Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Raid, or: How Taiwanese Law Is Surprisingly Unsurprising

It is illegal for foreigners to teach Kindergarten in Taiwan.

It is illegal for me to do my job in Taiwan. Technically.

One of the first things we learned in Taoyuan is that in Taiwan, there are laws, and then there is what everyone does, including the law makers and the law enforcers. Take the process of owning a scooter for example:

1. The law: You must have a license to drive a scooter.
2. The law: You must have a scooter to take the test to get your license.

Conflict: How do you do both?
The answer: It's Taiwan.

So you must imagine how surprised/oddly unsurprised we were to learn that foreigners actually can't teach "Kindy." The Taiwanese teachers' union said NO, and so it was written, but parents wanted their babies to have native English education. And so it is commonly practiced that crazy youth like me end up working under...or perhaps above...government rules and regulations. We were told that it's very rarely an issue, and if anyone ever asks, just play dumb, pretend you don't understand what's going on, and don't sign anything. 

 So you must imagine how surprised/oddly unsurprised we were to get phone calls during our classes on Friday (just as I was about to teach ABC's...), saying "Open Sesame!!!" And my HRT (Homeroom Teacher) Lily starts shouting, "Open Sesame, Open Sesame" at me in her beautiful thick accent and I'm screwing up my face like, "Say what, Teacher Lily?" and all of a sudden I get it: Open Sesame is the code word for "We're being raided for illegal teachers...among other things." So I drop my flashcards, say "Bye bye" to the kiddies and bolt out the door.

Outside in the stairwell are my co-teachers, also panting up to the third floor, where we barricade ourselves in the teachers' room. Supposedly this doesn't happen very often, but everyone seems to know the drill very well. Aside from the third floor hiding the teachers, it seems like another "illegal" practice is being hidden: we aren't supposed to have Kindy on the third floor, either, and so an enormous bomb door (or something to that effect) has been closed and locked to completely eliminate the 3rd floor, as if to say, Sorry, but this floor doesn't exist anymore.

We sit sit sit, and wait wait wait, a bit Anne Frank-ish (not to compare a Kindy raid with World War II - though it made a moderately funny joke at the time) and 45 minutes later start to have rumbling tummies. It turns out the inspectors had been satisfied a while before and left. The office ladies had simply forgotten we were Open Sesame-ing and forgot to call. This was not malicious, I might add, just a little funny. After all, it doesn't happen very often, right?

So you must imagine just how surprised/oddly unsurprised we were last night, Monday, while teaching TreeHouse class in the basement classrooms (6-10 years old after school English), that we hear "Open Sesame!" shouted in the doorway. As the English teachers begin to bolt for the elevator to take us to our safe haven on the third floor, we notice a giant stream of students following us into the garage (where the elevator is.) It turns out the Taiwanese law says that classes cannot be held in the basement, and therefore, the students and the classrooms themselves were also illegal.

My poor class, yanked out of a mind-numbing lecture on the grammar pattern "How does noun sensory verb?" climbing onto me asking "Teacher, what is?" and me getting all Sound of Music on them saying "We're playing Hide and Seek and if you stay very quiet, we'll win!" What an absolute treat! Apparently, the basement also had an enormous space shuttle-esque door that effectively renders it "There's nothing important behind that wall!", and we were just taking precautions. It's not that anyone will get shot, or taken to jail, or even seriously fined.

People just don't like complications in Taiwan.

Go figure ;D.


  1. This is hysterical! I can't believe that you are working "illegally! Love my little "illegal worker!"

  2. 我很喜欢你的博客,因为你把你在台湾努力工作和娱乐时间与我们分享. -ming

  3. this is Emma. been a longg time! hehehehe. oh dear that's quite funny, although the rules are stupid (maybe?). i didn't know you were a teacher, that's awesome! i was actually thinking of being a kindergarten teacher too! ...probably not in Taiwan though. sounds like your having an adventure full of funny stories

  4. I am ming , the student in your mother class, and what i said to you that chinese character was :"I like your blog, for your hard work and play in taiwan's time to share with us."

