In our Advanced Writing class, we are working on writing a biographical sketch. The textbook* gave us a list of several key events in the life of American pioneer Daniel Boone. However, writing an interesting biographical sketch is not just writing a boring "laundry list" of events. (Doing that can make it sound like you are writing an encyclopedia.) Instead, the challenge is to make the story engaging and readable, and one way to do that is to pick a FOCUS. The textbook* suggested one of these four themes to focus on:
- Boone as a soldier
- Boone as a hunter/explorer
- Boone as a family man
- Boone and the Native American tribes
* Writing with Skill, Level 1, Susan Wise Bauer, p. 258.
Take a look at what this student wrote. He took the list of events from the life of Daniel Boone and wrote two sketches. Look carefully; which of the above four themes does Essay 1 focus on? Essay 2?
Daniel Boone. A legendary man. A soldier and pioneer who left behind boundless legacies and served as an inspiration for many. Born in 1734 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Boone lived in a colony under British rule. As a young boy, he was already familiar with firearms, having received his very own rifle at the mere age of 12. Time would prove how crucial his early mastery of firearms was to his later successes.
As time passed, it seemed he was born to be a soldier. As a young man, he had grown to become a man of remarkable stature-- broad chest, muscular arms, and a strong frame. He fought numerous battles and war, having actively participated in the French and Indian war and fought against the “Cherokee Uprising.” It was also during this time he married the love of his life, Rebecca Bryan, and settled on the Yadkin River in North Carolina. For the young Boone, his life was full of nothing but hopes and aspirations.
However, during the aftermath of the Cherokee uprising, Boone was forced to leave North Carolina. Indeed, it was a difficult moment, leaving his house and past behind to face the daunting unknown. This turn of events, however, seemed to have presented new opportunities. In 1769, Boone decided to embark on a two-year expedition into Kentucky, which was then a land of wilderness. A true pioneer, Boone started a settlement. He was met with fierce opposition from the Shawnee tribesman, who deemed his action a transgression of the sovereignty of their land. After a lengthy conflict, Boone and his fellow colonists finally prevailed, allowing them to establish settlements for other American pioneers to reside in.
His troubles did not end after he established his colony, however, as Boone and other colonists still faced constant aggressions from the Native Americans. After the US gained its independence, the Shawnees allied with the British empire to attack Boonesborough, Kentucky, Boone’s settlement. During this fight Boone was shot in the leg, yet survived. With sheer grit and determination, the colonist once again prevailed.
Boone, in his middle age, was still keenly interested in adventure. He was promoted lieutenant in his local militia and fought in the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782, one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War. The American hero published the stories of his adventures in 1784, a culmination of his unique experiences. He later moved to Missouri, famously stating, “Too much crowded-- too much crowded-- I want more elbow room.” It was in Missouri where this legendary adventurer and brave man who seemed to defy all odds finally succumbed to father time. In 1820 he died at age 85. His legacy will live on forever.
-- Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan
When talking about legendary American adventurers, one cannot help but think of Daniel Boone. However, what most people do not know is that Boone was also a loving father and a considerate husband. Born in 1734 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Boone lived in a colony under British rule. As a young lad, he had all kinds of dreams of exploring the unknown. Later, the determined Boone, a step at a time, fulfilled his childhood dream, traversing thousands of miles, fighting against different enemies, and most importantly, fulfilling his own destiny.
Boone was a man of remarkable appearance-- a handsome man with a muscular frame, always donning his favorite hunting attire. Despite his unprecedented achievements as a pioneer, soldier, and adventurer, surprisingly, Boone never neglected his role in his family. In 1756, Boone married the love of his life, Rebecca Bryan and settled in North Carolina. He and Rebecca were eager to start a family. Not long after, they were blessed with their baby son James. Unfortunately, the eruption of the “Cherokee Uprising,” which ultimately resulted in Boone’s exile from North Carolina, signified the shattering of his dream of stable home life. However, Boone never gave up. Never did. Eager to find a new home for his family, Boone moved to Kentucky, an undeveloped land, but also, a land of infinite possibilities.
The start was difficult as Boone and his fellow explorers were met with hostilities from the Native Americans. Boone was determined to settle on the land with his family. During this period of time, Boone never faltered to care for his family and children. He, a wild spirit, “was compelled to take extended trips in his search for less-frequented places…. As early as 1764–65 Boone was in the habit of taking with him, upon these trips near home, his little son James, then seven or eight years of age. . . .Frequently they would spend several days together in the woods during the
autumn and early winter.” As a father, he was eager for James to grow to become a great man. His adventures with James culminated a powerful father-son relationship that transcends bounds.
Boone’s family was never short of challenges, but again and again, Boone seemed to defy all odds and helped his family overcome them. The single most challenging obstacle came at 1776, which is, ironically, the year that the US signed the Declaration of Independence. Native Americans, furious at the colonists’ transgression of their hunting ground, decided to kidnap children, one of which was Boone’s daughter Jemma. A man of mettle, Boone did not back down, nor did he falter. He chased the Natives relentlessly and captured the girls back, saving them from a fate that might be too horrible to describe.
Boone, the legend, the explorer, moved one last time in his exhilarating life of adventure to Missouri. It was there where he finally passed away. Beloved by his family, admired by all, Boone closed his eyelids for the last time, at age 85, knowing that his legacy would live on for eternity.
-- Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan
Do you see the shift of focus? Essay 1 is based on "Boone as soldier." Tim tells us that in paragraph 2 sentence 1. Essay 2 is based on "Boone as family man," as we see in paragraph 2 sentence 2.
- You are my sunshine.
- He roared with laughter.
- Variety is the spice of life.
What do these three have in common? They are METAPHORS. These, along with similes, are a great way to spice up your writing. (Actually, "spice up your writing" is a metaphor too!) A metaphor is a comparison between two people or things, without using the words "like" or "as." (In contrast, a simile uses either "like" or "as." English teachers will tell you, remember the "S" in "simile" and in "as," and that will help you remember the difference between the metaphor and simile!）
In a recent Advanced Writing class, the students and I looked as what our book called a "governing metaphor," or what some other people call an extended metaphor. That is, instead of a single comparision, this is a metaphor that is referred to many times throughout the text. A famous example is one of the most widely-loved passages in the Bible: the 23rd Psalm, of David. Take a look: can you find the extended metaphor?
Psalm 23 New International Version (NIV)
A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Can you see it? The extended (governing) metaphor is that of a SHEPHERD.
Since our writing class was held just a few days before Mother's Day, I asked the students to write something loving and respectful for their mothers, using an extended metaphor in it. One student wrote a poem while the other wrote prose, but both were excellent. These young men attend a prestigious bilingual school in the Hsinchu, Taiwan Science Park, and they have also studied writing with DreyerCoaching.com for many years; their hard work shows! Take a look: can you find the extended metaphors?
Mother is a gardener, who gave us the gift of life.
A quiet and caring figure, always with a tender smile.
Humble and persistent, she always thought for us first.
She meticulously cared for our well-being and fertilized us with knowledge.
And with a caring hand, she guided us forward in life.
She gave us the ability to blossom.
She gave us the power to thrive.
Enduring many hardships, windstorms, hail, and cyclones.
Never gave up. Never did. Always there, patiently, caringly.
She pulled out the weeds and killed the pests, all to ensure
That we live a peaceful life.
Always tender and caring, her smile,
Melts the bleakest of winters.
As years flew past,
And the saplings grow into trees.
She smiles, tenderly.
-- Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan
While calm and seemingly boring on the surface, the ocean holds limitless possibilities beneath. Not only does it produce the best proteins in the world for people like me, it also provides humanity the very basic resource of water for survival. But I think the ocean is much more than that: it holds the world’s richest source of information. The ocean’s deepest parts reveal our ancient past, and its shallow shores reveal our current desires. From this viewpoint, the ocean seems to understand everything; it has existed for our entire life, it exists unconditionally, and will always be acknowledged by us — but not necessarily appreciated.
Just like how we may see our mothers, we recognize her existence, but do not always care for her. She provides unconditional love, yet we fail to reward her with reciprocal support. She holds the experience of a sage, yet we fail to seek her counsel regarding our decisions. It’s mother’s day. I love you mom!
-- Aaron in Hsinchu, Taiwan
Do you want to know more about Mother's Day and how we celebrate it in the US? Read our blog post. Do you want to improve your English writing or vocabulary skills? Contact Scott today to find out how!
Recently I taught one of our Advanced Writing classes--the students attend the prestigious middle school in the Hsinchu, Taiwan Science Park where I taught from 1992-1997. The students have been working on description essays, so as homework, I gave them this prompt: Describe what it is like to attend a writing class with DreyerCoaching.com.
Here are their answers. Wow! I am SO thankful and impressed.
