Can I tell you a story?

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy stories.  As a child, I remember my grandmother and I sitting on the top step of the stairs while she read to me.  As my children were growing, we had some favorite books that we would read together.  When we were homeschooling, we had a time after lunch to read stories together.  Good memories.


This year, I have been given the opportunity to tell stories again.  How fun it has been to teach the language through stories, coming up with lessons that hopefully are effective in making the language accessible to every student.

To make the stories accessible, I begin with introducing the vocabulary from the book in a power point presentation.   I do an online search for images that will show what the words mean.  One lesson I remember from my ESL classes was to let my students ‘see’ what I am talking about, otherwise I render them blind.

I then have a slideshow of each page from the books.  I take a picture of each page – beginning with the cover – so that each child can see the pages well.  I read the story first to the class, and then I have them repeat after me.

If your school has a classroom set of the books, there are more activities you can do.    For those books, after reading the story together, I pass out the books to each student.  Then the students read the story again with me.  If we have extra time, I have them do a search for words I introduced at the beginning of the lesson.

Extension activities can also be a fun way to enhance the learning.  Many songs and stories can be found on Youtube or other sites like that.    My favorite one goes along with the Five Little Monkeys book.  Check it out on youtube -

By the way, when I went home for a visit this summer, I got to visit my grandmother’s home – and went up those stairs.  Sweet memories.  What memories do you have that you could share  - maybe you could write a story to share with your students.

Come on over!

What are your plans for next year?  If you are considering coming to Taiwan with the Department of Education from your state, or any other agency, let me share with you some information that I found helpful. 

Copy of DSC09553

Acquiring this teaching job is similar to any other teaching job, with a few exceptions.  It begins with an application, and interview, just like other positions.  The program here with the Ministry of Education is only open to licensed teachers.  The purpose of the program is to provide native English speaking teachers for the Taiwanese students. 


While you are waiting for notification of acceptance, there is a lot you can do.  First, be sure to apply for your passport if you don’t have it.  It does take time, so do it quickly to get the process started.

The MOE requires a complete physical before you will be granted your visa (which the Houston consulate does for you).  So, when you are notified that you will be a part of this program, then you can work on the physical.  Some of the tests, as well as immunizations, can be administered at a county health department for a fraction of the cost of going to a medical facility.  My immunizations were $10 USD per shot – very affordable.   So, check that out first. 

One of the things you will be asked is if you have a preference of where you would like to teach.  Take time to think about whether you would prefer being immersed in the culture of a little village, or if your preference is more of an urban setting.  Most of the schools are outside of the large cities, so that students with less opportunity to hear English can benefit from this program.  Internet searches can show you many beautiful places here on the island – and it does have some very beautiful places. 






Your school in Taiwan will be assigned a person who is responsible to assist you in setting up your living here – housing, Alien Resident Card, health card, bank account, phone, and other miscellaneous items.  Each time I have been here, my housing allowance ($5,000 New Taiwan dollars) covered all of my housing.  I did have to pay for some utilities, but the cost was minimal.  Before I came last August, I was in communication with my host about where I would like to live, and some other information about this area. 

This island is set up for convenient travel.  You can ride around the island on the train.  In places where the train is not easily accessible, there are bus routes that you can take.  The people here will be happy to assist you in getting you to wherever you want to go.  Take advantage of that – they know the language, and the best way to do things here.  When you are in a train station, the information desk usually has someone who can speak a little English, and can assist you in purchasing train tickets, or reading the schedules.  They are happy to help in any way. 



Both times I have been here, I have been so impressed with the Taiwanese people.  They are so gracious and kind – always willing to go out of their way to help.  They appreciate the fact that you have left your home to come over here to help their children become more proficient in English, and they are grateful. 

I hope you can come.  You will be forever changed – and in the process, you will be a part in changing lives here in Taiwan.

Here are some pages for you to visit: - Arkansas Department of Education - Ministry of Education in Taiwan – Foreign English Teacher program - Taiwan Tourism


As in any school, competitions provide ways for students to stretch themselves in areas to hopefully spur them on to a higher level.  The students here worked on a Reader’s Theater competition, where the scripts were written by the teachers, based on a variety of Aesop’s fables.


