In the current issue of overbalanced teachers in primary schools, I’m kind of happy for being absent in this ugly fight for individual survival, however, I also feel sorry for Shiuyu for facing that situation all alone. When I mentioned this to Wayne, he said, "well, find another job if the environment is so unfriendly."
I guess that’s what people usually think in a scenario like this. I’d love to say something like that to Shiuyu, reminding her there are still options other than teaching in life. Although I am currently in the safe list since I coached a kid who won the second prize in a contest a few years before, I can see the plight of subject English teachers is once again buried under all sorts of administrative decisions.
This sounds just like fighting for individual interests, well, in a way it is. English as a subject is still relatively new for the Taiwanese primary education system. I dare say that 80% of the school administration don’t have a clue of what English class is about. It is not just about the game, the atmosphere, the singing and the dancing (although they are all important elements in the English class), what TEFL teachers are facing is a challenging, sometimes discouraging, teaching environment that outsiders rarely acknowledged.
While TEFL teachers in the public school system take as high as 24 sessions a week, the workload is often downplayed by the school administration. English class is very much emphasizing in the hearing/visual input and the interaction. It is a subject usually fast-paced and noisy, as some other teachers may complain. It requires a lot of talk, a lot of voice modeled by teachers and a lot of physical/regalia demonstrations. All these teaching routing plus min. 2 workbooks per student, imagine the time and energy you are going to invest in 12 classes per week.
TEFL teachers have schedules to meet in every session, which makes it difficult to arrange time for quiet sit-in activities. They usually present target knowledge in numerous flashcards, posters, regalia, story books or powerboat, which is one of the reason why they deserve a subject classroom for it is simply disturbing and inhumane to carry all those teaching aids around!
TEFL teachers are the minorities in most primary schools, too. They are usually not trained by the conventional teaching institutions and the numbers of them in the campus are usually limited. Take my school for example, I was the only TEFL teacher in the past 4 years until Shiuyu came along. I spent the 1st year in struggling with 12 classes per week without an English classroom. The principle didn’t see the point of setting up a subject classroom for English class, he even suggested that what’s the difference of repeating the same model since I’ve done that for a year.
It sounds like I’m complaining again, but the reality is, qualified TEFL teachers are the key roles in primary school system. They are not only the primary source for those who can’t afford the cram schools/private tutoring but also the important media in introducing the language and the culture (which I think maybe all of us need to work on this part, too) to the young kids.
Solution to change the current status?
Forming an TEFL allies and work out an convincing presentation to introduce what English class is about to the school administration. The allies should be regional-oriented since every county faces different scenarios. What do you think?