Learning and practicing English with DreyerCoaching has significantly improved my grammar and the ability to produce more lucid, advanced writing. Through the years of taking DreyerCoaching classes, I recognize that my English skills have escalated into a much higher level. Though improving English is the main benefit of taking this class, there is much more. Being able to learn with sophisticated and qualified teachers without the need of leaving your house, being able to connect to the teachers anywhere and anytime, and being able to personally have conversation with the CEO of the online class are boons of DreyerCoaching that most other extracurricular classes do not offer. During the classes, students are free to ask questions at any time, and the classes are relaxing because the teachers are friendly and convivial. Because there is little stress when taking the class, students (for example, me) enjoy it and can learn more effectively. In conclusion, taking DreyerCoaching is the right choice and I encourage everyone who has a chance to take the class to apply for it.
Learning with DreyerCoaching is an experience like none other. Usually, to learn English in Taiwan, one would have to leave their house and drive for at least ten minutes to arrive at the designated teaching location. However, with DreyerCoaching, it is incredibly convenient; turn on your laptop, connect to the meeting, and you are all set! The learning experience is entirely different with DreyerCoaching compared to the average extracurricular class. With the advanced curriculum and knowledgeable teachers, one can learn much more effectively… at home. This is by far the best feature about DreyerCoaching that you can not get anywhere else. If you are struggling with time and scheduling issues, DreyerCoaching can help ease the problem by allowing you to connect right from your desktop, phone, or tablet, and still learn English!
Usually, when people think of English classes in Taiwan, they think of cram schools, tutoring, or other conventional methods of teaching. However, DreyerCoaching has ways of teaching English that are entirely different. Not only does it utilize the technology of the 21st century by teaching over the internet, it provides a further reach of the services it offers, and allows more diversity in students and teachers alike. Along with that, DreyerCoaching also offers interesting and engaging topics to teach the students. For example, students can write their own pourquoi stories, learn about what happens on the ocean floor, and create historical narratives. These topics allow students to engage, therefore making learning more enjoyable. During the classes, students also improve their writing by discussing sentence structure, vocabulary, and grammar. Students can go over their writing in class with individualized attention, making it a wonderful learning environment for students.
During a Chinese New Year 1 on 1 class, our student Nicky in Hunan Province, China had this writing assignment:
If you could have dinner with any three people (dead or alive), who would they be and what would you ask them?
She was creative and wrote this essay below. I particularly like how she added the idiom "let the cat out of the bag," a saying that her teacher taught her. It means "to tell or reveal a secret." (To learn more English idioms, visit our blog post.)
I think they would be vampire, zombie and skeleton. Because they are not usual things. We all know vampires suck blood. But can they accept all kinds of blood? So this is a question I want to ask him. The second question is : Why are you afraid of the garlic? I think garlic is a nice food. Why vampires have to be afraid of them?
The first question I want to ask Mr. Zombie is: What do you usually eat? I am interesting in it. And I also want to know why zombies can no bend their knees .They just jump and jump and jump. Aren’t they tired?
I’ve always been curious about how skeletons eat and drink. This is a question that I will ask the skeleton. The second question is very interesting. Why don’t skeletons fall apart? I think everybody wants to know the answer.
These are my thoughts. And I know the answers to these questions are secrets. I don’ know I will let the cat out of the bag or not. But I think if I can have dinner with vampire, zombie and skeleton, I will have a good time.
Nicky did a fine job with her first draft, then her DreyerCoaching.com teacher, Mr. Woodson, read it with her, discussed it, and gave her some suggestions to make it even better. For example, he revised the first sentence to be: a vampire, a zombie, and a skeleton.
Here is Nicky's revised essay, with smoother, more polished English:
I think they would be a vampire, a zombie and a skeleton because they are unusual things. We all know vampires suck blood, but can they accept all kinds of blood? So this is a question I want to ask him. The second question is: Why are you afraid of garlic? I think garlic is a nice food, so why do vampires have to be afraid of it?
The first question I want to ask Mr. Zombie is: What do you usually eat? I am interested in that, and I also want to know why zombies cannot bend their knees. They just jump and jump and jump. Aren’t they tired?
I’ve always been curious about how skeletons eat and drink. This is a question that I will ask the skeleton. My second question is also very interesting. Why don’t skeletons fall apart? I think everybody would like to know the answer.
These are my thoughts, and I know the answers to these questions are secrets. I don’t know if I will let the cat out of the bag or not, but I think if I can have dinner with a vampire, a zombie, and a skeleton, I will have a good time.
If you read both versions of this essay, you will see how Nicky was able to improve the flow and smoothness of her essay. Do YOU want to improve your English writing? We have classes available! Contact Scott today to find out more, and read this page also. Hope to see YOU online soon!
"Pourquoi" means "why?" in French. Therefore, a Pourquoi Story is a short fictional story that tries to explain why something is the way it is, especially something in nature. These legends, also called "Origin Stories" or "Creation Myths," are common in folklore.
Mrs. Armistead, an excellent teacher of a DreyerCoaching.com Writing Class, has been teaching this to her students, and then asked her students to write their own! They did such a fine job, here they are for you to enjoy. These are middle school students in Hsinchu, Taiwan,
A long time ago, when human civilization began, crows were covered in feathers of snowy whiteness. Their feathers glimmered in daytime and illuminated in nighttime, but they were all greedy for food. Whenever they saw food, they tried to devour it. People got annoyed by the greedy crows that always attempted to steal their food. One day, a group of hunters gathered up and discussed about the issue. “We can bait the crows by cooking food, then burn them with fire,” one man spoke in eagerness. During the night, the group of men placed a pig on the crackling glow of red and waited for the presence of the crows. The captivating aroma of the roasted pork caught the crows and dragged them to the hunters. Just like before, the sly crows sneaked around the hunters and snatched for the food, but instead, the sound of sizzling accompanied with screams reverberated through the vast plain as their feather were charred to complete pitch-black. They flopped their burnt wings and flew away. Ever since, crows are coated with dark feathers.
-- Ian Lin
The Sun was constantly bored. As others have said, “it’s hard to entertain him and he pushes things away.” So, the Sun decided to prove others wrong. The Sun gathered his strength. POW! There was Neptune. Neptune had the blue colors of the ocean and entertained the Sun for a very long time. However, the Sun realized that they weren’t meant to be together, they were of different colors. The Sun kept Neptune very close, to prevent judgment from others.
The Sun decided to find another form of entertainment, maybe a different color this time. The Sun gathered his strength. POW! There was Uranus. Uranus was colored light blue, slightly different from Neptune. The Sun grew ferocious, thinking that the gods have cursed him and can only get blue kids. The Sun aligned his blue kids together and decided to try one last time of finding a non-blue kid.
The Sun, infuriated with the lack of cooperation from the spirits of the universe, decided to try one last time to find another form of entertainment. The Sun gathered his strength. POW! There was Saturn. This time, what came to the Sun impressed him dearly. Not only was it larger than both Neptune and Uranus combined, but it’s no longer blue! Additionally, the planet also has rings around it, making it distinct from the other ones. Finally, the Sun was bored and decided to hopefully, get something special again.
The Sun called out to the universe, hoping to receive something out of the ordinary. The Sun gathered his strength. POW! There was Jupiter. The Sun was disgusted by the huge mud and sandy ball the appeared before him. This was a deviation, sent from the gods in humiliation. The Sun grew extremely angry.
The Sun grew extremely furious, more than all of the anger combined. Then he forged his anger with his hopes. BOW! Something with fire and red came before him. It was Mars. It appeared fire red, which probably came from his anger. The Sun felt that the anger was unneeded and decided to be positive as he was the father of the planets.
The Sun, again, gathered his inner strength and concentrated into making something extremely special. BOOM! There came Earth. Earth was made up of two major colors, blue and green. Something special indeed. Despite its differences, the Sun eventually lost his interest in the new planet. He left it aside to play with in the future.
The Sun forbade himself from his failures, he just couldn’t accept it. He needed something to entertain him, fast, before he released his anger against the universe. Something just the right size, not too big, not too small. POW! There came Venus, the orange-red planet. “Boo hoo hoo,” The Sun muttered, “This was not what I wanted. Just once more, just one good planet, and I’d be done”
The Sun grew calm, called his inner soul to help him with his final mission. Please. Just. Help. Me. For. This. Once. KAPOW! There came Mercury- the one-colored bland planet. “This was exactly what I wanted. Great!” The Sun exclaimed in happiness. Just stop. It’ll be another millennium before I get this lucky again. Just stop.
-- Alex Chen
Why are fake tears called crocodile tears?
A long time ago, the crocodile was known as the meanest creatures you would ever see. He made baby antelopes cry, and he teased crows for their raspy voices. Along with that, he also liked to eat baby animals, and he was the most hated creature in town. He also liked to prank others, and therefore making everyone avoid him.
When he came crawling out of the swamp, birds flew away, rabbits stayed shivering in their burrows, and snakes slithered away into the tall grass. He was always on the lookout for new victims.
