The responsiblities of Taiwan teachers

So what exactly are the responsibilities of a Taiwan teacher? My mother has been a teacher for my who life, so I know the amount of work and dedication a “real” teacher needs. But that kind of dedication just doesn’t seem to fly here.

I just want to know what you guys think. I feel like here, my job should consist of me coming to class on time, presenting the material given to me in the best fashion possible and going home (a very general description). This really boils down to some gripes I have about my currrent school, so I’ll get to those.

When told one of my students parents were upset that their kid didn’t know how to say “police officer” (and some other vocabulary). My response to my director was “What ever you give me to teach, I’ll teach” and she said something like it’s my job to come up with material for class. I disagree.

The second gripe I have is writing a weekly teaching plan that describes what I’m teaching for the week. If the curriculum was good, I could base it off of that, but since it sucks, it a real pain trying to come up with stuff every week (plus I don’t think it’s my job to do it). I’m sure I have more gripes, but those are the ones that bother me most (right now :wink: ). I’m I being difficult about situations like this, or are my feelings correct in that those are not my responsibilities as a teacher here.

This is/was my first job here and I’ve now learned that first and formost is keeping your management happy, not teaching. But I feel bad saying that, I think I’ve gotten pretty good at the “teaching” part (and the school recognizes that), but the meaningless paper work pisses me off.

I feel that I may be turning into one of those foreign teachers people don’t like because he thinks he’s the chronic (bomb, really good, etc.) I don’t want that to happen. I just want to understand when a school is crossing a line as far as what it asks me to do. I know it boils down to keeping them happy enough not to fire you (which I happen to be good at), but that too feels like a suck attitude to have about my place of employment.

I’ve been posting and reading here for a while and I feel the general answer is to just do what they say, but I have a problem doing dumb things (well things I think are dumb anyway). [See, there’s that smart ass newbie attitude again] I just want to be a good teacher. I think what it means to be a good teacher here is just presenting material, not making it.

My mom is what I would call a “real” teacher. She has to make her own lesson plans, grade papers, make tests, etc. But she gets to choose a book to use, her pay is nicer, people respect her ideas, she works at a school that isn’t in the business of making money, etc. She has her complaints too (many).


Maybe it’s just hard being a teacher, no matter where you go.

Thanks for leanding your ear (eye).

I am sure that I will not be the only reader confused by your post. What I don

Let me give you some advice because I was in a similiar situation like yourself when I first came here.

Lesson plans should be a must for any new teacher. There must be a format to class and someone to show you that format. The children get more order in their classroom which they need. They can learn that say Tuesday has a 40 minute ABC class. The most important part is to setup a fixed but flexible system to teach everything you have to teach. I usually spend the first 3 weeks setting it up and after that it’s a 10 minute a week exercise. It is also something parents want to know exists. You’re problem like mine was figuring out in all the senseless paperwork, that Chinese bueracracy culture thrives on, what constitutes important from useless.

I would say that it is your job to present new material for class. It can be a VCD, pictures, or something new that adds something to there experience. I’ve brought in a praying mantis, frogs, a tadpole(that we watched turn into a frog. they learned about grow, tadpole, arms legs). I also print pictures for them to see, touch and paste on the walls in class. The internet and cheap $69NT stores are good for these things. I also use Kazaa and my kindergarten classes loved Wallace and Grommit. Ask about a reimbursement for outside materials.

You know that keeping management happy is key. I find that it’s important in any job, just stuck out for me here in Taiwan. It is kety to manage their expectations and view of you. In other words you should under promise and over deliver.

I know you’re a nice guy and not some arrogant FNG. I think the lack of a clear leader for the foreign teachers at your school might be and issue. Sometimes you need someone to explain the importance of some things in your own language. I was lucky that I had a forgiving and experienced “real” head teacher. I was truly terrible at first.

See you at game club Sunday

[quote=“brian”]I am sure that I will not be the only reader confused by your post. What I don

[quote]I went to a chain school (for an interview) and saw how there day was laid out. Very clear and straight forward. I’d just be there to present the material.

Miltownkid, it depends on how much you want to get out of it. I work at a chain school, and yeah, my lesson plans are presented to me at the beginning of the semester, and the teaching materials are in the class at the start of the day. Great! But that doesn’t mean there isn’t planning and thought put into each and every lesson taught.