  5. Hey, I'm Trustin. I'm in you're mom's computer class and one of our assignments was to comment on a blog, which is what I'm doing now. Anyway I just have to say, that's so dope how it is illegal for you to teach, but you do it anyway. I assume there are a bunch of people doing what you do, which was the reason for that 'open sesame!' business. But kudos to you for doing what you are doing.

  6. This is Sophia, a student in your mothers computer class. My first thought when i finished your blog about how you illegally teach kindergartner was WOW. It sound stressful and exciting at the same time. I think it is kinda funny how that one teacher forgot you were hiding up there. And the bit about the scooter was down right hilarious.

  7. Hi, my name is Nghia and I am in your mother's computer-education class and on of our assignments it to comment on a blog. So, I really think that it's cool to do something illegal without being caught. But, the best part is that you teach little kids "illegally" and that you have fun out of that. It is really cool that your a teacher that blogs and I wish that all teachers would start blogging.

  8. My name's Stephanie and I'm in your Mom's Digital Citizenship class. I think it's quite amusing how you narrate your stories, haha. Also, I find the rules and regulations of teaching in Taiwan kind of unfair and insensible, though it's outcomes seem quite hilarious. Regardless, maybe you can do something about that in the future? At any rate, keep doing what you're doing because it's awesome! :)

  9. Hi Caitlin, my name is Natalie and I;m in your mothers computer class. I think that this is a very interesting story. I didn't knew that in Taiwan is illegal for foreigners to teach kinder garden. Anyways, in the future more people could know about whats going on and this could change.

  10. Hi, my name is TJ & I am amazed at this story. It's really weird that foreign people teaching is against the law. I never knew such a thing. I always thought people would take advantage of foreign people because it would be such a privilege to learn what someone else knows. Even though no one will get killed or anything I still think its crazy that you went through that. I admire you for taking a risk to teach a group of beginning learners.

  11. Hello! My name is Meng and I'm a student of your mother's computer class.
    While I was reading this blog, I found it really amusing to learn about these eccentric laws in Taiwan. I never knew Taiwan would implement such laws that don't make sense at all. I admire you for teaching the cute little kindergartens even though it is "illegal" for foreigners to teach. I think it is very brave of you to go to an unknown, foreign country in order to achieve your dream! You must really like teaching since you're willing to hide every time someone yells "open sesame." Keep up your hard work! :D

  12. Hi, my name is Justin,I'm in your mom's class & we are commenting on different blogs. I just read yours & I think what you are doing for Taiwanise children is verry special,especially when your putting yourself at risk. I think the laws in Taiwan are wayyyy too tight,but I really apreciate what you are doing,keep up the good work =^.^=

  13. Hi, my name is Lorenzo , and im in your moms computer class. When i read the part about needing a license to drive a scooter, instantly i said what?! Anyway good job on the blogs.

  14. Hello!! This is Jonathan and I am a student in your mom’s computer class. I thought this blog was kind of funny because of the laws like the one about the scooter. Where you have to own a scooter before you even get the license. I like how you teach “illegally” that’s pretty cool it must get kind of annoying when the teacher keeps yelling "Open Sesame!" and you have to run and hide. It must get kind of scary when you run and hide because the officials might see/catch you.

  15. Hello Students!

    You're right: teaching in Taiwan is "dope." It might not be as illegal as you think of illegal. Here, the law means a lot less than things like personal relationships do. One word of advice: respect your teachers ;D. They work really hard, and you can make their day so good if you show enthusiasm for your work.

    Keep reading, everything you can.


  16. Hello, my name is Christina and I am a student in your mothers computer class. I think it is really awesome that you are teaching kids even though you could go to jail. The laws in Taiwan are kind of absurd but so are some of the laws in America. You've really inspired me to do my best in school because we have so many more opportunities here.
    Good luck, Christina

  17. Hi, my name is Daniel and I'm a student in your mom's class. Even though the laws in Taiwan may be a little weird I think that it is still great that your doing what's needed to teach the children.

    - Daniel

  18. Hello! My name is Jia Bao and I am, as you probably know by now, a student in your mom's class. :) I don't understand why foreigners cannot teach in Taiwan. It's kind of ridiculous; I think that as long as the person teaching it is educated in what they need to teach, then it's fine. It's really cool how you guys get around those laws though. Hehe.