One day, the council of elder animals decided that they were going to trap the crocodile in a makeshift jail at the edge of the swamp, so he would not bother the new family of otters moving in the next morning.
They placed a piece of tasty food in the trap they created and waited for the crocodile to crawl in and take the bait.
The crocodile crawled in as planned, and the elders shut the door on him. The crocodile was furious, thrashing and wailing inside the trap.
“Let me out!” he cried, throwing himself at the sides of the trap.
“I’ll never eat another baby animal-I'll do everyone’s chores for them….”
The council of elders decided to leave him in there until sundown and left for their midday meal.
The otters moved in as planned, and just before sundown the little otters decided to go exploring in their new home.
“Be back before sundown!” yelled the momma otter.
The two little otters found the crocodile, trapped in the cage wailing.
He was crying. “Please let me out,” he cried. “I haven’t done anything wrong and they shut me in here. Help me!
The two little otters decided to take pity on them and they let him out, and once he was out, SNAP!
He gulped down the two little otters at once, and the tears disappeared.
They were fake tears, and the two little otters were gone. The tears were fake, but it was too late for the little otters. Now whenever someone cries fake tears, it’s known as crocodile tears. Another lesson was learned- to never trust crocodiles.
A testimonial is a kind of writing where you explain something you have bought, done, believed, or somehow experienced. Businesses use them all the time; they love to quote "happy customers" who explain how the product or service is so wonderful. Check our website at DreyerCoaching.com and you will see some testimonials, in both English and Chinese, from satisfied parents and students. A sub-category of a testimonial is a "religious witness," where a believer explains what God has done in his or her life.
Some testimonials only explain the positive sides of an experience, but some go one step further and try to persuade, or convince, the reader to do, buy, or believe something. That is called persuasion, or advice-giving.
A student in my advanced writing class, who attends the International Bilingual School in the Hsinchu Science Park (IBSH) wrote this testimonial/persuasion piece aimed at a grade 7-10 audience:
While the bombardment of homework in school may seem endless, the truth is that it is just the beginning — the worst is yet to come. As a current junior at IBSH, I can testify that school does NOT get easier; teachers become more ruthless with homework, students become more competitive with grades, and parents become more annoyed with sub-par performances. In short, pressures mount like snow in a blizzard, you get inundated.
In response to these future struggles that you are sure to experience to a certain extent, here are a few suggestions.
Firstly, find the passion that motivates you to succeed. Sure, it may be a prestigious university that is your ultimate goal, but finding your niche in school is where one can truly blossom in cutthroat environments. For me, I followed my intuition and eventually found my second home within the realm of debating; it has taken me places I could have never imagined. Secondly, as cliche as it sounds, you NEED to recognize the importance of your school performance and strive to improve. Too many times I’ve met people who turned a blind eye to their deteriorating grades and peers who’ve already given up on their biggest and wildest dreams as a result. Grades matter as colleges and universities alike will take them into consideration when making their admission decisions, which will impact your future.
Enough of these rather disheartening pieces of advice. If you have found your passion and currently have decent marks in school, look towards other forms of entertainment, and learn to have fun! You’ll lose lots of it in the future.
--Aaron in Hsinchu, Taiwan
“Start early, don’t wait until the last minute.”
Literally every teacher tells you this and as I got older, I valued this reminder more.
Now, I think I am credible enough to give this piece of advice to my underclassmen at school.
As the cliche goes, life only gets harder. Sadly, this is true. I remember back in the day, when I was just a freshman, testing the waters of high school. With no APs to worry about or any standardized tests, I worked hard to get everything done ahead of time since my coursework was not that rigorous.
No, who am I kidding.
Admittedly, I slacked and the results were not pretty. Over the next few years, I luckily managed to pick myself up a bit but there was only so much I could do to save my atrocious freshman grades. The importance in frontloading is well… important. In elections, candidates try to put themselves out there as early as possible and political parties hold primaries earlier so their selected candidate could have more time to establish him or herself before facing off on the national stage. I know this is true because I paid attention and worked hard in my AP Government class.
Jokes aside, whether it is a project, essay, or even an application, it is important to start things early. In freshman year, one should work to bring up their grades and confidence (very important!) in order to arm themselves for the rest of high school. Sophomores are just getting there. The adjustment from 9th to 10th grade is hard since AP tests and standardized test preparation classes come into play, lessening time for extracurriculars and study. Junior year gets tougher as one needs to not only improve or at least maintain their grades, there are SATs or ACTs to be taken and more APs to study for. Oh yeah, start looking for colleges.
The summer before senior year is crucial. Try to write as many college application supplements as possible as time to do this only decreases when the school year starts. I saw many of my peers struggling to finish their applications and schoolwork while balancing plenty of AP or honors classes. I managed to finish 9 schools for Early Action and started to get acceptances (and rejections) in December, taking off the pressure of getting into college. Since I was done applying for colleges by the end of November, I was able to work on my grades and improve my stock for my Regular Decision schools.
Whether it is an assignment or your college resume, remember to frontload as that will take a lot of weight off your shoulders in the future. There is no worse feeling than consecutive all-nighters, only getting 4 hours of sleep before school. It’s hell and please don’t do it.
-- Justin in Hsinchu, Taiwan
Around Christmas 2018, my son David posted this testimonial/persuasion piece. It is lengthy, and he had mulled and revised it in his mind for more than a month. Despite its length, it has been read much, as seen by the large number of likes and comments it scored on both facebook and instagram.
I have called myself a Christian all my life yet I was often arrogant, selfish, carnal, materialistic, impatient, and dissatisfied. I have cared too much about my image and what others think of me and not enough about what God thinks of me. I’ve never been content with what I’ve had. Despite these inner conflicts and issues that generated deep turbulence within me, I hid it well on the outside, only showing people the side of me I wanted them to see. Over the past few years, I’ve allowed myself to place entirely too much trust in my accomplishments and my relationships with others for my happiness. They always brought me some sense of satisfaction, but the effects were always temporary. (No I’m not bashing human relationships; on the contrary, I believe the right ones are absolutely essential to have in life!!)
However, in my own life, some of them produced the ugly characteristics I mentioned above. Lately, God has shown me what happens when I put all my trust in the wrong things. This semester, through what I would describe as a series of unfortunate events, He has thrown my world upside down and shaken everything I was confident in, showing me how utterly fragile and miserable life can be when you put the entire value of your existence on things that have no permanence. This was my first semester at UVA and I felt completely out of place. Everyone around me seemed so perfect at everything and I thought perhaps the Office of Admissions had made a mistake on me. I got off to an extremely shaky start in school; I actually failed my first 2 tests! That butchered my confidence. I kept on hoping things would improve and they did but then last month, something else unrelated to school happened and it hurt me deep. Then I made the mistake of trying to mend that broken situation, which, as many of you know, usually makes things worse. Mentally incapacitated, I wanted nothing more than to drop out of school (oops)...but that wouldn’t have produced anything beneficial in my life and instead, would have only sufficed as mere instant gratification. So I stayed and tried to focus on my studies although my mind was on other things, and what seemed to be my greatest nightmare has actually turned into the greatest life lesson I’ve ever been taught.
I could go on and on about everything I’ve learned, but I won’t bore you with all that and will keep this post as concise as possible. But I digress... So life was looking pretty bleak from my point of view. I was completely stunned at how quickly life tanked for me as soon as I came up to Charlottesville, and I came to the end of myself for the first time ever. I realized that if I was going to make it to the end of the semester, I needed God, because I could no longer handle things myself. He took me in at my very worst form. I was empty inside, sad, and broken, but I think that’s the point. God doesn’t need us to achieve anything in order to come to Him; we don’t need to have it all together. For people like me, I think it requires a catastrophe that completely breaks the spirit, because prideful people don’t think they need anyone else until things are beyond their control. Up until these last few months, life had been easy and I was comfortable, so I had no reason to change. God had to break me in order to make me; wound me in order to heal me, and He did just that. By shattering my world and this fallible paradox I had created, God opened my eyes and allowed me to see who I truly was for the first time. This was not pretty at all; I realized that I was a misguided, stubborn, insincere, foolish, and worst of all self absorbed young man who had been living for himself his whole life. Arrogance created in me this entitlement mentality, where the whole world owed me something and I deserved only the good that life or people had to offer. Arrogance is the reason I was so blindsided by life’s sudden ferocity. I now realize that arrogance is the worst possible character trait you can have, because it either blinds you to your own flaws or develops a complacency in you to not desire to fix them. I had the latter mindset; I was aware that I had issues, but I fixated myself on my “good traits” and ignored the bad ones, deceiving myself into thinking I was a good person. I was a brownie with a little bit of poop in it, which actually made me a disgusting brownie that nobody wants to have on their little glass dessert plate and accompany their vanilla bean ice cream after a delicious meal. Upon this realization came an understanding that there was absolutely no way that I could fix myself through my own willpower. I’ve tried before and failed, of course. So this time, all I did was press into God, pray, ask many people for prayers (thank you all), read His Word (a lot!!!), get advice from wise people, and possess a true heart of repentance. God has done all the rest in my life. He has and still is clearing out the junk; all I had to do was admit that I was insufficient, stop living for myself, and go to Him for all my answers. Still, that’s not to say this was an easy process; the result is beginning to, and will be great, but the process hurt. God forcibly removed some poisonous people out of my life whose toxicity I was blind to and who I allowed to stay in my life longer than they deserved because I was comfortable and stupid. This hurt the worst, as I was really attached to them, but I see now that it was a huge blessing for me.
