My Most Annoying Shoes

Stacy Ko


In 2016, Stacy Ko and her family leave Taiwan for Toronto. She finds a job teaching Taiwanese, but there is a dress code: she must wear black shoes, and black shoes are not her taste. But as she learns about her students, she realizes she likes teaching – even wearing a pair of annoying black shoes.


These are the most annoying shoes. Many times, I have wanted to throw them away, but they are still in my closet. I really don’t know why I can’t let them go.

Four years ago, my husband and I decided to return to his birthplace, Canada, with our two sons. We thought our boys would benefit from the Canadian education system. In the first year, we four struggled with a new environment. My younger son was unhappy and punched a wall with his bare hand. My son became a Superman in Canada.

After one year, I got my PR and SIN cards. I thought, “There must be something I can do.”  A friend wanted to hire a Taiwanese language teacher for a private after-school program in Mississauga run by a Taiwanese Buddhist non-profit organization. I thought that it would be a piece of cake because I’ve spoken Taiwanese my whole life.

After signing the contract, I learned there was a dress code: a white blouse, a pin, a bowtie with the organization’s logo on it, black pants and black shoes. Oh, no! Just black and white bores me. It makes me lose all interest in dressing. The school told me that simple dress means full attention to teaching. Okay, that sounds reasonable.

Until I went shopping. 

The black shoes had to be totally black from top to bottom without other colours, without patterns, without decorations. Well! I had my conditions, too. They had to be comfy, look good, have a soft insole, and be affordable. I never touched them except for the three hours a week teaching. In fact, hanging out with colleagues after school was the only thing that made me happy and relaxed. I wasn’t enjoying that work then.

I was a rookie in the first three months. Sometimes, I think the kids corrected my English more often than I taught them Taiwanese. Obviously, they didn’t like it and had no idea why they had to learn it. I thought if I were their parents, I’d want them to learn a second language. It should be their grandparents’ language because grandparents want to communicate with their grandkids in Taiwanese more than English. They want to pass on their mother tongue to later generations, too. 

Unfortunately, kids can’t learn the language in only three hours a week, and the parents won’t speak to them in Taiwanese at home. No practice, never remember. Parents always complained to me in English, and I responded in Taiwanese. Finally, I understood. They were afraid to talk to me in Taiwanese, the same way I was not confident to order at McDonald’s in English. It’s embarrassing.

Time flew! The second semester began. My black shoes didn’t annoy me anymore. What annoyed me now was the teaching style. It was stuck in the 90s. It was the time to do something different.

I had limited teaching aids but unlimited imagination. I inspired kids to make new aids with their imagination. We made giant posters together in Taiwanese with pronunciation in English. We posted them around the classroom. At the same time, I began to train a few students to be my special assistants to help others, which motivated them to work harder. I hoped everyone could remember as much as possible what they learned in class. After these efforts, I started to receive feedback from parents who said their kids chatted with grandparents more in Taiwanese. I felt that all my preparation was worth it, worth skipping my sleep and meals for a few months.

Time flew faster. The one-year contract was over. I quit the job. I packed up the teaching aids we had made in a box with the uniform and the black shoes, and I forgot about them. Recently, I was cleaning out my closet. I found the box. Should I throw it out or not? 

Honestly, I kind of enjoyed being a teacher. So, guess what! I’m going to apply to be a substitute teacher this year and put on my most annoying shoes again.

STACY KO comes from Taiwan. She has been a devoted housewife and part-time pharmacist in Taiwan. She moved to Canada with her family in 2016.

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