Just got canned from a private Jr. High. WTF?!

This is mostly a rant, I apologize in advance. I realize all of these problems are probably a result of me and my own shortcomings (I’m idealistic and serious), not the system. But just to see what it yields, I’m going to turn off this loftiness and be a selfish fingerpointer. :smiling_imp:

What kills me about this whole scenario is that I’ve seen 3 part-time foreign teachers quit my school, much to the chagrin of the administration. But the one full-timer who is willing to stay, they don’t want! :unamused: And wait, it gets better… all of this at a time when foreigners are fleeing the country, and most places can’t find one! You bet your tush my pride is hurting.

So here’s the story. I was recently called in to the office of the Chairman of the Board at the private Jr. High where I teach, and was told in subtle terms that I would not be needed after this July. Totally sudden and unexpected. This hit me like a bomb. It was a secure job, well-paying, no tykes to babysit, no taxes, and a good name. At the beginning of this semester, this same dude hinted that he’d like me to stay as many years as possible. Quite a u-turn, huh?

Chinese vagueness gets to me sometimes. The chairman said I didn’t meet his expectations, and would not elaborate. This is after I busted by butt for this place. I DESIGNED A CURRICULUM for English conversation singlehandedly, for chrissakes! I was tough in the classroom, and always had an uphill battle to be taken seriously by the students as a “real teacher”, but fight that battle I did. I fostered an interactive classroom environment with give and take, something unheard of before I made an appearance there. I graded 60 essays a week, complete with as much as a page of comments and corrections each!!!

I did explode at classes that were chock full of jerks sometimes. I was visibly angry and frustrated sometimes in the teachers’ office when a lesson I gave was poorly received. I put my foot down a few times to the administration when they asked me to do something I felt was unreasonable. I would not let them show me off on a TV commercial. I would not let them house another [Taiwanese] teacher with me, something they never told me I was obligated to do. I felt I had racked up enough good karma by my sincere and pithy work in the classroom to afford to not bend on these things.

Wrong. Truth is, as a low man on the totem pole, my hard work did not pay for my relaxed and laid-back manner in dealing with my fellow teachers and the administration. The school probably wanted somebody conservative and shallow. Collared shirt, plastic smile, and crisp "yessir"s to those in power, but a game-player devoid of substance in the classroom.

But at the same time, the administration did little to earn MY respect either. They gave me ZILCH in the way of teaching materials, explanation of the Taiwanese school system and where the kids are at, and guidance in planning the curriculum. They gave me 40-50 kids a class, each class meeting only once a week. Conversation? Ha! They never hesitated to badger me for grades FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL STUDENT 3 times a semester, though!

If the Taiwanese government wants to invite a whole whole slew of fresh-faced laowai to teach in Jr. highs around the country, they had better give them plenty of training, and plenty of resources to fall back on. Otherwise, this money could be better spent.

Bad luck, Wandering Dave. It sounds like you’ve been very hard done by.

Perhaps you got on the wrong side of somebody with connections and they stabbed you in the back. Unfortunately, you’ll probably never be able to extract any truthful explanation as to why they’ve decided to dispense with your services.

I hope the cloud will have a silver lining and you’ll find something much better to replace what you’ve lost. At least this is a pretty good time to be in the market for a teaching job. I wish you all the best.

Unfortunately, outbursts are frowned upon, no matter how justified you may think you were in giving those annoying little pricks a bollocking.

Was it a private school?

Yes, it is a private school. A very renowned and conservative one out in Chungho, known for tough, almost military-style, discipline. The place will remain nameless for now (hint: it’s a fairly common Japanese surname), but suffice to say, if anybody lands themself a job at a private Jr. High in Chungho, with a portly sliver-haired man as their boss, they should ask if they’re replacing a teacher named David, and if so, watch out.

I dunno, Alleycat. Corporal punishment is the norm at my school. It’s used widely. I have heard other teachers explode and curse at uncooperative classes too, so I’m hardly the only one. But it seems to me I was held to different standards. I was expressly forbidden to hit or touch a student in any way (not that I would have).

At my school, it seems that most students are kept in their place by fear, not respect, let alone any sense of moral decency. They had nothing to fear from me (though I have a loud and scary voice when I’m angered, especially for a scrawny guy 170cm tall!), so they had no motivation not to cram their Confucius, read their Dragonball Z, or just shoot the breeze in my once a week “Conversation class”. If I asked a kid to apologize to me for being an ass, he’d look at the floor and mutter something in Taiyu that would make his buddies crack up.

I had a million carrots, when all I needed was one stick.

In that case, all else counts as naught. In fact, to them you were unreasonable, troublesome and unharmonious – all of which are fatal flaws.

Yep, I totally agree with Sandman on this one. All of the work you mentioned (“DESIGNED A CURRICULUM” (your caps), etc. etc) doesn’t seem to be as important as trying to “get along” with the administration.

