In Taiwan, ESL teachers are usually matched with a Chinese co-teacher. This is true for all of my classes, but I spend most of my time with my K2 classes and I’ve known my co-teacher for over a year. When co-teachers take time off, the class starts to break down. The class doesn’t run as smoothly as before. When there is no co-teacher, the class isn’t as easy to run. This isn’t true for the older classes, but it is true in Kindergarten.
The Chinese co-teacher is usually a parental surrogate for the kids since they spend so much time with them. Some kids are dropped off at school at 8AM and leave at 7PM. Those are long days to spend at school. The kids get their meals, nap time, and entertainment at school. There are HDTVs playing movies to keep them happy, lots of books and play areas to pass the time.
I find the grade school classes harder to run than my main Kindergarten class, mainly because I spend about 17 hours a week with my K2 class. I teach the older classes only 3 hours a week. That’s a significant difference and I have a limited amount of time to get through things. We’ve been complaining about the grammar curriculum for years. It’s only now that parents are actually complaining, because we don’t have enough time to explain every single exercise, that the owner has change it. We have to rush through things and it is something that even native English speakers would have trouble grasping at this age. The rush job only leads to problems. At least it’s been addressed.
My Chinese co-teacher is an invaluable ally in the school. She lets me know the pulse of the school, what’s up and who’s talking to who. She lets me know which problems need to be addressed. This is mainly for other classes than her own. Most of this is said during the Chinese teacher’s meeting, which the foreign teachers aren’t privy to.