Sunday, March 1, 2015

Grammar Teaching: Student-Centered Style

The Celta and Student-Centered Teaching

Back when I took the Celta (for all my posts about that experience check out this link: My Life! Teaching in a Korean University-Celta), the most valuable thing that I took from the course was their student-centered approach.  I previously had thought that my lessons actually were quite student-centered, but one of my tutors pushed me on that and challenged me to go even further. At the time, I was kind of annoyed because he wasn't as hard on the other teachers in my course in this regard, but I'm actually thankful now because it opened my eyes to a whole new way of teaching, especially with regards to grammar and vocabulary.

Simple and Continuous Verbs: a Self-Discovery Worksheet

The book I'm using for one of my classes is Touchstone Level 4 and chapter one has a grammar section on simple and continuous verbs, which should be quick review for the students at their level (3rd and 4th year university English major students), so I put together this worksheet for them to review the grammar, self-discovery style. I will probably end up refining it a bit before the class but this is the basic framework I will use.

How I Will Use the Worksheet

I'm pretty simple in the way I teach my classes. I'll put the sheet up on the projector screen and tell students to work with their partners. They'll have about 5-7 minutes and then we'll discuss the answers together, going over anything tricky or confusing. Then, they'll do some controlled practice in the form of a written exercise in their book and then a freer practice session activity of some sort (which I've yet to design!)

Where does this fit?

If I had to classify this kind of thing, it would fit into the Test-Teach-Test model perhaps. I'm testing the student's knowledge, teaching when we talk about it together and I give them some information about the difficult parts, then testing again when they move into practice and production, where I will monitor closely for errors.

Reader Question: Can I just hang on to my job due to others quitting?

Reader Question:

"(I read your previous posts about universities in Korea cutting the numbers of teachers in coming years). I want to ask your opinion of how you believe universities would cut staff. Personally, I believe there is a simple solution and that is not to replace those teachers who leave. I don't know about your university, but I believe that in most, especially mine, there is typically a 25% percent reduction of staff over a 1-3 year period. Some teachers go back to their native countries, while others seek employment elsewhere.

Yes, I agree it would be nice if everyone has an "exit plan." I have been thinking of other ventures I could do in Korea and abroad. Nonetheless, since there will be a drop of 25% of potential college age students, it would be expected that universities would simply cut back on staff over that time period through the non-replacement of teachers. What do you think?

By not replacing the teachers who leave on their own, one can reduce the teaching staff without having the need to fire anyone. Personally, I believe this would cause an increase in class size and weekly working hours in the short run, but hopefully those remaining would get a slight increase in salary."

My answer: 

I will give you an analogy that I hope will be helpful. I realize the sinking ship thing is a bit sensitive here in Korea, but there simply is no better model. So, you're on a ship of some kind and you realize something is not quite right. Perhaps it is listing a wee bit to one side or the power goes out. The people with a bit of experience on ships get up on deck and start preparing the life-rafts. The ship tilts a bit more and they get into the life-raft and row away to safety. The next wave of people, perhaps not so experienced but still with a sense of self-preservation get into the next set of rafts and again row away to safety. Others, not so experienced hang on, thinking that things will get better but instead, they end up going down with the ship. 

The Korean ESL industry, especially at the university level is essentially a sinking ship. When you consider demographics, there simply is no way that this situation will get better unless Korea opens their doors wide to immigration, or the birth rate goes up, but I'm not optimistic about either of those things. The smart ones are getting off the ship now onto life-rafts, or are upgrading their skills so that a helicopter can come rescue them into some sweet job at a uni in Korea that requires serious qualifications and they can avoid that whole chaos of fighting for jobs teaching "conversation," which I think nobody would argue requires very little in the way of actual teaching skills.

Remaining in a job through attrition and hoping that I don't get let go or fired certainly isn't my style; I'm all about bigger and better and a big part of the reason that I'm leaving Korea is that making it to the one of the top jobs in the country at the age of 35 is depressing. There's just nowhere to go but sideways for a few years, and then down as the number of jobs get cut and benefits and salaries go down the toilet. The writing is on the wall.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Korean University Jobs are Not What they Once Were, Part 2

A couple weeks ago, I talked about how I think university jobs in Korea (and actually all ESL teaching jobs in Korea) are on a downward slide to the bottom.

Korean University Jobs are not what they once were, part 1

Yesterday, at my staff meeting I got a bit of new information which just further confirms what I originally thought.  The head of my department was talking about how the Korean government is deadly serious about shutting down a good number of unis in Korea (although he didn't say this, due to a very low birth rate there are fewer and fewer Korean students going to uni so something truly does need to be done).