Sorry to hear this bad news. I wish you the best of luck finding something even better than this old job.

Dave, I’ve got a nice job for you to have a look at if you’re interested. Go to the jobs listings and look for my name under author.

Sorry to hear about that. I suspect there are similar stories about!

I’ve been working in one ‘school’ (nameless, to protect the guilty)… which this semester fired its part-time teachers who weren’t upto par. While it wasn’t as serious as losing a full-time job, it really made me think about staying there myself. The teachers they fired were long-timers as teachers, including one who had been a full-time previously. Moreover, when they hired three part-timers last year (including me) they promised one of us a full-time job, but it ‘evaporated’ with ‘budget cuts’ etc, etc. What they didn’t say to anyone, ANYONE, was that there was an ongoing staff review.

While those teachers may or may not be upto par (truly don’t know), I was surprised that they wouldn’t try to retrain, remotivate, reeducate, or re-something, those teachers. Makes one feel QUITE expendable.

Endemic problems within all levels of academia really threaten the whole system. While mis-managment at Hoping Hospital comes into the light through investigation, who will investigate the mis-management at schools, colleges and universities throughout this land when there is no educational equivalent of SARS?


Good thoughts folks. I know the fact that I wouldn’t let them house another teacher with me was a wound that never healed, despite the fact that this happened a year ago. There were originally 2 teachers coming over to teach English. The school rented one family-sized apartment for the both of us. This other dude bailed before he even got to Taiwan.

So after promising to provide my housing for free, the school gave me an ultimatum disguised as a question: do you want us to put a Taiwanese teacher in with you, who’s from Taoyuan and needs a place a bit closer, or do we take NT$5000 from your salary every month?

As if I had any say in the other guy not coming over to teach. Why should I take the fall for that? I’m not going to let them put a local guy I’ve never met before in my house. I don’t want to mix school life and home life.

I’ll tell you why. Because the school saw me as the low guy on the totem pole, and therefore the one who needed to do most of the bending if things were going to work out smoothly for them. I’d have to put in many more years at the place, and endure a lot more things like this, before I’d have the bargaining power to say no.

At this stage, it’s no surprise why Westerners don’t enjoy working for Asians. The whole concept of employee’s rights and terms of employment are absent here. It’s all about getting pissed on until you’ve been there long enough to have someone else below you to piss on in kind.

That’s got to really hurt. Unfortunately all schools I have ever come across (and I did teach for a month at Jing Mei (State) Girl’s High School :smiley: ) simply want a token gweilo/big nose/lao wai to stand in the classroom and do exactly what they are told. To the letter. And be grateful for it. This obviously goes against the grain for anyone trying to take himself in any way seriously as a teacher.

The real trick in Taiwan is to allow students to learn despite all the obstacles put in the way by management. However, fighting against student apathy as well as counter-productive management can often be too much to bear. I don’t know how to do it. Go along with what management want you to do and the students learn nothing. Not much job satisfaction there. Try and use your own nouse to control and motivate the class, and create an environment where at least some learning might take place, and you run the risk of losing your job.

I have heard plenty of stories of teachers getting sacked for not toeing the party line 100%.

Management: “We’d like to teach the kids a cursive form of an ancient Siberian phonetic script - can you start on Monday ? Oh by the way, we need you to do it in pink pyjamas.”

Teacher A: “Sure thing, that sounds great !”

Teacher B: “Don’t be daft!” (Fired)

Sorry to say you will probably approach your next job a little bit more bitter, and plenty more cynical. What a shame it has to be that way.

And for those like Wolf who enjoy lambasting teachers (!) - how often are teachers here actually allowed to do any real teaching !!? I know quite a few people who know quite a bit about second language acquisition, and modern teaching methodology, but it will be a cold day in hell before management ever allows such heresy into the Taiwanese classroom !

“It’s better to be a chicken’s head than a cow’s tail.”

Well, I’ve heard all the gossip as to why I was let go, and here’s the verdict: I was let go because I was not at my desk during all non-class time, 5 days a week 8AM-4:30PM. I devoted too little time and energy to my students during out of class time, they say.

I feel like the biggest ass on the face of the earth. That’s all I had to do was sit there, and be present, 8AM to 4:30. They just wanted a white American presence in the teacher’s office, who could be consulted by teachers and students alike when I wasn’t in the classroom. One of my colleagues put it this way: “They paid you a full timer’s wage. Is it really that unreasonable for them to ask you to be in attendance full time?” The administration did hint (never said it articulately), that this is what they wanted, on several occasions. Look who’s the ass in the end.

But here’s the thing: I had little incentive to remain there full time. I didn’t feel particularly needed or vital. Other teachers didn’t talk to me much at all, and students rarely sought me out or needed me for anything. I felt very alientated, and was given no support in the way of planning or structuring my classes (other teachers were all busy as hell running their own respective courses), so I didn’t feel I owed anyone anything.

