Friday, April 18, 2014

How to Get a Uni Job in Korea Tip #6: Consider a Uni-Gwon

If you don't have any experience teaching at a uni in Korea it can be quite difficult to find your first uni job.  An option is to consider a "Uni-Gwon," which is a hybrid between a university job and a hagwon (private institute job).  It's basically a language center offering non-credit classes to students or the community on campus.

The upside is that you'll usually be teaching mostly adults (with an odd kids class or two mixed in), the vacation will be more than a standard hagwon and the biggest benefit is that for the purposes of your resume: it can usually be considered a "uni" job.   You can also make connections and if you're happy at your place, you could hopefully transition to the standard job.  These places will often hire from overseas with a Skype interview as well.

The downsides are: possibly teaching kids, heavier hours than a normal uni job and less vacation.  And these places of course usually expect "real" teachers, as in serious about lesson planning, etc.  But, it's a good start if you're looking to get your foot in the door.

King of Tokyo

How to get a Uni Job in South Korea Tip #5: Be in Korea

It's extremely difficult, though not impossible to get a Korean uni job from overseas.  A few schools (like maybe 5-10% will do Skype interviews), but this is very rare as there are simply enough qualified candidates in Korea that are available for in-person interviews.  A few tips:

1. The academic semester starts in March, which is when most of the hires will happen for.  September is the 1/2 way point and there will also be hiring for then, but not as much.  Schools hire for 4 months-1 day before those dates, but the prime times are around May-June and November-December.  Try to find a way to get yourself in the country for those periods.  Cheap accommodation is plentiful (Goshiwons-minbaks-yeogwans-love motels) as well as food (Gimbap-Nala).

2. You essentially need a local number/address.  Admins in Korea (and Koreans in general) don't love the email, but will prefer phoning.  It goes without saying that she should answer any and all random #'s, even if you don't normally do this.

3. Consider a camp.  They'll often pay for your airfare/lodging/meals and you can hopefully get one of the last minute jobs, which you can interview in-person for.

4. Think about a hagwon or public school job for a year.  They'll hire from overseas and then set your sites on bigger and better for your second year.  It's a way to get here without burning up tonnes of money.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Getting a Uni Job in Korea Tip #4: Go to the Countryside

It's not easy to get a uni job in Seoul or Busan.  By way of example, when I decided I wanted to move to the big city a couple of years ago, I applied to about 30 jobs in Seoul and Busan and only got interview offers for about 1/2 those jobs.  And I was a prime candidate: 30ish, white North American female with a Masters degree, 5 years uni experience and excellent in-Korea references.  The people that beat me out had all this stuff too, but had a related Masters.

So, if you are one of the ideal candidates (ie: not too young, not too old, white North American with experience and a related Masters), then by all means compete for the top jobs in the big cities.  However, if you're not, consider the countryside.  Unis are plentiful in Korea and many of them are not in the big cities, as is quite common for huge unis here to be in quite random locations way out in the sticks.  Basically, the uni is the town.  You'll have much less competition as the top people probably won't even apply for these jobs, the medium-qualified people may go there for interviews (and then get offers) and decide it's too countryside, which is where the less-than-qualified people can sneak in.  Do your 2 or 3 years and once you have that experience, look for bigger and better things.  It most definitely worked out for me: I spent 5 years in the rice fields, but now have a job that is considered one of the top jobs in Busan in terms of pay /vacation / hours/ classes I teach.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to get a uni job in Korea tip #3: Resume, Cover Letter and Picture

An impressive looking resume and cover letter can go a long way in any industry to as least getting someone who matters to glance at it.  And nothing can disqualify you as fast as a cover letter riddled with grammatical and spelling errors.  So my tips:

1.  The picture is important (everything?!) in Asia.  Scan a professional one that you've had done or get a friend who is a "real" photographer to take a nice picture of you against an appropriate background.  Wear a suit/tie, or equivalent attire for females. 

2. Look online for sample resumes/cover letters, but remember: simple is better!  The people reading your resume are likely not totally fluent in English.  I recommend 2 categories: Education and Experience.

3. Put information on it that you wouldn't necessarily put on in the West.  Birth-date, the pic, marital status, visa status.

