Teaching in Yilan
- Demographics/language: Suburban, low-mid/high socioeconomic status families, almost all students attend cram school or extracurricular activities, Chinese/Taiwanese are the main languages used.
- Transportation: Scooter, bike, walking, free Bank of Taiwan shuttle buses, and regional buses.
- To Teacher’s Center: The easiest transport is by train or taxi, though you can scooter there if you buy one.
- General English level of students: Mid/high competency levels with mid/high interest. In general, there is moderate excitement in the classroom, but higher level students might show exceeding aptitude and find the material too easy.
- Community: Yuanshan orchid arboretum, biking, Plum Blossom Lake 梅花湖, specialty cafes (including a cat cafe), King Car Whiskey Factory, Mr. Coffee Factory, Luodong Sports Park, Hokkaido Bakery, Luodong Night Market
- In Luodong, schools can be extremely large and competition-oriented, and students often feel intense pressure to succeed.
There are many exciting performance events all year-round, like Chinese Yo-Yo, traditional orchestra shows, debates, and cultural activities. It’s normal to feel lost in the beginning; like in a US high school, there are teacher/administrator cliques that may hinder initial connections. The key is carving out a community for yourself - make friends with other teachers outside your specialty.
Find ways to connect with your students through English Club, supporting them in the classroom, or participating in their favorite after school activities. As the foreign teacher, you’re expected not to know anything and everyone wants to help you out, but most students and teachers will be apprehensive about approaching you because they don’t know if they’ll be able to communicate with you, and they don’t want to impose on your time.
Working in Luodong, ETAs might need to reach out first as active listeners about the host culture. Asking or miming for help will usually break the ice, leading to amicable relationships.
- Demographics/language: A large number of the students are Atayal. In school, students and teachers communicate in Mandarin. The teachers often use Taiwanese amongst themselves. In addition to English, students also take Atayal classes, which some of them speak at home.
- Transportation: Every morning we take the 7:00 train, which takes around 30 minutes. The cheapest and most convenient option is to buy a 60-day train pass from Luodong to Nanao. Once in Nanao, ETAs either walk, ride a bike, or scooter to the school depending on the distance (the furthest ones are Wuta and Jinyang, which are a 10- and 20-minute scooter ride respectively). Fulbright offers a transportation stipend for ETAs whose schools are further away. Unless you are placed at the schools that are within walking distance from the train station, it is recommended that you purchase a scooter (or a bike).
- Accommodation: Nanao ETAs live in an apartment in Luodong. They also have the option of renting a dorm room in Nanao for 1000NT a month in addition to the apartment in Luodong.
- English Level: Most students in Nanao have a relatively low level of English. Motivating your students, showing them why English is worth learning and making learning English relevant, fun, and active will be important. Be sure to check in with your co-teacher or homeroom teachers about specific students if they seem unmotivated or are having discipline problems.
- Nan'Ao Activities: In Nan'Ao, there are many restaurants along the main road. There is a 7/11, a Hi-life, a local store, and small stores in the individual villages. There is a port with a small beach that you can visit in Nanao, a waterfall in Jinyue, and many KTVs that you can go to. Nanao also has a small night market that only opens on Tuesdays.
- Demographics/language: agricultural, rural, low/mid socioeconomic status families. Most students’ parents work in industrial or agricultural positions. Students don’t usually attend cram school, and many live with their grandparents or extended family members. Students speak mostly Chinese, Taiwanese, and Hakka
- Transportation: scooter or carpool with co-teacher. The buses are very sporadic and take a long time from Luodong to Sanxing.
- To Teacher’s Center: taxi is preferred, as there is no direct train route.
- General English level of students: mid/low competency, mid/low interest
- Community: making pizza, harvesting rice, Hakka dancing, bike rides, camping, hiking, traditional music, green onion specialty foods, many different kinds of farming activities.
In Sanxing, schools tend to be small and the community is tight-knit. As a temporary teacher in this environment, you must earn the student and faculty’s respect.