Starting this year, the government is instituting a ranking system with 5 grades: A, B, C, D, F.  The F-rated schools will be forcibly shut down. The C and D-rated schools will have to reduce enrollment by 30 and 50% respectively, which will in essence mean their closure because it will just be too hard for them to be profitable with such reduced numbers. The B-rated schools will have to reduce their students by 10% and the A-rated schools can do whatever they want. 

The writing is on the wall, especially for those with working at lower-ranked universities. You could be losing your job, sooner rather than later. 

Anecdotally, my school which is the 2nd or 3rd highest ranked in Busan (the second biggest city in Korea behind Seoul) lost a good number of students and some of the extra-curricular English programs that I would normally do for overtime got cut. There is just less money floating around and often the first thing to go is English programs. 

Exit-plan = put into full effect.  Want to know my choices for up-and-coming english teaching destinations?  Check out: The Wealthy English Teacher: Teach, Travel, and Secure Your Financial Future

Lesson Planning Made Easy

I'm in the office, here on a Friday night in South Korea getting ready for the upcoming semester which has come alarmingly fast. Time flies when you're having fun jet-setting around the world, or something like that. Anyway, onwards and downwards back to Earth.

I checked out my class rosters and it appears that many of the students I had last semester are back for round 2 this semester. Same students, same teacher, just different subject. Which is fine and I actually like having repeat students who've conformed to my system, but one area where is does throw a little wrench into the system is the class warm-up. I did word puzzles last semester and felt like by the end, I had exhausted every single appropriate one I could find on the Internet. Finding good ones for my students is tricky,  since they're not little kids, but they don't necessarily understand ones with complicated language.

So, my solution! ESL Trivia, Logic Puzzles and Word Games. It's $9.99 well spend, let's just say that and the deeper I've dived in as I'm planning, the more impressed that I am. I can't believe I wasted so much time last semester scurrying around the Internet looking for stuff that's all in one place (this book!).'s kind of the ultimate way to start off your class with a couple little brain-teaser trivia puzzles.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to Get a University Job in South Korea: on Sale for 1 week only!

Starting tomorrow, you'll be able to get How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreamsfor just $1.99 (reduced from $3.49) but the sale lasts for one week only.

If you're looking for a uni job teaching English in South Korea, this is your go-to book and there truly is nothing else out there that contains all this information in one place. People like it so far: only 5 star reviews over on Amazon. 

In somewhat related news, check out the newly updated book's website, University Jobs Korea for some resources that will be helpful to any job-seekers. Let me know if you have any questions or requests for posts; I'm always happy to help and will answer them within a day or two on this blog.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

AXA English Website Makes Car Insurance Easy for Expats

Car insurance...we all know that every driver is required to get one to drive in Korea. As much as it’s mandatory, we really want to consider the brand and coverage very carefully, which is never so easy for foreigners like us. So I've always LONGED for a car insurance as easy and convenient as the one in my home country!

Fortunately AXA Direct just opened up a comprehensive English insurance website! While car insurance is a must-have in Korea, no more worries! Thanks to the newly opened English website of a global insurance brand AXA. Every service with car insurance is now available in English.

The Wealthy English Teacher: now available on Amazon

My second book, The Wealthy English Teacher: Teach, Travel, and Secure Your Financial Futureis now available on Amazon in Ebook format. But, you don't actually need a Kindle to get it. Any Smartphone, tablet or PC will do if you get the Kindle App.  The hard-copy book should be out in a couple of days if do books that way.

In the book, I talk about the 10 steps to securing your financial future including:

1. Choosing a job wisely (with advice most specifically tailored to ESL Teachers)
2. Building a small emergency fund
3. Living frugally and paying off debts
4. Advancing your career
5. Building a full emergency fund
6. Saving your first $10,000 to invest
7. Investing in the financial markets and enjoying life
8. Building passive income streams
9. Planning for the future
10. Enjoying financial freedom

There are a couple other books out there related to expat investing, but this is the first one that I know of with financial advice specific to ESL/EFL teachers.  Check it out and please leave a comment or email me with any questions or feedback that you might have.  I'd be happy to connect with you.

You could also check out the book's website, The Wealthy English Teacher for some samples from the book and other Internet goodness.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Coming Home after Living Abroad


A post over on my other blog, Freedom Through Passive Income that might be of interest to my readers here. It was inspired by a great discussion over at the Foreign Teachers in Korean Universities Facebook group about returning home after living abroad for so many years and who is successful in that endeavor. Here's the post:

Going Home After Living Abroad

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Top 5 Tips to Get Ready for the New Semester

It's that time again! The semester is starting up in a week and I'm sure teachers are busy getting everything ready to go.  Here are my top 5 tips to get ready for the  new semester:

1. Plan ahead There's nothing more terrible than frantically trying to pull something together an hour before class. I've been there and it's not a happy place for your mental health. I always try to stay 2-3 weeks ahead for my lesson planning.