Even though some of the students are struggling with pronunciation and expression, we want to provide an opportunity to speak.  The scripts give them the words to say, so the main task is to equip the students with the help they need to say those words.  We are hoping the students have fun reading their parts.  One of our teams actually got to go to the second level of competition.  The winnings allowed us to purchase two English books for each child.  We chose Green Eggs and Ham and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

  Practice for the first video presentation for the Readers Theater Readers Theater practice Lining up practice for Readers Theater

Our school also provides lots of opportunities for in-school performances and competitions.

Music competition - a lot of accordions and a few other instruments   Western instruments on stage, Chinese instruments on the floor - practice run

Chinese instruments  Chinese instrument - incredible job  Another Chinese instrument  Xylophone - he did a good job  Obstacle course practice - what a cutie!!   First grade drummer - and a very good one, at that!   Beautiful dancers

Summer’s Over, Still Smiling

Summer’s over – school is back in full swing!  I have some friends who love to swing – does that have anything to do with school?

Not only does Taiwan celebrate the Moon Festival at the end of the lunar month (this year it was September 22), but September 28 is also a special day in Taiwan – Teacher’s Day.  Every teacher is honored in a variety of ways in each school. The best one is to hear students give their well wishes – trying to speak a new language.



Teacher's Day

Teacher's Day

Teacher's Day

Teacher's Day

This month has been mostly getting into a pattern of teaching with my co-workers.  Each of the English teachers has the students for two days a week, and now I’m one of those days.  What we have decided is for me to focus on the listening and phonics part of each unit in the curriculum they are using.

Research has shown that one of the important steps in language acquisition is to be able to hear words that rhyme.   So, that has been one of the areas I have focused – to use simple rhymes that somehow correlate with the phonics, or the sentence patterns.

I have used Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater to go along with the seasons, the harvest time in the fall.  I printed out a pumpkin, a farmer man, and a lady after resizing them to be relatively the same size.  Each piece was laminated, and as I recited the poem, I introduced each picture.  As the poem described Peter putting his wife in the pumpkin shell, I would slip the lady through a slit made in the pumpkin so only the top of her was showing.  The students enjoyed the discussion about whether the young gentlemen would do that to their wives whenever they married.

Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater

Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater

One of the phonics lessons was about ‘ck’, so I used Hickory, Dickory Dock.  A site where I found some great visuals was   One of the pages showed a grandfather clock with different onset sounds going up the bottom portion of the clock, and the mouse had ‘ock’ on it.  As the mouse moved up the clock. the children were able to read the new words with the different sounds.  This year, I’m using the projector, and power point, or pdf slideshows much more than before – branching out into using more technology for greater learning.

Another fun thing I have been teaching the students are some special celebrations for work well done.  In Arkansas, the

Good job, good buddy!

Good job, good buddy!

classroom management taught by Great Expectations of Arkansas uses positive words to encourage the students to try to do their best.  So, every week, I have been trying to teach two different celebrations so we can accumulate a variety of them so they can choose their favorite ones.  Some of the students look at me as though I’m a little strange, but that’s ok, because not only am I teaching them new words, but also part of our American culture as well.

The teachers I’m working with have been so good to work with.  When I am teaching, they will plug in explanations in Mandarin so the students are able to build on what they already know.  They are teaching me so much just by their example.  We are co-teaching for sure.  My training in the States has been helpful for us as we are working out how we are working together.

A really fun ‘field trip’ was to a baseball field!  Douliou has a professional field here, and the 5th grade students and

Play Ball!!

Play Ball!!

Cheers for the players

Cheers for the players



5th graders, teachers, principal

5th graders, teachers, principal

teachers were invited to one of the games.  How different to see the way they encourage the batters – with drums and noise makers.  Some of the cheer leaders lost their voice because of how much they were cheering the crowd and the players!  Fun time.

