Saturday, June 06, 2009

Summer vacation is nearing and the annual end-of-the-school-year rituals are in full play: signing yearbooks, creating final grades for 800 students and ducking all supervisors. The last one is most important to me and one that I try to be faithful to year round. It's made easier because my supervisors are doing the same. However, given time to make a decision - whether one needs to be made or not - they inevitably make one that is wrong, stupid, repetitive or all three. This is where I must step in and show them that even after eight years it is still possible for round eye to be completely ignorant of, and completely disregard the concept of indirect criticism.

I teach at a combo junior high / high school / vocational school. Similar schools in Taichung have foreign teachers numbering in the teens. At my school, we number in the upper twos - three to be exact. The senior teacher is Paul. This is his 9th or 10th year there and even though he does not have a teaching certificate, he has been grandfathered in and is safe. Before, a college degree was good enough. A couple of years ago, the government got stricter about the requirements (having a teaching certificate) and sales of Photoshop and tickets to Bangkok soared. I have my certificate and permanent work and residence visa. I too, am safe. It is our third teaching position that has given us problems. We have rotated this position like drummers for Spinal Tap. The last one before the current teacher was my good friend Jerry. Our school declined to offer him a new contract because he did not have a teaching certificate. I was not happy. The school said sorry, that's the way it has to be and we will never hire another teacher unless they have a teaching certificate. Until they did.

The new, current, teacher is a very good teacher who gets along with the students and other teachers. So, our school decided enough was enough and decided to not offer him a contract for next year. When the contracts were distributed, we noticed there were only two. Nothing for Andre. Andre told us the school had already informed him that he wouldn't be coming back. He then handed me a printout of a news story (in Chinese) from Yahoo Taiwan news which had been given to him by the number two guy at our school. Andre was told it was about a crackdown on unlicensed teachers that was starting in Taibei and moving south. He was told the article said that the penalty was severe and teachers would be deported within two days. He was told the school was very sorry but they had to protect themselves. I said, give it to me.

I read the article. I took it to my Chinese teacher to let him read and see if he concurred with me. I then showed it to four Taiwanese teachers in the Junior High department. We all agreed. The school's version was complete bullshit. Yes, two licensed foreign teachers in Taibei were caught working at another school. They were not deported. There was no crackdown. They were turned in by the school they were under contract to. The news article was about the behavior of the teachers when coming out of a meeting after being fined (the teachers, not the school). The teachers reacted rather unpleasantly upon seeing some of the media there. They responded with the finger, cussing and assaulting a reporter. I took my knowledge and black hat to confront Numbers Two and Three. I told them they lied. I also added that I would not sign my contract until they settled this. Not really a huge threat, but we would only have one foreign teacher and our so-called Foreign Language department would collapse. They have since offered Andre a contract, but he can only teach in the morning or in the afternoon. Why? Because the Immigration Police who are not cracking down on unlicensed teachers will only raid our school in the morning or the afternoon - whichever time Andre is not working. Yes, they really said that. Number Three supervisor has told Andre and Paul to tell me to please not talk to her directly. I am too upsetting. If I have something to say, tell them and they will tell her. So I scheduled a meeting with her and Number Two next week.

Andre recently got a visit from Number Two a disgruntled parent. The issue? An 85 for disgruntled's child. The result. Number Two said that the students in that class could only get a score of 95-100. Change it. Now. This is a class whose tuition is being covered by the school and guaranteed admission into the high school of their choice. I told Andre to change Precious's grade to 95 and give everyone else in the class 100. Hope he does it. Were are also told to adjust (never lower than 85) any aboriginal or underprivileged student's grade. We have no idea who they are and have never adjusted their grades. The other Taiwanese teachers in the Junior High department do not adjust either, and no one has ever been spoken to about it. I guess the Free Ride class is a little more equal than others. Just two more weeks and then I'm home for about 5 weeks. Get your requests in now.


Anonymous said...

Hello John,

this was an interesting analogy into the school system/foreign teacher experience in Taiwan. I am curious to know if foreigners have been feeling the strain on the system in terms of both economy and certification. I am considering coming back for a 6 month stint before graduate school, and was wondering on the difficulty in finding a job with a legitimate degree and 2.5 years of past experience in Taichung. Send me a line please at either or
I trust all is well, and I hope your vacation refuels the jets.

Chris (Canada)

USAhole said...

Sounds like BS to me! Hope to see you soon! As for requests: Good Pad Thai Sauce, A funny Taiwanese T-shirt! I will pay you for both upon arrival! G

USAhole said...


Anonymous said...

John have some Rebus TV show for you - will drop it off at PJs over the weekend