Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why I love teaching presentations

It's seems like at my uni I've become somewhat of a presentation guru.  I keep getting classes that require me to teach them, which actually makes me very happy, especially because I've been using the most fabulous Speaking of Speech: Basic Presentation Skills for Beginners.

Even in classes that are not really dedicated to speeches, but which fall under the general umbrellas of "conversation" or "whatever the hell you want to teach," I'll try to slip in a little public speaking and presentations.  Here's why:

1. It's a concrete set of skills which students can hold onto and use at a later date.

2. It helps increase confidence when speaking English.  Things like eye contact and speaking loud enough are important, even in general conversation.

3. Presentations at job interviews are big these days in Korea.

4. I'd far rather listen to some (well done!) presentations for the speaking portion of a midterm or final exam than actually engage in 1-1 conversations with over a hundred students, which leaves me exhausted for weeks.

Monday, August 25, 2014

2 of my favorite cards games for students

If you're looking for some card games to play in class with your students (kids or adults), check out Phase 10 or Skip Bo.  Phase 10 takes quite a while to play but it can be adapted into Phase 5 or something like that for a shorter game.  Skip-Bo is kind of like Uno but it has the novelty factor going for it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to start a class

How to start a class is something that I waver back and forth on and I'd actually like some ideas and suggestions on it.  I've done a lot of things over the years ranging from the, "Hi everyone, how are you?" to giving students some free-writing time, or things like riddles as a warm-up.  They have their various pros and cons, but these days for bigger classes, I'll usually just start with "Hi everyone, this is what we're doing today...."  And then I'll go over the plan for the class.  This semester, I'm planning to follow that up with attendance and then 2 riddles as a kind of warm-up.

For small classes, I do much the same but I get a bit of banter going on.  Banter with big groups of students in Korea usually doesn't work that well so I try to avoid it.

Tips from the readers?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What gets me down about teaching in a Korean Uni

Teaching in a Korean Uni is truly an excellent job and I have very few complaints about it.  Compared to almost anything else I could be doing, it's probably the most chilled out job I could almost imagine.  There is NEVER an English teaching emergency of any kind.  But something that kind of gets me down is the futility of it.  Or at least what seems like futility.

For almost everything I teach, there are no learning outcomes or expectations of any kind, unless I make them myself.  But, if I make them too high and actually challenge students, I'll probably get low evaluations and lose my job.  Teaching in Korean most often feels like I'm just filling the time, while just having to look the part of "professor" but it doesn't really matter if I actually teach anyone anything.

I'm feeling down and out.  Can I make it another 1.5 years to the end of my contract?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Student Ridiculousness: a Small Rant

Yesterday, I taught an advanced level class where the students are preparing for internships in various locations around the world.  I'm covering the "general English" portion by doing discussion/listening/reading about various topics (that are interesting to me!) like Korea's aging society or workplace discrimination. 

There were only 4 students in class yesterday and three of them were excellent, participating in class and trying to figure out new vocab and phrases and actually thinking about the issue and coming up with some constructive responses. 

But, one of the students kept looking at her desk and not really participating, at all.  Her answers consisted almost exclusively of "yes," "no" and "I don't know."  When pressed for more details, she would just giggle.  I casually walked over to check out what she was reading and it was some kind of English grammar book, that was almost all in Korean.  And I thought to myself, how bizarre because it seems to me that her time, in a class of only 4 students, with a native English speaker would be far, far better spent actually interacting with that native speaker and the other students.  Like she's going to America in about 3 months, where she will have to actually interact with real, live English speakers on a daily basis.  I just don't get it.  Like really don't get it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

On Organization, Part 2

 Yesterday, I talked about my experience in working for admins who are not really teachers and how that can lead to less than ideal results.  Today, I'll talk about the qualities of admins that I like to work for:

1. They are teachers, or ex-teachers.  They actually have spent a good amount of time in the classroom.

2. They give enough information to teachers about the class, but then are also hands-off in terms of actual teaching.

3. They filter the ridiculous.  One student complaining about something?  They never let it get to the teacher.  5 students saying the same thing?  They'll let the teacher know.  Discretion is required!

4. They want to improve their programs, which involves getting feedback from teachers at the end of the course.

5. They have clear, achievable goals for the students.

6. They do placement tests and divide the students into appropriate levels. 

7. They are easy to talk to.  This involves speaking English at least at an intermediate level and having some understanding of "Western" culture. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On organization

I'm a big fan of working for admin who are actually teachers, or who have some sort of training in ESL methodology.  If they don't, it can often be extremely hit or miss in terms of what's actually happening in the program.  These kinds of admin will often do the following things:

1. Pick the flashy book, which can perhaps lack actual teachable content.

2. Not have any clearly defined goals for the students, such as "be able to write a 5-paragraph academic essay," or, "be able to successfully pass an English interview." I can work with those things. 