Raif Esquith

Raif Esquith

The last week of the month, I was invited to a seminar to hear Raif Esquith.  He is a great teacher from California where the majority of his students are second language learners, as well as living in an area with poverty and crime.  He had some very encouraging ideas to use with some of our students.  The most important thing that I got from his talk was to take my interests and passions and  let them influence the way I teach.  The next thing was a list of six different behavior motivators, beginning with staying out of trouble, to the highest level being because it’s right and that is who I am.  He teaches those to his students, as life lessons  - setting the standard high for them.  His book is called Teach like your hair’s on fire: the methods and madness inside room 56, if you are interested in checking it out.

I almost forgot to mention that we did have a typhoon this month, too.  Fortunately, we did not have much damage in our area.   In our county, it rained very hard on Saturday and Sunday, but we were not off on Monday.  Some of the students were disappointed!

It has been a good month – really feel like I’m getting accustomed to the school and the teachers.   How fun it is to address the students in English and watch their response.  The sweetest response is when their face breaks into a smile – even if they can’t speak in English.  We all smile in the same language!!

Journey of a River

I went on a sightseeing trip with some new friends here in Douliou yesterday afternoon.  We went to Linnei to see the autumn reeds that bloom with a white feathery blossom.  The wind was blowing steadily, creating waves in the grasses along the bank of the river.  Beautiful.

A walkway to the mountains?

A walkway to the mountains?

Holding tank for redistribution of water for various uses - octagonal

Holding tank for redistribution of water for various uses - octagonal

Beautiful rice field

Beautiful rice field

Flowing river with white blossoms waving in the wind

Flowing river with white blossoms waving in the wind

The autumn reeds of Linnei

The autumn reeds of Linnei

The other day I was reading in a book by Oswald Chambers, entitled My Utmost for His Highest, and one of the beginning sentences prompted me to consider the journey of a river.  ”A river touches places of which its source knows nothing.”

May I encourage you to keep flowing – touching places you may have never imagined!

Orientation and Beyond!

View from hotel window

View from hotel window

How life out the window changes so quickly!  The first stop for the Foreign English Teachers in Taiwan was at Howard’s Motel in Taipei where we stayed for most of the first week – enjoying our leaders, new friends, and of course good food!

Howard's Hotel

After the week of preparation for the next year, each of the teachers were able to meet a representative from their assigned school, discuss the  details, and then pack up and head out – by bus, train, plane, or car/van.  The representative from my school, Kate, is one of the directors, which is similar to an assistant principal.   I rode to Douliou City with her family, where our first stop was at the home of Sonia, the teacher responsible for my living arrangements.  The fifth floor of her house had an available room, which was mine based on my approval, which came easily.  My balcony overlooks the city.  I can hear sounds of the city, but not able to see them up close.

031 My director, Kate, and I at the information meeting on Friday

036 Looking out the window at my balcony

Monday morning, the principal had planned a welcome party for me, including signing the contract.  After the paperwork was finished, several people came bearing gifts – from a handwritten calligraphy note about hopes for this year for the students, beautiful flowers, and many sweet gifts of candy.  My heart was definitely touched by the expectant hopes this staff has of me.  I hope I can live up to their expectations – which we will attempt to do together.

The principal of Jhennan Elementary at the welcome party078 Flowers, sweets, sweet words

074 Welcoming party for me

I have been busy preparing some power point presentations of some stories that I will be reading to the students, as well as updating the ‘Meet the Teacher’ PPT to be used the first time with each class.  The students came this morning to clean up the campus, and then meet their teachers, and get their textbooks.  It was so fun to walk up to a group of students and speak to them in English.  Some of them ran, some acted like they didn’t see me, and others really tried to speak.

In the afternoons and evenings, I have been finding my way around the neighborhood.  I know where to go shopping, know where the train station is, and am learning some of the names of favorite foods of mine so I can order on my own.  Lots to learn, to become oriented to my new home.

Orientation – and beyond!  I’m still working on becoming oriented to using this blog to get it to do what I want it to do.  That is definitely a work in progress.

Beginning of a new year – with some incredible people who are so willing to help me in any way they can.  I think this orientation will be good.

We’ve Only Just Begun . . .

