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Teaching English In Asia by Susan Griffith

Teaching English in Taiwan with Hess

Start in June if You’re a Graduating Student

My experience with Hess, this past year was great. I would definitely recommend it as a good option for anyone considering teaching English in Taiwan.

If you are graduating in May and plan to start teaching with Hess in June, you have be on top of things—getting all your health exams and required documents, including proof of graduation, in hand. It might sound overwhelming, but the Hess main office in Taiwan is very helpful.

Starting in June has several advantages. The first is tax: Because you are in Taiwan for over 183 days of the calendar year, half of the 20 percent tax initially deducted from your pay will be refunded. (If you are in Taiwan for over half a year, your tax rate drops to 10 percent.) Then there’s the issue of stress: If you only have a college degree, you can only teach the Hess Language School (HLS) classes if you start in June (not kindergarten). For a beginner, teaching only 20 hours a week is pretty exhausting.

The week-long training course is very thorough and at times you might think that it is an information overload, but it gives you all the information you need to start off teaching. I was placed in Yung Ho, just outside Taipei City. I had fast access to the city (where you want to be for urban pleasures) by public transportation. During the week of training, Hess houses you in a hotel. Your branch staff helps find you a place to stay after that first week. Hess handles getting the work permit, Alien Resident Card.

The actual teaching takes some getting used to. For almost all HLS classes, you have a Chinese teaching assistant (or CT—you are the Native Speaking Teacher or NST) who will help you when you need of a translator or just an assistant. The classes for HLS are approximately two hours long with a 10-minute break in the middle. The hours are usually 4:30-8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Some branches also offer an extra Wednesday class from 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m, and you might have to teach on a Saturday. Getting the hours that you want (having no Saturday classes, for example) might not be possible at first.

You have to make lesson plans for your classes, but you don’t have to plan your own curriculum, which has already been set out. At first it took me hours to prepare for classes, but by the end of my year it only took me 10 minutes.

In August I started teaching kindergarten (Kindy), which also started with a week of training before actual teaching began.

Teaching kids from ages 3-6, some of whom haven’t been exposed to a word of English or been in any school at all, is a great experience. They can be quite hard to handle, but it is so rewarding to see them grow.

If you have an education degree or if you have taught for at least one year with Hess, you have the option to take full-time Kindy, where you teach two classes (9 a.m.-12 p.m. and then 2 p.m.-4 p.m.). Some teachers really like this because it frees up their evenings and weekends.

In addition to Kindy and HLS, I was able to do additional work for Hess, like making voice recordings for their language CDs and writing an outside curriculum. Hess is always interested in finding people to do projects outside of teaching. You usually have to have worked for at least a year as an NST to get a full-time position at the main office.

There are a few disadvantages in working with Hess. The pay at last year’s exchange rate was about $15 per hour, which is only about average in the Taiwan market for English school pay. Other places offer higher pay and perhaps better hours. But there are some benefits that outweigh these disadvantages. Hess is a large and stable organization. It won’t suddenly disappear overnight. You don’t have to plan your own curriculum, and you get trained well before actually teaching a class. In addition, since Hess offers so many different classes, you will most likely be able to get more hours at Hess than at other schools. So despite the fact that you might only get average hourly pay, the number of hours you can potentially work will make up for it. Finally, Hess takes care of all the paperwork that you need to legally work and live in Taiwan.