Reasons why an American Teacher Chose to Teach in Taiwan

Bonnie Wong 2020.04.03

It's no brainer to why a teacher would choose to work far away from their home country. Usually people leave for better pay, opportunities, or for a better life. In my case, it was for a better life. As an American teacher from the U.S., to move and teach in a country that paid less than what I made, a place I had no family or friends, a country that speaks a different language, and follows a culture I am unfamiliar with would seem like an insane decision to many. However, over the past decade, teaching has changed so much that it no longer resembles anything I remember what teachers did in the past and the life as an educator has only grown worse with each passing year. The lack of work life balance, concerns over safety at work, and unobtainable affordability towards a comfortable life were the main deciding factors for my move.

Work life balance is something that comes off as a dream for most people, especially for educators in the U.S. When I was teaching in Florida, work never ended. A social life outside of work never happened because of the overwhelming workload. Even when I went out to have a meal with my family, I took my work with me. I was grading during the car ride and when I was waiting for my meal. It was horrible! Not once did I see my friends, not on the weekends and not during the holidays because I was recovering from work overload that took a toll on my overall health. The teaching environment was worse than that of a jailhouse. It was absolutely inhumane! The windows and doors are locked at all times for safety reasons. Imagine yourself locked in a classroom full of young students with so much pent up energy and has a habit of farting as an entertaining past time. In other words, it smelled worse than a gym's locker room. The worst part was there was barely time for lunch and to use the restroom during work hours. If you consider twenty minutes is enough for lunch and a restroom break, you must have super powers or a bladder made of steel. Needless to say, I had neither.


Another huge deciding factor for my move was the huge concern regarding my safety at work. As much as the system promotes and have teachers preach about how a school is a safe place for learning, but few would openly talk about the overall safety at work for teachers. Exactly how safe is it to work at a school? It's a question that opens up many cans of worms. Therefore, to keep it short, it's basically less safe than being in jail. At least, in jail there's a strong system that enforces following the strict rules for convicts and guards. There are also many guards on standby that are armed. Unfortunately, at a school, there would only be one armed officer and that is if you're lucky. If the school is really safe, there is no need for an armed officer. There is no need to keep the classroom doors and windows locked at all times. There's no need for safety drills every month. Yet, that is not all that keeps me up at night. It is the lack of accountability and attitude problem from the students. Too many times I have been hit, disrespected, had things thrown at me by the students I taught. I have lost count of the number of times I had to step in during dangerous situations to prevent students from hurting themselves and other students. No matter how many times I bring it up with the school, the students who keeps making these bad decisions goes unpunished. Therefore, I left to protect myself from the constant immediate dangers from within the school and from the fear of not knowing when someone armed will come to the school to threaten my life.


The final deciding factor for my move to Taiwan was when I realized that the pay out from the teaching profession did not balance out when it came to an affordable comfortable living lifestyle. Not to mention the number of unpaid overtime hours. When everything is inflated but your salary, it becomes very challenging to make ends meet. The thought for a better future becomes a joke when your living expense is so high. Not to mention, this is one of those jobs where you actually pay to work. It is sad, but the lack of resource and budget has many teachers paying out of their own pockets to keep their classroom running. Many teachers have a second job to make ends meet too.


Fortunately, the decision to move to Taiwan to teach has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Considering all of the above factors from teaching in the U.S.: due to a lack of work life balance, safety concerns at my work environment, and to not be able to live an affordable lifestyle; teaching overseas in return for a better life is absolutely worth it. Now that I am working in Taiwan, I get off work on time and have time for a social life, as well as, time to pursue my own interests. When I am at work, I have adequate break times to rest, the freedom to use the restroom when needed, and have lunch without being interrupted. The classroom doors and windows are not locked so there is always proper ventilation. The people here are very friendly and the students are mostly well behaved and respectful towards their teachers that I feel safe at work. Although the pay here is significantly less than what I make back home, I am able to live an affordable and comfortable lifestyle here because the living expense is so much lower. Sometimes less is actually more when you factor in your overall well-being.

share: fb line

Subscribe to our E-paper

Don't miss out on opportunities to teach English in Taiwan's public schools