Considering teaching abroad? Why Taiwan? We asked some of our Canadian teachers and recent university graduates to share about their experience teaching Foresight's Ontario-based ESL program, and why they made the decision to teach in Taiwan.
Sophia: My name is Sophia Wang, I am a teacher from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and I am a grade 7 teacher at Kuang Ren High School.
Gillian: I’m Gillian and I’m from Oshawa, Ontario. I teach grade 1 at Sacred Heart.
Rachelle: Hi, I’m Rachelle, I’m from Niagara in Ontario, and I am teaching grade 1 and 2.
Chris: My name is Chris Mariano, I’m from Ottawa, Canada. I’m teaching grade 7 and grade 8.
Brittney: I’m Brittney, I’m from Tottenham, Ontario, and I’m teaching grade 1.
Scott: I’m Scott, I’m from Oakville, Ontario, and I’m teaching grade 2.
Jessica: My name is Jessica Mills and I’m from Montreal, Canada, and I currently teach grade 5 and grade 6. I decided to teach in Taiwan because I was looking to teach abroad in general, and when I started to look at the opportunities, Taiwan just looked like it offered so many things that I really wanted to do.
Brittney: Foresight was a great option for us because we were looking at abroad optionsand Foresight, not only do they use a curriculum that is based on an Ontario curriculum, they also offer a one or two year contract which gives a bit of flexibility and that was what we were looking for.
Sophia: What was really attractive for me was the fact that it was an Ontario-based curriculum in Taiwan and so I thought that it would be a great bridge for me, for where I was in my career to, you know, get to know a new place and teach in a new country but still have something familiar that I was trained in.
Rachelle: I wanted to teach somewhere abroad and I started doing research on Taiwan when they came to the job fair, and I saw that they had beautiful scenery, it seemed like the people were really great, and great food, so I decided to just take the leap and come teach in Taiwan.
Scott: Taiwan, as a country, we heard a lot of really positive things, it's a very welcoming place to come and a lot of really good cultural things that drew us in like the food and the different kinds of buildings here and stuff like that.
Chris: When I took my sabbatical I had the choice to basically teach anywhere in the world, and I chose Taiwan because of the balance between big city lifestyle and outdoor nature activities. I love biking, swimming, hiking and Taiwan is a paradise for that.
Sophia: In terms of choosing a place abroad, Taiwan especially was really interesting to learn about because when I was doing more research about it, I found out that it was a really friendly place for expats and different people who were moving there from abroad, and so I thought, you know, I can speak the language a little bit, and I would like to get to know my roots as well, and so to be able to do that as a teacher, I thought would be a great opportunity.
Chris: From transportation, to food, to night life, to sports, to nature, to hiking, swimming, biking, everything is accessible here in Taiwan and that's such a change from some Canadian cities where everything is really spaced out or you need a vehicle to get around.
Jessica: It's so beautiful here, I can go hiking, I can go to the beach if I want to and also just cost of living and lifestyle just seems so ideal here.
Chris: The multitude of activities is really incredible and the ease with which you can travel throughout the country and the city is incredible.
Rachelle: Taipei has been absolutely amazing. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, the weather is so nice and warm compared to Canada so that's really nice. The food is delicious and you just can't stop eating here, the people are super nice here, and just the whole experience has been absolutely amazing so far.
Sophia: So, in this program, we are an ESL program, English as a Second Language, and so we focus on speaking, reading, and writing with a lot of emphasis right now on the oral aspect for speaking.
Chris: In any second language learning environment, it's really essential to have the students communicating authentically in the language. We do do reading, writing, listening activities as well, but certainly the emphasis is on oral communication.
Sophia: We are a Western-style program, so we are teaching students a lot just in how education is like in the Western world. There's a lot of group work that we teach them, and they get used to doing in class. They'll often be quite shy in the beginning in terms of talking, and so we'll start off doing things like think-pair-share, so they'll talk with their peers, and then once they feel more comfortable in doing that, they'll share with the class.
Chris: We use a lot of visuals, the classrooms are equipped with Smartboards, so we have videos, we have songs, we have different visual aids that we'll give the students on a daily basis, and we have a lot of interactive activities where the students are engaged in authentic communication with each other.
Jessica: Normally we do a lot of teaching through different themes, so the theme that we have right now is endangered animals, but in grade 5 and grade 6, we're looking at paragraph structure and how to properly organize your ideas, as well as working on making students more independent.
Rachelle: Right now we are covering likes and dislikes, so we're talking about animals and food and we're using a lot of hands-on opportunities, we're doing a lot of smart board activities.
Gillian: We us a lot - a LOT - of visuals a lot of songs and chants. We try to brainstorm and draw on their prior knowledge a lot in class.
Rachelle: This program has a lot of support, there's a great support team that helps us along the way. I am a first-year teacher, so having that support is really really helpful. We also have grade planning time, and we have grade partners, so getting together with them and talking about what are we doing this week and next week is really helpful, so there's a great support system here at the school helping me every single day.
Brittney: With Foresight, you get to co-plan with a fellow teacher, which is really good, especially as a new teacher, because you can bounce ideas off of them and work together to figure out your plan so it makes it a little less intimidating than jumping into an Ontario classroom where you're kind of more on your own.