Sometimes the lessons suck and tweaking is a must. Sometimes the materials are pitiful, and an effort must be made to compensate. Sometimes it’s neccessary to improvise, entertain, and work around what you’ve got, instead of with it.

It’s easier to go through the motions of teaching at a chain school, but that doesn’t mean it’s what you should do. I find the more I put into my teaching, the more I get out of it, regardless of where or who I’m teaching.


Teaching, even in Taiwan, is a job. I think you need to have some degree of professionalism about what you do. But of course everyone has bad days. I don’t like the term “real teacher”. I don’t think it has a lot of meaning.

What the schools need to understand is that foreign teachers here are working for the money - people like me rely on the salary to live on. Very few are lucky to have a private income to fall back on. I especially dislike schools attempting to blackmail teachers into doing something for free by using language such as “in the interests of the students” as if the buxiban were a charity. On the other hand, I can work very well with managers who admit certain stuff is a bit beyond what is reasonable, but “if you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours”. And I tend to get very heavily sarcastic when marketing or recruitment failures (or even students’ parents’ moving house) is blamed on teachers.

Whilst owners and managers can be as cynical as they want, “teachers” (I prefer the term “instructors”) are often expected to be paragons of altruism. Pure humbug. We’re all in the game to make money. If you don’t get some satisfaction from seeing kids learn to express themselves in English, however, you’re in the wrong game. Confucious has a lot to answer for.

Let managers manage, and teachers teach. If the students actually manage to learn too, that’s enough. I find classroom time enjoyable enough to offset the incredible amount of hypocrisy and bureaucracy I deal with outside the classroom. Just about.

I got cream pied today. Does that count as real teaching?

Actually it was all part of a very organised summer school curriculum that has been a joy to teach. Having a clear structure, clearly defined objectives, and someone to turn to who actually knows something about the job is hugely important.

I can sympathise with miltownkid about the sheer awfulness of being thrust into a classroom full of expectant kids without the support to do your job properly. Sure, you have a responsibility to present (and expand upon) the material given in the best way possible but there are plenty of people out there who will happily leave you to create a course for them rather than pay for something produced by someone who knows what they are doing.

I’ve worked for a few people who didn’t seem to take a lot of interest at all in the actual teaching english part of the english teaching business. One school owner didn’t even speak english - honestly, not a word - but still insisted that I use the crap books that she had picked up cheap somewhere. (I’ve also worked at high schools that didn’t really know what they expected of their foreign teachers, which is a whole different kettle of fish.)

I was able to ‘wing it’ well enough to avoid criticism, but I don’t think I was being paid adequately to do that. Buy a decent book, or pay me the money you would have spent on a decent book, but don’t expect me to work for hours at home designing your bloody course for free. That’s my attitude these days and I’m sticking with it.

More recently I’ve found a few great gigs with good books and enough flexibility to introduce outside material too. I even did some company classes for Hess recently, and have to venture the unfashionable opinion that they are great people to work for. For a newbie teacher I think that a chain school is the best way to start your career - wish I’d done that when I came here.

Or get yourself into a high school. I enjoy that the most because it’s the best of all worlds.

I have worked at a few schools in the short time I’ve been here and they all sucked…untill now.

What works for me. Talking to the boss about what materials the kids should have or can handle. Speaking to my co-teachers about individual student’s strengths and weaknesses, teaching ENGLISH not just holding up flashcards and saying what is it?).

I mentioned a few activities that work for me in an other thread.

It sounds like you haven’t found the “right match for you”. There are so many schools. If you want to be a “real teacher” maybe you should look hard for a school that is looking hard for a “real teacher”.


Why come to a country like this and take anything less than what you want?

I suppose it depends on just how bad the school’s curriculum and management is and how much you hate working with them. Some are bad but tolerable. You have to tweak a lot and feign respect and accept that maybe the students won’t progress they way they could in a better program. Other times, the program/manager just drives you nuts and it may be best to get out and save yourself the strife. It takes a lot of looking and a bit of luck to find a school that you find completely satifactory to work for so evaluate just how bad it is for you.

