2017年6月6日 星期二

Letter to B and C from A


Even now, when one of our coworkers mentions you in passing, I feel a little angry.  You're in the States now, and you'll probably never read this, so I might as well take the opportunity to explain why.

You spent a lot of time talking about how much more "mature" you are compared to the other "teachers" in your program.  In my opinion, your maturity was just a false sense of superiority, and in the end you only proved that you're even less mature than they are.  They stuck around to the end of their contracts.  You didn't. 

You had an easy job here.  Our school was full of people willing to help you.  But somewhere along the line you decided that none of us (myself included) were worth talking to.  You decided - out of your vast experience of the human condition - that staring at a computer in a darkened room was preferable to having a conversation.

And speaking of your friendliness (or lack thereof), I was really unhappy with your dismissive attitude toward our students.  They just wanted to know you.  They were just curious.  But instead of giving them the chance to interact with you, you spent months hiding in your classroom.  Even when you were around them your defenses were up, and after a few weeks they were smart enough not to bother.

I know a lot of those kids - I can't claim to know them all.  But I think that whether I know them or not they deserved better from you.  They deserved your patience.  They deserved your warmth.   You could have taken the time to try to communicate with them.  They would have enjoyed that.

Not that your unfriendliness was the only problem.  I could never figure out why it was so hard for you to get organized.  I could never understand why you didn't know what to do.  Maybe you did come here from older students, but you had your degree, and you ought to have known better.  What happened?


Maybe what happened, in your mind, is that the culture here was a barrier you couldn't cross.  Maybe you looked at me and thought: "He knows the language.  He knows the culture.  So of course it's no problem for him."  But from my perspective such a rationalization will always ring false, because once upon a time I was just like you.  I was new to Taiwan.  I didn't speak the language.  I didn't understand the culture.  And yet... I still did my job.  I still found ways to improve, and I still fulfilled my commitments.  I still taught English, as well as I knew how.

You're probably in the States now, thinking "Thank God that's over!"  But is it?  Really?  Are you going to be friendlier in the future?  Are you going to be more professional?  Are you going to be more patient and attentive toward your students?

I kind of doubt it.  Wherever you go, you'll still be stuck with yourself.  You just don't seem capable of that kind of change.  You seem to lack the ability to self-analyze, and to reflect on that level.  Hopefully one day you'll have that ability, but based on your conduct, it's not likely to happen anytime soon.

But then again, maybe your work over there is just another exercise in hand-holding, wherein you'll be little more than another body filling space.  If so, I'm sure you'll do fine.  In such an environment it doesn't matter how friendly or hard-working you are.  All you'll need to do is show up, and follow the rules.

You might be thinking that it was just a year in Taiwan.  Just a year, no big deal.  But how many years do we have in our lives?  How many chances to do the right thing, and at the right time?  You might think you have another chance, and in that you'd be right, but you have to be the right kind of person to seize that chance, and the right kind of person to make the most of it.

For your sake, I hope you're having a better time in the States than you had here.  Just don't blame Taiwan for your bad experience.  That's all on you.


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