Teaching English in Taiwan – Luc’s TESOL Story
- March 11, 2016
- Posted by: Paul Simmonds
- Category: Teaching Abroad
Teaching English in Taiwan
After I had finished my art degree in Brighton I worked for a while as a commercial artist in Birmingham. However, I wanted to do something different and wanted to see more of the world so did a TESOL course and later got a job in Shanghai. The experience of being there was truly transformative. It was hard in the beginning, but as the days turn into weeks and months I accumulated more and more skills that helped me in the classroom, and I started to feel more comfortable. I started to experiment with new games and approaches to see what happened. I really enjoyed inventing wacky, fun, new games and wrote them down until I had sheets of A3 paper completely covered in my game ideas. The good thing about teaching was that it allowed me to make use of my art skills, and I would often spend time before classes drawing cartoons on the board or on paper. After a while, the company asked me to illustrate an English textbook for them and I did this for several months.
Later I moved to Taipei and got a job in a memory institute where I taught English using mnemonic techniques such as the ‘mnemonic keyword method’ and ‘mind mapping’. This also required lots of illustration work which was good fun. I became so interested in learning and teaching methods that I decided on a long term career in teaching so I did an MA at the University of Birmingham in applied linguistics where I researched various learning methods and, of course, drew more cartoons! Later, I came back to Taipei again.
Living and Working in Taipei as a Teacher
Taipei is probably my favourite city. It’s very convenient and has all kinds of benefits. There are many schools in need of an English teacher and English teaching jobs are reasonably easy to find if you are qualified. There are also many cram schools here (called ‘Buxibans’) where students study in the evenings after their main school. Most of them are fairly reasonable to work for. Pay here averages at about 600NT (about GBP pound £13) per hour. Some cram schools will ask you to do lots of marking and extra work outside of the teaching so it’s worth asking if they will pay you extra for that, although the answer is often no. I live in a single-bedroom studio apartment, in a decent part of town, and find that I need to work about 15 hours per week to have enough to live off if I’m reasonably frugal. If you want to actually save up money or live more lavishly then you probably need around 20+ hours per week.
Outlook for Teachers
If you can help your students to feel happy, relaxed and create a warm but focused atmosphere then you will probably be helping them more than by using any specific teaching or learning method. If you can help students to make learning their hobby and come to regard it as the greatest game then you’re giving them a huge gift. The secret is to love what you do and always do your best. Be devoted to what you are doing. That way you will do a better job and this will open more doors in the future. It’s about putting the students first, going in there making their well-being and progress your number one priority. It’s about being selfless.
It’s easy to teach a mediocre lesson; it’s a challenge to teach well. The more organized you are, the better your lesson is likely to be. Make good clear timetables so you know when you need to be teaching. If your lesson times vary then keep a scheduling book that you can fit in a pocket, and write down the lesson times plus other stuff you need to do.
Make clear lesson plans and prepare everything you need before the class. I write a note in green ink on the lesson plan to remind me if there’s anything extra that I need to do, such as photocopying. I then go over the lesson plan with a blue pen after class and check the things that I did and briefly assess how well they went. This is very important as it helps me to improve.
The most important thing is to get qualified before you start teaching. This could be a 150-hour TESOL course by TESOL Direct distance learning accredited by ACCREDITAT or a one-month CELTA course. A short course, or a weekend course, would not be appropriate. As teachers, we owe it to our students to be suitably qualified.