In addition, I had to give up some things I enjoyed, break certain thought patterns I had developed over the years (so in essence, a complete reframing of the mind), and admit my faults and shortcomings to God. Going through what I’ve gone through last month is something I have no desire to experience ever again; it was painful and mentally taxing. Also life stops for no one, and as I was working through these personal problems I was still being bombarded with academic responsibilities, which somehow didn’t help take my mind off anything, but instead, exacerbated everything. By a miracle, God has gotten me through the worst of it. It was an absolute grind though, and I often doubted I could even make it to the end of the semester. God has carried me through the toughest days and nights. He has revealed new truths to me. He has and still is bringing immense healing to my heart and mind. His unconditional love for me is clearer than it has ever been. He brought the right people into my life when I needed them the most, and I want to thank those of you who have been there for me and lifted me up in my times of hurt; I am incredibly grateful for each one of you. Also, I want to say I am thankful that these tribulations occurred now while I am still young versus me going through the rest of life blind and naive; never learning the valuable lessons I’ve learned of late. Looking back, I can already see that every “bad thing” that transpired over this past semester, whether related to school or not, was absolutely necessary and crucial to my development as an individual, and I am thankful for all of it. I wouldn’t say I’m totally fine now, but things are finally beginning to fall into the right place. I haven’t felt like myself in a long time, but is that really a bad thing considering who I was? I am not living a lie anymore. However, I know God has not yet completed this process of refinement. I’ll never be perfect and I still have a lot to learn. But every journey must start somewhere, and I’m just excited to have finally found the right path. For the first time, I’ve surrendered every single thing in my life to Him; my heart, my thoughts, my future, my career, my all. It’s easily the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and some may call it weak, yet I know this was the best and most necessary decision I have ever made. I’ve been trying my whole life to control my future and that is an exhausting and futile task. We think we have an idea of how the future will go but this thing called life occasionally has other plans; however, we cannot let the unexpected derail us. The truth is that my happiness has always been circumstantial, and God has recently shown me how perilous that is, as circumstances often change. Putting my happiness and worth in the One who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, is the only way to be okay regardless of what happens around me.
If you are still reading, you’re incredible and I would like to wrap this up by saying that there is hope for everyone. That’s the whole point of this post. The point is not to brag on who I am now, because none of what has occurred in me was by my strength or will. In addition, these events that have shaped me were not by my choice, and had they been by my choice, they most likely would not have happened. The point is that I hope this can be an encouragement to anyone out there struggling. Also, learn from me as how not to do life. Don’t be arrogant. Don’t be blind. Don’t be stubborn. Don’t learn things the hard way, like I did, but if you end up doing so, fear not. If God can use the worst circumstances for my good, He can do the same for you. If God can soften the heart and work in someone as obstinate as me, He can work in anybody! God heals. Time heals. It might hurt now, but healing is inevitable if you allow it to happen. What makes you confident? Let it be that you are a unique and precious creation of God. I had my confidence and identity in the wrong things, and as a result, this semester I really struggled with insecurity and who I was. Don’t make that mistake. It’s so easy as humans to compare; we want to compare everything, but doing that will only make you either too proud or too insecure; both bring problems. Drake said: a wise man once said nothing at all. He’s right. My father is also a wise man and he said, “Comfort and growth are on opposite ends of the spectrum.” If you’re uncomfortable now, embrace it because you are growing. Be thankful for the tough times; they are trying to teach you something so pay attention and learn as much as you possibly can from them. Tough times suck but they are incredibly valuable. You learn more about yourself and about other people in hard times than you ever will when life is peachy. Thankfulness in general is a key to getting out of rough patches and is a necessary mentality to have in life always; good times or bad. Realizing that there’s always someone out there who is going through more than you can help put things into perspective. Truth is, you always have something to be thankful for so focus on those things instead of what you don’t have. Don’t collapse when life seems out to get you. True strength is measured when everything is against you. When life is easy, nobody is a quitter. Don’t be bitter; if someone wrongs you, do not allow their actions to hurt you more than they already have. Bitterness will just make you and only you hurt deeper and longer, and even if you have every reason to be upset, it is useless to hang on to what happened. Be honest always; the truth always comes out eventually and the lies you tell now will come back and smack you later. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and push you to become a better person. That doesn’t necessarily mean the people who compliment you all the time and make you feel all marvelous inside; you’ll come across plenty of those people in life. (Not saying all of those people are bad either, just want to clarify. Some are just beautiful streams of positivity and that’s wonderful.) Instead, it’s the honest ones who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth (because it really do be like that sometimes), whether you want to hear it or not, who should be treasured above anyone else. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Make sure the people around you are sharpening you; not holding you back. Whether you like it or not, you become like those you hang out with. If that thought doesn’t sit well with you, then find better people. Push yourself! Don’t settle. Don’t heavily depend on other people for your success. People won’t always be there to cheer you on and that’s okay; sometimes you have to do things on your own. Use your past mistakes to help you grow; don’t let them hold you back. Your mistakes don’t define you so don’t let them. However, don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again either, cuz then you’re just stupid, like me. Also, reach out if you’re struggling! People don’t know you are until you say something, and it’s a wonderful thing to seek guidance. After all that has happened I feel much more sensitive to the fact that people deal with their own problems every day and may just be experts at hiding them. You all who are out there living your best life should reach out and be an encouragement and a light to someone, because you might just make their day! Be there for others; the greatest gift you can give someone who is hurting is a listening ear, prayer, and your support. Finally, I leave you all with this, and it is so cliché, but so very true. It’s also easier to say, but harder to do: Just trust God. He knows what He’s doing and He has you in His hands. He had to empty me to fill me, but His plans are far greater than anything my short-sighted little mind can imagine. His timing is perfect, and He can do in anyone’s life the wonderful things He is doing in mine.
Do YOU want to improve your writing skills? Contact me today to get started!
Learning a new language takes a lot of time and practice, and students are busy. We understand. Over the years, many students ask for extra English help over the winter or summer holiday, when schools are closed and students have more time.
This Chinese New Year (2019), we welcome the Year of the Pig with special 1 on 1 classes just for you!
1 on 1 Classes
Dates & Times: (flexible) Between January 28 - February 8, 2019, at 8:00-8:50 pm or 9:00-9:50 pm
Goals: To help the student improve in whatever areas he or she desires to grow: writing, reading, conversation, listening, pronunciation, test preparation, etc.
Teacher: a DreyerCoaching.com Team Teacher
Maximum number of students: 1 student per class
Levels that can join: Any
8 Class sessions (best value!) RMB 3,260 or NT$ 14,400
6 Class sessions RMB 2,650 or NT$ 11,700
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In my Advanced Writing Class, we read some sample descriptions of people and I asked the students to pick someone and write their own description.
We are using Writing with Skill, by Susan Wise Bauer, and on page 215 of the ebook she lists some traits one can look for and describe in a person.
Description of a Person Definition:
A description of selected physical and non-physical aspects of a person. Decide on which aspects will be included. They may include:
Sound of voice
What others think
Portrayals and portraits
Challenges and difficulties
Expressions of face and body
Talents and abilities
Economic status (wealth)
Fame, notoriety, prestige
Family traditions, tendencies
Below are two descriptions my students wrote:
Confidently dressed in red, and always dressed in red, Santa Claus is the epitome of joy in the world. Along with the everlasting smile on his face, Santa's deep, rich voice evokes a sense of wisdom and generates a sense of trust for all. Unsurprisingly, society is naturally attracted to his unique aura as a result.
His unmistakable white beard extends down to his stomach, creating a sense of wonder and provoking awe among the masses. However, it is his equipment -- gigantic goodie bag that never fails to surprise-- that steals the show. In a world where challenges are prevalent and meeting obstacles is inevitable, having a friend who rewards one for his or her efforts while never discourages is a true blessing for all.
In addition to being deeply rooted in Christianity, which promotes values of equality and reward for the faithful, Santa Claus brings yet another form of utility within the household: discipline. His presence commands children to sleep early, catch up on schoolwork, do the dishes, and much more. The possibility of being on Santa's naughty list terrifies many as their dream toy may disappear along with their wrongdoings.
