Advise a newbie

I’m a recent graduate looking for a teaching job in Taipei. I don’t have experience, but I’m not a slacker and I have an earnest desire to teach.

In my research of potential employers, I’ve concluded I have two main options:

  1. Work for a year with one of the big guys: HESS, Kojen/ELSI, Joy, etc.


  1. Pick a smaller school, that may or may not be able to get me a legit ARC.

I really want to work legally, but I’m turned off by the mixed reviews of the big cram schools. Are there really smaller schools out there, that provide a supportive, structured working environment?

What I’ve read (for the most part) on forums such as this one, is scathing critiques of a number of schools. Can anyone fully endorse a smaller school or chain to work for?

If not, what would you do if you were in my shoes?

It’s a total lottery. Even amongst chains there are immense differences between the branches. Get over here, check into a hostel, get yourself down to the pub, and start asking around. Spend two weeks looking and then choose something.

If you want to stay long term get a job at a chain (ELSI/Joy/HESS) stick out your first year on the ARC, and by the end of it you’ll know what’s what.

If you just want to make a quick buck, sit by the phone in the hostel, always be first to answer it, and take every job offered, going to Honkers every two months til they won’t let you back in again.

I agree with hexuan. While there may be some good small schools out there, there are a minority. And if they’re that good, there will be low turnover and open positions will fill quickly. A benefit of the large chain schools is that they usually have training, lesson plans, and other materials (eg puppets for kids, supplement handouts for adults). They may not be the greatest but it’s usually better than nothing, which what some small schools provide. Starting with a year at a chain not only gives you experience and teaching ideas, but it also gives you a secure start while you’re making connections and finding that illusive ideal teaching environment. As hexuan said, branches vary widely in how they treat (help or hinder) their teachers.

Now about that illusive ideal teaching environment… Five years here, and I don’t know any “ideal” jobs for TEFL professionals, or even newbies. Anyone out there willing to share with us on this?

Just bumping this one up. I am still interested in hearing responses for newbies - should they sign up at a chain to get the first year in, or spend the first year “freelancing” and doing visa runs ? Would it be good advice to take an RSA/CELTA or Trinity College London course, or is that really worth the bother in the Taiwan context ?

Is it worth reading a book or two before arriving to teach ? If so which ones ?

I know one guy who was recruited offshore by Hess and arrived about a month ago. He seems happy with it, although by looking at the forums there seems to be very mixed views on Hess.

Another friend came back to Taiwan last week to look for a teaching job. He got into a cram school on the second day and he also seems happy. They are running around processing his ARC for him and they are providing all the teaching materials.

I did visa runs for years and got to the stage where I became paranoid about that visa office in HK - just hated the attitude there. Visa runs may be novel the first few times but eventually just become a burden.

just sign up at Hess or ELSI - I am slightly biased because I have worked at both these schools. ELSI could be better because u get to teach kids and adults but there is more prep time and lower pay there. On the other hand you can really learn to teach ‘properly’ at ESLI, whereas at other schools you just learn by trial and error.

If you like kids and u feel u might be in need of a very structured curriculum that tells u exactly what to do in each lesson then Hess is for u. After six months u might have had enough of that though.

It will save u tons of hassle just being with a big school. Like Hex said, u can use a year there to get yourslef settled and move onto other things after your contract is up.

Life at Hess or Elsi seems to depend on which branch u go to and who is there at the time. Could be a great experience or could be not so great. It all depends on your luck. Try to talk to someone who is currently working in a branch of Hess or ELSI and get their opinions. Try as well if u haven’t already.

Have to agree with Spack. For your first year here, working for one of the big chains is often the easier way to go. Sure there are good and bad things about working in large organizations, but it’s secure, you’re paid on time and they have “good” materials and training. There is the alternative of nipping off to HK, but what a hassle. If you are a litle nervous about coming over then be careful with the smaller schools. They vary immensely in quality, honesty and ability…

Wherever you go, there you are.