Michael A. Turton

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Teaching English in Taiwan

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Introduction Getting Hired
Pay and Benefits Where to Work
Schedules & Workload Getting Along in the System
Don't speak Chinese? Lots of what goes on will be a mystery....
Schedules and Workload
Classes are held six days a week, though English teachers will only rarely teach on Saturday. There are no classes on Sunday.  In some rare cases there may be classes held on Saturday, either normal classes such as labs, or make-ups for holidays. This almost never occurs in Foreign Language Departments.
Men in pink: posing with one of my night class students.
Classes start at 8:10, break for lunch (1 hour) and resume at 1:00 and run until five.  At some schools lunch lasts 90 minutes. Night classes (for degree) usually begin at 6:20 and go until 9:40.  At some schools Adult Continuing Education classes (non-degree) start at 6:30 and end at 9:30, though that will vary. This scheduling is determing by the Ministry of Education, not the schools. It makes my hair stand on end to imagine that, all over the island, at 8:10 everyone is sitting down to class like so many legions of robots.  Students perform a play for an English play contest. Acting as a judge for events like speech and play contests will be one of your responsibilities. At most schools compensation for time spent is provided. This is good, because watching 42 renditions of "Snow White" in bad English will be excellent instruction in the ways of boredom.
Classes run from September to January, and then from Mid/late February to early late June/early July. There are summer classes, mostly for students who fail. Since few teachers want to teach these, you can get these hours very easily. Edith, a non-major taking an English class. Non-majors must have high grades to take English courses with majors, and are generally highly motivated and bright.
The normal full-time load is 10-12 hours a week (each class generally runs for two hours).  Ministry rules restrict totals to 16 hours, so at most you can get 4 hours overtime.  You may also teach 4 hours at another university, thus your total load can be as high as 20 hours, legally.  Four office hours a week are also required.  Students line up to attend a choral contest between student choruses entered from each department to see who could sing our school song the best. 


Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
8:10-9 Office Listening 2nd year majors Basic English for non-majors
Basic English for non-majors  Saturday Morning: 

9:10-10 Office Listening 2nd year majors Basic English for non-majors
Basic English for non-majors  Meetings, seminars
10:10-11 Basic English for non-majors  Listening 1st year majors Office
English Writing Second Year Majors Labs for non-language students
11:10-12 Basic English for non-majors Listening 1st year majors Office
English Writing Second Year Majors Make-up

12:00-1:30 Lunch (meetings) Lunch (meetings) Lunch (meetings) Lunch (meetings) Lunch (meetings) Lunch (meetings) Occasional 

Conversation Second Year Majors Occasional School Functions

Conversation Second Year Majors Functions such as conferences, Such as Banquets
Meetings with Advisees

student recruiting

and classes
5:20-6:20 Dinner (no classes) Dinner (no classes) Dinner (no classes) Dinner (no classes) Dinner (no classes) Dinner (no classes) Dinner (no classes)



Online Business Writing Class


Online Business Writing Class

Here is my schedule for the Spring 2003 semester. I was teaching an unusual number of Basic English courses due to an emergency in the department. Typically I have no Basic English courses for non-majors.

People who park on campus are every bit as rule-abiding and concerned for others as those who park outside campus. Fortunately guards usually manage to prevent this behavior. It is illegal to teach outside of the higher education system.  However, as a common saying has it "There is no Law on Taiwan" and the educational system is no exception.  The restriction on teaching hours is openly flouted at many schools, and teaching outside is done by one and all.  Still, if you teach outside, tell no one and keep a low profile.  If you offend someone, they might be able to use that against you.
No, Michael! Don't take my picture! One of my advisees  finishes her early morning cleaning. At Chaoyang all of the first-year students are assigned a certain area in the university which they must clean. They are checked by older students who are paid supervisors. If they fail to show up or do the work, they must make it up over lunch. The converse is also true.  You may routinely violate the rules, but so will the school.  Private schools are much worse in this regard, and the five year schools even more so.  Large public universities will be more likely to stay within the law.  At one junior college I know the teachers must punch in at 8 and clock out at 5 every day.  If your school implements something like that, your only recourse is to quit. 

Remember that the people at the top are the products of a lifetime of savage infighting in a system that rewards backstabbing and factional fighting and punishes ethical stances. This does not mean that they are all corrupt and evil. In fact, many are bright, competent, and well meaning. Rather, there's simply no way you can beat them in a confrontation.The best move is check and see what the schedule will be before you are hired.

Students relax in an open-air eating area. Most campuses feature a convenience store. Teachers in English departments generally teach two kinds of classes. As you may recall, Taiwan has a two-track university system, one for academic-oriented kids who go into the major national universities (National Taiwan University, National Chungshan University, etc), the other for kids who come out of the vocational high schools who then enter the "Universities of Technology."


A water filtration system. There is one on each floor of every building on campus. Thus, first, you will teach classes appropriate to the majors of your department.
A foreigner delivers a seminar in a small seminar room. At the national universities the English departments have a broader function and may offer literature and linguistics as possibilities apart from their ESL functions. 

At the "universities of technology" the departments are known as "Applied Foreign Language" departments and stress English for Specific Purposes, such as translation, business, teaching, or multimedia. 

  A classy restaurant at a vocational university that specializes in training personnel for the hospitality industries.
The second possibility is a certainty. Because the Ministry requires two years of English for every student, each university offers a basic English program for non-majors. These classes generally involve 35-50 students at a crack. They are basic ESL courses. Take as few of them as possible; the students are very nice, but most of the conversations run:

TEACHER: How are you?
STUDENT: <chinese> Can you repeat that more slowly?


A basic English class for non-majors.
There is also the possibility that you might teach some gen ed courses if you have some interesting speciality. For your majors you might also teach courses that are not specifically English in content. For example, I teach Economics 101 and some business topics courses. The multimedia area of a university library.
Remember, the courses you teach are only going to be as interesting as you make them. If you are not primarily an ESL person, be sure to pick up reference books on teaching techniques. There's a lot out there, and you will find most of it useful. Mountains enfold the stunning campus of Chinan University. 
Other forms of work may also be required. Most universities require some administrative hours. Ours rotates them among the teachers, two paid hours weekly for a year. You may have to be a judge for student contests, or edit department English communications. You may also be offered other on-campus work, especially if you can speak Chinese.

Most other responsibilities will not fall to you.  Anything that requires filing paperwork, for example, you are exempt from, because you won't be able to write Chinese.

Students watch a campus activity. Campus social life is severely limited by US standards.
As part of the current reform program, Taiwan's university system is trying to strengthen its research efforts.  As the university system attempts to upgrade, research is in. Professors have to publish in peer-reviewed western journals, and that includes you. Since the quality of research in Taiwan is abysmal, this is causing a crisis. However, you may be able to make money editing papers. Your status as a professor will also open other doors outside the university for you. Students practice a dialogue in pairs.
Introduction Getting Hired
Pay and Benefits Where to Work
Schedules & Workload Getting Along in the System
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