  sometimes can mix.

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Number 3 – even with a class of third graders, you always have the one kid who was born to have fun. IMG_1426.JPG

Number 2 – There is always that one student who is a wise guy and gets his witty jabs in wherever he can.

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Number 1 – No matter what the student does, an apology note can make it so much funnier. I had one experience where a student thought it’d be funny to punch me. The problem was his height. I received an illegal punch below the belt, but the apology note had me laughing for days.

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I’ve learned so much in my two years abroad and am so happy I took the chance to come and travel the world. I would recommend it to anyone who feels like they are missing something in their daily lives. Teaching abroad and traveling has been one of the greatest experiences in my life.

And, the kids are very sweet too.

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See Teacher Chad’s blog post from last year about Children’s Day in Taiwan. It’s one of our most popular of all time!

And, if you or someone you know wants to teach abroad, please check out our open job listings at banyangloballearning.com/employment.

Teacher Jane’s Summer in Taiwan

As summer approaches, BGL would like to share Teacher Jane’s video about her experience teaching abroad at Tsai Hsing School in Taipei, Taiwan in the summer of 2015.

 

If you or someone you know would like to teach abroad, please see our open positions at banyangloballearning.com/employment. We have elementary and kindergarten level teaching positions available at esteemed schools in both China and Taiwan. We offer a competitive salary and package that includes furnished housing (nice apartment), insurance, airfare, and a longevity bonus. Most importantly, we are a network of excellent teachers who support each other throughout the teach abroad experience.

Apply today by sending a resume and cover letter to info@banyangloballearning.com.

Using Video to Teach Current Events

BGL’s own Teacher LaCora has experience in front of the camera as a red carpet host here in Los Angeles. She used those skills to create a video about the recent earthquake in Ecuador as part of BGL’s weekly current events unit.

 

To teach current events, BGL selects a handful of stories from the week and shares links to the stories along with discussion questions to all their teachers across grades K-8. Each teacher chooses the story and discussion questions that are best suited for the ability and interest of their classes. Choosing more discussion questions – or turning them into writing assignments – takes the activity from a short one (5-10 minutes) to a longer one (a full period or two).

Here are the discussion questions for the Ecuadorian earthquake story. As you can see, they get progressively more difficult so that teachers in older grades choose from the bottom and vice versa for younger grades.

  • What can people do to help when there is an earthquake?
  • Have you ever felt an earthquake? What does it feel like?
  • What causes earthquakes? Are there different kinds?
  • What is the Richter scale? What does it mean to increase exponentially?

How do you teach current events? Tell us in the comments section.

CourtneyinHammock

Staying Connected While Teaching Abroad: One Teacher’s Perspective

“…well, I guess you must have a touch of crazy in you to move to and live in China. But I think for some, that craziness comes in the form of strength and creativity; and in such cases, you flourish.”

During a recent semester-culminating professional development session at Xing Kong in Kunshan, China, I was asked to share with the group what I deemed to be my “happy place,” or the one time or place that I have felt “complete bliss.” Such a heartfelt question was a bit tricky for my notoriously restless soul, however my answer drew itself quite clearly: my place of happiness is not just one place at all, it is actually a feeling, an all-encompassing overwhelming that is so specific and so poignant that when it comes I get physical goosebumps. For me, nirvana is waking up and venturing out in a place that I have yet to explore, whether it be a city, village, campsite, or beach. Bliss is knowing that a truly unique moment is entirely mine and that in it, I am completely free. Euphoria is the temporary ownership of time and space to explore, get lost and indulge in all before me.

Personally, the sparkling manifestation of what my life was “supposed to look like” has evolved with changing hemispheres, nationalities and languages. I am now overtly aware that in order to balance unavoidable adulthood while simultaneously nourishing my gypsy-soul, I must have a career that allows both travel and financial stability.  This has become a reality for me while living in both Taiwan (previously) and now in China, both of which were with Banyan Global Learning schools. However, being disconnected from your everything at home while living abroad – and, more specifically, teaching abroad – is not always easy and  is even less glamorous. There are days of small triumphs and beautiful glimpses of the traceable footprint you leave behind in a culture that you will never fully understand… but there is also a creeping sense of isolation that comes with living a world away or “in the future” (as my friends in the States lovingly refer to it).

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Pudong, Shanghai Skyline

Yet, through my personal experiences I have found that much of that which is left behind stays constant as it is me who grows, changes, expands and blooms. It’s impossible to write of the excitement that ensues when you are able to plan a weekend get-away to Hong Kong or Macau, or a four-day excursion to South Korea or Singapore. In order to find honest contentment with your path and lose yourself in the adventure and constant wonderment of living abroad, it takes wrapping your mind around the fact that you won’t be gone forever (that is, if you don’t want to be).

