Do You Need Experience to
Teach ESL in Taiwan?
No, you don't.
Do you need teaching experience?
To teach ESL in Taiwan, the primary official requirement is a Bachelor's degree. This means that no, you do not need any officially recognized teaching experience in order to score a teaching job. Many (if not most) ESL teachers in Taiwan have little to no teaching experience when they first start out.
Having a background in teaching, however, will help you immensely. It will make you more attractive to English schools, and will of course improve your ability to teach ESL material well. English schools in Taiwan will generally be overjoyed to hire a teacher with a teaching degree (or a TEFL / TESOL certificate) from their home country or a degree in education. Teachers holding any Master's degree will have an easy time finding ESL work and are even qualified to teach ESL at Taiwanese universities.
I've never taught before, therefore I'm screwed
To those without teaching experience - you are definitely not doomed. Many English schools in Taiwan are used to the notion of hiring first-time teachers. Some even prefer to look for teachers with little or no experience. This is either because they can't afford (or don't want to pay for) those who have been around longer, or because they want a kind of a "blank slate" ESL teacher who won't bring all kinds of preconceived notions about how teaching English should be done.
Also, keep in mind that the main requirement is a university degree - which proves that you at least understand English relatively well yourself - and a strong desire to teach.
"Many (if not most) ESL teachers in Taiwan have little
to no teaching experience when they first start out."
If you are nervous about teaching ESL for the first time, try to look for English schools that offer or require training programs. Many of the larger ESL chain schools in Taiwan, most famously Hess, require multiple training sessions that may not prepare you completely, but will almost definitely leave you better off than when you started. If you show a desire to learn about teaching ESL and teaching methods, rather than assuming it's a walk in the park (it's not), schools will respond by offering training or perhaps a kind of probation period.
The most important thing a first-time ESL teacher can do is be open to new ideas, read loads of material about teaching methods and ask fellow teachers for advice. In the end, the more experienced teachers will be the most valuable resource to you, and it will be your job to pick their brains for advice, evaluate it and decide whether to use it or not.
On the other hand, you could always just slap down several thousand dollars for a Master's in
education or enroll in a TEFL or TESOL program.
There is simply no better resource available about teaching English and living in Taiwan. If you want to teach ESL in Taiwan, you should really take a look at the eBook I wrote about the subject.
It's got 250 pages of invaluable information about the ESL environment in Taiwan. Where do you find schools to teach ESL in Taiwan? How can you get the work permit? How do you sign a contract with your English school? How do you get a raise? How can you have more fun at work and be a better English teacher? These are just a few of the questions I answer in Teach English in Taiwan: The Official Survival Guide.
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