4. Experience: ONLY list teaching and education related experience.  No one cares that you were a waiter in a restaurant back home.

5. Hobbies.  Forget that: nobody cares. 

6. Reference. Forget that:  just state "available on request," or put a copy of the actual letters that you have in your package.  And remember, Korean references are WAY better.  Who would actually phone someone from back home?  Probably almost nobody.

7.  The package: dropping off in person is best.  Mail is next.  Email is the worst.  If you drop it off or mail, you can include lots of extra goodness: reference letters/copies of the Celta/Delta certs/ sample lesson plan/ teaching philosophy/sample syllabi, etc.  Of course, put those at the back, under the resume/cover letter/copies of diplomas, which are obviously more important.

Monday, April 14, 2014

How to Get a Uni Job in Korea Tip # 2: Networking

Like any other place in the world, networking is key to getting a quality job at a South Korea Uni.  Sure, if you have the top qualifications and years of experience, you can get interviews and compete, but if you don't, then networking is the only real solution for you.

Korea is a last-minute culture where everything happens quite quickly without a lot of planning in advance.  Unis hire late for many reasons including: disorganization, additional government funding, teachers quitting at the last-minute,  and new "hires" accepting better jobs elsewhere.  And this is where networking comes into play; these last minute jobs usually end up going to friends because there simply isn't time to advertise/wade through applications/interviews lots of people.

So how to build your network in Korea?  Here are my top tips:

1. Choose your hobbies wisely.  Chances are, most uni teachers are not going to be found at the Ho Bar and Thursday Party.  Nor will they found on the big package tours for newbies to Korea, such as Adventure Korea.  They'll more likely be involved in things like bands, theater, cycling or hiking clubs.

2. Join a local chapter of Kotesol.  Get active-go out for dinner after the meetings and join the executive.  Make connections with the speakers and make sure people know your face and name.

3. Be cool.  When someone tells me within the first 3 minutes of talking to me that they're looking for a uni job and are wondering if could I help them....well, that just comes across as kind of creepy. 

4. If you don't have a Masters, start one.  Connect with the other people in your area doing the same program.

5.  Start a blog about teaching, get a paper published, or do a presentation in a professional place. People need to know who you are and that you're serious about teaching.

Getting a Uni Job in Korea, Tip #1: Education

Although there are plenty of people in Korea who are working at a unis without a Masters degree, it's becoming more and more of a rarity, except for those who were "grandfathered in."  I predict in 3-5 years, even those people will end up losing their jobs and will be hitting the streets looking for work in other areas.  There are simply too many people with Masters degrees these days that unis can afford to be picky.

So if you've done a Masters degree, but in an unrelated discipline, don't worry!  An MA in Basket Weaving is all you really need, especially for the bottom-tier uni jobs (ie: low pay/not full vacation/lots of teaching hours/ no housing, countryside, etc).

If you are looking to come to Korea in the future and don't have your MA yet, then I recommend one of 2 options:

1. An MA in Linguistics or TESOL.  Something directly related to teaching English if you're planning to make it your career.

2. If you're not planning on doing the teaching in Korea or overseas thing for your career, do an MA in Education or English and you'll have plenty more options for jobs back home when the time comes.  Especially teaching in public schools back home will be possible.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Top 10 Tips to Getting a Uni Job in Korea

Tomorrow, I'll be starting a new series on how to get a uni job in Korea and talking about things like networking, resume and interviews, professional development and academic qualification. 

This is the #1 reader question I get and also the #1 question I get in person from random people that I meet when they find out where I work.  And for good reason I think; Korean uni jobs are quite lucrative in terms of pay/vacation/number of hours worked/ teaching freedom and you'd have to be crazy to not want this job.

Check back in the next 2 weeks or so for all my tips (I'll try to post daily), but in the meantime, check out another couple sites of mine that you might find helpful if you're looking for a job in Korea.

