First Week Teaching ESL experience


I started teaching part-time in a chain school buxiban last week, and I thought I might share my experience. This is only partly a rant because the experience does have its positive side.

I teach at two branches, with one hour shifts four days a week. It takes me an hour to get there by bus and I need to prepare the lessons in my own time, so the 600/hour pay doesn’t amount to much.

At one school everything’s going well. The teaching assistant warned me before my first class (my first ever ESL class, in fact) that these 12 year old students were especially naughty. Sure enough, there would’ve been no way of keeping the little monkeys engaged if I’d taught according to the dull texts with many infrequently used words in the assigned textbook. After 5 minutes trying I saw that they were bored and learning nothing by being forced to read a text about London they couldn’t understand, so I jettisoned the textbook and they learnt about Henry the Eighth’s wives and other gory subjects. It was fun to behead my teaching assistant, and one boy said that if he were the king, he’d put his unwanted wives through the cogs in Big Ben’s clock and turn them into pancakes. It’s pretty gratifying to see the kids showing genuine curiosity about history or about the seasons/the tilting of the Earth/human-alien breeding etc while practicing useful vocabulary and sentence patterns.

The class at the other school is simply awful. It’s normal for kids to be naughty and also to test a teacher’s boundaries, but these kids are just nasty and unsocialized, eating fried chicken in class, swearing, bullying, kicking and punching one another. They’re considered an “advanced” class but in reality their English level is zero: they know a few words but don’t understand basic questions. They refuse to engage in any games or answer any questions in English. The worst thing is that there are three kids stuck in the class who are actually eager to learn/play fun games and who are obviously disgusted by the others. One little girl even thanked me for the lesson.

I of course know that buxibans are just businesses that rip off gullible parents too lazy or ignorant to properly research their child’s education. I also know that the mentality that sustains the buxiban industry in Taiwan pervades all aspects of Taiwanese culture. And to be fair, even in Western countries textbook and teacher language classes are still popular, even though it’s a terribly ineffective method of learning a foreign language. I suppose I can only teach as effectively as I can within a flawed language learning framework. It’s encouraging to see that many Taiwanese kids are still curious about things, that their minds and spirits haven’t (yet) been corroded by Taiwanese society and its system of education. I’m sure many foreign teachers in Taiwan are like me, aware that much more effective learning methods could be implemented, but realizing that parents and business owners aren’t interested in that. At least in my case I have freedom to teach for my hour as I see fit: the teaching assistants leave everything including the discipline to me and they’re rarely in the classroom.


Be careful with the legality of teaching two locations.


I have an ARC independent of any employer, so surely I can work legally in whatever schools I want?


By marriage? Then yes


Seems like you’re doing okay at the first school. Ditch the second school and find something else to fill those hours. It doesn’t sound like it’s worth the money.


Your suggestion makes sense. Ill give the second school one more try this week, but unless there’s some significant improvement Ill tell the owner that Im just not effective working at the second school. My motivation in teaching isnt primarily the pay, more the opportunity to have some positive interaction with Taiwanese society (and teaching at the first school does give me that)


Persevere, and remember , the first 10 years in Taiwan are the worst. Gets better after that.:grinning:


Geez, ten years in Taiwan, that’s a scary thought :slight_smile:


You could do much worse than Taiwan, good grief. Plusses here far outweigh the minuses in my experience.

Ten years here and you’d be lucky, I’m thinking.


12 year olds are the worst. Keep at it.

I’ve been in classes like you’ve described and walked away before I lost my shit. One thing I’ve heard works with monsters is to write all of the student’s names on the board and give them a tick/mark/whatever whenever they act up. Let them know that you will be showing their parents how they are the worst actors in class by taking a picture with your phone of that list. Otherwise, you’re the problem not little Koko.


Agree with your idea.
Another one of my favorites was to tell the problem kid(s) that they were staying after for 30 minutes. The kid said “you can’t do that my mom’s picking me up at the end of class”
I said OK, she can come up and I’ll let her know why her son is staying late. He shut up.

While controversial, I think some of these kids are lacking a good beating at home so they have zero respect for authority. At the least the parents should have some control but they don’t care and let little Johnny terrorize others.


I suppose the best attitude (an attitude Im trying to cultivate) is just to focus on the positives, whether youre staying for one year or ten. After all we’re all staying here voluntarily, no one’s forcing us to stay. 既来之则安之。Since we’re here we may as make the best of it. :slight_smile:

That’s exactly what I ended up doing when I saw games etc weren’t working. I wrote their names on the board and gave them a duck egg zero if they didn’t answer correctly. It did help discipline, but teaching like that just ruins the atmosphere and spoils things for the kids that actually want to learn.

It’s a shame that there arent cameras in all of the classrooms. I wouldnt want to be put in the position of breaking up a fight between kids when Im the only supervisor in the room

@dan2006 In some cases at least, some of the worst kids are being physically disciplined at home. They have limits in their behavior towards their father or towards certain teachers at their school. They’re also motivated to pass tests. The problem is that these kids know that disrespecting buxiban teachers, bullying other kids, behaving antisocially in public etc wont get them a beating


What happens from year year 6-10 that is worse than 11-14?



Saved my bacon my first couple of months “teaching”. Little shitbergers got together and said they’d left their books at home. I saw one of them with an open book bag and there was the book poking out the top. I reached down to pull out the little prince’s book and the whole class started screaming and crying. Bossman came running upstairs, talked to the kids and gave me a big show tongue lashing, in front of the kids. I was informed the parents were considering litigation. They watched the video from the class and I didn’t hear boo. No apology, no change in attitude. I fucked off to the adult world and haven’t looked back.


nice kids eh


Enjoy that part that is a huge bonus



In my house it was different.
The ‘beatings’ had to be for something serious, such as causing trouble in class. If a teacher had to call home or I was found to be picking on other kids that would deserve a beating. Stealing as well.
I knew the boundries and didn’t push them. If Anyone in authority was disrespected by me I knew I was in trouble. Poor marks or not cleaning my room didn’t cause the issue.

Parents that hit kids to vent anger or hitting to cause bruising are poor excuses for parents. Also when I say beating I’m exaggerating by a lot :).

However I bet the kids weren’t as mouthy to Taiwanese buxiban teachers 10 years ago when they kept canes in class in public view. At a high school in Kaohsiung they keep a few antique ones in the office for historic reasons. There was a forced respect for teachers in the past.

Foreign teachers here the kids don’t give a single f about their behavior. Its more fun when the little s***s join forces to take down the teacher such as one will run and while you catch him the other runs. I did this for a few weeks when I arrived then decided many years ago screw this , not interested in teaching kids with major behavioural issues, and the boss only cares about money and will side with the parents over you every time.


What cheeky little buggers. Maybe the teachers should go in holstered up with net guns :smile:


I wouldn’t be adverse to that.
Or tasers.

I have high respect for people that have the patience to teach kids in today’s environment.