Despite this potential fear factor that Santa places among the young of society, Santa maintains his annual tradition of riding his sleigh across the world and delivering presents to all the well-behaved children. This consistency has not only earned him widespread international support, but also much respect as his countenance consistently creates a calming yet inspiring mood in the world of darkness. -- Aaron, Grade 11 student, Hsinchu, Taiwan
Scott's feedback: I like how this writer, Aaron, picked Santa as his person to describe. Creative! Good hook: "Confidently dressed in red, and always in red...." Fine use of a variety of punctuation too, including dashes and a colon, keeps the flow moving. Aaron employs alliteration: "his countenance consistently creates a calming...."
Brandon Crawford, all-star shortstop for the San Francisco Giants, has been a consistent performer for the three-time World Champions since he debuted. He stands out on the field, dishing out seemingly-impossible defensive plays with his luscious locks flying out behind him. Crawford’s calm and collected demeanor lets players and fans alike feel secure when a ball is hit in his direction. Furthermore, his improving prowess at the plate has been crucial to the Giants’ success. The power that Crawford possesses makes him a luxury, as shortstops that can both hit and field are rare. His smooth swing is always a pleasure to watch.
Outside of his playing, Crawford is also a family-man, seen through his interactions with fans, his teammates, and his family. Often, he can be seen signing autographs for kids, or discussing strategies with his fellow infielders. He also runs a blog with longtime teammate Brandon Belt, showing his humorous yet self-effacing personality. As a caring, fun-loving dad of five, his social media is full of pictures of their family trips or activities as well. Because of his well-roundness and ability to please fans, players, and family on and off the field, he is someone a kid can look up to. -- Justin, Grade 12 student, Hsinchu, Taiwan
Scott's feedback: This author, Justin, loves baseball and once lived in California, so it makes sense he described a baseball star. This just goes to show: 1. writers make deliberate choices, 2. writing is an extension of you, and 3. if you write with your authentic voice, no one else can copy you! Justin has GREAT word choice: consistent, debuted, dishing out, demeanor, etc. I also like his three examples of alliteration, shown in bold underlining above.
Photo: Jack Gittoes
Recently a teacher on the DreyerCoaching.com team sent me this in an email:
"I couldn't resist sending this to you! Katie said she wrote this in 10-15 minutes! Amazing!"
Truly, this is AMAZING writing, from Katie, a middle school student in Hsinchu, Taiwan, who has taken a DreyerCoaching.com writing class for many years. Notice the great verbs: exhaled, creaking, shivered, gazed, flopped down. Notice the great adjectives: damp, shadowy, musty, creepy. Great use of thoughtshots too, set off with italics: Why had he chosen this house to live in? Why couldn't he have chosen another house, more brightly lit and modernly furnished?
Very creepy story-- just in time for Halloween. Enjoy!
He exhaled, his breath making puffs in the frigid air, the wooden floorboards creaking under his feet. Running a hand through his purple hair, he set down his knapsack in the middle of the dusty bed. He shivered, and pulled out a damp windbreaker and put it on. An owl hooted outside, and he quickly turned just in time to see a shadowy figure outlined in the window. He rubbed his eyes, and the figure disappeared, and he sighed, turning back to the bed.
He sat down on the bed, the musty smell of the feather stuffed mattress filling the air. Wrinkling his nose at the stench, he gazed into a corner of the old room. The sky outside was dark, and the moon cast creepy shadows into the room.
He flopped down onto the bed, closing his eyes briefly. Why had he chosen this house to live in? Why couldn't he have chosen another house, more brightly lit and modernly furnished?
The man stretched, and yawned. It had been a long day, but now he was unable to sleep. The whole feeling of the room was extremely off-putting. He felt like he was in a haunted house, complete with bats and four-poster beds.
He huffed out a breath and pulled out his cell phone, squinting at the brightness. In the corner of the screen in tiny letters, it said “no service”. He scrunched his nose in disgust and tossed it aside, the phone landing on the mattress with a barely audible “whoomp". He closed his eyes, and tried to fall asleep, to no avail. He sighed.
His eyes snapped open and he swung his legs over the side of the bed and got up, slowly opening the door. It creaked quietly. The man stepped out into the hallway, careful to avoid the questionable puddle of dark liquid that was too dark to see. He shrugged, and continued down the hallway, stopping at an open door. He peeked in, seeing a old painting in the corner of the room, a small lit lantern in a another.
He cocked his head at the painting, wondering where he had seen that painting before. He reached for his phone to search it up, but, he remembered that he had left his phone in the room he was sleeping in, and there was no service. He muttered something under his breath and stepped further into the room. The painting had an oak frame which was in an archaic style, in a simple red and black. The paint was chipped and cracked in multiple places. There were cobwebs hanging from every corner of the frame, and there was a large closet made of maple standing in the room.
He stopped and admired the design of the closet, the way the cuts in the wood made an intricate design. He could have sworn he heard footsteps, and he whirled around, only to see a shadowy figure drift across the doorway.
He stiffened. Was there someone else in this house? He stopped and listened. Nothing. He scratched his head, and plopped down on the floor. He sighed, suddenly tired. He leaned back on his hands, and he felt his hand touch something slimy and wet on the floor.
He picked up one hand and sniffed the liquid, the metallic smell of blood filling his nose. The lantern suddenly went out and a voice boomed throughout the room.
“Hello, it’s been awhile. I’ve been waiting for you.”
Our son David recently applied to the University of Virginia (UVA) and below is his Pesonal Statement from the Common Application. He was accepted and is a Biology major.
(word count: 355)
Transferring to a four-year university has always been my goal. Beginning when I was five, my parents invested in the [prepaid college] program to pay for a bachelor’s degree for my three older siblings and me. Every parent’s dream is to see their children succeed, and my parents did what they could to help make that happen. Even as a child, I knew I wanted to make an impact in the world. I wanted to do something that set me apart; not something just anybody could do. By the time I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to be in the medical field. Since then, I have narrowed my career down to becoming a dentist or an orthodontist. I have been working towards that goal for three years at Virginia Western Community College, and while my time at Western has been fruitful, it is time for me to move on and get one step closer to achieving my goal. Transferring to a four-year university is the next step. My ambition is to earn a Bachelor of Science degree and upon passing the Dental Admissions Test, to matriculate at VCU’s School of Dentistry. After that, if I decide to specialize in a particular branch of dentistry, I will go on to study that post graduate program. While every step in this journey is important, I believe that the most important step is always the one that we are facing at the moment, and in my case, that would be transferring to attain my bachelor’s degree. These next few years will be pivotal in the direction my life goes, and I want to ensure I make the right choices and meet the right people, as cliché as that sounds. I am blessed to be a world traveler; however, my whole life, I have lived in Roanoke, and this is an opportunity to expand my horizons and enrich my life by seeking new experiences and meeting new people in new places. College is the ideal place for this, and I am eager to meet other bright and ambitious students who are also working toward their goals.
He also wrote two other essays, specific for UVA. Stay tuned.
Are you an international student studying in the USA, or you want to? Check out this article with helpful ideas about how to be successful in a US university! (PS: The tips are good for American students too!)
Do you want help with English writing? See how we can help you here. Do you want help applying to a US high school or college? See what universities Scott has helped other students gain acceptance to. Scott helped them; he can help you too!
Contact Scott today to find out more.
A good friend of mine recently returned from a family trip to China, where he visited the famous Li River and Yangshuo. Small world: my wife and I had been in that same spot just a month before!
China has some truly beautiful scenic spots, and this link gives (what is in the author's opinion) the top-ten most beautiful. The author, Cindy Tang, writes well. She has a strong vocabulary and does well to explain the beauty of these spots in words.
Do you live in China or have you been there before? If so, which of these places have you visited? You can read her article here.
In addition to beautiful sights, China has delicious food too! Check out this list of some of China's top dishes!
And finally, to link food with geography, this is a map showing China's eight major culinary regions. In a land as vast as China, the regional differences in food and taste are vast. You can learn more about the individual food regions and their signature tastes and dishes here.
In an online writing class today, I asked the students to finish this sentence: It has been a/n ________ summer. This is what they wrote:
Katie: It has been a hectic summer.
Alex: It has been a humid summer.
Ian: It has been an enjoyable summer.
Me: It has been a fast summer.
Then I asked them to rewrite their sentence in as many ways as they could; it's fine if they change the shade of meaning some, but they have to keep the overall idea the same.
This is what they came up with:
Ian: It has been an enjoyable summer.
It has been an entertaining summer.
It has been an amusing summer.
It has been a delightful vacation.
It has been a pleasurable summer.
It has been a delightable summer.
It has been a congenial summer.
It has been a lovely summer.
It has been a pleasant time.
It has been a wonderful summer.
It has been a sublime summer.
It has been a magnificient break.
Katie: It has been a hectic summer.
It has been an exciting summer.
It has been a chaotic summer.
It has been a busy summer.