Music has been a vital part on this journey called life, and many times a comment will spark a memory of a song. Such is the title – music from a long time ago – sung by the Carpenters.

There have been a lot of chapters in this life of mine, but as a teacher, every school year seems to mark a new beginning.  Even more so this year, as I once again have been granted the gift of teaching in Taiwan.

In years past, a tradition of mine was to watch videos (ok, now they would be on dvds) about teachers to help get me ready for the coming year.  Two of my favorites were the stories of Christy when she taught in the Appalachian Mountains, and the way she approached the many challenges there.  The other favorite is Mr. Holland’s Opus – a story full of life lessons – about our impact on the students who have been placed under our direction.

Just talking about those stories makes me want to watch them again, but this year, I’m packing up all those videos, books, and lots of other items that will stay behind while I travel across the ocean.  So, my preparation will be of a different kind – what to take, what to leave, things I can’t do without, things I really don’t need.

The adventure this year, will be in a totally new setting for me.  I will be teaching in an elementary school, Jhennan Elementary School, located in Douliou City which is in Yunlin County on the western side of the island.  Some of the teachers from the school have already contacted me, as well as friends who know the area.  It sounds like it will be quite an interesting place to live and work and explore.

We’ve only just begun – how will this year progress?  One day at a time is how this year comes, and that is how we live it.  My goal is to make each day count, to make a difference in the lives of my students and co-workers, and to live each day to its fullest.  Will you do that with me this year?  Let me know.

Debon and I Inside Tokyo airportNow there are three - Schula, Debon, and IWe're finally here

Marilyn’s Time in Taiwan is almost over

Marilyn’s Time in Taiwan


Chosen – they picked me

The wait had seemed unending

And yet the year has passed so quickly

Time has come to go back home


Opportunities to see, to do, to be

In a place on the other side of the world

Leaving my friends and family behind

And in the process, gaining new friends


Able to see incredible displays of a creative designer

Ocean splendor,

Waves pushed by an incredible force,

Beaches full of treasures


Beauty in the wings

Of a seemingly unending variety of butterflies

Flowers in the wild that reminded me

Of special gifts at home – Easter Lilies, poinsettias


Students who told me they were learning English

Because they weren’t afraid to try any more

Students who had no desire to speak a different language

Sleeping through most of my classes


Chinese classes that were such a challenge

Wanting to quit at times when I felt so overwhelmed

Learning how my students may feel when I am speaking

Using words that make no sense at all to them



English class for adults wanting to improve their skills

Using the Bible for the textbook – reading, listening, speaking

Learning so much about life and about who God is

All the while becoming close like a family


Father Beauregard, a 94-year-old Jesuit priest from Canada

Spent one year imprisoned on mainland China

Now busy ministering to the ‘old folks’ in the rest home

Getting around on his new scooter


Precious babies were gently held

Waiting for new parents to welcome them home

All the while I was learning many life lessons

From their sweet caretaker


A man who came almost every day to help the cafeteria crew

Unable to speak, able only to do menial tasks

Reminded me that life is precious in God’s eyes

No matter what we see on the exterior of the person


Coming to the end of any school year can be difficult

This one even more so

Students whose lives will continue without me now

Co-workers who will continue with their daily assignments


Did I make any difference?

Are the students better because I was here?

I only know that I am different

Taiwan has changed me


June 2008

Marilyn Hodgin

English teacher at Nanao Jr/Sr High School

Yilan County, Taiwan



May I . . .

Yes, you surely may!

What a month it has been – for the world.  Earthquakes, storms in Myanmar, and the middle states in the USA.  Just a note about all of that – my pastor was reading from Matthew 24, and it says not to be afraid, because those are signs that Jesus is planning on coming back soon.  I hope you are ready when He comes!

What a month it has been for me – family visiting from Costa Rica and Seattle.  My brother who is a missionary in Costa Rica came, as did my daughter and her boyfriend from Seattle.  I just about wore them out, but we sure got a lot packed into the short time they were here!  My students were so enamored with all of them – to be able to see foreigners here at school was so amazing for them.

