I am pretty convinced that the universe was out to get me. My luck in job hunting for English Teaching particularly in Taipei has been close to impossible to find. And it doesn’t help that I am also picky, but it is for a good god damn reason.
I have already lived in Taipei for more than one year now with some English Teaching Experience under my belt, so I have an idea and know what kind of work I want to do. And from talking to many people who have or are teaching in Taipei, I have gained a lot of insight on what I can do and things I can avoid. So finding this work is easy right? Yes, but just because it is easy to find and secure, doesn’t mean it necessarily a “good” place to work.
For starters, I want to find work to do in the afternoon, for I plan to continue studying Chinese later this year. Secondly, I want to also find a school in an accessible and close location to where I live. Thirdly, I wanted to teach young children. Starting from ages 3 but no older than 12. On top of that, I need to find schools that have good pay/enough hours so I can save more than enough when I leave Taiwan next year. Is this all too hard to ask for?
I have noticed schools that fall into the afternoon/evening time bracket, either hourly pay is below the standard amount (600nt/hour) which is an automatic no for me, or the hours are simply not enough. But you also come to realize that people that come to teach English in Taiwan make almost twice or three times the amount locals make in a month (which is sad) but some schools payout to almost the same as locals depending on your hours and hourly pay, which is bogus. It’s sad, but it’s not something I can fix myself or my problem. Why settle for less when you can make more?
Also, I’ve come to realize that a lot of Taiwanese people hesitate to hire non-white people for their own personal reasons or the simple fact that they cannot believe that non-white people can be native English speakers as well???!!! What century do we live in? C’mon. Let’s learn, Get over it. and let’s move on.
The number of schools I have emailed who would respond with the “Are you a Native speaker?” Just because of my non-basic ass white name is one too many.
So when I began applying, the easiest way to find positions is to join a few Facebook groups of English Teaching jobs being posted and then email the contacts with your resume. But your resume alone isn’t enough, you also need to send in pictures of yourself. Unfortunately for me, I realized that maybe one picture isn’t enough so I sent in multiple. And once I realized people kept asking the authenticity of my nationality, I would even send in my passport with my important info blacked out. And by this time, I noticed an increase in replies back.
Generally, when you go in for the interview, they chat with you about yourself, ask about your teaching style, how you manage the class, what is your strengths, your weaknesses, and what you are looking for in your work environment. From there, they will ask you to do a teaching demo for as short as 15 to 30 min to see how well you interact with the students in the classroom and how well of course you teach.
It’s funny for I noticed how unorganized many of these English schools are set up. I would walk in, people would look frightened, don’t understand why I am there and/or not prepared to interview me. In other cases, the director wasn’t there to interview me. You know, “I can leave…” I visited one too many schools who obv wasn’t prepared to interview me and/or did not want me there.
And I went to one too many interviews with too many disappointments. And it is not like I wasn’t getting the job offers, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for. Either the hours were too little, the school is way too far (like take the local train type far), the pay is low, and it goes on. Some don’t even want to sponsor for the visa (what’s that all about). Your girl already struggled the first year living off a scholarship stipend (and I survived), and I do not want to do it again while working.
There are also recruiters who can set you up with job interviews. You can find them easily through Facebook Groups or friends. There are even some individuals who set you up with a job interview directly, but in exchange will take a cut from your first paycheck. Ain’t nobody gots time for that. Problem is a lot of times the jobs they have listed are just too far and some of my worst experiences are from jobs that recruiters recommended me to.
Here are some instances of where job opportunities turned sour:
A school contacted me on Facebook after I posted my ad, which was located in Nangang Center (end of Blue/Brown Line). At this time, I was looking for summer work, which they said they had, but when I came in, they actually were looking for a full-time teacher to sign a contract. What? This is not what was advertised. And this was back in June. I wasn’t looking for this kind of work at the moment. I just wanted to chill and have something light. Also, the school is not very close to where I was staying at the time as well, so the commute would be a pain. The director was like “Oh but we have teachers who live all the way in Banqiao who commute here to work” Ok! They chose to do that, but it doesn’t mean I will. Lady seemed nice, but no. And she was also like “You are so young…” Ok, so what?
That White man tried me
This was back when I was looking for summer work.
I found a school that was looking for someone to teach at their summer camp, but they were also looking for someone to continue teaching with them full time during the school year.
