Here at CIA/CIMS we are extremely proud of the teaching and school staff that help the students with whatever they need. Coaching, counselling, tutoring, and mentoring are all easily accessible. This week, we would love to highlight one of our very special teachers, Chris Herbert. We asked Chris some questions about working at CIA and life in Taiwan:
- What made you come to Taiwan?
“Actually, I have been really interested in Asia ever since I was a young kid. My best friend was Japanese-Canadian and I gave a speech based on Japanese culture when I was in Grade One. Soon after that, an exchange teacher from Japan came to live with my grandparents, and I became even more in love with the idea of crossing the Pacific someday. Then, when I was in Grade Three, my family adopted a boy who is half-Chinese. During high school, my dad visited China, South Korea and Kazakhstan; he came back with some cool stories and souvenirs which got me thinking, as well. Then, when I was in university, I studied Japanese and Chinese art—and read a lot of Indian literature written in English—so when I graduated and was considering a career in law, on the advice of a friend I decided to come check out Taiwan and teach for one year. The weather, the lifestyle and the job all seemed particularly well-suited to me. And the people were so welcoming. And I loved the job. I decided to stay; the rest, as they say, is history.”
- What makes being a teacher in Taiwan exciting? Or not exciting?
“I’m not sure that I’d say that the job is particularly exciting … it’s more about the things that I see day-to-day as a foreigner living in Taiwan. Even having lived here for over 20 years I still see things that surprise me—even shock me—all the time. I don’t need that kind of drama in my job, though. Most people choose to become teachers because they like the comfort of the classroom. I always loved school, you know. So, I think teaching being not so exciting is a nice way to balance the over-stimulation I get from living as an expat overseas, where everything—language, social group, food, customs—is so different from back in Canada, still challenging after all these years.”
- What makes CIA different from other schools you’ve taught at?
“Well, it’s almost completely different, but very similar to the experimental high school I attended back in Canada! The students here really have to figure out how to do stuff on their own. I mean, the teachers and staff are super-helpful, but they need to get used to not being ordered around so much. About the classes themselves, the Language Arts component is not so different than a lot of the top high schools I’ve taught at, but being able to teach subjects such as History, Geography and Western Culture is somewhat new to me. You’re just adding a deeper component while the ultimate goal is still boosting a student’s ability to think and communicate in English.”
- What is some advice you’d give to a new teacher coming to Taiwan?
“It would really depend on who you are and where you’re coming from, but there are two things I’d tell my former self. First, bring more money! That first year or two can be a little difficult living on the cheap, but that’s part of the experience, I suppose. You’re going to need to buy EVERYTHING again, from a motorcycle to get around, all the way down to just pens, paper, and simple stuff like that. Second, study some Mandarin Chinese before you come here. I read that Tainan residents had the best English ability in Taiwan, but I was sorely mistaken—ha, ha! We have a saying in English, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” With relation to language, a year of Chinese classes in Canada would have made my early experiences here so much more fruitful, especially in terms of being self-sufficient and making more local friends. It took me ten years just to learn the names of a lot of basic dishes. For years, I had very few Taiwanese friends due to the language barrier. And they really are the nicest people on Earth! I suppose smartphones make everything a lot easier for newbies, though.”
Special thanks to Chris for taking the time for this interview. If you’d like to have a chance to meet Chris and all the other helpful people here at CIA, give us a call or visit our website, https://ia.ctbc.edu.tw/