may i do sub

I have certain attributes that count as privileges when it comes to getting hired as an English teacher in Taiwan. I am white, female, American, straight, conventionally attractive, etc.

None of my quirks show up until after I’ve been working somewhere for a while and I start realizing that every move is lateral and I am teaching to pay for the lifestyle that is my Sisyphean quest to fill the hole that is never filled by teaching and buying new jackets.

Anyway for some people it’s harder. It sucks for people of color who come from English-speaking countries. You hear horror stories about black people being called dirty, or Asian folks being told they aren’t actually American or otherwise. A white face reassures the parents that they are dealing with a “respectable” foreigner, and is a lot less of a headache for the schools.

So I get hired, but the Korean-American woman does not.

So the white Afrikaners who speak heavily accented English as their second language get hired, but the Nigerians and the Singaporeans do not.

This is gross and awful, that goes without saying, but so is not working, so even if we complain, we rarely quit. We still have rent to pay…

For me, I mostly think anyone who speaks English a couple levels better than the students can teach English. The public-school English teachers here aren’t uniquely qualified to teach English: We all have stories about the weird stuff that our kids have been taught as rules at school. For me,  German guy who speaks English pretty well or a Jamaican woman who is just trying to earn some money for the semester she’s here can definitely teach English. Otherwise, it’s just me saying that one accent is objectively better than another, and somehow it’s my accent, and somehow colonialism and globalization are like accidents of history that have magically worked in my favor.

I don’t give a shit. As long as we can communicate in English, you probably speak English well enough to teach Taiwanese kids for an hour a week.

But sometimes, you need a sub, and you post in one of the big Facebook groups, and somebody sends you a message like

may i do sub

and you just have to say no, sorry, dude, you cannot do sub.

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