It has been a crazy summer.
It has been a frantic summer.
It has been a summer filled with traveling.
Alex: It has been a humid summer.
It has been a moist summer.
It has been a soggy summer.
It has been a wet summer.
It has been a sweltering summer.
It has been a steamy summer.
It has been a muggy summer.
Scott: It has been a fast summer.
The summer has sped by.
It's been an action-packed summer.
It's been a busy summer.
It's been an eventful summer.
Wow! What a full summer!
The summer break has been action-packed.
This summer has been full to the brim.
The time has flown by this summer.
This summer: where did the time go?
I can't believe how quickly this summer has flown by.
I can't believe it's late August: where did the summer go?
I can't believe there are only a few days of summer break left.
I can't believe there are only a few days of summer left.
I can't believe there are only a few days of summer vacation left.
See how it works? This is a GREAT way to push writers to think of more and different ways to express the same idea. Again, there may be some slight differences with shades of meaning, but this forces writers (or speakers) to expand their vocabulary and ways of expression. Thesaurus.com is a great tool for helping build one's vocabulary. Another way is to join a DreyerCoaching.com Advanced Vocabulary or Writing Classes!
Here are the three students' brief reports on their summer. They had to write it in class, so they said much in the short time. The topic was broad and gave them lots of latitude to work with, and I liked how all three approached the prompt differently. For example, Ian took the broadest approach: he briefly reported on the party at the bowling alley on his first day out of school, trips to Hualien and Kaohsiung in Taiwan, then he closed with his summer classes. In contrast, Alex and Katie chose to zoom in on one particular aspect of their summer. Alex focused on his family's trip to Europe, then zoomed in on Prague, specifically Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and the Old Town. Katie focused on her family's trip to the US to take her brother to tour college campuses, yet she zeroed in on the transportation aspect. That is part of the beauty of writing: the writer chooses what to focus on! Take a look!
How was your summer break? My summer is sometimes packed with classes and homework, while other times overflow with fun and entertainment. On the last day of school last June, right after we left for the summer, my classmates and I threw a party at a bowling alley. It was unbelievably exciting, so the time quickly sped past. In the blink of an eye,days were flying past. Two weeks ago my family visited relatives in Hualien, and my brothers, my younger cousin, and I had a great time. We taught our four-year-old cousin how to swim and played together at other times. One day we after we got home from east Taiwan, we drove south to Kaoshiung, where I soon found myself lolling on a cozy sofa, watching TV motionlessly. However, those trips were the calm before the storm because as soon as we returned home, I was bombarded with multiple classes and piles of homework each day. I have baking classes every morning, while English and swimming lessons in the afternoon made me so stressed I fall right asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow at night. But despite all the work, this summer is amazing!
-- Ian in Hsinchu, Taiwan
My summer of 2018 has been the best in my life so far. Why? This summer, I went to three different countries in Europe-- Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic-- turning the scenic views from pictures into a reality. In my opinion, Prague was the most memorable city from the Europe Trip: we visited the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and rented an Airbnb in the iconic Old Town. First, we strolled across the Charles Bridge, inspecting the handcrafted sculptures and the amazing view of the Old Town. Luckily, we were there early in the morning, so we enjoyed the Charles Bridge mostly to ourselves. Then, we prowled around Prague Castle; since the castle has been used for centuries, display boards explained the different battle tactics and the cruel methods of how enemy soldiers and spies were tortured down through the years. Despite the incredible experience of seeing Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, the Old Town was the most memorable place in Prague, due to the red-tiled roofs, which one does not see anywhere in Taiwan. Not only has my summer been a blast, but it has also taught me that we live in a truly diverse world.
-- Alex in Hsinchu, Taiwan
My summer was filled with travel, both in cars and on airplanes. As we had been touring colleges all across the US all summer, we had to trek from campus to campus. We visited many places in the US, including many states I had never been to, for example Michigan, Texas, Ohio, and Illinois. In addition to driving and flying, we would take the subway around the city, like what we did in Boston. Because we flew so much, I noticed some differences between the airlines in Asia and in the US. For example, those in Asia always serve complimentary meals (unless the flight is only about 30 minutes), and always have an entertainment system, which contrasts to American airlines, where you have to pay to watch. Although I spent countless hours on airplanes and in cars, it was an extremely exciting summer.
-- Katie in Hsinchu, Taiwan
Do YOU want to improve your writing skills? Or those of your children? Contact me today to find out how we might be able to help you!
At DreyerCoaching.com, we are all about "celebrating success." One of our recent success stories was Aaron, a high school student in Hsinchu, Taiwan, who was chosen to attend an exclusive, prestigious summer program in Israel! What I found remarkable, is that the applicants had to write essays-- in English AND Mandarin Chinese! More than 200 young people applied, and only twenty--that's less than 10% for you non-math types out there--were chosen as finalists to go to Taipei for the face to face interviews, in English. Of those twenty, only TEN were chosen to go--and Aaron was one of the ten! It's a big deal! It's such a big deal, it scored Aaron the first spot on our DreyerCoaching.com Hall of Fame. Check it out, and see if we can help you too make YOUR dreams come true!
While discussing his entry into this program, Aaron told me his time with DreyerCoaching.com had been very helpful. He said his writing classes helped him with word choice, grammar, structure, and flow. Plus, he said the simple act of going online for his class with me each week had boosted his confidence and ability to carry on a conversation in English. So, his essay skills helped him get one of the 20 finalist spots, and his interview skills and poise landed him a spot among the final 10. What a wonderful success story!
However, for this post, I'd like to share with you his essays and some articles about the experience. Enjoy and be inspired! Don't be jealous of others! Be the best YOU that YOU can be!
Aaron's English Essay:
Dear application evaluators, my name is Aaron and I would like to apply for this year's event regarding the International Youth Leader Convention in Israel. From the very beginning, I have shown great interest in this program, but due to age restrictions, I was unable to dedicate myself in formulating such applications. However, now that I have reached 15 years of age, the urge to apply for the position has never been higher. In this self-introduction, I'd like to discuss my motivations for applying this through my interests, extracurricular activities, and overall expectations/aspirations as to what I would hope to obtain in the ten days that the event provides.
To begin with, there are numerous activities that I indulge myself in. For instance, badminton. I began my "career" with this sport from fifth grade and has enjoyed it ever since through the few times that I've been the team captain chosen to represent my school. Not only has it kept my body healthy in past years, it has also strengthened the bonds that I have with my friends, for which I'm grateful for. In addition, despite its uncommonness, attending debate competitions has recently become one of the activities that I appreciate. My friends and I recently went to NIFTy, a nationwide debate competition, and surprisingly got second place for our efforts. This sparked my love for debate, which resulted in NSDA being on my to-do list for the future.
As for extracurricular activities, Model United Nations along with Key Club scores the top spot. Starting from being an admin in 8th grade to representing Germany in this year's PASMUN conference, MUN served as a gateway to the world for me. In this rather daunting activity for first-timers, MUN allowed me to work with other delegates for hours to formulate feasible solutions to the various issues at hand. In the seven conferences that I've been to, the plight of human trafficking in the Middle East to the question of Palestine (which is surprisingly relevant to the program) has been the most interesting to me; through rich debate and discussion, I learned that every nation has different views in regards to any issue, and it is my wish that in this year's convention that I get to experience these different views first hand. Key Club has also played a big part in my school life; it has taught me valuable lessons such as responsibility and perseverance. Leading the club in beach cleanups in Nanliao and endeavoring in efforts to beautify my school has shown me that life can present many challenges, but as long as one perseveres, success will follow.
There are multiple causes that motivated me to apply for this position and also a few aspirations that I have for the program. One being the student exchange program that I attended last year: I went to Fremont High, a distinguished high school in Cupertino, California for ten days to participate and experience the excitement that American high schools bring while also demonstrating the art of calligraphy that I have learned in recent years. However, with this event, I wish to do more than to just enjoy the environment. I'd also like to share the many feats that Taiwan has achieved in regards to environmental protection while also socializing with Israelis in hopes of gaining a deeper understanding of life in the country.
To wrap up, I sincerely hope that I would be chosen for this event in order to contribute my efforts to shine light on Taiwan as a progressive and innovative nation. Thank you.
Aaron's Chinese Essay:
TRULY AMAZING: Here is Aaron's post-trip evaluation. He did fine as it is--until you keep reading and realize he did the whole thing in Chinese too! This young man is fully bilingual to basically a native speaker level in both English AND Mandarin. Wow!
International Convention for Environmental Leadership in Israel: Post Event Report
In the seven days and nights that we were in Israel to attend the International Convention for Environmental Leadership as the delegation of Taiwan, friendships were made and memories were kept. I, Aaron Chen, embarked on this journey along with my nine other delegation members and two teachers. Through hours of hard work in preparation for the conference, I am proud to say that our overall performance during the convention was applaudable. From the never-ending laughs to the sleepless nights, I'm sure that everyone had fun and would not hesitate to call each other friends in the days to come.