2. Things don't work You know it always happens: Monday morning at 8am before the semester starts, there's a line-up of 5 people trying to use the photocopier to copy their syllabi and of course it breaks. Be organized and hit it a few days before, just in case.

3. Simple is best You don't need to reinvent the wheel and simple is almost always better. Of course, put a bit of effort and creative energy into your lessons, but it really is okay to use a page or two out of the textbook, or to use something like ESL Logic Puzzles and Trivia for your class warm-up instead of making your own, which would take hours.

4. Recycle Similar to not reinventing the wheel, hopefully you've been saving your lessons somewhere in a place like Dropbox or Google Documents. There are always plenty of generic "conversation" classes here in Korea where you are free to use anything you want and it's much easier to reuse an old lesson than to pull something new out of your hat.

5. Work space Make sure that you have a happy place where you can get work done so you can put some focused effort into stuff. For me, it's usually not at home and if I want to be productive, it's far better for me to go into my office, which I'm lucky enough to share with only 2 people who are rarely (if ever) there.

But for others, they share an office with 10+ people and of course, serious work is impossible in that kind of environment so those people could maybe find a quiet coffee shop near their house, a public library or set-up a space at home to do work.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Top 5 Tips for Newbies to Teaching in Korean Universities

It's that time of year again as the new semester starts in a week or so. Even though I've been doing it for years, I still get a little bit nervous. But, it's nothing like it was before my first semester teaching at a university. Instead of feeling a bit nervous, it was a feeling more akin to terror. Anyway, nothing I can say is going to make you feel less nervous, but here are a few tips to help you.

Top 5 Tips for Newbies to Teaching at Korean Universities:

1. Lower your expectations, particularly for freshman English classes. First year of university is a time of rest between high school hell and mandatory army hell for the boys, so they just want to have fun, enjoy their freedom and perhaps find a girlfriend.

2. Simple is best. You may have plenty of fabulous ideas for how you're going to have the raddest classes ever but always remember that simple is best. Your students are probably going to be lower level than you would expect them to be. 

3. You can't fight the system. Things like passing seniors who never show up to class and/or fail every single assignment and test will seem ridiculous to you. Get over that and the quicker the better. You are a lone foreigner and nobody actually cares what you think about the Korean university system.

4. Be fair and care. You don't need to be the funniest, or the coolest, or the most handsome teacher in order to be popular. It is actually easier than that. Just be fair and treat all students the same and also show them that you care. Remember their names, talk to them outside of class, be a decent human being in case of a problem of some kind. Never use the power that you have to your advantage but instead be humble.

5. Fly under the radar. Build yourself a reputation as a stellar teacher but also work on being the person who never has any negative interactions, with anybody. NEVER complain to the admin about anything and try to ask for as minimal amount of their help as possible. I make it my goal to always fly under the radar and only have positive interactions with the powers that be.

Maybe you're wondering how you could get this rad job?  Let me tell you how for the low price of $3.49:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Do you want to be a Wealthy English Teacher?

Most people find their way to Korea to pay off some debts, save a bit of money and have some adventures while doing it. And it is indeed a fabulous place to do all those things. But, can you become rich teaching ESL as a career, in Korea or in other countries? Yes!  I think it really is possible for just about anyone with a bit of frugal living, wise investing and by avoiding a few common financial mistakes.

So, the happy news for you, my readers is that I have another book coming out, "The Wealthy English Teacher: A Beginner's Guide to Becoming Rich." It is in the final editing stages now so you should be able to find it on Amazon in a couple of weeks and I promise that the price will indeed be right...around $4 or so.

Here's the website, The Wealthy English Teacher where you can get an overview of the book contents. Check out the links on the top menu bar too: plenty of goodness to whet your appetite for becoming fabulously rich.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Teaching English in Taiwan

I got an email from Dominic the other day over at TEFL One, mentioning that he had written this guide to Teaching English in Taiwan. I had a perusal through it and I have to say that it is a lot of great information for anyone considering a move over to Taiwan to teach ESL.  Check it out if you're interested.

As a kind of aside, I visited Taiwan a few years ago for a couple of weeks and really enjoyed it. Bubble tea in abundance. Warm weather. Bicycles and scooter lanes. Decent, cheap food. Nice hiking and scuba diving. What more could you want?  It'd be a prime ESL teaching destination if the pay was a wee bit higher I think. But, if you want a decent quality of life, definitely consider Taiwan.

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