當繁華落盡……──補習班名師列傳

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1996 / 10月

文‧陳淑美



有一種行業,收入不下於醫生、律師,但社會地位卻「或許僅高於妓女,」一位資深業者形容。他們戲稱自己作的是「謀財害命」的勾當──謀別人的財,害自己的命。

他們總是衣著光鮮,美玉、鑽戒在手,他們常是出入名車、有能力購買幾千萬的豪宅巨廈。高大英俊、年輕貌美的他們,卻常常終年不見陽光、晝伏夜出,只生活在室內、燈下,因此近看時,他們的臉色總有點蒼白,聲音有些沙啞,隱隱似乎還看得出黑眼眶。……

他們需要觀眾和舞台效果,但又不是演員。台下的眼神孺慕,但他們也不是傳道人。他們像個能說善道的電視主持人,可以三個小時下來,硬是面不改色,精神煥發,一點也沒有冷場。他們的「工作」其實是教書,許多人卻認為,他們跟「清高」的教師形象有些距離。他們到處受歡迎,補習班的興衰榮枯,全靠他們的嘴上功夫。他們一周上課高達四怑蚅謝I,有的還飛機往返、南北奔波在幾個補習班間。

他們是補習班「名師」。

名師?妓女?

比起社會上一般行業,名師賺的錢的確極多,台北火車站附近一家大型補習班的數學名師,才剛出道兩年,一年可賺將近三百萬。另一家家教班的數學名師,一年的收入是一百萬──美金。

名師們多半極自信,談起專精的教課科目,神采奕奕,相信只要經過他們的「指點」,頑石也能成金。「跟別人學數學,我不敢說,但是如果是跟我,升學考試不會有問題,」一位資深數學名師說。一位英文名師也認為,只要跟著她學,不用怕對英文沒興趣,實力增進指日可待。名師相信學生極需要他們,沒有他們,很多事情(例如考試成績)會因之改變,很多人的命運會因此改觀。而許多補習班的升學率,似乎也證明此事。

孩子、家長們一日不可無名師,但另一方面,社會上對名師的看法,卻又令名師五味雜陳。一位名師在台北市鬧區看上了一層近七千萬商業大樓,想買下來當教室,但是大廈管理委員會怕「補習班出入人士混雜,影響商業大樓形象,」全體反對。「名師」出面找管理委員會主任委員溝通,才遞上名片,那主任便將名片拋在地下,說「你想都不要想!」。

不像學校老師,補習班的名師針對升學窄門「販賣」知識,因此名利雙收,這是一般人總難以尊敬「名師」的理由。「說起我們這個行業,在社會上,名片常常是拿不出來的,」一位資深名師說,「社會地位很可能僅高於妓女,兩者都有同樣特性:都是『人們需要時才想到』,」他自嘲說。

不管促使名師存在或是「成名」的理由為何,名師看起來總是有課就教,不管一班多少人、身體能承擔多少班。於是「拼命三郎」、「唯利是圖」……等全成名師的「刻板印象」。「前人的經驗看來,這一行只有兩種下場:一是餓死,一是累死,」另一位數學名師說,他們的工作絕非「鐵飯碗」,完全看「票房」決定生死,課教得好,有學生來,補習班主任就排課,自己開家教班也撐得起來,否則就只能潦草收場,回家吃自己。

「這是一個競爭殘忍的行業,」補習班主任林功偉說,出身背景、學歷、教書經驗等都不能保證能受學生歡迎,有點像明星的境遇,即使教書的專業水準一樣,但很難說為何這個名師會大發,那個名師卻沒生意,「時機及運氣佔了大部份,」林功偉說。

被需要的感覺

這使得許多名師在意氣風發時拼命賺錢。一位英文名師每天從晚上六點到九點上課,星期六下午、星期天下午到晚上更是全天排課,孩子們上學期間如此,寒暑假期間一天上課更高達六到八小時。甚至結婚、懷孕等人生大事,相較於上課,都得敬陪末座。她上課上到生產前一天,當時她的肚子大得讓同學擔心:「老師你的孩子可不要掉在講台上,」同學說,「名師」談談笑笑,教課如常。生產後她連月子都不作,兩個禮拜後就來上課,「同學們不可一日無我,」她這樣說。然而比起這位英文名師,其他人還有更「慘烈」的經驗。

