"Our teacher told us this was the last time we spoke to Akiko's students. We wanted to give them a surprise. We shouted "Happy Graduation" out loud in Japanese together, and they seemed a bit shocked and also quite glad to hear it."; "I come to realize English is absolutely a magical tool for communication because we can talk about so much with each other without worrying about making mistakes."; "I felt a lot less stressed speaking to them in English today. I tried to say whatever came to my mind even though my spoken English was not very good at all." Well, I just can read their reflection and comments again and again with a smile on my face while also reliving some of the very unforgettable moments during the two-hour session, which is exactly the driving force that will keep me going no matter what.
Our third and also the last Skype exchange session with Seijo had a bumpy beginning due to the unstable Internet connection. However, about 15 minutes into the meeting, it began to go quite well and eventually got so much better than the previous ones. The topic was introducing celebrities, and my students chose their favorite ones to talk about, such as Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Tzuyu Chou (周子瑜), Ang Lee (李安) and so on. Prior to the session, they came up with a script comprised of four major elements, appearance, personality, occupations and personal meaning, to better prepare for the topic. Throughout the entire exchange, I could hear my students giggling, speaking English and even singing to wish their Japanese peers a very happy graduation. When it was finally time to wrap up, my students appeared reluctant to leave for the next class, and I even had to drive two of them away.
Based on my students' reflection, I'm so proud of them that they finally learned to appreciate the fun and importance of the English language, especially in terms of its communicative purposes. That's why at the end of this final exchange I also wanted to remind those Japanese students via Skype so badly that they really had to remember what they learned today. If they do, all the obstacles and challenges that Akiko and I have encountered so far will be worth it without a doubt. No textbooks or any other cram schools can teach what our students have internalized from the three Skype sessions of this project. Rote memorization of vocabulary and grammar should never be the only concern of English learning. Instead, it'll be so much more fun and meaningful for students to learn the language when they can use it to communicate with people outside of Taiwan and Japan.
I felt so guilty of putting Akiko in a difficult situation because she needed to recruit students in Seijo to attend our Skype exchange sessions AFTER school due to a very disproportionate number of students on my side. Also, I felt so blessed to get to know her during the three-day workshop in Seoul back in 2014. It takes a lot of courage as well as dedication to make this happen. Also, thanks to her wonderful and tech savvy college, Aashish, we were able to fix some technical problems timely right before the meeting. He kept waiting and waiting for me to make sure every laptop and the Internet connection could work properly. Also, I'm so glad that Judy Wu, also an alumnus of the Global English, can come on board with us, for she is a very brilliant and energetic English teacher who has abundant field experience in International Education.
Other than skyping Akiko's students, I also plan to invite another Japanese English teacher for my students as to make group presentations in English about the beauty of Kuang Ming and other popular tourist destinations here in Taichung. With what I've been told, this may come in handy if they do visit Taichung next year. Then, my one-on-one online English partner, Albert, can share some cultural differences and his insight into English learning in the Philippines. Last but not the least, I'll arrange with an AIESEC volunteer for another in-person cultural exchange. Above all, creating an authentic environment for my students to keep practicing speaking the language is the whole idea of all these tasks.