First Foreign Teacher at a High School | What to Expect?

So I recently finished my first year of working in Taiwan. I taught English at a public middle school that had many years of experience working with foreigners and I was also not the only foreign teacher as there were several of us. Now for my next assignment, I will be teaching at a public high school that has NEVER had a foreign English teacher before and I will be the only one. I’d be very curious to hear what others have to say on what it’s like to be the first foreign teacher at a public school vs a public school that has a long history of working with foreigners. My recruiter told me that they might have higher expectations but if anyone out there can share their own experience, I’ll sincerely appreciate it.

Also, has anyone taught at both a public middle school and public high school before? Which did you like better?

Thank you!

Hard to say. Depends on the school and the teachers and who your main contact is as well as your personality and how well you get along with other teachers. Your Chinese ability probably will play a part too.

In saying that I’ve had all positions experiences at public schools

Yah, difficult to really know. It goes without saying that you will need to adapt and follow their way of doing things. To be fair to Taiwan, it hasn’t been an official democracy for yet 30 years. In any local work environment here, top down authority is still very prevalent. I’ve seen bosses literally shout down their workers like they were children. Then the workers come to work the next day like nothing happened. :man_shrugging: So, if you notice in school meetings, you’re the only one raising your hand, interacting, you might be missing a huge cultural undercurrent. Your co-workers very well might be playing the long game to get that retirement…plus their teaching job is increasing hard to come by with Taiwan’s diminishing population. They are going to take a much more conservative approach to how they present and position themselves at work, and they aren’t going to want to rock the boat. You might not share any of their long term goals or perspective. So, it would be prudent to keep that in mind. But hey, that’s my two cents…


you will set the standard for all those foreigners who follow in your footsteps there in everything the school employees see
such pressure
can you handle it?

I often find myself reminding myself of this.



If I suck, all others that come after me will be such a nice surprise for them. If I kill it, well I kill it and the suckers after me will immortalize me as a legend.


You might have to create brand new lesson plans, tests, projects, maybe even plan the entire ESL curriculum.

Has the recruiter mentioned anything about that?

cluckin_bell makes a good point. It’s quite likely that a lot of the initial work will fall upon your shoulders. I was the first foreign teacher ever at an elementary school in Taipei with the God-awful English Village program. They hired another foreign teacher 2-3 months after me and we had to put together the entire curriculum for the English Village program at the school. It was a lot of work and I was a really inexperienced teacher at that time and it felt like a huge burden at times. I felt that they pay was not worth it as the future teachers could just step in and do the lessons that had already been created, I still feel that I should have been paid upwards of 100k per month for what I had to do. They were even asking us to do ridiculous things like design stuff for the “scenario classrooms.” My co-worker did some of it because she had some skills making vector graphics but I pretty much told them “I’m a teacher, not a graphic designer, if you want something made and done well, hire a professional.”

Also I would expect them to stick to the contract very strictly and literally. I was not allowed to go until 5pm because that’s what the contract states, even though most public schools will let you cut out at 4pm. Also, I had to use personal time to go to immigration which I tried to argue was work related so I shouldn’t have had to do that. But I believe now that there is special leave for immigration and taxes at public schools so you don’t have to burn your personal time for that stuff.

I was also not allowed to go home with my flight reimbursement until after the contract was completed on July 31, even though I used up all my remaining vacation days from the middle of July until then. Their thinking was that the flight reimbursement is only for people who finish their contracts, which is July 31. However, other public schools that I worked with after let me go before July 31, as long as I was using my vacation/personal time up until then.

If you can find another school to work at that has had foreign teachers before, I would say go ahead and do that. You don’t really want to walk into this situation. Even if you are an experienced teacher, it will still be a ton of work to develop all the lessons and materials for them. I spent many many hours making detailed lesson plans, printing and laminating flashcards, creating audio/visual testing materials, and even time going out to buy stuff (I was reimbursed for it, for the record).

It was particularly brutal for me because I had less than 2 years of experience and didn’t have any real education background at that time, except for a substitute teaching license. I could handle it a lot better today but I would still be extremely wary of being the first foreign teacher at a school again and would need to have some other things going for it to be worth my while. I guess looking back it was a learning experience. but perhaps you can just get ChatGPT or something to write out tedious lesson plans for you, which wasn’t possible a decade ago, so maybe it won’t be so bad.


Interesting story of teaching in Taiwan Mountain town to later become a Uni dean in KY-USA
Q&A with new associate dean for student success, engagement (

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I’m sorry but… it is very rare for a school in Taiwan to actually fire a teacher… usually they will stick it out the whole contract and not re-sign you to save face…

You would have to put an actual effort in wanting to be fired in order to be fired…

Just reading up on this thread again, and responding to myself, lol… I said that “it’s quite likely that a lot of the initial work will fall upon your shoulders.” Scratch that, nearly all the initial work WILL fall upon your shoulders.

Also I remember meeting a guy who works at a public high school in Taipei a new program and the first foreign teacher at the school. They also were really strict about the contract stuff and made him stay until 5pm. That was a couple years ago and I’m not in touch with the guy, so I don’t know if they loosened up or what.

Pioneering is not for everyone, but an excellent life experience.

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Yeah isn’t it funny people sign contracts then are expected to follow those contracts. :joy:

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it’s one hour and it makes no difference. everyone would rather go home and it’s not like you’re busy most of the time you’re not teaching at a public school anyway. most schools are cool enough to let it slide, but some places are just officious little pricks.

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When I was a young man, if you haven’t reached the end of your work day but aren’t busy, then you ask your supervisor for more work.

I’m glad we no longer live in those times.

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@housecat , this article above may be of interest to you/your son when wondering about mandatory military service.

While I was serving [in the military], the Ministry of Education … looked for people that fit their needs. And they were like, “You can speak English, so we want to send you to one of these really remote mountain villages—it’s all tea farmers—to teach English to the kids.”

So I went to boot camp, special training, and they shipped me off to this really remote mountain school. It was K-5, elementary school, each grade only had one class.

I was the first teacher at my school. I think there was a lot of work but actually I enjoyed it a lot. There were definitely growing pains at the beginning but they loosened up a lot after the first few months. They were flexible enough on the contract and always fair with making adjustments. I had to stay until 5 but that’s mostly because I had classes from 4-5 as they had scheduled English classes to fill that after school slot. To compensate, they let me come in at 9 (most teachers came in at 8).

I worked through summers but they let me set up the class schedule before the end of the semester. I used summer to prepare materials and design the next year classes. I also taught some summer camps as well. I could fly home as early as my leave allowed. They even let me use some unpaid leave in the summer so I could spend more time with my family.

Also the contract said 22 teaching hours but they decided to include sessions where I met with local teachers to help them improve their bilingual lessons as teaching hours which was a huge relief to me. It ended being closer to 15 hours in the classroom. I was able to finish all my work within the work hours everyday including grading tasks.

Anyway in my experience it’s way easier than teaching back in America. The workload in America was really high and really stressful especially with the added responsibility of needing to be in contact with parents.

Schools in Taiwan don’t expect teachers to be in contact with the parents?

I offered but most parents couldn’t speak English or they were too afraid to speak English. In Taiwan it’s mostly the homeroom teachers job to handle parents

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Looks like title inflation is out of control in the US.

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