Voices from the iTDi Community – Annie

Annie Tsai – Taiwan

Annie Tsai is an EFL teacher from Taiwan. She’s a tech-savvy teacher. She currently lives and works in Taiwan. She’s passionate about teaching via IWB and other web 2.0 tools. She believes in hands on learning and reflective teaching. She’s also a dog lover and a passionate backpacker.

What are you passionate about, Annie?

Annie:  I’ve been an EFL teacher in Taiwan for 9 years. I work with elementary school children. I enjoy backpacking a lot and I like to share the tales and adventures I have on my journeys with my students. To me learning is a vital survival skill and I’d like my children to be open to new things, and to be positive about changing. I’m very passionate about learning to be a better teacher and trainer. I know this might sound like a cliché, but the best reward for a teacher is to see children develop through your guidance and advance into something better.

How and why did you become a teacher?

I was major in journalism and have worked as a copywriter/media planner before changing my career path ten years ago. That was when the Taiwanese government started to install English education in elementary schools and they need many English teachers in a very short period of time. So I took a test, passed the training and officially became a teacher. However, passing an exam doesn’t mean that you are ready to start teaching. I don’t think I was ready mentally nor professionally then, so I had a really bad first year. Luckily, I survived and kept going and I’ll be celebrating my 10th year of teaching at the end of 2012.

What are you most interested in right now?

I’ve been working on international exchange project with my students. I also joined a couple of international projects via iEARN.  I realized that project based learning (PBL) seems to be the best way for effective language learning and teaching. For young ELF learners, being able to use the target language with real people for a real purpose seems to legitimize the rationale of learning a foreign language.

I have always been a subject teacher and facing 300+ students per week is a routine for me. In Taiwan, we only get two 40-minute sessions of English class per week and that’s just not enough to produce a visible achievement. So I decided to change my role to a homeroom teacher in the coming school year, which means I have more time with children and I get to devote my attention to 26 students only. My interest now lies in the possibilities of promoting EFL education as a homeroom teacher.

What things do you do to help you get better at being a teacher?

I develop by joining projects and competitions and by interacting with my Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Facebook and Twitter. By doing this, I get to allocate time and energy to suit my schedule while updating my teaching knowledge and skills. It was through these mostly free resources that I won a 2-week teacher training workshop sponsored by Cambridge University. My children and I also got to spend a lovely afternoon with a two A-listers from the U.S. after winning a competition sponsored by Oxford University Press. For a suburban school like mine, this kind of event helps both parties in the classrooms to teach and learn. We were all very much inspired and stimulated after the project. Thus, my next goal is to cultivate Project Based Learning (PBL) activities in my class.

Additionally, I think documenting your teaching activities and sharing with others also helps one to be a reflective teacher and learner. Blogging in English takes this to the next level because then you are putting the language to use as well. I get to learn from many outstanding teacher bloggers by reading, sharing and commenting on their blog posts. The learning and support is mutual and without boundaries.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a teacher?

I think for a non-native English teacher, the most challenging part for many of us is how to maintain your English language proficiency after 5 or 10 years of teaching. This is particularly tricky if you happen to teach young learners (YL) in an EFL country. Your predicament is somehow not that far different from your students.  

You have to try very hard to build an English learning friendly environment and you need to be persistent about it. My suggestions for doing this are to participate as many professional development groups as possible, both online and offline. The virtual groups tend to broaden your horizons because of the mixed nationalities and teaching contexts of the people involved. The real groups, additionally, helps to share and communicate upon common ground. Teachers also need to be learners so they don’t take teaching/learning for granted.

What advice would you give to a teacher just starting out on a journey of professional development?

Always be open-minded. Sometimes it takes years for us to see the value and feasibility of something we always knew but never or rarely use in the classroom. Also, read and explore teaching resources from English speaking countries as much as possible. Your language proficiency and your teaching knowledge can be stimulated at the same time and it also helps you connect with wider professional community. Meanwhile, document your own teaching process in English and communicate with like-minded teacher bloggers. Share your ideas by being a presenter as this also helps to reflect upon and focus more. The best remedy for occupational fatigue is to keep learning and to keep trying new ways to engage learners.

Any blog or online link you’d like to recommend?

1. iTDi of course!

2. TES

3. elt chat

4. English central

5. EFL 2.0

What’s your favorite quote about teaching?

Keep calm and teach on!


6 thoughts on “Voices from the iTDi Community – Annie”

  1. Steven Herder
    Steven Herder acts as a real person and passed all tests against spambots. Anti-Spam by CleanTalk.

    You’re so cool, Annie.

    I love your attitude and agree that Project Based Learning (PBL) is a wonderful way to teach young learners – even junior and senior high school students. I have done many projects over the years and we all get so many positive things from these projects.

    I hope to get to Taiwan and meet you one of these days. Thanks for adding something special to the iTDi community.


    1. Sorry I didn’t read this until today!! 😛 Thanks Steven for your kind words, I would love to meet you in person and share the PBL experiences! Thanks for making this wonderful PD group possible! I’ve been helping out to spread the word! 🙂

  2. I also like the project based learning idea. I am also exploring curating software for adult students to use in presentations instead of powerpoint. I came across mural.ly which looks interesting but won’t ever let me log in!

    1. Hello Richard,
      Thanks for the comment! I have almost zero experience in teaching adults but I’ve been testing a cool presentation tool Prezi. It allows collaborating and the effects are really cool! Give it a try! I think adult learners should found it very interesting and …addictive!

  3. I often hear English teachers complain about the short amount of contact time they get with students, but you’re the first teacher I’ve met who decided to move to being a homeroom teacher in order to increase their class time! How clever! I’ll be interested to see how it works for you.

    You have a gift for thinking outside the box! The way you’ve used competitions and projects to expand the boundaries of your classroom should be an inspiration to all teachers!

    I’m really glad I’ve gotten to know you online, and I really enjoyed getting to know more about you in this post! Your upbeat posts always bring a smile to my face, and I loved watching your kids’ sing-a-long video! (Adorable!)

    1. Sorry Barb, I didn’t see your post until today! Thanks for your encouragement! I do think that teachers need to be creative in dealing with teaching context that we can’t change. I believe a happy teacher leads to happy learners and vice versa. I’m inspired by many of your ideas and even started to use your 6-words-story idea in my Mandarin class! Thanks!

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