Cram school gives too few hours - what are my options?

I’m new in Taiwan. I signed a contract with a buxiban in Miaoli and rented an affordable apartment. I have a work permit and will be receiving my ARC soon.

The teaching is fine and so are the coworkers. The job on paper looked to be decent, 65-70k-ish.

But the problem is that the school isn’t giving me the 25-28 hours/week expected on paper. I’m getting 21.5/week… So I’m bracing for pay that’s barely over 50k, and that’s also before the 18% tax for new arrivals.

My first salary payment will be disappointing, and I’m considering my options. Of course I’ll be asking the school whether more teaching hours are a possibility.

  1. Is getting into online teaching hard? I’ve mostly done classroom teaching before, but language exchange chats have gone well so far. My weekends and evenings from 7:30 are free.

  2. Would my cram school permit me, if I were to negotiate with another school to teach in my off time? I saw another school offer higher hourly rate than my school on FB.

  3. If I do end up having to find a different job, is it easy to transfer work permit and ARC to another employer?

Find a filler school and get it added to your ARC and/or talk to the other foreigners in your area to see what they do. Your first year here will be a lot of finding out how to navigate the truly legal ways to work within the system that is the buxiban world. It’s your first year, don’t expect to buy all the options on a Tesla.


That’s good advice, thank you. Yes, I know the first year will be tight. And the buxiban I’m with isn’t too bad. I’ll figure out how I can supplement my income. I know some local foreigners on FB too.


Online teaching and private teaching outside of your work-permit issued employer(s) is prohibited.

Get married and switch to a JFRV based ARC and you’ll have open work rights.

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Keep in mind that the crams school owners/managers are not your friend and can never be trusted. You, as a foreigner, mean nothing to them other than being a foreign face they can use to sell classes. They will lie, cheat, steal and do what ever they have to to make more money. This place may not be that too bad, but you just started.

Many people supplement their income by teaching privately. Chances are that if you were to ask your cram school if it’s ok to teach elsewhere, they’ll say no because they are paranoid about any possible competition. It is possible to teach elsewhere legally, but you’ll have to do some paperwork for that. The question is whether the other school is willing to do that. Some will lie to you and tell you it’s not necessary. “Don’t worry”. Anytime you hear this phrase from a cram school owner or manager, you should worry. Rule # 1 is: never trust a word out of their mouths.

Keep on asking around and build up a clearer picture. Ask lots of questions.


Very often this is exactly the case.


I know we’ve spoken briefly before but I’ve been in Miaoli like 4 years so here’s my 2 cents for yours and everyone else’s benefit.

There is A LOT of work in Miaoli. A lot, a lot. But as most have said they will mostly all lie to you. You also have A LOT of negotiating power, they will guilt trip you into accepting subpar wages. Call their bluff, you will win.

Cram bosses in Miaoli cannot be bothered with ARCs at all and NONE will declare your wages legally unless you force them to. But they will do the paperwork if you force them.

The best gigs in Miaoli are the public schools but they’re all shit at advertising and you MUST have open work rights. They are also inconsistent, often for a few weeks here and there. Good pay, easy jobs though.

If you don’t have open work rights then it’s a bit harder but all the cram schools struggle to find people.

Eagle opposite Wenshan elementary schools rd is ALWAYS looking for teachers but the boss is a bit…… however she pays decently and helps newbies find apartments and such. I know a few people who work there and it’s not the best job ever, it’s probably not the worst.

I think Joy is often looking too.

The best cram school gig in Miaoli is probably the one I stumbled upon a few years ago and am still at… see my DM as I’m leaving Taiwan soon. But I don’t think they will give you the amount of hours you want.

You will always have to force the law to be applied to you, it is exhausting and one of the reasons I’ve decided to leave Taiwan.

If you signed a contract for X amount of hours, she has to pay you for those hours whether she gave them to you or not. I’ve met the owner of the school you’re at now. She’s just another liar and cheat, they’re hard to avoid here

There’s only about 6 native English speakers in Miaoli city so you have the upper hand in every negotiation you partake in. Use it to your advantage :blush:


Good points. But, there’s one addition. One lesson I learned over the years both here in Taiwan and in the U.S. is that anytime a business is constantly hiring, then there are most likely just one of two reasons for that. Either business is incredible and they’re expanding rapidly, or…you guessed it, there’s a bottom feeder running the company. When it comes to cram schools you probably can figure out which one of these is more common.