The academic environment is less strict and the expectation is generally that students will try their best but not necessarily perform as well as their peers in Luodong; there is much more Chinese used in the English classroom here. Students still show great interest in English-speaking culture if not the language. Because the schools are smaller, you will have the unique opportunity to engage with all of the students and get to know all of the administrators, all of whom are excited to share stories and food with you, regardless of how well you understand Chinese. School events often feature an aspect of Hakka aboriginal culture. Students often grew up either participating in a Hakka traditional dance or singing troupe.
- Demographics/language: Chinese and Taiwanese, low/mid socioeconomic status, farming/fishing families primarily
- Transportation: bike/train combination, scooter. Many of the Su’Ao Marine and Fisheries Vocational High School students take the train so you can get to know them.
- To Teachers’ Center: Straight from Su’ao Elementary School about an hour with the bike/train combination, straight from Yu Ying Elementary School 40 minutes by scooter
- English level of students: low competency, low/mid interest. There are a few students in each grade that are good students with mid/high competence and interest.
- Extracurricular Activities: Nanfangao has beaches, the golden and jade Buddhas, cheap but fresh seafood, and cold springs. There is a hiking trail behind Su’Ao Elementary School, andYu Ying Elementary School has a 6th grade graduation trip to the eastern/central part of Taiwan, usually the parents of the children own local shops so they will recognize you and give you discounts, students live pretty close
In Su’Ao, some students take English seriously but from our experience, it has been harder to motivate students. English starts in first grade, but usually it is once a week for first and second graders. For third to sixth graders, English should be twice a week. Depending on the school, the amount of students can range from 100 to 600 total.
At Su’Ao Elementary School, most of the events or clubs an ETA proposes must be pre-approved by the administration and stick to strict rules. In Su’Ao, if you take initiative and talk to the administration, they are more open to ideas. Yu-Ying Elementary School is currently the English Resource Center for ETAs so the administration will go to other schools to observe other ETAs. Their experiences can be helpful to draw from.
Most curriculum are also strictly monitored. With soccer club this year, it is really encouraging to see students thrive in another environment besides English class. If these students have lower grades, it’s really helpful to create relationships through soccer. With English Club, it’s really encouraging to see students get excited about English as an extracurricular. Since it is a smaller community, talk to people on the street and at school and get to know them. Su’Ao citizens do a good job of making you feel welcome.
- Language: Most teachers and families speak Chinese. The elderly here will speak a lot of Taiwanese and the youth can mostly all communicate in Taiwanese. It’s very common to hear the staff talking with each other in Taiwanese.
- Transportation: By scooter from Dapo apartment it takes 15-20 mins. By scooter from Fuxing apartments, it takes 25-30 mins. It takes about 20 minutes to get to Teacher’s Center. A scooter is a must for this school because it’s in a rural area, and the public transport here is inconvenient. (GT) I get to school using a scooter. The commute from Guorong apartments to KaiSyuan can range between 10-15 minutes depending on traffic lights. It takes 5 minutes to get to the Teacher’s Center via scooter. I recommend scooting since the road is very direct, but if you want to walk, it’ll take you about 15 minutes. (KS)
- English Level: “The English level of the students varies greatly. Some of the kids have the opportunity to go to cram school which increases their competency levels. They may enjoy English class more than the other students. Interest in English is pretty low, but if you work to make class interesting the kids definitely respond. Investing in the students, especially the struggling ones, makes a huge difference. Many students improve with encouragement. (GT) Students’ level of English will range just like every school. Speaking generally, my area is pretty wealthy and with wealth comes a little more support for English education. However, the interest levels will be directly contingent on your enthusiasm and work as their teacher.” (KS)
- Extracurricular Activities: Kai Syuan will take you to a bunch of field trips from the Green Expo to Hualien. They organize firefly viewings in San Xing and an onion pancake making weekend. I usually go swimming in the Yilan Sports Park and a nearby indoor swimming pool in the winter.” (KS)