Jessica: So it's not you're getting thrown in by yourself, and then sink or swim, instead, it's you have a team of teachers to plan with, you have support from your teacher director, from your teacher leader, you have these supports around you, and everyone's always so willing to help.
Sophia: I can't stress enough how fantastic our admin staff are, and they're really the go-to people for us to get what we need. And then, I also can't stress enough the value and importance of having fantastic co-workers. For me, I have one grade partner, and she's been such a wonderful help in just getting settled into the school, helping me understand what's coming up, what has been done in previous years, and so really having those teaching colleagues is fantastic.
Gillian: There's Ontario staff in the schools, so if I have any questions about the curriculum, or even classroom management, there's always someone that I can ask, and we have a lead teacher at our school, who has lots of experience and is really great, if we have any issues with the curriculum, we're like, what should we do here? she always helps us with that too.
Rachelle: Every single day, I have people helping me, so, even if you don't have that ESL background, you just learn from your colleagues, you learn from teachers around you, you learn from even the Chinese teachers, and the students, you learn a lot from the students.
Jessica: In general, Foresight does offer a lot of opportunities to get professional development, We run little workshops and seminars, and that really helps us understand how to implement new things in our classroom.
Brittney: With Foresight, they offer, every week we have teacher meetings where we have opportunities to learn more about professional development, get new ideas.
Sophia: There are some days where we have meetings scheduled into our timetable, so they're never after school hours, they're always during the day, and they're scheduled, so it's really nice to know when they'll happen, and that I can have a predictable schedule.
Jessica: I think about how I started last year, versus just the beginning of the school year this year, and I've changed so much in my style, I'm much more ready and know what's happening. I'd say that professionally, I'm much more comfortable in the class, I have a better idea of how to use the resources available to me, and I know where to go if I need things. Foresight is there to help you develop so that you can get the strategies down, so that the next couple of years as you go forward, you're much stronger in what you're doing.
Scott: Also, the company itself is a bit smaller, so it's a nice way to start off you kind of get a really nice sense of community and family within the company, especially as a new teacher.
Sophia: We always have an orientation when we start the year off in August. We have curriculum documents and other support materials available to us, many of which are designed specifically for this program, based on Ontario's curriculum.
Scott: Being a fresh graduate, having to teach the Ontario curriculum is very applicable to us, especially when we want to go back, we can say we have some experience teaching the actual curriculum that we learned.
Brittney: We're kind of a community where we share resources, as well as, like, apps, we have, like, a little "teacher toolbox" that we can kind of "steal" from each other so that really helps to build your repertoire of ideas and tools.
Rachelle: Oh, there's so many resources here. They offer different activities for us, such as activities for centres, they give us books, they give us art supplies, basically anything you can think of.
Gillian: So previous years of teachers have left resources for each unit not only in physical form, like games, or visuals, and things like that, but also like digital copies of slideshows.
Scott: Also, we have a real well, kind of online sharing component or community, so we can see what other schools have, so it really facilitates getting, as you said, the teacher toolbox so we can see a lot of different resources and use them in real time with our classroom.
Sophia: We have access to a company-wide Google Drive, we have access to online reading resources, such as RazKids, and we have, in our library, a variety of books and other physical resources for us to have in our classroom.
Brittney: My favourite part so far is probably the students, making connections with your students is always such a special thing.
Sophia: Probably all of the little moments and the little victories, and it really comes down to the students.
Brittney: It's the best feeling when you hear them speak, and they haven't spoken for weeks, or, they learn a new word, or you get a note from home saying they're speaking English at home for the first time.
Sophia: And when they get that "aha!" moment or when they finally are able to do something that they were previously struggling to do, those are really the moments that you remember during the harder times, that are just really wonderful to have.
Rachelle: Honestly, the kids are really great. It's great to be able to have the opportunity to teach students who don't have English as their first language, so just trying to talk to them and communicating with them,it's not just about oral communication, it's about using gestures and everything, so that's a really great opportunity.
Scott: Definitely getting to know the students, because, since it's our first year being a teacher, it's our first classes, so having that kind of sense of Oh, this is my first time being a main teacher for these kids, so when you finally feel like you're getting to build a strong rapport or connection with them, it's really satisfying.
Sophia: To all the teacher candidates out there, I would say keep your options open. Often times, what we end up doing may have been something you hadn't even considered before. I had thought of places to teach in Asia elsewhere, and I hadn't even considered Taiwan until I came across it, and I thought, you know what, I should actually give this a real fighting chance, and consider what would happen if I did it, and I'm really glad I'm here.
Brittney: If you have a bit of that travel bug and you want to get the opportunity to have your own class, for sure, go for it. It's a great experience as far as a teacher, but also just as life in general, you meet so many new people, you get to go on excursions and see so many beautiful landscapes and new places and meet new people, it's an amazing experience, so you should go for it.
Scott: I mean, yeah, I would say the same, as far as a country to come live in for either a year or two years, it's very safe and very welcoming, it's very quick to feel at home here, and yeah the experience you get, as far as being a first-year teacher, is amazing, because you have that first full year being your own teacher in your own class,which you can't necessarily have at home, which is really nice.
Rachelle: I say, if you are thinking about leaving Canada and going abroad to teach, I think Taiwan is a great, great choice, I was on the fence a bit, but it has been an absolutely amazing experience, there's so much I can bring back from learning here, back to Canada, and it's truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Do it! and you will not regret it, because, I love it here.