Teaching English abroad in Taiwan 2015
Teaching English abroad in Taiwan is an interesting experience available to English speakers with a degree. There are different views on teaching English in Taiwan both from locals and from foreigners. I taught English in Taiwan for 4 months at a cram school and currently teach adults a couple times a month. Recently an American friend in Taiwan asked me these set of questions so I thought I would put together a Teaching English in Taiwan resource for 2015. I don’t claim to know everything, but I thought I would share as much as I know. When I was doing my research to be an English teacher I was already in Taiwan and had to go through the Formusa forums or some good, but outdated blog posts. As a digital nomad trying to get your business off the ground teaching English can provide another stable revenue steam. Its time to share what I know based on my experience to help you out.
How much can you earn?
The standard hourly rate is 580nt (obo$18.23 US). You will also get taxed on this amount. With a monthly part-time 20 hour contract I think I was earning around 39,000nt per month. Don’t quote me on that, but that is the general ball park range. If you teach outside a private school and you have more experience you could earn from 600-800nt hour.
Do you get paid for holidays or typhoon days?
Typhoon days you ask? Yes, I experienced one typhoon day in Taiwan, and it happens from time to time. Basically you get to spend the day at home, but you don’t get paid for it. Other holidays in Taiwan or vacation you take you don’t get paid for either. I know this sucks as you may in the country you live in. I did in Vancouver.
What other benefits can you expect?
If it is a larger school you can expect a health card, an ARC (resident visa to work and live), and if you’re lucky you may get access to a non-interest loan of up to 30,000nt. If you are working less than 20 hours it is likely you will not get any benefits. The health card is actually quite useful as it gives you access to good quality healthcare. For example a teeth cleaning will normally cost 1000-1300nt, but with the NHA card you can expect to pay 200nt.
How many hours will yo get?
For a part-time contract I believe I was getting 20 hours per week at the cram school. You can expect to be asked to sub (fill-in ) for other English teachers, which will bump up your hours.
What qualifications and requirements do you need?
For a cram school they require the original copy of your degree. The scanned copy will not do. I actually had to ship my degree from Canada to Taiwan. For more specific requirements please refer to the HESS site. You will need to hold a passport from one of these English speaking countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, The United Kingdom and The United States.
How and how often will you get paid?
Normally your monthly salary will be paid out the following month. The interesting thing is you will get an envelope with a slip and a big wad of cash on payday. This may seem strange for Westerners used to electronic automatic direct deposit. It is a bit of an inconvenience as you might need to make a special trip to get your pay. If you have a class that day you don’t, but you’ll have the responsibility of looking after your entire months day until your shift is over. As teachers didn’t get any secure locker or area I ended up stuffing this wad of cash in my jean pocket. Mentally you may feel rich on pay day, but be spend carefully otherwise you may be eating 5nt dumplings and 7-11 take out until the next payday.
How does the teaching thing work?
In a nutshell if you are new to the country the larger schools will arrange for you to stay at a hotel during the first week. You’ll get orientation, culture training, as well as training for about a month at the headquarters. Next, you will be assigned to a branch office where you will teach. You can request where you will teach, but are not guaranteed to teach at this location. Once at the branch you may observe an existing teacher before beginning your first class. You will get a schedule with your classes on a slip of paper. Usually in each class you will have a Chinese teacher whose job is to assist you. In my experience the Chinese teachers will likely have more experience than you and have sharper grammar than you so don’t be surprised if they interrupt you or report your mistakes to your manager. For each class you will teach you will receive a set of books. These books will contain the lesson plans and curriculum that you will be teaching. You will be responsible for marking homework. Do not be surprised if the Chinese teacher audits your homework grading. In some classes the Chinese teacher will teach the same set of students on alternate days so you will need to get the graded homework back to them before their class. If you fail to do so you will quickly get on their bad side as I experienced. To get back on their good side you may need to earn your guanxi back by treating them to a Starbucks drink.
How much time will I need to spend outside of the classroom?
You will be responsible for grading homework and all tests. You’re also going to need to be well prepared for your lessons. Teaching is like a performance. Once you begin class you’re performance begins until the break. For lower level classes this is not too difficult and may average 15-40 minutes for lesson planning and grading. Of course this varies with the number of students. For higher-level classes the grammar and grading gets more difficult. The amount of time can go up from 40-80 minutes. As you get more familiar with the material and get into a flow these times may drop. I used to take a notebook and scribble notes, which made lesson planning really slow. I tried typing out the notes, but I found it hard to get access to a computer at my branch. The most effective tip that my manager gave me was to just use post-it notes and just stick them on the books. This way you didn’t need to keep flipping back between your books and your notes.
How many students per class and how old are they?
Depending on the class you may get lucky and have 5 students, but sometimes you can get larger classes with up to 20 students. Generally the students I taught ranged from 5 – 15. If you get the kindergarten classes they are couple years younger.
What are the hours?
Classes are generally in the evenings between 5-9pm Mon – Fridays. Each class is 2 hours in length. You get a 10-minute break between each class, which is just enough time to relocate and setup for the next class. There are also classes on Saturday mornings. I taught on Friday nights until 9pm and had an 8:30am Saturday class. I never got used to it.
I’ve never taught before?
It is okay they will provide all the training. In my experience the training was not enough. Most of what I learned was just to start teaching and make plenty of mistakes and ask questions.
What are some of the schools to teach at?
There are a ton of schools to teach at. The largest schools to teach at are: Hess, Kojen, Reach to Teach, and Happy Mariam
Where can you find English teaching jobs?
What is a cram school?
A cram school is additional schooling for Taiwanese children after their regular school.
What is it like to teach children?
It depends on your class. To be honest I think they can be a handful if you don’t know how to manage them. The younger ones have a lot of energy and at times I felt like I was baby-sitting. It’s important to learn some classroom management techniques otherwise you’ll spend more time managing them than actually teaching. Some techniques involve offering rewards for good behavior. It works. On the positive side it does feel good to share the language with students, I just feel that the system you are required to follow is too rigid.
What is the experience like?
For Taiwan teaching English is considered to be a decent paying job. I think your English teaching experience will be shaped by the school you teach at, the location it is, your colleagues, and the students. Teaching English was an option that I needed at the time and I was grateful for that. Doing this job also helped me to discover the teacher in me, which led to me teaching courses through the Internet. I also built up even more comfort teaching and performing in front of people, which is a transferable skill. I had some fun making some friends from my training class and going for drinks with the other English teachers. However for me it wasn’t sustainable. The hours I had to work essentially replaced my social life. Most of the events I wanted to go were when I was teaching. Most of all being a digital nomad I wanted the freedom to do what I loved. If you are just starting your life in Taiwan teaching English can be a good way to ease yourself into the country. They educate you on culture shock; you’ll probably make fast friends with the other English-speaking teachers, and the pay is decent enough to live off of.
If you have taught English in Taiwan have you had a difference experience?
If you enjoyed this article I am currently working on an e-book on my Taiwan working holiday experience sharing my stories, tips, and adventures. Be sure to share your email for updates on the books release date.