How to get an ESL Teaching Job

How to get a University ESL Teaching Job in Korea

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Teaching: the Small Stuff that Actually Matters #9/10

So, I had a great time yesterday at the Kotesol Busan-Gyeongnam Symposium, learning lots of good stuff and my presentation went very well.  But, I didn't quite finish this series!  Here are the last 2:

#9: Plan.  It's not a badge of honor to walk into class, ask your students what page you're teaching and then start "teaching." It's actually kind of ridiculous and even teachers with 30 years experience make a "plan."  All teachers should lesson plan; it just shows respect for our students.

#10: Never lose your cool.  Getting angry in Korea will NEVER get you the results you want, so you really need to stay calm at all times in class.  If your students don't do their homework, think about why they didn't.  Maybe it's just busy work and not actually helpful.  Perhaps they have no external carrot or stick for doing it.  Give them one.

If there is a particular student who is giving you a difficult time, take them outside the class and have a talk.  If you lose your cool and show a bit of anger, it's not so terrible.  But, never do it in front of the class.  Students who are acting out, just want to cause you to have a negative reaction in front of their classmates.  Don't give that to them.  You'll find that they are probably much more humble and apologetic 1-1 outside in the hallway.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Teaching: the Small Stuff that Actually Matters #8- No Shame

Something you realize after living in Korea for like even a couple weeks is that shame, or the avoidance of it dictates many a social situation and that in your class, it's really no different.  Koreans will feel shame for a myriad of things: appearing not as smart as others, appearing less well-dressed, not doing homework, having weak second language skills, etc, etc.  The smarter, more well-prepared students will not show their true colors because they're afraid of making their lesser classmates feel shame.  It's a little bit ridiculous at times and often gives me stress, but it's one of those things I've just come to accept about living and working in Korea.  Here's how I deal with it:

1. Never put students on the spot.  NEVER.  Always give students a chance to practice something with a partner or small group before you pick an individual student to answer.

2.  I generally choose a team or group to answer and one person has to do it.  So, the weaker students can hide behind the stronger ones.

3. Ask for volunteers, but give some sort of incentive.  Like a reward system, or telling the students that once you get 5 answers, they're finished for the day.

4. Don't embarrass students for wrong answers.  There are plenty of ways to deal with mistakes that don't involve doing this.

5. Never call out of students in front of his or her peers.  If you need to discipline someone, do it outside the classroom 1-1. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Small Stuff that Matters #7: Smile

Come see me tomorrow at the Kotesol Busan-Gyeongnam Symposium.  It will be myself and 3 other speakers presenting on a wide variety of topics and promises to be informative and interesting. 

Tip #7 from my presentation is smile!  It's easy, but actually makes a big difference.  I get so many comments from the students at the end of the semester that they loved my smile and thought that I was very friendly.  Nobody likes a grumpy teacher unless they're some sort of freakish genius.  But, chances are most of us aren't, so that leaves being friendly as the better option.

The Small Stuff that Matters #6: Simple is Better

I'm all about simple in almost all aspects of my life and that includes teaching.  I like to go simple in the following ways:

1. PPTs- white background, black text.  No animation/graphics, etc.  Just the info.

2. The amount of info in a class.  Instead of like 10 different grammar points, 1-2 is better.  Instead of 20 vocab words, 5 is better.  Instead of a million and one activities and games, just a few that you can expand upon.

3. Grading.  Make simple homework and tests that are easy to grade.  Not multiple choice of course, but like essays for conversation classes is just too complicated.

4. And going along with grading, if something is worth 20% of your final grade, why not make it out of 20 points?

5. Routines.  Have a routine so that the students know what to expect and you have something to assist you in your planning.

Simple!  It's better!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

ESL Writing Grading Rubric

So, I've just used this grading rubric that I designed to grade my first round of narrative essays and I'm happy to report that it is working quite well.  So far, I've just been circling the sentences that best define the essay and then using that to score each section.  I've been able to grade 500 word essays in about 5-6 minutes/essay, including some helpful comments at the bottom for the student on how to improve.

I think it will also cut down on grade challenges because it's pretty black and white.  The student either made 1-2 grammar errors or 6-8.  They either had a strong thesis statement, or a weak one. 

I realize now that I should have modified it slightly for a narrative essay, which has some different elements than a standard academic essay, but it still worked out pretty well.  Next year!