It all comes back to my original statement and that is to never trust a word out of their mouths. Be an asshole if you have to and fight for what you want. Let them know you’re looking elsewhere. My favorite tactic was to carry a few cram school business cards with me and “accidentally” drop one or two on the floor for them to see when going on an interview. They bullshit you, so you have to learn how to bullshit them.


You must have excellent sleight of hand to make that look convincing.

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Not really. Bring along a see through folder with some papers and a few cards in them. As you stand up with the folder in hand you make sure that the side with the cards is visible. Or, as you’re shuffling papers around, taking things out of your bag, putting things in it, somethings falls out. There are any numbers of opportunities to “share” some of this information with a cram school owner/manager. You can also politely mention that you have to “run” to another interview soon so your time is limited.

Remember that this is a game to them. They are going to bullshit you any way they can so you have to show up with your game face and be ready to play hardball. And, be creative…use your imagination with this stuff. Granted I probably feel a bit more comfortable with this because of previous employment experiences in the US.

I just thought of another very useful thing that people can do. Pick a school that you have no interest working for and just go in for an interview. See what kind of questions they’re going to ask you. Practice negotiating with them and see how far you can take it. Ask about health and labor insurance and see what their responses are going to be. Ask about guaranteed hours and what that means to them. I did this many years ago after I finished college and was looking for a job as a waiter but I had very little experience. I started going on interviews and taking application forms home with me to study. It made a big difference and I learned a lot.


Hello again everyone. I want to thank all the replies I received, it helped me to gain some perspective.
In the end, my pay turned out to be higher than I thought. Taiwanese handwriting is a disaster, I mistook a 3 for a 2, and it turns out my pay was a full 10k higher than I thought. Still not great, but it gives me the time to explore options for further teaching at a less hurried pace.

A new issue has started to rear its ugly head. First a bit of context: I’m a soft-spoken introvert, mild-mannered and polite when possible. And although I understand very limited Chinese, in practice I can’t understand what the kids are saying, like most foreign teachers. However, the daughter of the boss is half American, and I believe a lot of the assumptions in class are based off of her teaching experience. But she speaks fluent Chinese of course, so these assumptions don’t work for me or most FTs.

You know how children are. If there is the appearance of anything being unclear, they will take advantage. Especially the younger kids during short breaks, they mob me, and I need to fend off the touching hands. I have to, otherwise it’ll look on CCTV like I’m a foreigner who likes being touched below the belt by young kids. So I have to do something. At first I tried lifting them up, so their hands were reaching in the air instead of below my belt. Because they also wanted to be lifted up; I was becoming an amusement park ride! But the teachers warned me not to lift them up, it might hurt their arms. So, I resorted to redirecting their hands so they hug each other while I say “bao bao”. It has them in hysterics, because it becomes a ninja hugging game.

But all of this is basic self defense, because I can’t communicate in their language, and the ‘homeroom’ teacher just stands idly by doing nothing while I get attacked. It’s not that I particularly want to engage physically with these kids during breaks. And the Chinese teacher could easily establish order. And I also worry if one of these kids will get hurt.

One time, I was struggling to get them to pay attention because they kept coming up and trying to play with me. And then on the final minute of my lesson, the homeroom teacher says two sentences in Chinese, then all the kids go back to their seats, shut up and put their hands in the air. I was furious, but I stayed silent. :rage: They can totally maintain order, help me out, but they just sit in the corner doing paperwork or checking their phone.

Anyway, the boss has now started entering my classrooms, interrupting my classes, and criticising me right there. Last Monday a parent complained that their older child could draw straight lines at the same age, but now the younger child draws ugly lines. And this would mean I’m a bad English teacher, ruining the school’s reputation, something like that. My colleague speaks a bit of Chinese and heard what my boss said in Chinese, and there was angry profanity.
It’s true that we haven’t focused much on how well the lines follow the dotted line, but it showcases how the FT will be blamed whether or not it was our fault, or even a real problem (young kids often develop at different cognitive speeds, but the differences all even out when they’re teenagers). And honestly, do you really need an FT to practice drawing lines straight? I understand my role is heavy on entertainment and even babysitting, but still, it feels absurd. :weary:

Yesterday a child fell with a loud bang during a classroom game. She was ok, luckily, but shivers went down my spine. I need to know how liability is handled in classroom accidents, because these people absolutely will blame me personally if they can.

