Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Confrontation

My co-worker Chris told me a few months back that you have to approach cultural issues here as if you are on another planet...

I now know what he was talking about.

A few weeks ago we had a meeting of all the teachers who are teaching or going to teach the writing course (just a few of us, thankfully). If you have read my previous posts, you know that there have been many issues regarding the pace/structure/approach of the class. Well, I thought that the meeting was the perfect place to bring up such issues. It lasted for a couple of hours and I thought it went well. Apparently James, the foreign teacher supervisor and leader of the meeting, didn't.

As all of you know, I wear my heart on my sleeve, I tend to speak my mind. I have never been one to quietly let things that are screwed up roll off my back and continue along like nothing was wrong. At the meeting, I had a slew of gripes and, at times, may have been a bit contentious. This class is super-duper important to me and want it to be a success. The way it is going now is not right and it's destined to fail if we don't address the problems.

James didn't appreciate my confrontational style and after the meeting called my boss wanting my head on a platter. He feels that I am far too negative and apt to voice the glaring problems that exist. He, in a round-about way, wanted my boss to fire me...not gonna happen. She told me herself that she trusts me and values my classroom approach. She knows that I love what I am doing and care as much as any human being can about doing a good job.

What James just doesn't seem to understand is that I am a "the glass is half empty" type of guy and the reason I am bringing up all these problems is because they have to be addressed.

After the dust settled, I had a long talk with Chris and he explained that the situation arose because Taiwanese people are insanely passive-aggressive. Airing your complaints in a public forum is a no-no. Instead, Taiwanese people just bottle-up their disappointment until they burst and go crazy! Well, that is not how I approach things.

A few days later, I decided to take the high road in this situation and apologize to James. I don't want this situation to taint what could be a good working relationship in the future.

The moral of the story? Being an American in Taiwan is tough. The "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore" attitude doesn't cut it here.

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