Judy Wu is an English teacher from Taiwan. She’s been teaching English in Tawian for more than 12 years and has also taught the Chinese language in the UK. She currently lives and works in Taiwan. She is passionate about using technology in learning, storytelling, and intercultural communication education. She believes that the teacher is a facilitator and a coordinator — not the dispenser of knowledge. She is also a masseuse, an acupuncturist, a zumba teacher and a lover of salsa dancing.
What are you passionate about, Judy?
I am passionate about interaction with people and learning more about how people think and learn. When I was young, I liked to observe other classmates learning and performing. However, I was too shy to join them. Now, as a teacher, I love to guide shy students to become more expressive and willing to explore different things, and most importantly, themselves. I also enjoy travelling and exploring different cultures and meeting locals. For me, life is a non-stop learning journey as I explore new things but also embrace tradition at the same time. I am passionate about music, dance and alternative therapy. For me, they are the important elements in my life. Being open to all sorts of possibilities and being ready for various challenges in life positively is a big part of who I am.
How and why did you become a teacher?
When I was young, I always liked to hang out with my father who was a teacher in primary school. I enjoyed listening to my father’s students talking about what they had learned in his class, how much they enjoyed the lessons, and how much they had changed because of their learning. I thought that being a teacher must be the best job in the world because a teacher changes others’ lives and is proud of their achievements without being in competition with them. And then I made it to enter the college to be trained as a secondary school teacher. I have been a junior high school teacher in Taiwan for more than 12 years. I taught aborigines in the north east of Taiwan for my first 2 years of teaching. It let me realise that accuracy is not that most important thing, but the passion to go for something. My students were not afraid of making mistakes and loved to sing and dance to express their feelings, even though they came from the low social status background without enough support from their families. It let me realise the mission of a teacher is to try everything to guide and motive the learners in different ways and never stop learning as well. After my 5th years of teaching, I found that I needed to have more input for my personal teaching development. Therefore, I went to Northern Ireland for my master’s degree and had a great teaching experience for 6 weeks in Hungary. That was another milestone for my interest in intercultural projects. As an Asian to use English to communicate with the Hungarian students, I not only needed to bring them the content of the lessons, but also the culture from my background for them to know more about the other side of the world.
What are you most interested in right now, Judy
I have been a language teacher for more than 10 years and always try to find different ways to learn and to explore myself. I am currently doing my PhD and am working on an intercultural email exchange project for my thesis writing and also assisting intercultural exchange groups between Taiwan and the UK. It’s a project supported by the British Council. I am also a Chinese acupuncturist and a zumba dance teacher. All of the learning inspired me to do further research about multiple intelligence theory and mind-body-spirit learning. For instance, doing a tai chi breathing exercise at the beginning of a lesson is helpful to calm the students down. And guiding them through the different meditation exercise with music and visual aids is good to train them to focus on something and also to be creative in their own ways. My students would know different acupuncture pressure points for relaxing or therapeutic functions. They cannot just help themselves, but also others. A group relaxation exercise is a great way to have a good group rapport and to let go of barriers. For me, being a language teacher is more than just teaching a language. It is way of life. Through another language, we can see another world through different perspectives.
What things do you do to help you get better at being a teacher?
The best way to learn is to learn from the best. During work, I develop professionally through my PLN. I met many great educators from the IATEFL conference in Brighton in 2010 and that broadened my view of learning through technology. I also went to the UK to pursuit a post-graduate degree from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and am working on my part-time PhD study at the University of Durham in the UK. When I am in Taiwan, we have a group of teachers on Facebook to exchange lots of inspiring thoughts and teaching ideas and then meet from time to time for workshops and seminars. I am also a teacher consultant in my region and the sharing with other consultants develop my teaching in various ways. We go to different schools to give a talk and to conduct seminars for the schoolteachers and it’s another great way to learn from other teachers who have been working in their areas for years but didn’t voice themselves in public. I think, learning by doing is the main principle.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a teacher?
The biggest challenge for me is to motivate learners with different abilities and learning styles in the same class to know more about the world in English. Therefore, my master degree dissertation is about applying multi-intelligence theory in story telling (mini-drama) to cater to various learners and the thesis I am working on at this moment is about utilizing an intercultural email exchange project to enhance students’ language abilities and cultural awareness. Another challenge for a non-native English teacher is to keep English language fluency and find ways to develop as a teacher and maintain professional skills. Meanwhile, I need to provide workshops for teachers as a teacher consultant, manage my own class as a homeroom teacher, and try to get my thesis finished as a PhD student. My solution is to have a great dance, take a nice trip and then lock my study-buddy and myself up in the library to get things done. And also, the most important thing is to join different professional development groups and connect either through webinars, Facebook or Twitter in order to keep updated within the limitation of space and the time.
Judy, what advice would you give to a teacher just starting out on a journey of professional development?
I will say be open-minded and willing to learn and to absorb things. No teacher can be perfect in every lesson. The most important thing is to reflect on what has gone wrong or what was good and to learn from your own experience and others’ experience. Make the best use of web 2.0 tools such as Skype, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and so on to keep updated and learning and also maintain friendships with others professionally and personally. No man is an island and no teaching can be done alone. Sharing ideas and difficulties can lower anxiety as we learn more from others. Another great way is going to a conference, and I highly recommend the IATEFL conference. Finally, as my other speciality is Chinese medicine and acupuncture, therefore, I advise trying to blend breathing techniques, body movement, massage and visual medication into your lessons. Without this, I am concerned that students might lose the real connection with people even though they would have the visual interaction online. I would suggest teachers to take the best care of themselves, not just mentally and spiritually, but also physically. Have fun in teaching and in life J
Are there any blogs or online links you’d like to recommend?
Teacher Bootcamp http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/ by Shelly
http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/ by Russell
Nik’s Quick Shout http://quickshout.blogspot.tw/2009/09/web-20-tools-for-efl-esl-teachers.html by Nik
What’s your favourite quotation about being a teacher?
“The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself.” – Edward Bulwer-Lytton
And another quotation from myself
“Everyone’s life is full of stories and the task of a good teacher is to make the stories full of life” – Judy Wu