The boss and her daughter are becoming increasingly negative, and the job seems worse than anything I did in mainland China. There’s no quiet office, there’s no time to prepare sometimes, teachers don’t help maintaining order in classes with young children, notes on previous lessons are not well kept by the Chinese teachers, so even if I take material home, I just end up wasting my time, and I still have to improvise an 80min lesson.

Yesterday the class folder had no notes on the previous lesson (the boss’s daughter didn’t write anything down), so I ended up preparing a lesson based on the previous lesson note (wasted time again). Despite this, I could still improvise a decent lesson. She sat in my classroom and interrupted me 10 minutes before the end. She reminded me of a post-it that was in the folder (she didn’t write note of her lesson but she had made a post-it…?) which talked about a communication book. This book is half in Chinese, and it seems to be an evaluation book that gets filled in every now and then. It was never explained to me, but I still had to fill it in. :exploding_head:

“Right now in the classroom?” I asked. Yes, the kids needed to bring it home to their parents. So, I was sitting there doing 20 minutes of paperwork during a lesson (because paperwork is ok during a lesson in this school), and it ran late with kids getting impatient. It was utter nonsense, and appeared to be just to troll me and make me look bad in front of the children.

These people aren’t just trolling me, they’re actively showcasing my alleged incompetence. I have a lot of criticisms about the way the school operates and utilizes me, but I kept my mouth shut so far. :face_with_open_eyes_and_hand_over_mouth:

Maybe it’s a way of protecting themselves, by shitting on the new FT, they can deflect blame for the school’s problems on to me. But it’s too much stress and I’m not getting payed enough for that BS.
Or it could be a prelude to guilt-tripping to accept worse employment terms because “I’m so bad.” :-1:
Or I might be getting fired because they have another FT lined up? The last is very unlikely in Miaoli tbh, but can’t discount any possibility.

It all reminds me of my family motto: I always get the nutter. I’m mild-mannered, soft-spoken, introverted, not argumentative. Certain people (and I’m guessing cram school owners fit the profile) they take one look at my face and I can see them thinking: “I can mess with this guy. I want to mess with this guy. I’m totally gonna mess with this guy.” :smirk:

The funny part is, it’s very similar to how young kids behave naughty when they think they can get away with it. I expect better from adults, but some people take one look at my face and they can’t help themselves… :unamused:

Maybe I’m just venting. But any tips to prepare for a possible move to a different school will be taken on board. Thanks for reading!

I haven’t had the pleasure of a buxiban experience, but a few things come to mind:

Seems this was a wasted opportunity, why not spend it on lines?

Learn a few key phrases. Such as, now is my break time, go play with your homeroom teacher. Also, just go to the bathroom on your break

Have a list of fillers in your back pocket. Simon Says, I Spy, whatever. I’m sure there are websites full of ideas for kids at their level. Make sure you always have 2 or 3 ready to go, ones that work well can be recycled

I think, right now they feel like you need them. So, they can do this. So start looking for a new job, and quietly let them know. Keep your same level of hard work and commitment for now. If you do good work and they know you’re looking around and they don’t sweeten up, that’s ok youre leaving anyways. If they do sweeten up, that’s better until you go

Looking for work is a job itself. Get organized. Talk to other foreigners in your area, find out all the schools, have a nice resume you can pass out, show up to schools ready to demo some of those fillers, and if you can grab brochures and business cards that your homeroom teacher might notice on the desk (especially, leak the places you don’t want to go)

不可以 (cannot!)

Say loudly. Then more loudly. Hold up a finger. Then angrily. Stare them down and make it clear they are crossing a line. Try that?


I believe you accepted the job before arriving right? Unlucky.

This same woman offered me to teach her kindy classes about 3 months ago ago. But she was playing so many games I ended up just ignoring her and not responding to her. She incorrectly assumed that I needed her when in actual fact, she needed me. She wouldn’t provide me with a schedule, wouldn’t tell me if she would do payroll legally or not, refused to provide lesson plans, was pretending she had dozens of applicants when I knew otherwise, wouldn’t be clear about the pay. She lost me because of her games. She’s a liar and not to be trusted. Then she found you.

I fell into the trap of a different cram school owner acting all nice in an interview and then the first day gave me a lecture for wanting to get a drink of water between classes. I lasted 3 days and went back to the school I’m at now.

I would just start applying at other schools. Mine is hiring for my replacement but they’re already interested in someone else.

Otherwise the Eagle branch is probably the next best option if you need ARC sponsorship. Although the boss there is no walk in the park either and will walk all over you if you let her.