The school gave me a house RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from the school. I naturally took this opportunity to go home and take naps or do my schoolwork in the privacy of my own home whenever possible. Especially since my classes were often such an ordeal, I relished any chance to be away from the place. If I had class at 10AM, why be there at 8? To sit there with my thumb up my cranky sleepy ass for 2 hours? I could get up at 9:45 and still be good to go. It didn’t help that I am most definitely not a morning person.

There’s a physics teacher at my school too. He lives right near the school too, and does much the same as I do. He’s been doing it for years, and they haven’t let him go.

At this point, I see where I went wrong, and I feel like the most clueless retard for not seeing that following the rules was more important than following my own made-up definition of “doing a good job”. But is the school yet vindicated? I feel not. If I felt I’d had a more active role in the place, and wasn’t just left hanging when it came to organizing my classroom activities, I think I could’ve been persuaded to cooperate with the nitty gritty attendance rules.

I guess the bottom line is that the school and me were a poor fit, and I have a lot to learn about getting along with people in a structured work setting. This is my first “real world” job, after all. I’ll just have to leave it at that and move on.

Oh yes, the bum-on-the-seat bit. That’s tremendously important here - often far more important than what you actually do or don’t do while your bum is or isn’t on the seat.

Dear Wandering Dave,

Don’t take it so hard, some jobs work out and others don’t. The whole “you weren’t at your desk” thing is just a lame excuse. I can assure you that when you get your next job that you’ll be asking yourself how you could of worked at such a hole.

I’ve been fired. I took it personally then. Now I don’t think I would. Live and learn and maybe we can hook up for Burmese sometime.


Wanderingdave, I gave your post a + rating because it was so refreshing to read about someone who actually took the time to reflect and who then came up with a balanced and rational explanation for what happened, rather than take the usual and much easier “what a crappy bunch of wankers they are” approach (although I’m sure those thoughts are not far from your mind).
You say it was your first “real job,” so judging by your last post, I’d say you’ll do just fine now that you’ve had your baptism of fire! Your analysis of the situation shows that you have the ability to learn from experience rather than simply gathering an ever-growing chip on your shoulder as so many others seem to do here. Best of luck to you.


I would guess that the attendance issue was the real deal breaker. From what I hear, private schools expect their teachers to be in the office during school hours. Not having class is not an excuse not to be physically present. I’ll bet your coworkers complained about the “special privileges” you were getting. Your expectations and your employer’s expectations differed and both sides failed to communicate about it. You should have made an effort to get to know the local teachers so that you could have gotten the inside word on how the administration viewed you.

If you really want to keep this job, you might consider going back to the principal and explaining that (a) you did not understand that you needed to be present during school hours and that (b) you would be willing to do so in the future. This would be a sign of “sincerity” (cheng2yi4) on your part and might help you get your job back.

On the other hand, why bother? There are a million teaching jobs out there and you’ll probably find something better if you look around. In the Shuanghe area, you might try Yucai or Zhulin, both of which hire foreign teachers. Also, now that foreigners can teach in public schools, why not make a list of schools in an area that you would like to live in and start visiting them with your resume in hand. You will have better luck though if you wear a collared shirt and (horrors) a tie.

I worked at a bushiban once where they wanted me to sit in the front behind the window to show there was a foreigner there when I wasn’t teaching, but they were very explicit about that and the reasons behind it. I don’t really buy your school’s excuse. But don’t worry man, there’s tons of other jobs out there. I’ve been through lots of mysterious (and not so mysterious) firings and it doesn’t really mean anything as far as your future prospects are concerned.

Be positive!

When you go for the next job, tell them all the good things you did, the changes, the best lesson plans, etc. Be upbeat. Don’t be too immodest (that’s another sin, here).

When asked why you left your previous job, tell them you learned a great deal from the experience, (can anyone be specific about what he should say?)

Don’t worry too much. There are other jobs out there and they get better the longer you are here. At least they didn’t fire you by text message, like one boss in the UK did!


Some random additions to this thread:

First, a wholehearted agreement on Sandman

Wandering Dave,

I think it is very important, whether your job is teaching, editing, or any other job where you bring some form of expertise that the local staff doesn’t have, to make yourself accessible to your colleagues, and as a teacher, to your students.

Being there doesn’t necessarily make you accessible either… you must have what is deemed here a good attitude so that people will actually enjoy seeking you out for assistance (i.e., they will not be intimidated).

I’m not actually directing this post at you, because I don’t know what your attitude was … I believe that you did work very dilligently at what you thought your job duties were. But just remember, being accessible is extremely important, in my experience, to holding a job here as a foreign staff member.

Best of luck in your next job.