Things like, "Whatever," or, "Just make sure they're not bored," I can also work with but...yeah...what a total waste of time.

3. Change things half-way through the course when they realize their poor planning is getting bad results.  This usually results in mass confusion.

4. Be poor at communicating important information to the teachers.  Anyone can be guilty of this, but these admins often just have no idea what information teachers actually need to know, such as class size, level of students, or if there is a book or not.

5. Are not interested in post-course evaluation.  As long as everyone isn't complaining, it's considered successful.  There is no thought beyond that to next year and how things could be better.

Friday, August 1, 2014

It's that time of year

Vacation time!  It seems like most uni teachers here in Korea head outside the country for a couple weeks at least, if not the whole summer.  It's definitely one of the best things about our jobs.  Here are some of my useful travel tips (as opposed to the crap on the major news sites!) over at my other blog, Freedom Through Passive Income.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sleeping students

This summer, I'm teaching an internship preparation class for students who are going to the USA for a year starting in October.  They started classes at the end of June and will continue on until October with only a one week break in August.  The thing that is difficult (and perhaps not well thought-out by the admin) is that the classes are from 9-6, Monday-Friday.

I honestly try my best to make classes interesting and very rarely have problems with sleeping students.  I do lots of different activities and include lots of partner work and opportunities to stand up and move around and do different stuff to prevent the tiredness.  BUT, this class I just had today is terrible for sleeping and the good students tell me it's not just me because many people sleep in all the other classes.  What to do?  It's pretty demoralizing to have so many students sleeping, but I can also understand because they're in class for a ridiculous amount of time each week.

Readers: help please!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Reader Question: PhD in another subject but teaching ESL

A question from M.S.

"I have a PhD (not in tefl, in env sci) and am in my late 30s with one year's tefl experience.  Could you please advise me what are my chances for finding employment in a Korean uni teaching English?  Should I find employment elsewhere first to brush up on my tefl (and maybe even look into obtaining a CELTA?)?  I was also wondering about what might the age limits be for English instructors in Korean universities? Thanks for any help you can give, it helps me to plan for my future."

My answer: 

Your chances of finding employment at a Korean university is quite high, but as I've said before on this blog, it's pretty hard to find uni jobs in Korea when you're not actually in the country.  Difficult, but not impossible though.  You could look elsewhere in Korea for a job to get your foot in the door, but working at a hagwon or public school for a year could be a long, long year for someone like yourself.

A Celta is of no use in Korea so don't waste your time on it.

The accepted retirement age in Korea is 60, so you'll be fine.

I think it really is possible for you to get a uni job, but a tough question that you'll probably be asked over and over again is why you have a degree in science but want to teach English.  I can't say that I really understand it myself and Koreans probably won't either. 

That said, there are most definitely some uni jobs out there that are teaching English to science or engineering students, where you teach things like technical English.  And there are also editing jobs that require a science or engineering background, which you could probably also do, assuming your English skills are up to par. I'd definitely try to look for some of those jobs instead of just the general English ones and you'll probably do better.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Teaching training: a wee rant

I found out a couple of days ago that I'll be teaching a Masters level, credit course about how to teach English this upcoming semester.  I was initially kind of excited about it since I can put all the stuff I learned when doing the Celta and the Delta to good use.  Except, upon further conversation with the admin and the previous teacher who taught the course my initial excitement has waned. 

"It's about how to teach English, except the students aren't good at English and you can help them improve their English."

So, what exactly is it?  Is it a basic 4-skills English class, disguised as a masters level teaching methodology course?

Is it actually a teaching methodology course, just dumbed down because the MASTERS level students don't actually speak English that well?  Is it somehow supposed to be a combination of the two?

Now, I'm no hater of teaching content courses and I actually really truly believe that content courses, delivered in English are fabulous because students get information/skills/knowledge about the topic plus they can improve their English.  But, this situation makes me feel annoyed. 

If it's a 4-skills course, I can deal with that.  If it's a teaching methodology course, I can deal with that.  If it's SUPPOSED to be a teaching methodology course but is actually a basic English course in disguise...well, that's not really a good situation for me to be in.  Students will have all these expectations of what it can and should be and because the objectives are so vague and varied, it will be almost impossible for me to deliver what they actually want.  It's like the admin is just setting me up for failure is what it feels like at this point.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Agrictultural Subsidies in Korea Lesson Plan

This one is for a 2-hour discussion and speaking based class.  The students are high-intermediate, low-advanced and I like to challenge them with authentic materials about topics that they don't necessarily know all the vocab for.  The article is from the English website of the Korea Herald.

Agricultural Subsidies ESL lesson plan