Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to Get a Job Teaching English in Taiwan

Getting a job as an English teacher in Taiwan is easy. English teachers make a lot of money for very few hours of work. Here's a financial breakdown. I'll go through how to get a job in Taiwan step by step, as well as give general advice for working in Taiwan. If you're looking for the best way to give yourself time and a space to change or find yourself, Taiwan is for you.

Note that this is NOT a guide on how to get an ARC (working permit), merely how to get your foot in the job market. I worked in Taiwan for 7 months before I got my ARC, and some people never get one, so don't worry about that step for now. 

This guide will show you how to get a job as an English teacher in Taiwan.

If you want to go through the process yourself, which will provide more freedom, convenience, and a higher hourly wage, read through the guide. If you want an easy solution with paid airfare, assisted apartment finding, and a guaranteed contract, jump to "The Easy Way Out."

What do I need to work in Taiwan? 
While not all of these things are required, some combination of them are. 

- Fluent English ability
- Passport from the UK, USA, South Africa, Australia, Canada, or New Zealand
- A bachelor's degree
- A CELTA or TEFL certification

Not all of these are required. For example, I have no TEFL certification, but I do have a degree and a US passport. I know teachers here who never went to college, but bought a TEFL certification for 200USD. 

Chinese speaking ability is not required for teaching in Taiwan. Neither is an education degree, nor teaching experience. It is incredibly easy to come here and teach. 

Before you go applying to jobs, some general information will help guide your decision.

The Kinds of Schools in Taiwan

1. Buxiban / Cram School - most foreigners work here. They are a dime a dozen, with names like "Happy American School" or "Golden English Success School." Students in Taiwan get off school at 12pm, and then are sent to these schools for 3-6 hours daily for extra lessons in English, Math, and Chinese. An English teacher's role here is typically to teach 1.5-2 hour classes in Grammar, Spelling, Vocabulary, and speaking for ages 8-16. Hours are ~15 hours a week, afternoon classes (1-9pm). 

2. Kindergarten - It is technically illegal for foreigners to teach at a Kindergarten. Some buxibans are combined kindergarten/buxibans. If you work here, do not be surprised if you are ask to hide if the government visits, or go to the buxiban area of the school. These are basically day-care classes, with teaching responsibilities being singing, dancing, doing flashcards, and playing games. Many kindergartens ask their teachers to eat with the children, which includes feeding the younger ones. Hours are usually morning, 9a-12p, ~1.5 hour classes, ~7 hours a week. 

3. Private Highschools - These are more difficult to get hired by, as the requirements for certifications are higher. The pay is usually higher than the other schools, but so is the required hours, including office hours, in-class time, out-of-class time, and general responsibility. This is, basically, a more "serious" job. 

The most common practice for English teachers is to work at two buxibans from afternoon until night, or at a buxiban and kindergarten to combine morning and afternoon classes. Know that there are a lot of options available, and choose what times you would most like to have free. 

The Process

The process of applying to a school is typically: contact the school, visit for an interview and demo lesson, then sign a contract. 

The Steps to Getting an Interview 

1. Make a resume. Put a pretty picture of yourself on it. 

2. Go to tealit.com , click Teaching Jobs. Call every school you are interested in (at least 5) and set up interviews. Send resumes to those who don't have their phone number listed. Phone should be your primary method of contact. Make sure to record in a google doc or notebook which phone number correlates to which school, and the features of those schools. The best practice in Taiwan is to try a lot of schools before deciding. 

3. Search "teaching in Taiwan" in facebook to turn up groups such as "Teaching English in Taiwan," "Taiwan Teaching Jobs," "Taiwan Substitute Teaching," or other similar groups. Call whatever schools put their numbers up there, and keep an eye out for teachers who are leaving the country soon. Chances are the school will be desperate to replace them. 

4. If all else fails, which is unlikely, go to a bar such as Revolver, talk to foreigners, and find a recruiter. A recruiter takes money from you so I wouldn't resort to this step if you can avoid it. Other than that, you might have to start going door to door at schools and asking if there are openings. 

The Interview / Demo Lesson

The demo lesson can be even more intimidating than a job interview back home. Most schools will typically have you fill out a questionnaire or ask some basic questions to make sure you aren't crazy, then throw you into the lion's den - a classroom full of kids, where you will give a 10-20 minute lesson on whatever they happen to be learning at the time. 

If you're unsure what to do, before you start doing demo lessons, ask around if you can observe some people teaching classes. It won't take you long to catch on how to handle a class. The basic premise is, educate the kids with some fun games of some kind. You can google "TEFL games" and "educational games" for some ideas, but really your best bet is to just do some class observations. Some schools may require you to do this anyway. 

After a demo lesson, the school may try to hire you on the spot, but if it's near the end of the semester and they have other applicants, they may want to call you back later. If they try to hire you on the spot, don't sign anything. Say you want to consider other schools first. If they aren't cool with this, you don't want to work there. Typically you can make a school wait 1 week from your demo lesson for a decision before you've closed that door.

You should indicate that you are staying in Taiwan for at least a year, even if you don't intend to. Schools don't like to hire for less than one year contracts. 

The Contract and Working Conditions

The minimum pay you should accept, unless there's some big exception (you're a non-native English speaker), is 600TWD/hour. 

Some schools may ask for you to offer some "free time," like having a 30 minute lunch with the kids. It's up to you whether this is ok. It is very typical for buxibans to require several "holiday parties" per year, which may or may not be entirely paid and typically will eat up a weekend day. These are hard to avoid, I just put up with it in my jobs. 

Some schools in Taiwan require a "deposit" that they will take from your first paycheck. They will retain this deposit if you break your contract early. I wouldn't go with a deposit any higher than 5,000TWD, but that's because I believe the whole concept is absurd to begin with. Other schools will use a contract clause that forces you to forfeit a part of your last paycheck if you quit before the contract term ends. 

Tax is around 6%. If the school doesn't give you an ARC, they don't get to tax you. Make it very clear that you require an ARC if they will tax you. If you don't have an ARC, you are an unreported teacher anyway, and any "tax" is going straight into the pocket of the school owner. 

Health insurance is optional. If you're going to live in Taiwan for at least a year, I'd get it. It's cheap and it makes the already affordable Taiwanese health care system absurdly inexpensive. Only available to those with an ARC. 

Taiwanese culture is very different from our Western cultures, and Taiwanese pay, compared to yours, is laughable. It's best not to rock the boat if you can. If someone asks you to stay an extra 20 minutes to write a report, huffing and puffing about pay will make everybody hate you. Most Chinese teachers work 8-10 hours a day for less of a monthly paycheck than you make working 2 hours a day. By all means, don't allow yourself to be stepped on, but always keep a smile on your face. Remember, worse case scenario, you can always quit and just find a new school in a relatively short period of time.

The Easy Way Out

If you want it really easy, you can apply online, via email, or by phone to one of the major cram schools. They are Shane, Cambridge, and HESS. These will have the most clear guidelines for getting a job and will do most of the busywork for you. They might even provide an airline or housing subsidy after you arrive in Taiwan. However, these schools generally pay less per hour, are located in strange places, and have a sort of soulless feeling. If you are worried about finding a job on your own, though, a major buxiban is the way to go, especially because you can sometimes apply while you're not in the country. 

If you have any questions, post in the comments! I will update this article in the future based on the questions I get.