Monday, June 29, 2015

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My Life! Teaching in a Korean University is Moving

This site will no longer be updated (although the content will remain). I've started the very (slow!) process of moving the best posts from this site over to a new one. Put it into your feed to stay updated.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Working in Korean Universities- Good for the Long-Term?

An interesting topic came up during my recent Kotesol presentation on How to Get a University Job in South Korea . Someone asked whether they should get a PhD or teacher's certificate in order to improve their employment prospects at Korean universities.

My answer was that they should get a teacher's certificate which opens up the possibility of international schools, which are actually better jobs than Korean unis for a host of reasons but the way the conversation turned was whether or not Korean unis are good jobs for the long-term.

While it is amazing to have 5 months paid vacation, work 10-15 hours a week and still be able to save $2000 US/month, there are some serious downsides. Here are the 4 biggest ones:

No Room for Advancement 

Once you have a job like I do (full vacation, 3 days/week, high pay, teaching only English majors), there is quite literally nowhere to go but sideways or down. I could be promoted to the "head teacher" but this almost always involves way more work for no extra money--it's usually a total headache and I wouldn't really wish this position on my worst enemy. 

Serious teachers aren't rewarded

Korean universities generally pay all teachers equally--like someone can have 10 years experience, a CELTA/DELTA, do presentations at professional conference (me!) and get the same pay as someone who gets the job with one year of experience at a hagwon. Great teachers often get more work heaped on them such as proof-reading, organizing camps, or recruiting new teachers but often don't get any extra pay for this.

No Professional Development

I would love to work at a place that was serious about helping teachers improve their skills. Like in almost 10 years, I haven't been observed in a class, ever. It's my guess that 99% of the universities in Korea don't care about this and it's up to the individual teacher to put the work in, if they care about it. Many don't.

The Jobs are Getting Worse

It's basically an employer's market right now because of the large numbers of very qualified teachers floating around Korea. It's only going to get worse due to demographics because there will be fewer and fewer college age students in Korea. Job conditions will not be going up in the next 5-10 and I personally find it quite demoralizing to work at a job year after year and not see an increase in my salary.

To Sum it Up!

Working at a Korean university is a sweet job--for a few years. You can start a side business, travel the world, write a book, etc.  But, unless you're married to Korean, I don't recommend making this your long-term plan. It's a big world and there are certainly better jobs out there, especially if you're a "real" teacher.

New Book: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities

My new book is up on Amazon: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities- For Teenagers and Adults. If you teach middle school, high school or university, I think you'll find it useful. The activities really are low or no prep so you can pull something together in the last few minutes before your class.

I take a student-centered approach, unlike many of the other books out there because after all, your students should be working hard, not you. You're already really good at speaking English!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Knowing Korean: an advantage when applying for university jobs in Korea?

Another great question from an audience member at my recent presentation at the Kotesol national conference on the topic of How to Get a University Job in South Korea.

They were wondering whether or not knowing Korean would give them an advantage when applying for university jobs. My short answer is that it's basically a neutral. While it may give you a slight advantage in some cases, the university is hiring your for your English ability, not your Korean one and the reality is that you can function very well in this job without even being able to read Hangeul, much less speak it. 

Here's a short video I made about the topic:

Monday, June 1, 2015

Thank you notes after a Korean University Interview

thank you note
Thank you note-Korean University Interview

A reader question from Kristina:

"I read your helpful book about getting a uni job in South Korea, and I’ve had two interviews over the last two days.

In the US, it’s expected that interviewees will send thank you notes to the people who interviewed them, but I’m getting the impression on various online job sites that this is a peculiar American custom. My British friends who teach in Seoul said they did not do that, and one friend even suggested that it could be misconstrued as overly aggressive in the Korean context.

I didn’t see anything in your book about following up after an interview and am wondering if you have any advice about whether I should email the people who interviewed me to thank them."

My answer: 

I didn't include anything in the book because it's really up to you. I don't think it's going to help you and most administrators at universities in Korea will probably look at it, think it's kind of strange, throw it in the trash and then not think twice about it.

However, unlike your friend I don't think it's going to hurt you either.

Basically, I just think it's a total waste of time and money! Perhaps an email a couple weeks after your interview if you haven't heard anything saying something like, "I'm wondering if you've made any decisions regarding this position yet" is better.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities: For Teenagers and Adults

The book is now complete! It will be available for free within the next couple days, but the link is secret unless you sign-up for my email list. I promise to respect your privacy and will never share your information or email with anyone.

The normal price will be $2.99 on Amazon.

Tenure Track Positions in Korean Universities

An interesting question from one of the people who attended my recent KOTESOL presentation on How to Get a University Job in South Korea. She asked about the possibility of tenure track positions for foreigners in Korean universities.

My short answer was that while it's not impossible, it's quite unlikely. For example, during my 8 years working at unis I've only met 2 foreigners who were in these kind of positions. The vast majority are on 1-2 year contracts and there are also a few visiting professors who plan to return to positions in their home countries.

Part of it is that there are so many Koreans who are qualified for these jobs and the other thing is the language barrier. Any university who hires you will want you to be an active member of that department-attending MT, counseling students, going to meetings, working on committees, etc. Nobody will want to translate for you during all of these things and so you will basically be side-lined unless you are fluent in Korea. In addition, if you teach anything other than English, it will be really difficult for you to effectively teach your students who likely don't have the English ability to be able to understand lectures on anything besides the most basic of topics.

So, is Korea the answer for someone with a PhD unable to find work in their home country? Probably not and I wouldn't count on being able to get anything besides short-term, 1-2 year contracts.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I think I'm just Going to Triple Down on the Cheating...

Cheating in Korean Universities

This incident happened a couple months ago at the beginning of the semester, but it's been in the back of my mind since then and I'm reminded of it every single time I see this girl in my writing class.

Here's what happened:

Students had to write an essay for their first homework. A couple students cheated by copying from the Internet--it was very easy to catch them using an advanced Google search for exact phrases.

This specific girl submitted an essay that was better than the stuff you find on the Internet or even that you'd pay someone to write for you. It was like something a professional journalist had done, but I couldn't find it on the Internet. I can't even emphasize how good it was-like itwas three times better than any essay ever submitted to me during 8 years teaching in Korean universities.

I compared her essay to the little "get to know me" essay she'd done in class on the first day (the ultimate way to catch cheaters, btw!) and they were worlds apart. Like she's an okay writer but had basic spelling mistakes, overused vocabulary, no structure and quite simple grammatical constructions. In short, the 2 essays were nothing alike.

I gave her no score on her paper and asked her to come talk to me after class. I said that I knew she didn't write it, but I had no proof because I couldn't find it on the Internet. She doubles down and tells me she stayed up all night working on it. I asked if she had a native English speaker proofread it and she said no, that she did it all by herself, which made it all the more unbelievable.

She starts crying. I tell her that I'm going to wait until she does her in-class essay for the midterm exam and make a decision then.

Midterm exams come. Her essay is average--she got a "B-." It was obvious that she didn't write the homework essay. I give her a zero and she again tells me that she really did write it. I tell her I'm not changing my mind, but Teacher X and Teacher Y from USA and Australia (the other teachers in my department) could read all her stuff, give me their opinions and I would follow it. She declines.

Now, this is where it gets even crazier. The next class, she triples down and hands me a note. I was expecting something like, "Teacher, I'm sorry that I lied. Please forgive me." Instead, it basically says that she's not a liar and she doesn't want me to think badly of her.

How would you have handled it? Have you ever had a student triple down like this?

Despite stuff like this, working at a Korean uni is a pretty sweet job. Here's how to get it: How to Get a University Job in South Korea