My Teaching Experience in Taiwan
There are a lot of places that people can choose from to teach English (sometimes the movie, Anna and the King, even serves as inspiration for such a choice). But even if you can’t teach royalty, opportunities exist on nearly every continent. I chose to teach English in an Asian country, and before I share more of my teaching experience in Taiwan with you, I briefly want to visit the reasons why people, in general, choose to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL) abroad.
Reasons Why People Choose to Teach Abroad
There are a variety of well-known reasons why many people choose to teach English abroad. These mostly include earning money to pay off debt, like student loans, or travelling and seeing new (and exotic) places. Another great reason is to experience a different culture by learning more about a country, its history, traditions, and customs.
Some people are also interested in learning another language. For example, if you want to learn Mandarin, moving to China or Taiwan is a great opportunity to do just that. In this case, you not only learn the language from a local person but also immerse yourself into the daily culture of a country. Speaking the language to greet people, ordering food, and paying for things becomes possible after just a few lessons. Later on, once you have learnt more, you might be able to have longer, more meaningful conversations with people about a variety of topics, and you are able to help yourself more in different situations.
Reasons Why I Chose to Teach English in Taiwan
There are several reasons why I chose to teach EFL in Taiwan. One of them certainly was the travelling component. I really, really like to travel, see new places, and experience new and different things. And I must admit that the places to which you can travel to in Taiwan are beautiful. Take, for example, Yehliu.
Another reason was obviously the money aspect. Salaries for English teachers in Taiwan (and in other Asian countries) are a lot higher than those for teaching and most other “entry-level” kind of jobs in my home country – South Africa.
But I guess that the main reasons why I chose this career path were that I always wanted to be a teacher (or a lecturer) and I love the English language. So it seemed obvious to combine the two; hence, teaching English in Taiwan.
The Start of Teaching in Taiwan
Luckily for me, the company that hired me required no previous teaching experience. The main requirements were that English is your native (or main) language and you should have a university degree (in any field). A lucky component was that they offer a two-week initial training programme.
During training, we are given an overview of different teaching methods, the company’s curricula, teaching demonstrations, and input sessions on important things, like company policy; classroom management; lesson planning and behavior management; games and various activities to use in the classroom; and teaching different levels, ranging from kindergarten to advanced learners.
Training does not stop there. At the branches, continuous training is given throughout the year, with quarterly training sessions at the main branch. You are also required to submit four written assignments and pass each and every one of these in order to qualify for the company’s Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate.
After Training: Observations and Teaching English
Once the initial two weeks of training is done, everyone in the group is sent to their branches to observe a few real-life classes and to start their new teaching careers.
I arrived on an early Wednesday afternoon at my branch. In between looking for an apartment, signing the contract, and doing some much-needed shopping for bedding (because I was going to be sleeping at my new apartment that very night), I had to go over the material for the two classes I had to observe.
I observed kindergarten classes in the mornings over the next two days. Observations were standard for the Thursday afternoon, and on the Friday, I was expected to teach my first class. It was a very young learner class. All of the students were between the ages of 7 and 9, and the class was of mixed ability, meaning that some students’ English ability was high, while others struggled and needed a lot of assistance in class.
Let’s just say that my first ever class teaching English to young learners did not go well at all. Classroom management is probably the hardest lesson any teacher must master. The actual space in the classroom was way too small for nearly 30 hyperactive students. Lucky for me, the weekend was the following day, allowing me a chance to get settled in, recharge, and do a few pep talks of “I can do it” in order to be ready for the Monday’s afternoon classes.
The first class I taught English to came and went by, but until this day, I can still clearly recall how I felt: scared, overwhelmed, and not entirely sure I was cut out to be an English as a Second Language teacher.
After the First Class
The classes that I had the following week went a whole lot better, and so I gained a little bit of confidence with each class that I didn’t deem to be an utter failure or mess.
The head teacher observed me teaching a class towards the end of the week, and he had some really helpful pointers and praise for things that I did right.
By the end of the second week, I certainly wasn’t perfect, but nor was I so nervous standing in front of a class talking and teaching anymore. I felt more comfortable with the material I was expected to teach, and every time that I saw a student “getting it” – understanding what you have been teaching and being able to use that grammar or vocabulary correctly in a practice exercise – just gave me more confidence and the will to want to succeed.
There are definitely a lot of learning curves for every teacher, new and the more experienced alike. You quickly learn that what works for one class does not always work for another. Adapting and overcoming any challenges that arise during each lesson is a must-have skill. You also need to be able to learn from your mistakes by reflecting on what went well and what didn’t after each class.
I never regretted moving to and teaching English in Taiwan. Living in and gaining teaching experience in Taiwan were the best decisions I ever made, and I learned a lot from the long lesson that is life and an English classroom full of young learners.
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