I have been teaching in Taiwan for a number of years now and the experience has been mixed.

When I first arrived here I lived in the southern part of the island, a place called Kaohsiung. I fell in love with the place and found some very beautiful areas to eat, walk and have fun. I lived near a park which I would walk in and read most days after attending a language school (I was learning Mandarin).

Fortuitously, nearing the end of my three month tourist visa a recruiter I had been in touch with a number of months ago contacted me with a job offer. A cram school in a city called Taichung. This is where I met my now wife.

The cram school was a chain and had employed many foreigners to teach English in their premises since the 1980s. My interview consisted of me taking the HSR up to Taichung, meeting the manager of the school, sitting down, telling her where i am from, my previous jobs, why Taiwan etc. Then she shook my hand, told me I had the job and I started the following week.

I had to move my things up from Kaohsiung in a taxi which cost $4000NTD. The foreign money still didn’t have much value to me at this stage so I spent it without thinking.

When I arrived in Taichung the manager helped me get transport and an apartment sorted. We visited a number of apartments and finally found one in a large building in the SOHO area.

On my first week I was shadowing one of the other teachers and watching and taking notes from his classes. I think I watched maybe three classes in total. I then spent a week up in Taipei to a formal training week. Which was actually pretty good and helpful. I am glad they put it on, else I wouldn’t know what I am doing.

The classes varied in age from 4 – 17 year olds so the books and plans would changes dramatically. I worked, annoyingly, from 12pm – 9/10pm which meant I didn’t get home until 11pm some nights, then have dinner and then relax a little and go to bed. This chain school seemed to have a constant flow of foreign teachers lined up as other teachers quit or returned home or changed job.

After about a year, I packed that job in and decided to change schools. I didn’t want to work evenings anymore as the hours were so unsociable.

After a brief stint back in the UK, we returned to Taichung and I found a job through a recruitment agency at a public school north of Taichung. The interview for this school was very different. I had to do a demo lesson for 20 minutes in which I would teach 50 eighteen years old some verbs and nouns. Can’t remember exactly what they asked me to teach them (I think maybe gerunds). Nervous was an understatement.

Got to the senior high school and found myself in front of 50 smiling and agawk students, and at the back of the room was four directors from different departments in the school. I had put together a little introductory presentation which should have lasted about ten minutes. It lasted the whole twenty and i didnt teach them anything. BUT, I made them speak a lot in that time. Needless to say, I got the job.

I quickly found out that in this school my job wasn’t really to teach them grammar or vocab but to get them to use the language as much as possible. They have a reading, grammar and vocab teacher (Taiwanese English teachers) who teach them all of those things. Normally, a set list of vocab and grammar points for an exam such as the TOEIC or GEPT. Then it’s my job to set up scenarios and presentations to make the students use those words and points in conversation.

The school generally just leaves me to it. I see very little of the directors or my manager, only very occasionally dropping me a message on LINE to see if i’m ok. This works for me as the management in the cram school was a bit micro. Most teachers work around 25 hours of lessons a week and 8-10 hour work day. Even when you don’t have classes you must be on campus to help students or mark homework etc. This is something that doesn’t happen in most colleges in Taiwan.

Most foreigners who come to Taiwan start working for cram school and the late nights late mornings routine may well suit them. There are many recruitment companies dedicated to finding foreigners coming here quite easy to Google or Facebook.

END OF PART 1