When I first came in, he questioned my nationality and if I was born in the US or not, which pissed me off. For this guy was white, grew up in the UK and the minute I open my mouth, he should know that I am from the US with my accent. He should know better than to say that. Why are you doing this? I expect this more from Taiwanese people for many are not educated or exposed to such people, and I get it. But from someone who grew up in the West? Why are you questioning my native status anyway? If someone tells you they’re a native, believe them. Even if you don’t, the interview will prove it believe it or not.
Then he was rambling on how he is happy that my accent was very neutral and that I didn’t talk so fast for he was afraid that it wasn’t going to be the case. Did I really need to know this?
He then goes on asking why do I want to teach knowing the fact that I did not study teaching in college. I gave him a bullshit answer. Why does it matter? Mind your business. Do you know how many people get a degree in a particular field and decide to completely go off and do something else? Too many. More like 80%+. Who said I wanted to do this for the rest of my life? Who said that I was going to make a career out of this?
He went on and on pretty much discrediting my credibility to teach. Honestly, I was pretty much done with the interview as soon as it started and I wanted to walk out so bad.
I never got a callback.
I found a school through this recruiter and one thing I noticed that I liked about the school, all the Chinese teachers are forced to speak English to the students. You don’t see that very often in many schools. The director itself was very nice, open, professional, and clear of her expectations and intentions. But….
So I did the interview and demo, which turned out just fine. But it’s crazy, but I had a feeling, wow look at me get this job and then something will happen.
And it did.
I came back from Thailand and they called me in to sign the contract, which I did, but…there seemed to be a scheduling issue. So one of their teachers had been teaching there for more than 10 years. For whatever reason, he messaged the director last minute mentioning that he has to start taking his child to school and would no longer be able to teach in the mornings. I originally planned to not teach in the mornings due to the fact that I really want to continue studying Chinese again later this year so I need that time blocked off for that. She asked me if I could change my schedule to accommodate theirs, but I already had my own plans set in my head for the upcoming months. No way I was going to move my schedule around just because a teacher of yours decided 3 days before school started to change his schedule.
No way, Jose. Instead, they tried finding someone else that can teach the morning classes but was unable to.
So in the end, they found someone else who was more qualified than me, lived in Taiwan over 10 years working in a cram school environment that replaced me. Wow. After I signed the contract. At this point in the job search, I was just annoyed and done with life. What did I do to deserve this? Is this God telling me that teaching isn’t for me? What is this exactly?
For wasting my time, they compensated me 5000 NT ~ $150 USD which is something, but not enough for all the bullshit these schools were putting me through.
She later called me 2 weeks later asking if I was still looking. Another teacher of theirs suddenly left Taiwan due to having some major back issues. But I was very skeptical about taking the job back. The hours that the teacher had were very little, and I could not see myself working with her after that stunt she pulled. I believe that she is a kind person who would not do any harm, but I politely declined. Cuz no.
Emotionally Unavailable Director from hell
The most recent horror story, I went to one interview in Datong District. Hours were perfect, the wage was reasonable, and the location is not too far, BUT, there seemed to be another issue. When will it stop?
When I first came in, they seemed a bit unprepared for the co-teachers had no idea someone was coming in for an interview. Typical. And then they always start with “Where are you from?” “Oh the US????? Wow…” ok….., then he asks me a few questions, and some kids came around asking about my hair and where I was from in Chinese, then we go ahead with the demo, which turned out fine.
Here’s when I begin questioning the school.
So I sat down with the director, who immediately said: “Ok, you can ask me 3 questions about our school, 1, 2, 3, go.” What the actual fuck? Is this some kind of speed job interviewing elevator speech type process?? Why the rush? So I just asked her 3 random questions from the top of my head and she didn’t seem too impressed nor did it look like she wanted to be there. So then she looks me up and down and goes “Next time you come in, you need to come in dressed like a teacher…I don’t know how to explain it but you need to dress more like a teacher” Is this 1975? I really wanted to respond back and say something like “So how does a teacher dress like for you definitely don’t dress like one.” Mind you, I was wearing a plain green shirt, no straps, no cleavage, and then baggy yellow shorts, which were a bit above my knees, but I also guess “too much” to walk in and teach with.