一位年輕的數學老師剛退伍、加入「名師」行列才兩年,就已經喉嚨、尿道、膀胱發炎……渾身是病,「因為站太久了,」他說,雖然一身是病,卻因為補習班排課,全看他的名氣,「不能找代課老師,壞了聲譽,」因而也沒時間調養,更別提好好看病。有一次在高雄上完課,實在忍不下病痛,只好到醫院去,醫生看完大驚,要他立刻住院。但是他頭也不回地走了。「住院,怎麼行,我明天還有課呢。」

如此拼命工作,有時不一定是為了名利,「我熱愛教學,」一位年輕的名師說,他在就讀大學時就已在補習班任課,當兵時沒地方教課,知道同連的長官想考大學,心癢地去央求他,「連長,你給我教,包你有學校念,」他說。就像明星一樣,名師「最難忘是講台下那一雙雙仰望的眼神,」一位名師說,還有那種「被需要的感覺」。

民國七怞~代,一位資深數學名師決定將一手創辦、已經有口碑的補習班收起來時,在植物園枯坐了一夜。「要放掉這個行業,除了錢情,還有人情,當然最難的是盛名,」他說,當時他是看破了。「我不斷問自己,我是什麼?我在作什麼?每天早上昏沈沈的起床,不知道什麼是假日、黃昏,沒有家庭生活,只看過日光燈,沒看過陽光……,」他決定不要過這種生活。

但是學生、家長仰望的眼神,又是那樣難以割捨。如今已五抴X歲的數學名師最後終於還是為自己找了一個理由而復出教學:「為了教自己已上國中的孩子──在家沒有黑板、氣氛呀! 」,他過去的一些學生──如今都已經當父母了,在公車車廂上看到他的廣告,打電話給他說,「老師,您還在教呀!」聽到這些話,資深名師終於慨嘆,這一行,真難,果真是年輕人的天下。

五怞h歲的名師偶爾也跟補習班主任抗議,班裡宣傳的名師重點,只有英俊貌美的天王天后,沒有「我這個糟老頭」。但是他又心知肚明,在這一行,沒有人復出後可以如當年般叱'風雲的,「多少人賺了錢、移民,丟不下這一行,想回來,但時過境遷,天下不是他們的了!」「崔苔菁、鳳飛飛再化妝,再怎麼講究排場,有可能再紅起來嗎?」他說。

資深數學名師說他現在的確是看開了,一周開課六堂為上限,再多的誘惑都不動心。當補習班主任一再地向他表示,「我的孩子快升高中了,怎麼樣,要不要開個高中班,孩子托給你,我就放心了!」他不為所動地回答:「別再拐我了!」

當繁華落盡……

對補習班名師來說,要不被這些俗相所惑,多難!一位從民國六怞~代就開始教課,曾叱'台北補教界二抩l年的數學名師,不停地教課、驚人的進帳,為名為利嗎?他中年以後歸佛茹素,收入全捐給宗教慈善事業,長年一件汗衫;為了趕上課,一粒饅頭就是午晚餐,如此的「看得開」,去年卻在講堂上發病不支昏倒,最後喀血而死,享年六怴C

這位鞠躬盡瘁,死而後已的前輩傳奇,對這一代年輕的名師們,會帶來什麼衝擊嗎?當上課鈴聲響起,這位衣著光鮮、神采奕奕的英文名師說:「我不會後悔,我不會放下來,人生就是一段不斷的競爭,我喜歡每天早上起來都有這種『有成就的感覺』,我會『keep Going』(堅持到底)……。」

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EN

Tales from the Buxiban Trenches

Jackie Chen /tr. by Brent Heinrich


Theirs is a line of work whose income is no lower than that of a doctor or a lawyer, but whose social standing is "perhaps only higher than a prostitute," as one veteran puts it. They jokingly describe themselves as "endangering lives for the sake of money." The money they scheme after belongs to others, but the lives they endanger are their own.