CourtneyinHammock

Ko Phi Phi, Krabi, Thailand

One way to do this is by connecting with other expats, both at your place of work and while traveling throughout the region. Through my travels I have met some truly incredible people: explorers from all over the globe that wholeheartedly believe in and embrace the challenge of life outside of the norm; People that live and see life through a uniquely scoped lens; individuals that I admire, trust and love deeply.  The greatest gift has been meeting and loving this select group of wanderers.  They have taught me to believe in the truth and sanctity of every moment that surrounds me.  Through these relationships and the rare mirrors that they provide, I recognize the my undisguised vulnerability along with my softness to new experiences, rare cultures and unique souls. In a world where vulnerability is so quickly coupled with weakness, I choose to wear mine on my sleeve and to allow myself to be unrelinquishingly real. This, in turn, allows me to connect more genuinely with the people with whom I share these experiences.

So, as I sit here, in this lovely cafe in Xintiandi, a small pocket tucked away in the bustle of Shanghai, surrounded by locals and fellow nomads alike, I think back on and embrace the past five months of my life in China and the past 4 years working with BGL. I leave in the morning for Thailand – an adventure I have hoped for since I was a child – and then will be reunited with friends and family in the States for a few short weeks. Very few jobs that I know of offer such a substantial mid-year perk with time off to travel the globe and have your adventure-dreams come to fruition.

In retrospect, I now realize that the ultimate fortune in my adult-life came four years ago when I faithfully took a chance on a young Los Angeles-based company called Banyan Global Learning . I was promised an opportunity to teach internationally but did not realize the extent to which the experience would be defined by my connections to fellow travelers. It has indefinitely changed my life and how I see the world.
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Adorable K1 Students

Halloween in China: Kindergarten Ghostbusters Dance Off

The teachers, students and parents at our kindergarten in Kunshan, China celebrated Halloween by dressing in costume and dancing in unison the famous Ghostbusters theme from the 1980s. Of course they did!

BGL Teachers Mike, Heather and Lucas led the groups not only with excellent dance skills but also superior costume-ability.
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And here’s a shot of Teacher Ashley celebrating the holiday with Batman himself at our kindergarten in Taiwan:

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How did your students celebrate the holiday abroad? Leave a comment below! And, Happy Halloween!

Table Top Mandarin with Teacher Mike

My name is Brittany Michael and I’m euphoric to be a new employee of BGL this year. I am part of the team in Kunshan, China and moved here a little over two weeks ago.
Teacher Brittany, about town.

Teacher Brittany, about town.

Throughout the time I’ve been here, I’ve had the privilege of diving right into Mandarin under the tutelage of our very patient manager, Mike Maraghy.
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On Day 1 in China, Teacher Mike eagerly began teaching us all Mandarin. This was in addition to Mike’s heading up the English department at Xing Kong, the first school to be operated in China by BGL and Tsai Hsing. Mike works with and constantly translates for Xing Kong local teachers and administrators and  prepares the American teachers to teach the BGL curriculum. He also manages the myriad details of our transition from America to living in China. My colleagues – Lucas, Courtney, Heather – and I marvel at how well Mike utilizes his Mandarin skills to communicate with school faculty and deal with the unexpected issues that arise when moving halfway around the world. We couldn’t be more grateful for his patience, perseverance and selflessness as we embark on this journey with him.
Teacher Mike translates for Brittany and her local partner teachers.

Teacher Mike translates for Brittany and her local partner teachers.

When we began learning Mandarin, we had our first lesson on a legitimate blackboard within one of the classrooms of our school building. We discussed basic sounds, touched on vowels and went over a few vocabulary words.

Our second lesson took place in Mike and Lucas’s apartment as they have a beautiful, floor-to-ceiling window in their living room with a gorgeous view overlooking one of the many lakes and parks of Kunshan. Mike creatively used dry-erase markers to write all over the window as we reviewed the vowels we’ve learned and important phonemes that differ from English and then touched on a few new vocabulary words and useful phrases.

9229094_origIn between lessons, Mike checks our retention in real life contexts and points out Chinese characters when we see them. We make Mandarin lessons out of every opportunity: during our trips to nearby Shanghai, by interacting with locals, speaking to administrators and teachers at the school and recognizing characters on signs we pass when walking/biking around Kunshan. Our third Mandarin lesson took place at a local shop called Forrest Coffee. The place is quaintly filled with a variety of little succulents and one of the main workers, Yoku, is working on his English and enjoys practicing with us. Mike used the coffee table to write out our lesson for the day and, during our bike ride to the gym right after our lesson, we continued our Mandarin practice by shouting sentences, requests, vocabulary words and phrases back and forth (much to the delight of the locals walking or zooming past us on scooters; as if five Westerners on bikes was not already a spectacle!).
9008654_origOur fourth Mandarin lesson was written back at Mike and Lucas’s glorious window during the day of the angry Kunshan storm. The wind was incredibly vicious this day and the sky poured down rain as we munched on baozi and cha ye dan inside. With more days like this to come, we hope to continue to pick Mike’s brain as we enhance our abilities to truly connect with the local culture.
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