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Teaching-or how to get paid
for torturing children
june 2000(a small update).

my contract at the hess language school(see below for stories about working at hess) ran out in august 1999. so i then took sometime off to travel around (some of which can be found on other sections of this site) and spend the holidays with my family and friends back in seattle. in january of 2000 i came back to taiwan to start on the teaching road again. all i knew was i didn't want to work for hess if i could avoid it. as i came back right before chinese new years there weren't a lot of positions being advertised. but in the end i ended up at gram english center. there's no pressure to work kindergarden here. however, the materials are not as good as hess and the foreign teachers tend to be under utilized as they are used mainly for oral practice and review.the school also tends to be a bit disorganized in my eyes but once you get used to it its ok. the school offers classes for both children and adults. the children classes for the most part are not much of a challenge but the adult classes can be. its a nice change to be able to teach both children and adults.

may 1999.
i work at the hess language school in taipei taiwan.this is a cram school. a school elementary and junior high kids go to after regular school. as an organization i am not very fond of hess. the initial training contained no(or very little) grammar training. i have not worked for any other schools here so i dont know if hess is truly any better than any of the other schools or not. i've never been very fond of corporations in general and hess has proven that that isn't a bad generalization. despite my many misgivings about the larger organization and my immediate branch director i for the most part really like my job. mainly because of the kids. they are great and teach me the more "interesting" chinese words on break. most classes are taught by an nst (native speaker teacher) and a ct (chinese teacher).classes are held twice a week. one class taught by the nst with the ct assisting. and one class taught by the ct alone. classes are taught with as little chinese as possible. the kids aren't supposed to speak any chinese without permission first but these ARE kids so that rule is often broken. in general there are three types of classes: k-classes, n-classes, and pg.

k-classes are for younger kids. ages 6-10. some of the kids can't even write chinese properly and they are learning to write english. ideally if a student goes through the k-classes they should skip a few levels in the n-classes. there are 8 levels in the k classes and 12 in the n-level. the ages in the n-classes run from 9-14 years old. though the majority of students quit once they hit junior high. pg stands for post graduate and it is for kids who have graduated from the n-level. it is more free form conversation practice and grammar review. the pg classes are taught once a week and only by an nst.

the kids often surprise me with things they ask me or tell me. what follows is a few of the more interesting stories.

i was teaching my n-7 class a writing workshop. i was showing them what they had to write on the board. so i asked them "where will i be on saturday?" amy calls out "at the bra shop!" so i write "i will be at Amy's bra shop on saturday." then i ask "what will i do there?" once again amy has the answer. "put on a bra!". so i write "i will put on a bra." then i ask "how do i feel?" and someone yells out "very very excited!!". so i write it down. what monsters. i think i would of been horrified if i had run into this when i first started teaching but now it just amuses me.

in another class of mine this one group of boys would try to get a rise out of me by telling me(in a combination of english, chinese, and taiwanese) how i take 1,000 viagras and make love to 1,000 women at a brothel!! when i asked them how they knew this they would tell me that they were at the department store next to the brothel and they saw me. little monsters. this is yet another case of something that would of horrified me when i first started teaching but now i just laugh at it. i don't think there is much that can phase me at this point.

i used to have a class i absolutely hated. the kids were brats and difficult to teach. they weren't all brats but the majority were hard to control. and among these monsters there was peggy. she was constantly doing things for attention. stepping on my shoes, trying to trip me,...anything to cause trouble basically. one day the ct told me "peggy likes playing with you". playing? torture was more like it. eventually i got used to it and let peggy be peggy up to a certain point. she used to laugh at me for not being able to speak or read chinese. sadly her english wasn't that much better than my chinese. the picture on this page was drawn by peggy. in her own twisted way she would show me she liked me. a card or a drawing with a bubble saying "william is a pig!". but at least she was using some of the english she had learned. no matter how small. eventually most of the terrible students were flunked or quit. but peggy remained. in the end the class was closed and the students went to different classes in different levels. one day after the class had ended the new ct (that had peggy in her class now) told me that peggy had said that i had inspired her to speak english. i couldn't believe it when she said that. peggy? the one that made the words "you are a pig!" into an artform? it was/is one of the few times that i knew i was really making a difference. even when she was in a new class she would still talk about me. my contract is nearly up here. and peggy made an effort to find out when i was leaving. initially i thought maybe she would just want my address in the states but the ct said she wanted reprints of some of the pictures i took on the last day of our old class. so i gave the reprints via emily(ct of peggy's class). i didn't think much about it until a few days later when i open my locker and there sits a present! it turns out to be a card and a picture frame with the picture from my old class in it. from peggy of course. really really nice. i was really touched.

for anyone out there considering teaching english in asia i say do it! it's not as hard as it seems and you can learn more than you will ever be able to put into words. not to say their aren't difficulties but the knowledge you learn from living in another culture you can't really get that any other way. and it is possible to save money if you don't binge too much. i managed to get my visa paid off while i have been here. and some of my friends(back in the states) are quite jealous of me for that. dave's esl cafe is a good place to start researching information on teaching english abroad as well as a good place for those who are not native speakers to find exercises to practice their english.