It seems like you know that you like set lesson plans that are at least minimally functional (versus totally useless materials) but do like some flexibility. That’s fine. Other folks don’t mind if schools don’t provide decent materials as long as they let you do whatever you like (and still keep students and parents happy, of course). These folks enjoy “winging” it or have a bunch of their own tried and true materials. After you’ve been teaching awhile, it becomes easier to evaluate whether or not a school and it’s program would be a good fit for you.

Teaching English in Taiwan is a whole other kind of teaching than grammar school/high school back home. If you want that kind of experience, you need to be back home. In that case, settle for a tolerable teaching position in Taiwan and go home when you planned (as opposed to staying another year and another year, in search of a better school experience).

If you plan to stay in Taiwan for several years, it’s more important to find a job that’s more than just tolerable. You can and will find a program that supports you and still gives you enough flexibility to feel good about your work. Never perfect, but more satisfactory.

By the way, if you DON’T have a plan, you’re more likely to end up staying in Taiwan a long time. It can be surprising how “six more months” turns into a year turns into three years turns into…

Do you have a plan?

To answer the question of whether or not you are a real teacher, just look at the laws of the country which you live. To “teach” English in a Taiwanese cram school you need to have the appropriate degree (4 yr. if you’re from the USA) and pass the medical test. Could you teach science in a Taiwanese public highschool? No. But neither could a licensed Taiwanese public elementary school teacher unless he/she had the correct documentation. Yippee, you can now call yourself a “real teacher” in Taiwan.

 Of course if you choose to go back to your home country and apply for a job in a public/private school, you will have no hope of getting a job.  If you want to become a licensed teacher, you will not be able to count your Taiwanese teaching experience towards "total years of teaching" as you were not a licensed teacher while in Taiwan.  Yes, you met the basic education requirements for Taiwan, but at least in the USA (which does not recognize Taiwan as a "real" country), the best you will get is partial credit, if any towards future employment.  Oh, and the same goes for applying for graduate school (M.I.T. or M.Ed.).

 Regarding your question of what is expected of you as a teacher in Taiwan - its whatever the boss wants.  You can either go with the flow or quit.  Whether the business is owned by a local or a dirty foreigner, it does not matter.  It is their company and you play by their rules.  If you are a salary employee you are expected to complete the tasks for which you are assigned whether it takes five minutes or five hours, just as it is done in your home country.  If you're hourly paid, you start and stop working according to the punch in/out clock.  If your school pays you hourly and does not pay for "prep time", guess what?  You don't have to prepare.  

 Throw any concerns for "what is best for the kids" out the door.  Such ideas are moral and therefor subject and have no place in the workplace.  Your boss is paying you to "do" not to "think".  If he/she wants you to think, he/she will make you a manager.

You say that like it’s a bad thing. :?

I will arrive in Taiwan in September to begin teaching English. As I have a degree in education, I consider myself a “real” teacher, but as someone already mentioned the term is basically meaningless.

From what it sounds like, miltownkid, you’re frustrated because your manager is expecting you to create lessons from thin air. My advice is to do what other teachers do - beg, borrow and steal. You do not have to put in huge amounts of time to come up with good lesson plans. Search the web (I know there’s a thread in this forum for ESL websites) and you will find a lot of resources and lesson plans already created. You may have to tweak them a little for your class level, but it sure beats “winging it.”

Obviously, my advice should be taken with a grain of salt, as I’m still living in the U.S., and have no idea what it’s really like to teach in Taiwan…

The time mounts up, and if you’re not being paid for it then you’re giving your hours for nothing to someone who is making money out of you. Either they can provide material and pay you to teach it, or they can pay you to provide your own material and pay you to teach it. This is a business, and we’re all here to make a decent living.

Obviously the salary/hourly rate could reflect the amount of preparation time required for the actual teaching. I think if you’re getting NT$600/hr or less then you should be able to turn up 5 minutes before class. If you’re getting noticeably more then we’ll be bumping into each other at Eslite on a Friday night in search of good material instead of going out boozing.

There was a good thread a while back about high school jobs, and how the author was expected to be there all day even when he wasn’t teaching. I used to do the same and considered the ‘hanging around’ to be my preparation, planning and admin time - walk out at 5 with nothing in your hands and your evening is your own.

Thanks for all the feedback, I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

This paragraph seemed to sum things up best. I think I like winging it better. I feel like I’ve become really good a presenting material, but I found that having a smooth flow for the material presented is important (even when winging it). All it would take for me to do that is have a half way decent outline for me to follow and I would be able to put together something decent (from the internet, books at caves, etc.)

