Kaohsiung Site FAQ’s for Incoming ETAs
Written by Lily Amelia Susman and Nicola Ying Fry
Q: Do you co-teach or do you teach more independently? What are the pros/cons of this type of teaching?
A: In Kaohsiung, all of the ETAs are required to co-teach. This means that lesson planning with your co-teacher (a local English teacher, LET) and teaching are collaborative. Co-teaching requires cooperation and compromise between both the ETA and LET. Co-teaching allows there to be a better student-to-teacher ratio; and, since most ETAs have had limited previous teaching experience, working with an LET is a great introduction to teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language) in Taiwan. Your co-teacher has more familiarity with the course materials and with students’ needs. On the other hand, as an ETA you will bring American cultural knowledge and native fluency to help foster a more authentic language learning environment.
As mentioned above, compromise is a huge component of co-teaching. You may not always be able to accomplish everything you would like to; your LET may believe that there isn’t enough time for every activity that you want to try; and, it takes time to build rapport with your co-teacher and your students. However, when conflicts, misunderstandings, and miscommunications arise, you should not take it personally. It is not necessarily a reflection of your own or your LET’s teaching ability. Co-teaching requires patience and practice.
Q: What is the role of Chinese in the English classroom?
The use of Chinese varies and typically depends on the LET. But, as an ETA you do not need to know Chinese or use it in class.
A: What are your classes like?
Class size varies greatly. A typical class size is no more than 30 students; however, at some schools, there may be classes as few as 3 students. How often you instruct your students also varies. Some ETAs see all of their students only once a week. Other ETAs are present for their students’ two periods of English each week.
Q: What is the living situation in Kaohsiung?
A: In Kaohsiung we live in apartments with a total of 1-3 fellow ETAs. Most of the apartments are in the city, though a few ETAs live and work elsewhere in the county (within an hour of the city.) These apartments are rented through Fulbright Kaohsiung and apartment placement is determined by school placement. That is to say, each school assignment is tied to a certain apartment. The city apartments are located in neighborhoods with access to public transportation, shopping, restaurants and recreational activities.
Every ETA has his/her own bedroom, though kitchens, living rooms, and some bathrooms are shared. Once the apartments are finalized, ETAs decide amongst themselves who will live in each bedroom. We pay rent, utilities, and wifi bills on a monthly basis. Don’t worry about the month of August! Fulbright covers the rent for that month, and the apartments during orientation will be randomly assigned on the first day.
Q: What kind of activities can you engage in outside of the classroom? What do you do on the weekends?
A: Kaohsiung is the second largest city in Taiwan, and there are plenty of things to do when you’re not teaching. Some activities that ETAs have enjoyed in the past include, but are not limited to: pottery, dance, martial arts, classical Chinese music classes, calligraphy, pick-up soccer, hiking, races, and personal fitness. You can learn more about how to follow your extracurricular interests and find groups to join through internet searches, your host family, your co-teachers and colleagues, as well as local friends. In Kaohsiung some ETAs also continue their religious practices and find a religious community.
Many ETAs chose to study Mandarin as a way to either advance their previous Chinese-language knowledge or to begin studying from scratch. If you are interested in taking Mandarin, small classes comprised of only ETAs are offered through Sun Yat-Sen University. Level placement is determined in August, and arranged with the assistance of the Kaohsiung site coordinator. If you wish to study other languages, there are opportunities for night classes through other local universities.
What to do on the weekends is typically up to you. Periodically ETAs may volunteer to work at English camps or read English books at a local library. Exploring the city, preparing for the following week’s lessons, or traveling to other counties are all possible.
Q: How do you get around Kaohsiung? What are the transportation options?
A: There are many ways to get around Kaohsiung. Kaohsiung has buses, a subway system, taxis, public bikes, and scooters, but the best ways to get around are by scooter and by MRT.
The Kaohsiung MRT is easy to navigate, super clean, and always on time. There are only two subway lines. The red line runs north/south, and the orange line runs east/west. However, there are some parts of the city that are inaccessible by subway. Therefore, the most convenient way to get around Kaohsiung is by scooter.
In August, as an ETA, you will have the opportunity to learn how to scooter if you want to. Having a scooter in Kaohsiung will make your life easier. However, it is not mandatory that everyone buy or learn how to scooter. There is a written and practical exam to obtain a Taiwan scooter license, which you will have time to prepare for in August. Obtaining a scooter license is really beneficial for traveling in Taiwan because you can rent a scooter anywhere on the island. In other counties that don’t have a subway system this can be particularly helpful.
Q: What’s your daily schedule as an ETA? Is it okay to have no background in Chinese language?
A: As an ETA, you are required to be at school Monday through Friday, approximately 8-4, but this can vary on your teaching schedule. In Kaohsiung we teach 20 classes per week. Each class is 40 minutes long. Additionally, Fulbright has about two workshops per month on Friday afternoons to provide teaching support. After 4pm, it’s up to you. There are many dinner options near all the apartments.
It is completely okay to come to Taiwan with little or no Chinese language background. It is completely possible to go through a whole day without speaking any Chinese and to still get around. However, if you do not know any Chinese at all before coming here it is helpful to introduce yourself to the language before moving here for a year. It is not required to know any Chinese before coming, but it will only enrich your experience.