I walked out of there kinda confused and like annoyed by her comment and unsure if I should go back there. For I noticed the director of the school seemed a bit stressed, unresponsive, and lacking patience and if I notice that from the interview alone, who knows how it is like working with her. I also saw at the school that there seem to be no foreign teachers around. I saw one in the corner, so I was unsure if they just weren’t there or tucked away in a classroom.
Got a call back around 8 pm that same day saying I got the job and I wasn’t honestly feeling any kind of relief. I had a strong feeling that this wasn’t it.
On that Monday, I came in a bit early “dressed like a teacher” and the co-teacher sat me down, went over what is generally expected in the classroom, how to run the classroom, and also some other small things. Then he asked me about my documents, but generally, before you start the job, you need to give the teacher the contract, have the person look over it, ask questions, sign, then hand over the documents for the work visa. I asked him “So when will I sign the contract?” He seemed to not have any clue so he said: “Oh maybe in a few days….” Well, I am not giving you anything till I sign sir.
He’s like “ok, that’s fine. take your time…”
So a few other things happen, but one thing that I noticed from last time, that there were no foreign teachers to be found. Maybe halfway through the day, I noticed one and asked her how long she was working there and she goes “Oh I am just a sub..” Not even a full time contracted worker? This is a sign. So you are telling me the Chinese teachers are teaching the students here? Nothing wrong with that, but they also told me they have over 10 foreign teachers working there and I only saw one.
At some point, the director brings over the contract and says if I have any questions, feel free to ask her…she gives me a few minutes to look over it and then comes over asking me for my documents, but instead, I throw out some questions about the contract, for it looked to be a bit lacking and looked more like a template. As I am asking the questions, she’s growing annoyed and doesn’t know how to answer some. At one point she laughs, and I asked her why is she laughing?
Then she goes, “Don’t you speak Chinese? I want to speak Chinese with you for my Chinese is better than my English.” At this point, I was pretty annoyed with her attitude and the disorganization at the school. Honey, listen First of all “This is an English School, as the director, you should be able to communicate with English teachers in English. Not every teacher that comes by here can speak Chinese, so you should be more than prepared to handle such cases properly. Plus, I am speaking English with you, we are not friends and I don’t have any obligation to speak Chinese with you.” Yes, I said this word for word and there was no way I was letting this slide.
I am not your little Taiwanese slave coworkers who will bow down and listen and obey to everything you say. If you speak to me out of line, I am calling you out for your shit.
At this point, she was furious, and lost her patience with me and storms out the room saying “If you have any questions, please direct all questions to the co-teacher” Excuse me? I honestly could not believe what I was witnessing. That was very unprofessional of her and if you’re showing signs of your inability to face people and talk with them accordingly, then I don’t need to be working here.
The co-teacher goes on attempting to cover her up, explaining how she is still learning on how to be a leader and speak to people properly, but also has a big responsibility at the school where she has many duties such as preparing the food, teaching the class, answering phone calls etc. Honey, once again, not my problem. There is, in fact, no need for her to project her anger onto others who have no part in her issues and it’s simply not an excuse for the behavior she displayed to me just now.
He eventually left me alone for a few minutes and I was just sitting there thinking like “There is no way I am teaching here, wtf” So 4:30 came where he came back to see if I had any other questions about the contract. I said no and I turned it over, done. And he looked at me and was like “So what does this mean?” “This means that I have no interest in teaching here. What she did was very unprofessional and if she’s gonna act as she did just now with me, then I don’t want to work here.” He was shoooook. He goes “Are you sure? Don’t you want to think about it for one or two days?” I retort back “No, I have already made up my mind.” Then I changed my shoes and he corners me “Oh, so we still have a class that doesn’t have a teacher today, can you cover it for us?” “No, that’s not my problem. I was told I would shadow the first 3 days anyway, so no.” And I walked out. The director watched me walked out, but she didn’t bother in saying anything to me.
If you decide that you want to teach English in Taiwan and you’re not white, just know you will struggle. Bad for a black woman like myself, even harder for black men, but not entirely impossible. You can also apply from online before you arrive, but for Taiwan, I feel it’s better to come first and search especially if you are picky and looking for something in particular.
But also if you don’t have a preference, you can dive yourself into one of the main teaching franchises like Joy English, Giraffe, HESS, and Shane’s English just to name a few. These branches will no in doubt hire you, but don’t expect a ton of pay if your experience is non-existent and/or don’t have any teaching certificate.
Read more about my teaching experience post the job hunt here.