Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Friday, May 02, 2003

My head has been spinning overtime as I struggle- recently a wrench has been thrown into my plans. Lately, so many things that I had planned on have fallen through, leading me to reluctantly reassess my game plan. Timing has conspired against me and my diligent efforts as a dedicated teacher have fallen on the blind. I recently discovered that although I applied for a full-time teaching position at the college where I've taught for almost 2 academic years- I'm not even being considered as a candidate for a full-time position. Why? Because I don't have a PhD. The college (which I will graciously not name) where I've taught specializes in preparing students for the hospitality industry (i.e. airline, culinary arts, hotel management, tourism), and it's planning to become a university. Is this necessary I ask? Is it necessary for students in these fields to obtain bachelor degrees or even master degrees? In Taiwan, for schools to qualify as a university they must employ a certain percentage of PhDs. It's a strange phenomenon sweeping the country. It seems that every other technical college is vying to become a university. Sometimes I think that Taiwan has a case of education inflation. It's been said that Taiwan has an unusually high number of PhDs per capita. A PhD is becoming a minimum requirement for teaching at most secondary institutions. I don't question the necessity of having instructors with PhDs in secondary institutions, but it depends on the type of secondary institution (technical college or university) and the subject matter. As one of my British friends who's a business English teacher aptly put it, "It doesn't even matter what you have a PhD in, if you have a PhD in Hello Kitty you're hired." He's seen people from Russia or the Philippines (non native English speakers no less!) with PhD's in engineering or other diverse subjects being hired to teach business English. Having a PhD seems to supersede other basic criteria such as teaching ability, or experience related to the teaching subject matter. Certainly, having a PhD does not necessarily make someone an effective, personable teacher, and where teaching English as a foreign language is concerned, the teacher's interaction with students is of paramount importance.

All of the current full-time English teachers at the college only have master degrees with the exception of the newest one, who has a PhD and was hired last semester to oversee the English department's curriculum. So it's my misfortune that the college has now decided that they will only consider PhDs for open teaching positions. I suppose that in these tough times of late, many of us have learned in one way or another, that diligence and hard work doesn't necessarily ensure job security.

The sense of purpose and level of satisfaction that I gain from teaching has been marginalized... I feel like a pawn. There's no incentive, and a feeling of being unappreciated; I think I've let these feelings of hopelessness overflow into other parts of my life- feeling stagnant, unmotivated, uncreative and uncertain. What motivates me now in my teaching is the sense of responsibility I have for my students' education, otherwise I'm beginning to lose my balance and sense of purpose in my life.

I've been overwhelmed by a sea of self-doubt with waves of uncertainty and indecisiveness. Being in Taiwan in the past year and a half has certainly allowed me to clarify many of my personal goals and future plans. I wonder if this is a sign that I'm meant to leave Taiwan sooner than planned (i.e. by year's end), or if I've accomplished what I've set out to accomplish in Taiwan. Will I have any regrets when I leave Taiwan? How much longer should I stay? Should I accept a similar full-time teaching job in Kaohsiung or start over and look for other work and/or move to Taipei? Am I postponing the pursuit of certain future plans (to be sought in Canada and the U.S.)? Is the timing right for me to return to the U.S.? I'm losing sight of what it is I wish to accomplish?

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