They are always dressed up bright and fresh, jade and diamond rings on their fingers. They come and go in expensive automobiles, and are able to buy luxury villas worth tens of millions of NT dollars. Tall and handsome, young and enchanting, they nevertheless frequently go through an entire year without seeing the light of day. They sleep during the day and go out at night. They live only indoors, underneath light-bulbs, and for this reason, when one pays close attention to them, their faces always seem a little pale, their voices are scratchy, and faint bags can be seen under their eyes....

They need the effect of an audience and a stage, but they are not actors. The eyes in the crowd are full of admiration, but they do not belong to religious disciples. Like silver- tongued television talk-show hosts, they can strut their stuff for three hours without ever getting red in the face. Their spirits are sparkly, and they never make the slightest uncomfortable pause. Their "work" is actually education, but many people believe that their image is quite different from "pure" teachers. They are welcome everywhere; the prosperity or demise of private schools depends entirely on the adeptness of their lips. They are in class as much as 40 hours a week. Some even fly between the north and south in airplanes, moving back and forth between schools.

They are "star teachers" in Taiwan's buxibans.

Star teachers? Or prostitutes?

Compared to most people, star teachers certainly earn a tremendous amount of money. At a large-scale buxiban near the Taipei train station, one mathematics instructor who has only been in the business for two years earns nearly NT$3 million a year. Another star math teacher at a jiajiaoban (single-teacher buxiban) has an annual income of one million dollars... American.

Most star teachers are extremely confident. When speaking about the academic subject that is their specialty, they positively glow. And you can believe that after hearing their instructions, even dullards will become enlightened. "I'm not sure about studying math with other people, but if you study with me, testing into school won't be a problem," says one star teacher. One English teacher contends that if you study with her, you don't need to worry about not being interested in English, and your abilities will increase by the day. Star teachers are sure that students have a great need for them. Without them, many things (for instance, success on entrance exams) would change, many people's destinies would be altered. And the rates of successful school admissions that many buxibans can boast are nearly irrefutable proof.

Children and parents cannot do without buxiban instuctors, but on the other hand, the view that society holds of these teachers leaves them with conflicting emotions. One well established teacher spotted an office building in busy downtown Taipei where one floor was going for nearly NT$70 million. He wanted to buy space for classes, but the complex's management committee completely rejected him, fearing that "the people coming in and out of buxibans are a mixed bag, and it would hurt the building's image." The "star teacher" went out looking for the management committee chairman to talk about the matter, and when he proffered his business card, the chairman threw it on the ground, exclaiming, "Don't even think about it!"

Unlike public school teachers, buxiban instructors are seen as gaining their fame and money by "selling their knowledge" at the narrow gate of the entrance exam, and that is why most people find it hard to respect them. "In society, people in our line of work often can't even pull out our business cards," one senior buxiban teacher remarks. "Our social standing is perhaps only higher than prostitutes'. We both share the same special characteristic-you only think of them when you need them," he says with a hint of self mockery.

Whatever the reasons why these teachers exist or why they have gained their fame, it seems that "star teachers" will teach whenever there is a class, no matter how many students are in a class or how many classes their physical stamina can support. This is how they have been labled with the stereotypes of being workaholics and money gluttons. "If you look at the experiences of instructors in the past, there are only two circumstances: one is starving to death, and the other is being dead tired," comments one buxiban math teacher. Their work is anything but stable. Survival completely depends on the "box office." If they teach well and students attend, then the buxiban director will arrange more classes. They may also open their own jiajiaoban; otherwise, they can just get run down, let the classes end, and lose their job.

"This is an industry full of cruel competition," says buxiban director David Lin. A teacher's personal background, academic history or teaching experience cannot ensure that students will like them. The situation is somewhat similar to that of entertainment stars-even if two teachers' professional levels are equal, it is hard to say why one hits the big time, while the other has no business at all. "Timing and luck play a big part," says Lin.

The feeling of being needed

One buxiban English instructor teaches from six o'clock to nine every evening; all of her Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings are booked up too. Adjusting around the children's school schedule, she works six to nine hours a day during winter and summer vacations. Even such major personal affairs as marriage and pregnancy have had to take a back seat to her class work. She taught class up until the day before she gave birth. At the time, her tummy was so swollen that her students were worried: "Teacher, I sure hope your baby doesn't fall out on the podium." The star teacher talked and smiled, conducting class as usual. After giving birth, she did not even take her traditional month of rest; two weeks later she was back in class. "The students couldn't get along without me," she explains. And compared to this English teacher, others have had even more intense experiences.

