Good Ones, Bad Ones
How to recognize good and bad language schools in Taiwan
Horror stories abound in Taiwan about terrible bosses, being shorted on salary, being forced to work extra unpaid hours, and so on. Sounds fun, right? There are a few things you’ll need to know to do your best to avoid these situations while teaching English in Taiwan.
1. Ask the local experts
Doing your homework on different Taiwanese language schools will be important, particularly with respect to what other teachers’ experiences were like. The most valuable comments you will get will be from word-of-mouth – what have other expats heard about school x, what do they think about school y, and so on. If you don’t know any local English teachers, just find the most Western-looking bar around and buy a beer, chances are you’ll run across one or several.
If the bar strategy doesn’t work, you can always use the internet. English teaching websites, especially the expatriate-focused website Forumosa, will become an invaluable resource for determining good and bad language schools in Taiwan. The forum includes a “blacklist” of schools where teachers have had bad experiences, and a “greenlist” for the good experiences.
2. Level of Organization
One problem that Taiwanese buxibans chronically have is a lack of organization. This often becomes a big problem for foreign teachers who feel like cram schools remind them of their messy younger brother. As you begin to communicate with schools and visit them, interview and so on, you should do your best to take note of their capacity to be “on the ball”. Was your interviewer 25 minutes late? Did they give you the wrong address? Did they think you were a man when you’re really a woman? Have they actually read your resume? Is the school dirty with books haphazardly strewn across the floor?
Some of these things may seem inconsequential in the initial stages, but over time can become hugely frustrating. Similarly, an organized language school in Taiwan makes life comfortable and is worth the effort.
If you’d like to get access to more than 500 language schools in Taiwan, make sure to take a look at Teach English in Taiwan: The Official Survival Guide, an eBook I’ve written about teaching ESL and living in Taiwan.
Communicating with your English school faces a lot of unconventional problems, mostly due to cultural and linguistic differences. The most obvious problem would simply be an English school where the employees don’t speak English very well. Assuming you’re not a Chinese speaker, this dynamic is almost impossible to work in and should be avoided.
At the same time, English ability is not enough. As a foreign employee, you should be willing to put up with a lot of new cultural quirks and frustrations. However, your employer should also. If a school you visit seems willing to explain things in a complicated, not-very-well-though-out fashion, it will spell trouble for you down the road. If you seem to be on the same page, it’s a good sign.
4. Hidden responsibilities
One of the biggest fears of English teachers looking for new jobs at language schools in Taiwan is the tacking on of unpaid work. Things such as extra marking, test creation, administrative tasks and of course end-of-the-year graduation all count.
If a school begins to freely talk about marking requirements or letters that need to be written to parents or extracurricular events and the like without discussing pay, it’s very possible that they don’t intend to ever pay you for these things. Good language schools in Taiwan should have pay charts outlining reimbursement for a wide range of tasks that they may need, such as preparation or administrative work.
5. What about the students?
The last hint you can get about a good or bad language schools in Taiwan is to look at the students, and how they are treated. Do you see a Chinese teacher yelling at a crying child? Does the school offer kids nap time and/or a snack? Are classes grossly overpriced? Do the students generally seem devoid of happiness?
While getting mistreated or overworked as a foreign teacher doesn’t feel great, you’re still paid decently and you get to live in a cool place. However, if you have to go to work every day and see children get the spirit beat out of them by authoritarian abuse, the effect will be much more acute than having to write a couple of reports every week. Try to figure out what the school says about the students and how it envisions their education. If they say something about “they are great customers,” get out.
6. You must feel good about the school!
The most important thing to remember is that there are thousands of language schools in Taiwan, so you don’t have to jump on the first opportunity. Again, as I’ve said previously, be patient and take your time to visit many schools and ask lots of questions. You must “feel good” about the schools where you’ll be commiting yourself. If you don’t like where you work, you won’t enjoy living in Taiwan.
I have written a book about teaching English in Taiwan, and you should have a look at it if you’re interested in working here. It’s called Teach English in Taiwan: The Official Survival Guide and it’s a real blueprint for achieving success as an ESL teacher in Taiwan.
Even if you spend hours searching the Internet for an alternative resource, I promise you that you’ll never find anything that comes even close to this guide. It lists 500 English schools located around Taiwan in cities like Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, and Hualien. This eBook is the only guide you’ll ever need for your odyssey in Taiwan. Start your jouney here… Check this guide about ESL in Taiwan now!