New Year, New Semester

January always straddles the period between the end of the calendar year and teaching and then a month or two of a mix of grading, independent work, and Lunar New Year. This time, for the first time, all three kids will have four full weeks off at New Year. We’re hoping to do a mix of camp, travel, and classes for them.

They are all doing pretty well. I’ve been impressed by how everyone’s Chinese has taken a leap forward. It is still a struggle. Eva often gets 40s on tests, probably because her teacher is tougher, but she knows the local writing system and is learning characters and is a little more independtly directed on English. Sam reads a lot and seems to be doing well, but still struggles with math. For whatever reason, even basic caclulations (9+6, 7×5) are still a struggle for him. We have workbooks, apps, and flashcards, but it’s not easy. Eli, our more hard-headed, intense child, is actually doing very well. I think he likes the structure of the school and he seems to know what he needs to do and do it.

I have stayed busy on a mix of things. I preached last Sunday at the local episocpal expat church and will preach the coming Sunday at Shuanglian, the downtown Prebyterian church. I like both of these congregations and feel at home with them. In the month ahead I have some reviews to finish, grading, a manuscript proposal, and a lot of summer planning to figure out.

We still struggle with periodic culture shock. It’s funny to me how hard it is to adjust even after being here a decade. Today we did some of the exams for applicants for the fall. I was on the music students’ groups. In the State, admission for seminary is basically transcripts, a test like the GRE, and letters of recommendation. I don’t think an interview is normally required. Here, I believe that students submit transcripts, but we essentially ignore them. Instead, students are submitted on the basis of either recommendation and oral exam or a written and oral exam. In Taiwan, questions are a lot more personal. Today the interviewers asked students about things including their parents’ divorce, church conflicts, BMI, etc. The interviews also use a huge amount of time. This is partly because they cover part of what in the US would be a church process, so later on we will also get pscyhological exams and it’s not uncommon to gather information via social networks (“her brother’s pastor’s wife was my classmate’s friend and she said…”). I objectively can often see an upside to this approach–students often enter with a lot more support and are better known by classmates and teachers–but it can still feel a bit alien to me.

I’ll try to write here more in the weeks ahead. Both the twins (at public school) and Sam (at the bilingual school) are going along but I’m always fascinated by their worlds also. Emily is a lot more active in the twins’ school and seemst to enjoy the mix of volunteer, church, and other work she is doing. I’ve navigated the new accreditation faculty input system and am also looking in the how/when/where of US church visitation schedules.

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