One young math teacher had finished his military service and had only been among the ranks of "star teachers" for two years when he was completely overcome with inflammation of the throat, urethra and bladder. "It was because I stood too much," he says. His whole system was rife with illness, yet because the buxiban could only generate classes based on his reputation, "I couldn't get a substitute teacher and ruin my prestige." He had no time to rest up, let alone get proper medical treatment. One time in Kaohsiung, after he had finished class, he simply couldn't stand the pain any longer and had no choice but to go to the hospital. The doctor was shocked and wanted him to check in to the hospital immediately. But he walked out without looking back. "Stay in the hospital? That's impossible. I have to teach tomorrow."

When buxiban teachers work with all their might like this, it is often not merely for the sake of fortune and fame. "I have a passion for teaching," one young instructor states. When he was a university student, he had already begun teaching buxiban classes. Inducted into military service, he had no place to teach. Knowing that his company commander wanted to test into college, he went brimming with ambition to him and said, "Sir, if you let me teach, it will mean you'll have a class to attend." And just like a singing star, "the most unforgettable thing is the gleam in all those eyes staring up from in front of the lectern," one teacher relates, as well as that "feeling of being needed."

During the 1980s when one senior instructor was making the decision to close down an established buxiban with considerable word-of-mouth prestige, he sat in a garden agonizing all night. "Laying aside that business involved not only monetary concerns but human concerns as well, of course the hardest thing of all was my reputation." Then he came to a realization. "I constantly asked myself, what am I? What am I doing? Every day I would wake up dizzy and fatigued, not knowing the meaning of a holiday or a sunset. I had no home life. I only saw fluorescent lights; I never looked at the sun." He determined not to continue that kind of life.

Nevertheless, the look of admiration in the eyes of students and parents was something hard to break away from. In the end this math teacher who is already in his fifties found himself an excuse to go back to teaching: "In order to teach my own child, who's now in high school. At home there isn't a blackboard or the right energy!" Some of his former students, who had become parents themselves, saw his advertisement on the inside of a bus and called him on the phone, saying, "Teacher, you're not still teaching, are you?!" Hearing what they said, he could only sigh-this industry, sad to say, is really a world for young people.

This prestigious teacher in his fifties occasionally protests to the buxiban director about the fact that the school's advertisements only feature handsome and beautiful celebrity types and not "this poor old guy." Yet he knows in the depths of his heart that no one who re-enters the trade can rule the roost like they once did. "Lots of people have made money and emigrated, but they can't bear to live without this kind of work. They want to come back, but time has already flown, and the universe is no longer theirs!... [The veteran singers] Tsuei Tai-ching and Feng Fei-fei could go back on the stage, but no matter how much they made up their faces or tried to impress people, could they ever be as popular as they once were?" he remarks.

The senior buxiban mathematics teacher says that he has definitely stopped caring. Now his upper limit is six classes per week. Enticements to add more classes cannot budge him. The buxiban director still comes to him, entreating again and again, "My kids are about to test into high school. How about it? Do you want to start a high school prep class? I'll turn my kids over to you, and then I can rest assured!" Unmoved, he replies, "Don't try to enlist me again!"

When fame flies away

For a buxiban's star teacher, not being seduced by these worldly temptations is difficult indeed! One math teacher started teaching in the 1970s and remained at the top of the buxiban world for twenty years. He taught incessantly and earned a startling income. Did he do it for fame and fortune? During middle age he converted to Buddhism and became a vegetarian. He donated all his earnings to charitable religious activities, and wore a single sweatshirt for many years. In order to make it to all his classes, he ate one steamed bun for both lunch and dinner. He had given up his concern for wealth, but last year he fell ill and collapsed on the podium. Finally, he coughed up blood and died at the age of 60.

What kind of impact does this tale from the older generation of devotion to duty unto death have on the present generation of young star teachers? When the bell rings to start class, one English teacher, sharply dressed and full of poise, proclaims, "I won't regret it, and I won't quit. Human life is one incessant competition. I like to have this sense of accomplishment every morning when I wake up. I'm going to keep going...."

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