Every Expat Teacher in East Asia Should Study Confucianism

I am currently taking a Philosophy of Education class, and it is arguably one of the most important classes I will take in my degree.

Aside from the fact that Dr. Patrick Slattery at Texas A&M University is one of the most brilliant and thought-provoking people I have ever met (with hilarious stories of growing up Catholic), the course has really evoked many thoughts on what it means to be an educator.

Each of us were asked to choose a philosophy to study independently, and I chose Confucianism.


Because I have spent most of my teaching career as an educator in Taiwan at schools that have pushed away Eastern thought and promoted Western education. In short, I wanted to know more about what we were suppressing.

Confucianism is complicated, and I am far from really understanding it due to conflicting interpretations, but one thing I do know is that all expat teachers in East Asia should study it.

I think to really understand those we work with in Confucian societies like Taiwan, South Korea, etc., we must understand Confucianism. I have witnessed many arguments (and perhaps engaged in a few) that could have been explained (though not necessarily resolved) by differences between Western thought and Confucianism. Here are a few:

  1. Westerns are individualistic; Confucianism is about community.
  2. Westerns work in absolutes; Confucianism changes based on context.
  3. Westerns think linearly; Confucianism is cyclical.

Obviously these are generalizations and not meant to mean EVERYONE is like this, but they are good starting points for conversations about differences.

I will intentionally leave this post short because (a) I’m a Ph.D. student and have no time to blog, and (b) I would prefer readers to think about what this means for them.

So on that note, tell me your thoughts on the three items above and what they mean to you.

I’m sure I’ll be writing more on Confucianism and other philosophies down the road.


Examining Identity & Culture as a Teacher

Our identity and culture have great influence over our teaching.
But how often do we think about these influences?
It’s quite normal to sit in workshops about a new pedagogical technique or attend meetings about the latest curriculum, but rarely do we take the time to reflect on how our teaching practices have been formed.
In this video, I talk about the influences of identity and culture on us as professionals and present an exercise that you can do either individually or as a grade level team.
I encourage you to take 5 minutes out of your day to do this exercise. I think you’ll be surprised what you discover about yourself.
Don’t forget to share your insights in the comments!

Research Spotlight- Cross-cultural transition: International teachers’ experience of ‘culture shock’

My first night in Taiwan was awful. (The details are irrelevant)
But let’s just say culture shock hit me hard, and it took about 4-6 months before I settled in and “adjusted”.
I use quotation marks purposely on “adjusted” because I wonder if any of us really adjust.
Is culture shock just about the food, language, etc.? Or is there more to it?
And what about international teachers? Is their culture shock experience unique?
Donna Roskell attempted to answer those questions with her study Cross-cultural transition: International teachers’ experience of ‘culture shock’.

Continue reading “Research Spotlight- Cross-cultural transition: International teachers’ experience of ‘culture shock’”