In addition to all the academics, participants of the entire congress also visited renowned cities such as Jerusalem and Nazareth. The following five photos will not only demonstrate the things we saw, but also the entire experience that made this trip unique.
- Carmel Market in Tel-Aviv (8.12.2017)
In less than 24 hours after we've landed in Tel-Aviv, a number of our respective host families took us to the Carmel Market, one of the most renowned tourist attractions in the area. Under the blazing yet pleasant sun, the seven of us quickly congregated, enthusiastically discussing the major differences that can be discerned upon the first few glances. What we all noticed was the unique dress code that some of the people had: there were people with small round Jewish hats on their heads and certain individuals clad in complete Jewish outfits with a black suit and a Jewish top hat. This definitely surprised us, but what topped that off was the fact that we met the Austrian delegation who've also landed just a few hours ago; they would later become one of our closest friends in the environmental leadership program. After greeting each other and asking a few opening questions, we parted from one another and officially began our travels.
Through the crowded entrance and into the bustling market, there were three elements of Israeli life that stood out to me: food, art, and patriotism. First of all, food. From the perfectly stacked spices to the all-you-can-grab sweet shops, the "souk" was interesting to say the least. As customers lined up to scoop up their desired goods with a small shovel, I was fascinated by how diverse and vibrant all the food was. There were bicolored croissants and spiked pear-like fruits, both of which lit up my eyes upon examination. Secondly, the art. Tiny ornaments and elaborate painting lined the walls of the market. Upon squeezing our way through the walkway, we saw artists utilize their craftsmanship abilities to create glass sculptures and proprietors shout their punchlines to attract customers to their funny shirts. One of the shirts said "My Mom is My Google," which cracked me up almost instantly. Finally, the patriotism. Even though traces of this element were present all throughout my sojourn, it was the clearest in the premise of the market. People were waving flags proudly, selling Jewish phone cases, bargaining for Jewish key chains, and as mentioned before, wearing small Jewish hats. Following some thought, I concluded that it was necessary for Israelis to be to some degree, overly patriotic. This was because of the multiple threats that the country faces from all sides; it prompted them to bond tightly, hold on to their core beliefs, and never let go.
For that, I have gained tremendous respect for Israelis. The picture taken upon is dedicated to them, the ones who've kept the Jewish faith alive and would continue doing so in the days to come.
- HaKfar HaYarok (8/13 – 8/18)
As the sun rose from the horizon and the roosters croaked in the distance, Maya, my host, woke me up and took me to HaKfar HaYarok, the school in which the event took place. Upon entering the village with my suitcase and overly stuffed backpack, I realized why the English translation for HaKfar HaYarok was "Green Village": it was due to the lush green trees, the strong camaraderie, and the cheerful animals that roamed about freely. For me, not only did this discovery pleasantly surprised me, the two elements showed the major contrasts between Israeli schools and Taiwanese institutions; they enabled me to gain a whole new perspective on education as a whole.
HaKfar HaYarok had plenty to offer, from endless sceneries of pure green to the never-before-seen harmony between the students, the school was more of a happy playground. This was even more evident in the program; the heated discussions during MUN and the participative audience lectures elucidates my understanding that schools are meant for both learning and enjoyment, not dead memorization. In addition to the teaching methods, the environment also played a crucial role in the difference of attitudes that the students had. Peacocks and rabbits and cats and cows dotted the campus, gracefully going about their respective daily routines of brushing their feathers or attacking others for territory. Of course, with every cute animal comes a caring soul willing to allocate time and energy to ensure the animal's survival; this natural obligation of animal protection that the students had bonded them together, which had a positive effect on the overall atmosphere during the span of four days that we marked our stay. Finally, what I would say differed the most from Taiwanese traditional schools was the spirit: the attitudes that people had towards the beginning of each day. In Taiwan, students are greeted with mock tests, weekly tests, and monotonous lectures while Israeli students begin each day with interactive lectures and outdoor activities that focus on having fun, not timed runs or class rankings seemingly engraved on the bulletin board. Overall, these dissimilarities helped me realize what I can help my classmates understand, and prompted me to live the few short days I had in Israel to the absolute fullest.
3.Shabbat Meal (8/12)
It was a sunny Friday morning; all the shops on the streets were open and ready for a big payday. Maya and I began the day by in the neighborhood mall to look around to check if it sold the cosmetics that my mom wanted to have desperately. What struck me as interesting was the difference in how people greeted each other: on normal days it was "shalom," but that turned into "Shabbat shalom" on Friday. I asked the locals about this phenomenon, knowing it had to be some kind of occasion. One bearded muscular man responded with telling me that Friday was the day in which God rested, which is why the people should also rest, stay with the family, and prepare themselves for the busy days to come. Anyways, I didn't find the cosmetics, but I wasn't devastated. We then left the mall and went to grandma's house for the Shabbat meal.
To be honest, I never expected a grandma's house to be all that elaborate, never mind a wall of wine and a giant flat screen TV. But in the moment that I stepped foot into the apartment, I saw everything that I thought was far-fetched. The room was capacious, the interior felt welcoming, the kids were enjoying rock paper scissors, and above but, everyone spoke near perfect English. After greeting one another with "Shabbat shalom," we sat on the dinner table and watched the grandpa press against the wall and opened a closet-door like door, revealing the countless bottles of wine, including beer, scotch, whiskey, etc. He cheerfully poured a bottle that he explained to be one for Shabbat meals into the adults' glasses and gave us some sprite just so we won't dehydrate. Then began the meal.
The meal was both flavorsome and eye-opening beyond belief. From the hummus to the cold fried vegetable to the delectable steak, the occasion was like no other. Inside the one-of-a-kind atmosphere between the family members, I actually felt that I was included in the conversations. This was when a revelation came to me: family is like no other; it bond people together much tighter than religion. It is the core of all human beings. And for that, I truly enjoyed the experience.
- Gala Night (8/16)
Into the third and final day of the conference, my team members and I attended the Gala night, an event in which all the delegations are required to perform something that is symbolic of their hometown, along with the delegations from five other countries. Into the venue, there weren't too many surprises for anyone except for the Israelis and guests. This was because before the event, we ran through the entire performance once and the finale twice. Either way, we were still pumped to see all the different cultures that are to come during the span of the event. Firstly, the house entertained the school orchestra, which by the way did a phenomenal job, then we had the former chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) speak as well as other influential figures provide us with their inspirational words. In all honesty, we weren't the best audiences among the crowd because during that time, we were all scrambling to finish up our preparation for the play that we decided to perform. Luckily, the order of performing delegations was in alphabetical order, which meant we were the last one to perform. This gave us ample amounts of time for us to finish up while we enthusiastically watched the other delegations perform their seasonal dances, sing Ode to Joy, and enable us to have a great time. After our Taiwanese-standard acceptable performance which the previous acts ensued, all the delegations were instructed to approach the stage and sing "Imagine," which was the finale, by John Lennon, a songwriter, and singer who co-founded the Beatles. Because we were all well-rehearsed, the performance went on in harmony. With an Israeli student with a beautiful voice leading our somewhat disorganized bunch and the instructor trying his hardest to keep us in line, the finale was a great success. People laughed, people smiled, people hugged, and people cried. It was one of those moments where you don't want to let go, it was also one of those moments where you would cherish forever.
- Jerusalem (8/17)
Out of the few short-lived days in the trip, I would say the second to last day was by far the best. For the entire duration of that day, we visited Jerusalem, the city that many influential works such as the Bible and Torah mentioned many times. After a grueling 90-minute drive to the site, we began by visiting the market. While the attraction didn't seem like it was meant for tourists due to the lack of ornaments and collectibles, it provided us with the unfiltered and uncensored Israeli way of life. In addition to the three main elements that I mentioned above, another unique aspect about the place was the people. The similarities were striking; we saw customers bargaining ferociously with proprietors, kids holding food bags while parents laugh, and managers shouting at the top of their lungs to attract heads. Despite few downsides to this souk, I was able to pick up some magnets and small decorations for my friends back here in Taiwan while also trying my first shawarma, a delectable Israeli chicken sandwich topped with a salad and some fries.
Soon after our visit to the market, we continued on to one of the most sacred sites of many religions: the Old City of Jerusalem. Even though I acknowledged the holiness and importance of the premise, I didn't expect to be so surprised by the compound. Everywhere I looked, I feel like I've seen it before. Then it hit me: the pictures on my history textbooks were taken right here! This immediately boosted my energy and encouraged me to listen intently to our tour guide and make mental notes on the information that she gave.
