Adventures in Amusement Parks: EDA World, Kaoshiung

Every year the schools treat their Grade 6 students to an outing to celebrate them finishing primary school. In Taiwan, Grade 7 is considered the first year of junior high school. Lucky for us, the teachers are also invited to join them! The trip is to a roughly Greek-themed amusement park in Kaoshiung, called Eda World.

If you’re expecting Disney Taiwan, you will probably be disappointed. It’s a small park, with just a few rides, but it has all of the essentials for a good time! There are bumper cars, a merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel, two small roller-coasters and one big one, a haunted house, and two unnecessarily high, unnecessarily fast rides for crazy people who think being upside down is fun.

The Greek theme provides a good source of entertainment, as the decor was clearly done by someone who just did a Google image search of “Greece”. Overall, the aesthetic ancient Greek. The centre piece is a huge Trojan horse, around which the monorail track curves. One of the adrenaline rush rides is watched over by Polyphemus the cyclops and Odysseus. The big roller-coaster is partly a water ride, and is presided over by Poseidon and various water creatures. However, it goes a bit wrong when you encounter the big, three-headed dragon, wrapped around a distinctly Medieval looking castle tower. The parks mascots are also an interesting mix: Eda the Rhino, DianDian the Pelican and Donkey the… Donkey, are accompanied by Apollo and his sister… Diana? Oh well, close enough, right? The gift shop section of the park has been done up to look like Mykonos – not exactly ancient, but at least it’s Greek! And it is very pretty!

(Note: Apologies for poor photo quality – I forgot to charge my camera battery, and had to use my phone camera for most of these)

Overall, the park is good fun! Once you pay your entrance fee, all the rides and attractions are free, so you can do everything as many times as you like. We were also there on a quiet weekend, so the queues were short, which made everything much more enjoyable! The park is also joined to a very big mall, so if you get tired of the rides or need a break from the sun, there are plenty of shops and restaurants available.

While this isn’t the sort of park you could spend the whole day in, it is definitely a fun place to visit, especially with a group of fun friends. There’s something for everyone and, as is typical of Taiwan, it’s a relaxed and safe environment to wander at your own pace.

 

Teaching at Neurolink

We’ve been teaching for just over 6 weeks now, so it’s about time we posted something about what our actual reason for coming to Taiwan.

Almost everyone has asked us what the children are like. The short answer is that children are the same everywhere. Some of them are wonderful, some of them are an absolute nightmare. There are students who are excellent at English, some who work very hard, and some who would probably rather put out their own eyes than be in the classroom. Naturally, every teacher has their favourites, and often this is very much due to the teacher’s personality. One teacher in the Changhua school tends to really like the more cocky students, while another finds it rude and disrespectful. Over time, you learn to just accept that everyone has different preferences, and not to get offended when someone says they hate a student you like, or vice versa.

The schools themselves, despite both being Neurolink schools, are quite different. Each school manager expects different things from their teachers, and this creates quite different environments and work ethics. In general, Neurolink has a very good work ethic, and good communication, and the teachers are treated well by the rest of the staff. However, that said, new teachers are expected to fit in with the schools’ systems, and this is often not negotiable. For example, if a lesson is due to finish at 15:50, but you have finished all the work in the course guide by 15:40, the children are not allowed to leave early, and the teacher must fill those remaining 10 minutes with  material. What this material is, is not really important, and teachers have been known to show Youtube videos or play Uno – as long as the students are speaking English, just about anything goes.

Naturally, every school has its problems, and there are definitely days where we have wanted to just throw a course guide at someone and go home early. Some days the admin work is horribly disorganised, and you are only given your classes folder 20 minutes before you are supposed to teach them, and other days you just have something thrust upon you with no explanation or advice, and you are expected to make it happen. The easiest way to deal with the former, is to hover annoyingly in the main office until you get what you need. The latter is something you just accept, and while it has caused more than enough stress and frustration. generally the school staff are equally anxious that everything should go smoothly, so even if you screw it up, someone will pick up the slack. Obviously, not screwing up is ideal, but there is usually a fall-back smoke and mirror show in case of emergencies.

The school system was a little overwhelming at first. There are a lot of aspects to keep track of when planning a lesson: do the students have a spelling test? Which words are being tested? What is the priority for this lesson? Are there flashcards or props you can use to teach the concepts? Worksheets? Reviews? Progress checks? The list goes on. It can be very easy to forget something, or to run out of time and have to rush the book work. This is why lesson plans are strongly encouraged, because they double as a checklist to make sure you get everything done. Once you get into the routine of lesson planning, and wrap your head around the system, it gets easier by the day.

Finally, one of the highlights of teaching at Neurolink is the STEM programme. There has been a pretty speedy move away from the traditional drill school mentality, and the Neurolink schools are introducing an “English in context” approach, using science, technology, engineering and maths (hence, STEM). Unfortunately, this also means more work for the teachers, who have to plan science lessons, experiments, activities, crafts and extra material for the class, but while many teachers seem to dread science lessons, we both really enjoy the variety and the break from the daily routine. Plus, the teachers can learn useful skills while teaching the students – like how to make ice-cream with salt and ice, or how to make jumping origami frogs. Ok, perhaps not the most useful skills, but certainly a lot more fun than verb conjugations!