#BUCOEImpact | William Bork ’11, talks about opportunities to teach abroad

Taiwan's East Coast

 

William Bork '11 looking out window over Taipei, Taiwan.

William Bork ’11 looking out window over Taipei, Taiwan.

My name is William N. Aaron Bork. I’m a 2011 Butler College of Education (COE) graduate. I’m now in my 4th year serving students as an education professional. For the past two years I’ve been an elementary English foreign language teacher at 公館國小 Gongguan Elementary School, in 苗栗 Miaoli County, 台灣 Taiwan. I was selected by the Taiwan Ministry of Education (MOE) Foreign English Teacher Program to provide rural Taiwanese students an opportunity to learn with educators of different cultures. The Butler COE asked me to share my experience with the Butler community and those who have a desire to ply their craft internationally.  After Butler I spent two and a half years working in Indianapolis schools. During that time I completed a master’s degree and acquired Indiana state licensure in English as New Language. With a second diploma and additional credentials in hand I set about to check off a career goal – move to a foreign country. I found an opportunity with the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) and Taiwan’s Foreign English Teacher Program.

 

Rural SunsetTaiwan’s Foreign English Teacher Program was  created to provide rural Taiwanese students an opportunity to learn with educators of different cultures. Taiwan is a developing country where the difference between a rural and urban lifestyle is more than just where you call home. Taiwan’s economic and cultural delineations can be see along these lines. In the rural areas around my home, people live not very differently from how they did 50 to 100 years ago. While just a 90-minute drive north is the modern city of Taipei with a metropolitan population of 7 million and home to the world’s tallest building from 2004 – 2010. A trip to Taipei and back can feel like time travel. In rural areas the disparity in education opportunities and outcomes are manifested generationally as well. Taiwan’s current young adult work force consists of a growing college-educated population. Conversely, many grandparents of this population ended their formal education before high school. Great strides have been made to bring about this generational shift. My role here in Taiwan is just one small part of this greater effort.

The students aren’t the only ones benefiting from this partnership. I have gained new knowledge and skills while in Taiwan. Due to cultural and linguistic barriers, teaching in Taiwan is like painting a beautiful landscape with your hands tied behind your back. Yes, you can still do the job but it requires some novel efforts to achieve the desired outcome. Also, the final product might not be as good as you know you could do otherwise. Challenge a teacher to work without the everyday methods that they take for granted and you force that teacher to strengthen previously underdeveloped skills. For example, in Taiwan I’ve improved my planning of learning activities that provide learners with multi-modal learning cues for accomplishing a task; something I took for granted in the U.S. where a verbal explanation was sufficient for most learners. Additionally, I’ve gained the knowledge and skills necessary to foster a productive cross-cultural professional relationship with local Taiwanese educators. I’ve co-taught in Taiwan. Co-teaching, true co-teaching, is a challenging yet powerful pedagogical practice. However, it takes great effort and humility between two educators to cultivate the professional relationship that underpins the practice. This challenge is greater when working with a teacher of a different culture and language than your own. Despite these successes I must note that I still struggle with adapting some previous strengths to my current contexts. For example, providing “precise praise”, praising a learner’s specific actions or behaviors rather than a generic “good job” statement, is a challenge when both the teacher and student are novices in each other’s primary languages; although my Mandarin Chinese language skills increase daily.With Grade 5 Students

If this kind of work interests you or someone you know, review the following documents, contacts, and links. Furthermore, I invite you to learn more about my experience on my website: williambork.com. Lastly, I welcome interested readers to contact me via my website.

Documents to Read:

People to Know:

  • Vivian Huang, Project Manager (Taiwan), e-j221@mail.k12ea.gov.tw
  • Jane Chen, Project Assistant (Taiwan), fetjane0730@gmail.com
  • Jill Woerner, Indiana DOE Global Learning and World Languages Specialist (Indiana), jwoerner@doe.in.gov

Pertinent Links:

Transforming Education – April 2016

TE Ena

What are you noticing?

 

I recently watched an Oprah Winfrey interview with Daniel Goleman, PhD, author of the classic book Emotional Intelligence and his newest book, A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World.

Isn’t it interesting how sometimes an interview, book, or article just comes into your life at the right time? Let me tell you why this was true for me as I offer the following observations and provocations for your consideration.

On an early spring day not long ago, I noticed how beautiful the campus looked with the flowering trees, the grass turning to an emerald green, and the daffodils peeking up through the ground. I then noticed how many students were walking and looking at their cell phones. I see this daily, but, on this particular day, it really struck me how much they were missing by being so attached to their devices. There was no conversation, and someone talking on a phone only occasionally interrupted the silence. I wondered if any of the students had noticed the beauty of spring. This was obviously not the first time I had noticed and wondered about the impact of technology in our lives, but, for some reason on this exceptionally or notably glorious day, it really captured my thinking.

Two days later the interview of Dr. Goleman aired. In the conversation, the Bloomberg Study on mobile devices was shared. This study found that, on average, we spend three hours per day on a smart phone or tablet, which comes to approximately 45 days a year. Dr. Goleman stated: “Information consumes attention and a wealth of information means a poverty of attention … the antidote is about getting intentional about your intentions in order to be noticing and to be mindful.” I couldn’t help but think about how I, too, spend my time and wondered what I could do differently with a gift of 45 days!

Dr. Goleman’s newest book co-authored with the Dalai Lama is based on a series of their conversations. Their belief is that we must be mindful as human beings, be present through noticing others and our surroundings, and practice empathy and compassion.

How many opportunities are we missing such as smiling at someone, saying hello, offering to help someone we pass by, or saying a kind word? What are we missing if our technological devices consume us? We can easily get caught up in the bombardment of horrific news that is available 24/7 and not notice the kindness that surrounds us. Dr. Goleman wrote: “On any day of the year, the denominator of kindness will be vastly greater than the numerator of cruelty.”

Technology is a part of our daily lives, and it can be a force for good in its own right if we decide how and when it is best used. Each day we can be a force for good if we are paying attention and noticing how even the simplest act of kindness, gratitude, and intention can change our lives and those around us. Are we missing the opportunity to engage with others—children and adults—by not putting down our mobile devices and connecting with one another? How will we be able to develop our emotional intelligence if we do not take the time to develop and nurture relationships?

What are your strategies for noticing and being a “force for good”? How do you model the power of noticing for your students and/or co-workers? Are you noticing the “forces for good” that are happening every day?

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education

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Speaking of noticing: You may notice something new in this month’s newsletter! A video featuring Dr. Shelly Furuness!   Each month I plan to introduce or reconnect you to some of the amazing faculty in the College of Education. Each of them will share with you a particular strategy or idea that may be helpful in your own work. In this edition, enjoy learning more about Dr. Furuness’ work with backward planning.