Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Taiwan English teaching III: Not as straightforward as it seemed

Teaching in Taiwan wasn't as straightforward as it might seem. Going to teach wasn’t just a matter of finding a school and going to work nine-to-five, there were lots of different things to think about: kids, adults, and age-groups among others. Most of these private schools were designed for kids from seven to sixteen taking over once the local government schools finished at around 4 pm; therefore, if you wanted to teach at these schools your likely hours were from 4.30 to 8.30 everyday – and Wednesday and Saturday from 2pm to 8pm because on these days government schools finished earlier. Now if you wanted to teach nine-to-five the only way was Kindergarten which meant teaching kids from three to seven years old. If you wanted to teach adults it was mornings from nine-to-twelve (housewives) and then evenings from seven-to-ten when people got off work.

Most non-teachers preferred to teach adults because they didn’t want to deal with the shouting and screaming, but the problem of adults were the hours weren't so stable.

Now who to work for? The big chains of English schools had there benefits: training, work visa, and organization, but there drawbacks: designed to deal with the just arrived foreigner they paid less, had more homework to mark and preparation to do for class. If you went to one of the smaller chains or independent schools, they might not: have anyone who can speak good English on staff and a clear curriculum, but you might be able to squeeze an extra hundred an hour out of them and they wouldn’t expect preparation.

Number of hours: As i said the kindergartens were the only ones who were offering a solid 40 hours a week. All the private schools, would expect you to teach a minimum of 20 hours a week for them in order to get you a work visa – but would not guarantee to give you 20 hours a week. Even if all was well at the school and you were good they still didn’t like to give you more than twenty-five hours a week, telling you that was enough because you had to prepare – It was also good for them to have more teachers on staff, hungry and a little desperate. Adult teaching schools usually had even less hours because adults were sporadic and uncommitted.

What to do? Most people had a contract at one of these private schools and then went and found an illegal job at a small school somewhere else.

The only other alternative was to find private students. Private students weren’t students who wanted to meet in dark alleys or didn’t like to talk about themselves. Private students were individuals or small groups who wanted to learn one-by-one at their home or coffee shop. You could get them in various ways: agents, referrals, neighbor knocks on your door, or mother comes up to you in McDonalds - among others. One-to-ones were good because they were higher paying, and most important: easier, just sit in a coffee shop and talk to people.

Managing your schedule: Now, if you have chosen the private school, and you want to teach 35 plus hours a week, you can see from the above that you will have several jobs - Maybe, a second private school or the morning and then several privates at different times of the day. At this point you start to get obsessed with scheduling as people compete for you and you try to arrange them so that they are as near to each other as possible in terms of time and distance. For example, a private may pay 1000NT an hour but if you have to travel an hour and they only want an hour and a half it is better to try and get a school which pays less and may have a block.
Finally, there is the transportation issue: if you have numerous jobs you need a scooter to get you around as soon as possible.

When I first arrived I had no idea what I wanted to do - other than get paid a lot for doing a little - so I decided to look for as many illegal and privates as possible. Besides I liked the idea of illegal, beating the system.

It had its ups and downs...

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