I put Rachel and Matt to work, in fact I saved the M&M Math lesson for when they were here so I could have extra hands for that day.  The rest of the classes all wanted to get pictures with them.  It wasn’t all smiles, though!  They did get to have some time to play basketball with the students.

At the bed and breakfast where they stayed while in Nanao, they had to remember to take off their shoes before entering the rooms, too!  We went to the beach one morning.  After enjoying the sand and waves, they walked out along the protective barrier – where they had a beautiful view of the ocean.

We had dinner Friday night with some friends, then went to their home for tea.  Saturday, we went to the Home of God’s Love – and David was quick to pick up a baby and even fed some of them.

We were able to do some sightseeing in Taipei, too. We visited the zoo – even though it was quite rainy!   We also took a ride on the MaoKong Gondola.  We stopped for a bite to eat before heading back, then for a sampling of tea.  By the time we finished, the sky and cleared, and we headed to Taipei 101.  We got to see it, inside and out.  We went to the observation floor – the elevator took 39 seconds to get to the top – and it didn’t even feel like we were moving!  We got there in time to see the city in the day, and then to see it at night with it all lit up.  The observation deck on the 91st floor was open, too, so we were able to go out there.


David left early on Monday, so Rachel, Matt, and I visited Pinglin, a city well-known for its tea production.  We ate at a restaurant where everything is cooked in tea.  Quite interesting!  Then, that evening, I headed back to Nanao, and Rachel and Matt headed back to Seattle.  What an enjoyable visit!

And also – my birthday is in May.  Some of my students surprised me with a cake and some special cards. Here is one of them – a hand-made likeness of me!


I visited The Home of God’s Love orphanage on the weekend of my birthday.  Many times a bakery in town will bring breads and baked goods that were not sold that day and donate them to the orphanage, which they did that night.  One of the items was a birthday cake – I guess God sent me that one!

On Friday, May 23, we had a meeting with the MOE, the contact teachers from each school, and the foreign teachers here this year.  The meeting was to see what could be done to make this adventure better for the next group that will be here.  It was so good to see all the teachers again, and to see some of the new friends we had made in the MOE (Ministry of Education).

Some of us stayed over so we could have a little vacation.  Betty (my friend who went to the Philippines with  me) and Rose stayed in the same hotel, so we went sightseeing together, along with some Taiwanese friends that Betty knew in Taipei.  We had breakfast at New York Bagels – I had real bacon!  That was something I really miss.  By the way, while I was there, my doctor from the clinic here in Nanao walked by.  We were both surprised!!


We went to New York New York, which is a shopping area, with several movie theatres all together.  We saw that Lady Liberty really does get around – she’s been shopping there, too, right in the shadow of Taipei 101!


We went walking around with some of Betty’s friends, and saw some very beautiful scenic spots in the area where we were staying.  We also got to see the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace.  All the traffic was stopped, until the ceremony was finished.  The soldiers were still marching off, but traffic was back to usual within seconds!


At night, we went to Shilin Night Market – there were people everywhere.  I don’t remember seeing that many people before!  I also noticed a parking lot – but it was mostly all motorcycles!!


So, this month has been busy – to say the least!  The ninth grade students had their BC (Basic Cometency) Test last weekend.  It covered all subject areas, including English.  The grade they earn will determine which school they can attend for high school.  Graduation will be June 13 for the ninth graders and twelfth graders.  They are so ready to be done with school!

My plan is to head back to the States on July 15, with a visit in Seattle for a couple days, and then arriving in Arkansas on July 17.  I have to be back at my school in Rogers on August 11, so I will have enough time to at least get over jet lag!  And see some friends too!

Tuesday as I was heading to the train station to travel to Luodong for the English Bible Study, I was delighted to see a rainbow!  I had to go back and get my camera so I could take a picture of it.  I don’t know if you remember when the first rainbow was or not, but it was after Noah came out of the ark.  God made a promise that He would never flood the earth again.  When I see a rainbow, it reminds me that God keeps His promises – all of them.  Look real carefully and you can see the rainbow!


Until next time . . .