Surviving the Challenge of English Teaching
by Joshua Lawrence
It's easy to be overwhelmed by a new job in
new surroundings. With coping with a second language added to the mix, you may be wondering
if you can manage the challenge! Just remember, all things ARE possible if you keep a few
pointers in mind
- Know what to expect in terms of salary and work
for statistics of nine teachers from summer 2000)
Based on recent placement of nine teachers
as of Summer, 2000. Placement was made at schools granting visa/work permits; salary is in
NT$. For statistics that include substitute, part-time or private work, see Income.
Carefully consider your contract
before signing. Bounce it off an experienced teacher. In order to process a work
permit, schools need a signed 1-year contract in Chinese and English to present to the
Ministry of Education. Sometimes, you'll receive two contracts; a detailed form in English
only and a bilingual version for the Ministry. Review each with care. Before signing,
confirm the facts (salary & wage increases; class age; max. / aver. class size;
curriculum; teacher training; guaranteed hours; process for terminating contracts;
materials allowance; policy regarding work at other schools or with private students).
Inquire about taxes, and when you will be "on the books"; the non-resident tax
rate is 20%. Discuss the National Health Insurance coverage. According to Taiwan law, your
school must pay 70% of coverage. For more information, see visa and
taxes sections for more information.
Visit as many schools as possible to get a "feel"
for the teaching environment.
Staff, management and overall
condition are key in selecting what's right for you. Choose a school that feels good, one
where foreign and local teachers enjoy working. Next, evaluate your requirements for a
positive stay in Kaohsiung. For example, a husband and wife team will want to work similar
hours to take advantage of "off hours"; surfers need time in the morning to get
back from the beach; students, pub-ers, and athletes have specific criteria for
**Editors note: This is not as practical
in some times of the year as others. During the school year we cannot offer multiple
interviews to our teachers, but we continue to do placements using on-line selection.**
- You are what you wear. Taiwanese teachers follow
protocols and do not wear T-shirts, sleeveless tops or shorts. Foreigners enjoy more
freedom, however, you will gain the respect and friendship of colleagues if you dress
professionally. Comfort is recommended for playground duty and floor activities. During
the rainy season you'll need rain gear and perhaps a change. There is nothing worse than
teaching for 6 hours in soaking wet clothes!
ESL TEACHING in general
- Consider the obstacles that Mandarin speakers face when
learning English. Pronunciation is one of the most difficult tasks facing
students. English has sounds that Mandarin does not. These are particularly hard to teach
and include "q", "v", or "th" which makes pronunciation
difficult; "r" and "l" sounds are also problematic. Grammatical
patterns differ greatly as well. It takes time for anyone to master new concepts, so
material should be covered slowly and reviewed often. Probably the single most important
tip for new teachers is to SLOW DOWN.
- Prepare twice as many games and activities as you
think necessary for all lesson plans. Most foreigners hired to teach English are
not trained to teach ESL and often feel intimidated, but age appropriate games and
activities will save the day. Prepare several options that reinforce text lessons, and
rotate activities based on student's needs and class duration. Do NOT rely on just one or
two options. You may get stuck and have to move onto new material for which you're not
prepared. Preparation time depends upon student level:
Classes-Kindergarten (30 to 40 minutes): Many schools employ foreign teachers as
language models and rely on local teachers to present most of the lesson content.
Consequently, the foreign teacher is responsible for short lessons that are repeated to
different classes 4 to 10 times a day. The Advantage: repetition makes your job
easier. The Drawback: reduced time limits choices.
Long Classes-Kindergarten (2 to 3
hours): These classes are considerably more difficult. Students will require more
stimulation than the text alone provides. You'll need to pack flashcards, songs, balloons,
stickyballs etc., etc. (see Teacher's Survival Kit).
Elementary (7 - 12 years): For your
first month, prepare two hours of lesson plans for each hour you are going to teach. The
Web offers great resources (see Links) and local book stores (see Directory)
carry basic materials. Experienced teachers, who have developed a "tried and
true" repertoire are always happy to share ideas.
Junior High / High School (13 - 16
years) High School students are consumed with test-preparation. Typically, bushibans
(or, language cram schools) do not focus on conversation and pronunciation at this level
and have little need for native speaking teachers. However, there is a significant number
of older students that request private tutoring. In this case, teachers rely on select
readings and prepare related vocabulary games.
Reward your students! Most teachers begin each
class by writing the names of each student on the board and drawing stars next to their
names. You give and take stars based on behavior and give a reward at the end of class
based on the number of stars the students have. Rewards include stickers, toys, candy and
prize cards which can be redeemed at the school office for prizes.
Prepare a survival kit. These are
"field tested and approved". Most things can be picked up for you if you ask your
Back up Lesson Plans! Keep some ideas at hand in
case you are given a new class, or asked to substitute or provide a teaching demo.
Check out our links
- Sticky Ball - This suction cup covered ball
sticks nicely when thrown at the white board
- Blank Multicolored Cards - Don't leave home
without them! Various uses
- Fake Money - Good for role-playing
activities, incentives or counters.
- Stickers, Stamps, etc. - You'll need
something to trade for good behavior!
- Whistle - It can be life saver! Many
teachers use clip on amplifiers if noise levels are high***
- ABC's Magnets - For co-operative spelling
games and relays using magnetic boards.
- Balloons - Great attention getter. Write
letters or words on inflated balloons
- Basic Stationary Supplies - Scissors, glue,
markers and pens should always be on hand.
Copyright 2000 Taiwan-Teachers; by Joshua Lawrence