I had a blast in the Old City. But that joy turned into deep thought when we reached the Western Wall, a site where mainly Jews go to confess their sins and formulate wishes for themselves. With tight security and military personnel guarding the area, it quickly changed our mood from a cheerful one to one of caution. As we entered, we discerned many Jewish individuals clad in either complete black suits or fitted with a round Jewish cap. Without hesitation, we decided to follow them to the Western Wall itself where many are reciting the Torah and placing little notes into the cracks between the walls.
I myself wrote a little note that said, "Don't fear what's about to come. Embrace life,"
I thought of my work as pretty inspirational, but I completely took it back when I saw four of my delegation members come out with tears dripping from their eyes. It was only hours later that I realized it was not the atmosphere that pulled their heart strings, it was they themselves who reflected upon their lives and thought of all the good and the bad. For that, I gained massive respect for everyone in my representative team; I will be proud of them forever.
- For self improvement
- Be more vocal in the chat room with my delegation members
- Way of improvement: improve my confidence through ways such as but not limited to leading clubs events or taking on roles of responsibility within the classroom
- Be more proactive instead of reactive when it comes to the conference
- Way of improvement: taking initiative in the classroom by volunteering to participate in community service activities.
- Be more conversational when awkward silences arrive during conversations
- Way of improvement: Engage in conversations with people more often to obtain more social knowledge and opinions on prominent issues today.
- Be more vocal in the chat room with my delegation members
- For the event as a whole
- Better plane schedules
- Everyone had to rush to the plane; I had to sprint just to catch the plane. To be honest, I feel like we'd all be fine if we paid a bit more money to stay one more night. We missed the Dead Sea.
- Better wifi sharing device
- Only 3-4 people could connect to it at the same time, the speed of the device was slow too.
- Better plane schedules
- Carmel Market in Tel-Aviv
- HaKfar HaYarok
在寄宿家庭2天後我搬到HaKfar HaYarok 高中學校宿舍，印入眼簾的是翠綠色的校園，溫暖熱情的各國高中生代表與自由漫遊在校園的各式動物，對我來說，這個開放包容式的校園氣氛，讓我獲得全新的教育觀。
每個星期五，是猶太人傳統的安息日。在平常的日子朋友互相問候打招呼稱作 “Shalom”，但在星期五安息日就互稱“Shabbat Shalom”。我問當地人關於安息日的由來，一位有大鬍子的男子告訴我，星期五是神休息的日子，人們也應該休息，留在家裡，為繁忙的日子做好準備。
- Gala Night
I write this blog post on October 30, and tomorrow is Halloween, when many kids go Trick or Treating. So, if I may use the Halloween metaphor, there are several writing "tricks" that, if you use them well, will "treat" your audience to a pleasurable reading experience. One of my favorite writing (and public speaking) tricks is "bouncing." "Bouncing" is simply stating a fact or principle, then giving a story, joke, or example to illustrate the principle. People usually forget the dry, abstract rule you teach...but they will remember the illustrative story or example. And if they remember the story--presto!--they will probably remember the idea behind it. (Dreyer, Scott and Liao, Posen. Write Like A Champion. Taipei, Taiwan: Jong Wen Books, 2008.) For more information about "bouncing," read more about it in our book, pages 154-155, in Step 5, "Use Some Glue."
Below are two samples of "bouncing." One is in writing, and one in public speaking. Please note that MANY of what I call "writing tips" can also be used in public speaking and presentations!
1. the dry, abstract fact I'm trying to teach, and
2. the examples of bouncing I use, to try to make the topic understandable.
(Read the text following and find the answers below.)
What is "Chinglish"?
It refers to the garbled combination of Chinese and English. In defense of Chinglish, let me say, it is a reality and easy to explain how it happens. Also, I'm not "casting stones" at Chinese speakers who struggle with English, although Chinglish is a reality for many of them. As an English-speaking American who has been learning Mandarin since 1989, I certainly have struggled with my own version of Chinglish.
One often sees Chinglish on signs, and this is one of my favorites. The sign-maker wanted to say "Handicapped Restroom," or better yet, "handicapped-accessible restroom." However, it came out as "deformed man toilet.""Deformed" means badly twisted or misshapen!
Where does Chinglish come from?
Before words can come out of your mouth, the idea has to first form in your brain. So far so good. The problem comes when you try to speak in a foreign language, especially one you are still new at. In those cases, we tend to think up an idea in our mind, in our native language, and then translate it into the foreign language. This is where problems can happen. The normal method is to learn individual words in the new language, and then try to translate them directly. However, between languages, many ideas, words or phrases do not translate directly. Let me explain with some examples. When I was in 9th grade, I had my first real experience with foreign languages, in German I. I had learned that "happy" was "froelich," and "birthday" was "Geburtstag." So, quite impressed with my new German, I wished someone "Froelich Geburtstag." That was the direct translation, yes...but I was wrong. Germans do not say it that way. In German, the actual blessing is "Alles Gute zum Geburtstag." The German phrasing translates more like, "All the best for your birthday." Fast forward about ten years, and I was then in Taiwan learning Mandarin Chinese. Same story. I had been there for a few months and had been picking up some words and phrases. A friend's birthday was approaching, and I knew the word for happy was 快樂 (kuaile) and birthday was 生日 (shengri). So, quite ready to demonstrate how much Chinese I had learned, I smiled and wished her a hearty 快樂 生日 (kuaile shengri)! But instead of the smiles I thought I was sure to get for my "good Chinese," I got wide eyes and looks of shock. "Oh no, you can't say that! It's 生日 快樂 (shengri kuaile)."
"Birthday Happy!?" For a split second I mentally protested. "'Birthday Happy' doesn't make any sense!" I thought to myself. Then I realized it. It's probably best not to argue against 5,000 years of culture and language. If it's literally Birthday Happy to the 1.4 billion Chinese speakers, then it will have to be Birthday Happy to me, and that was an important moment in my Mandarin language acquisition. Do not think too much in your mother tongue and try to translate directly word for word. Instead, try to learn actual phrases and ideas in the foreign language, and you will pick it up faster. (See the example? "Pick it up" can literally mean "to lift something with your hands," but it can also mean "to learn something new.")
(You can read the whole blog post here.)
1. Dry fact: Chinglish is a garbled combination of Chinese and English.
- As an American who has learned Mandarin since 1989, I struggle with Chinglish
- What should be called a "Handicapped Restroom" was called "Deformed Man Toilet"!
- You cannot always directly translate from one language to another. For example, with first German and later Chinese, I learned the simple "Happy Birthday" cannot be directly translated word for word. In the case of Chinese, the word order is completely reversed.
We will now shift gears and listen to a public speech by Chuck Swindoll. In fact, Swindoll is a Bible teacher, and a lesson like this that teaches Bible content is called a sermon. I realize that among my reading audience, I have people of different religions and no religion. By including a sermon I am not trying to force a religion on anyone. Still, I find this particular speaker a great communicator, and I think there are several tips we can learn from him.
This message comes in two parts, and it's titled "Making a Lasting Difference." In Part 1, you can listen to the whole message, or start at 3:15. Swindoll opens with "Most people I know do not want to drift along in mediocrity...you do not wanat to be swallowed up in anonymity or obscurity. That is something I love about Swindoll: he is a great wordsmith. Note how he uses three strong nouns ending in -y: mediocrity, anonymity, obscurity. (This is called parallel structure-- see Write Like A Champion p. 161-163 for more about this. It is also called "Rule of Three"--see p. 155-156.)
Swindoll speaks for about one minute, on how most people want to live meaningful, significant lives and make a difference for others. That is the "dry fact." Then around 4:20, he "bounces" by going back to 1914, and the Polar expedition of Ernest Shackleton. Then around 6:30 in his message, Swindoll turns to the actual Bible passage he is teaching on: 2 Timothy 3:10-14.
Swindoll has yet another helpful device. He introduces Shackelton in Part 1, as part of his introduction. Then he moves on to the "meat" of his message, the Bible scripture 2 Timothy about making a lasting difference. But in Part 2, at 17:08, he returns to Shackelton, this time as part of his conclusion. Swindoll explains how Shackleton's expedition failed to accomplish their its goal to reach the South Pole. However, his legacy for daring and curiosity lives on, inspiring others, as it inspired Sir Edmund Hillary to be the first to climb Mount Everest.
You can learn more about Shackleton's amazing voyage from this video, or this book I highly recommend, Endurance. Endurance was both the name of Shackleton's ship, as well as the virtue that kept the men alive during their two-year-long harrowing nightmare.
As we see from Swindoll's message, you do not have to "drop the whole load" at once, when you tell a story or give an illustration. You can do it that way, and that might be the clearest way. However, at times you might want to introduce a person or story early in your message, create suspese, make your main point, then return to your illustration near the end, where you share a surprise and wrap up your message. The late great radio man Paul Harvey was famous for this, with his "And that's the rest of the Story" program, which ran five days a week from World War II until 1976! He would introduce a topic or story, give lots of background information that seemed like lots of rabbit trails, then he would end by telling his audience whom he was talking about, some famous person.