The progress I’ve made with the kids I’ve been teaching now makes me want to have a better lesson plan (but, like I said before, it’s not something I will go out of my way to put together). If you guys have read any of my other posts, you will know that my free time at home and work are used studying Chinese (and posting here :wink: ).

About my school:
I actually like my school a lot. My boss lets me slide on a lot of things because of how hard I try. I like my co-works, one of whome has been teaching for like 8 years and is going to start writing books for the school next semester. And of coarse, I like the kids I’m teaching. The school just opened last year in June, so it has much work that needs to be done. I’ve seen the prototype for the new curriculum and it looks ok (the outline did anyway).

As wether I like a set curriculum that I have to follow or something loose that allows me to have a lot of freedom, I honestly don’t care. I think I’m going to (overall) have to work equally as hard and both have nice pros and not so cool cons.

Why indeed I do. I think I posted it in another thread somewhere in the depths of this board.

[quote=“brian”]The impression that I got by your placement of the word real within inverted commas, is that you don

It sounds to me Miltown that you are going through some culture shock.

Why compare teahers in North America to teachers in Taiwan?
The real teachers in Taiwan work for real schools not kindergartens or cram schools.

The real teachers in Taiwan have class sizes of 40. They hit the kids on the hand when they get poor test marks. They make half we do, there is serious competiition to get these jobs too. The English teachers have to take a very competitive test where several fail and never get the chance to be a “real teacher”.

So maybe you should try and find a “good foreingner teacher” that you repect and try to learn from him (or her). I was lucky enough to work with a guy who really new his stuff. Actually went to University to be a teacher, taught for a bit in his home country, and came to Taiwan. From him I learned what I shouldnt be doing. From him I saw what teaching English could be.

Leave your job and quit complaining!!!

You’ve obviously put YOURSELF in this position. There are lots of schools out there with great Foreign teachers and Chinese teachers too.

PS. My family also has a few teachers. But to compare them to us, or to their Chinese counterparts is “like comparing apples and oranges” as you said before.

So, let’s just do THE BEST WE CAN…OK?

Agreed, I was just trying to be as clear as possible. Might be a little culture shock, who knows. Remember it originally started off as a bad day rant, which (luckily) for me are few and far between.

Hang in there, Miltownkid.

Perhaps posting here will allow you to get some of this off your chest. Sometimes rants can be healthy.

If it is any consolation, some of the problems you face in the workplace are pretty much the same in most any industry.

Keep on doing the best you can and trying to be the best teacher you can.

Hey miltownkid,

First of all, keep your head up. Everybody has “bad hair” days. :smiley:

It was unfair of the school to blame you because the kid didn’t know “police officer”. It is the school’s responsibility to give you a set of parameters in terms of what is to be taught.

It’s all about the money. ESL teachers have to do two things. 1.) Do what is asked by the schools. 2.) Keep the kids and parents happy. If teachers keep these two things in mind, then there are usually fewer problems.

About #1. What the schools ask you to do varies from school to school. For teachers to be happy where they are working they need find a school that meets their individual ideas of how English should be taught. If a teacher thinks that songs and chants are the way to go, then find a school that lets you bring a guitar to school. If a teacher wants to get down and dirty with grammar and essay writing, then find a school that provides that. But it is the school’s responsibility to make very clear of what they want in the classroom…irrespective of materials and the like. There also needs to be a system where the students must show that they have mastered the material that has been presented. This protects you as a teacher. Tests are usually the best way, or have the students do tape tests at home, or stand in the middle of the street singing :stuck_out_tongue:

Miltownkid, I believe that this is your first year(pardon me if I am mistaken)? Take this time to learn the intangibles (classroom management, how to work in a multicultural environment, etc). Take the time to develop your own ideas on how English should be taught. Take the time to research what other schools are doing. Ask other teachers about their work. Then when it is time to sign another contract, then you will be better informed as to where you would find enough satisfaction being a teacher. Either your original school or some place new.

Also need to make sure that the school pays on time and gives you lots of hours :smiley:

Miltown, just looking at the length, quality and honesty of your posts shows that you really care. Actually caring about your resposibilities as a teacher is a sure sign that you’ll be a great teacher.

What does your mum say about your situ?