Hi again Justin, and thanks for your input. I’m still a bit undecided about the school because they did help me find a cheap apartment and I just got my first ARC through them. They do the bare minimum at least. So breaking with them without very good reason would seem unfair - but they’re hard at work giving me good reason.

There are no lesson plans to speak of. I’m winging it, and not because I can’t teach. Structure, communication and continuity is poor. And I get blamed for it, naturally.

But yes, I also experienced the fake carrot real stick bait-and-switch. They were exceedingly helpful in the beginning, but now I’m contractually bound to them, in their minds they “have me”, so the gloves come off. And the reality is, this cram school boss and her daughter are just plain nasty. I was married to a mainlander, so the angry Chinese woman routine (the proverbial loser shouting “you are loser!” at you) grinds my gears very quickly.

I think I’ll talk back assertively next time she interrupts my class and attempts to humiliate me. If I’m fired on the spot, my schedule is free for jobseeking!


Needing to lock yourself in a bathroom stall in order to get peace / actually have your break is a good sign one should have left the job yesterday. If it’s an unpaid break, leave the building. Even just walk outside and cross the street and stand there. If they try to stop you, leave anyway. It’s your break. They’re not paying you and therefore cannot tell you what to do.

If they’re little ones (up to maybe third grade), and you have a projector, meet the “Super Simple Songs” YouTube channel. Play a song 2-3 times all the way through, then pause and emphasize the key words. Try to get them to sing along as you play it 2-3 more times, but don’t force them. Then move on to another song. You can have a theme for the day (like “nature” or “counting”), or you can just jump around from whatever YouTube brings up. But stay on Super Simple Songs, as the other channels are stupid or product placement and do not provide meaningful input for the kids. After a few classes, you should be able to pick out key language structures / vocabulary to write on the board, or you can print the lyrics and do various call/response activities, but spend at least an hour per song before you expect any output from them. At minimum, the moving images on the screen will generally distract the problem kids. Is this healthy at all for their development? No, neither is cram school. Will the parents complain about them “watching TV for 1.5 hours”? What do you care? (In my experience, parents I stay in touch with of smaller children that I used to teach say their kids will still spontaneously burst out in English songs that I taught them years later, but will not willingly read English books or do any writing, which I also spent time patiently guiding them to do)


That’s what they would have you believe. You can quit, no problems really, I’ve done it several times. - not legal advice.

This will be used as a guilt trip if you quit. Don’t get sucked in. But they won’t do anything but guilt you. When you quit, demand the end of employment paper from them and immediately go to NIA to switch to the job seeking ARC. If they tell you they will cancel your ARC, they’re lying or stupid, they don’t have that power. There is a time limit to switch to the job seekers arc though


Hate to break it to you, but you’re gonna need to learn to be assertive. That doesn’t mean “be a jerk”. If you had a smile on your face, wipe it off. “No!” means “no” and if you have a serious face on, looking a child in the eyes, they will stop. Maybe not the first, second, or third time, but if you are consistently firm in your “no”, and you clearly aren’t joking, they will get the message. It’s not fun for them if the response the foreign teacher gives them to their behavior is a firm no — they want to play with you and they have never had boundaries established in their lives. It’s common to accept that you’re a dancing monkey, and I’ve noticed that a lot of guys who used to teach in China especially are used to making funny faces, making silly sounds, and goofing around when children “pretend” to hit them. They’ve probably had at least a few dozen other foreign guys who sent them the message that that kind of abuse was acceptable, so the only thing they know is “this is what we do on our breaks”. I used to be a pretty quiet person who didn’t like conflict, but being a teacher made me grow up real fast.

“stop!”, “no!”, “sit!”, “come!” (Single syllable commands) need to be learned and practiced. I have had other teachers, especially TW teachers, tell me it sounds like I’m talking to a dog. I tell them that is exactly how I talk to my cat. Yet I have a great relationship with both my cat and my students. Why? Because they’re both looking for direction. They don’t know what the limits are. They are looking around trying to figure out what they are. “Am I allowed to climb up on this table? No one said ‘down’, so it must be OK”. “Can I hit the teacher? The teacher is laughing, not saying ‘no’, so it must be OK”. Your job is to make sure they know what the limits are. Making a giant X with your hands/arms while saying “no” and looking stern means your Chinese teacher doesn’t need to be there to help you.


This very simple and very effective advice.

It also mean you can play with the kids (if you so wish) but they learn the limits pretty quickly

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Unless they need the income. Quiet quitting pays better :slightly_smiling_face:

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