Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reader Question....looking for an ESL job in Korea

These ones from Lucas:

"I'm a phd student looking to teach English in Korea while finishing my dissertation. I've been looking through various ads on craigslist. Do you know if this is a good method for finding a job or will I probably end up being taken advantage of? Could you recommend any other better sites for finding recent job postings?"

The best site for ESL Jobs in Korea is ESL Cafe.  It's actually better than all the other smaller ones combined.  I think it's because it's actually quite expensive for schools to post an ad, as opposed to Craigslist which is free, so only schools that are serious about hiring will post on ESL Cafe.

And basically, most people get ripped off in their first year in Korea.  It's all just a matter of degrees.  If you end up in really crappy housing, but get all your money, then you can count yourself lucky.  If you get ripped off on bonus pay/ticket home, well, then you're not so lucky.  Forced to work the occasional Saturday with no pay?  Well, it's not great but it could be worse.  It's only by spending a year in Korea that you get smart about the ways of the Korean ESL world, make connections and use those connections to get a prime job in your second and subsequent years.

I always tell people that if they want to only teach ESL for one year, then Korea is not the place for them.  Most people don't have an amazing first year.  However, if you plan to stay for a few years, you for sure can work your way up the ladder to get a fabulous job with high pay, good vacation, decent housing and low number of working hours.  And since you have a Masters degree, uni jobs will be open to you, which is the best option in Korea.  However, it's not that easy to get them from overseas since you usually have to do in-person interviews. 

Presentation Project Ideas

I've done a few variations on the Group/Solo Presentations over the years.  Here they are:

1. A speech.  Each student was alone and they had to choose from a variety of topics I gave them, such as "family" or "hobby."  I think they had to speak for 1.5-2 minutes, without a paper.  This was kind of boring for the audience and I only did it once.

2.  A discussion/presentation.  The group had to give a presentation about a topic of their choosing and think of at least 5 interesting questions/surveys/activities that groups could discuss or do for about 30 minutes after their presentation.  This had varying results, since some groups chose a topic that led to a lot of "yes/no" answers and discussions that lasted about 2 minutes.  This could be avoided by approving the topics in advance and requiring groups to submit their assignment for feedback a week before the actual presentation.

3. A poster/presentation.  Each group had to choose a current issue (like environmental pollution, celebrity suicide, North Korea) and make a poster that had English writing +pictures.  Then, they had to do a presentation based on the poster where each group member spoke for 2 minutes, without a paper.  If I ever did this again, I would do something where the audience was more involved, such as peer grading.

4. A Powerpoint presentation on a topic of the group's choosing.  This has the potential to be very interesting, or PPT death.  It all depends on how you set it up.  I didn't set it up very well the only time I did it and the results weren't great.

Free: 40 Tried and Tested ESL Games and Activities

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reader Question....World Link and Presentations

These questions from Emily:

"I am considering using World Link.  I see that you recommend it, but since I don't have the book in front of me, I was wondering if you use it for conversation classes or for writing classes.
Another question is about the presentation you have your students do. I saw on your syllabus that you included an oral presentation.  That is something I'd like to integrate into my course this semester. Are the particulars for that project outlined on your blog somewhere?"
My answers: 
World Link is a conversation book, and one of the best ones I've ever used.  It's definitely not for a writing class.    For writing, I like: Get Ready to Write: A First Composition Text (2nd Edition)  or Ready to Write 1: A First Composition Text (3rd Edition).
As far as presentations go, I've done lots of different things.   Here are some of my old blog entries on that subject: 1, 2, 3.  Let me know if helpful or not.  If not, I'll go into more details for you in another post.    

Reader Question...Korea with children

These questions from Kia:

"1. My husband and I both are interested in teaching in Korea this year. Which company do you recommend?"

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "company."  A school, a chain of schools, a uni, a recruiting agency?  The ESL landscape changes so rapidly in Korea that it can really be hard to give any blanket advice on what recruiter or hagwon chain is a "good" one and which is one is a "bad" one.  Most people end up randomly picking a school for their first year, having not a great experience, but wising up and picking a much better job for year two!  

"2. We also have a two year old.. Will this be a bad thing? Or would it be easy to find childcare?"

Finding childcare without speaking any Korea will be difficult.  Even after a few years in Korea and some basic Korea I'd find it quite a difficult task. 

However, childcare isn't the biggest issue here.  Most schools will not provide housing suitable for a family, especially for first-year teachers coming from overseas. 

"3. My husband has a Visual Arts teaching license and is working on his thesis for his Masters.. could he find a Uni job?"

It would be very unlikely in his first year.  Second year, with a completed masters it is very possible.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reader Question...Part-time Uni Jobs

"I was wondering if you help me figure out what is the difference between part time and full time (faculty) jobs?  A university I applied to wants me to take a part-time job.  I really don't know what 'part-time' means.  My alternative job is a public school."

My answer:

I don't really understand the "part-time" thing either.  Most uni jobs are somewhat part-time anyway, since the contract is only for 12-18 contact hours at most unis. Does "part-time" mean only  8 or 10 hours?  I don't know.  My guess is that the uni is trying to get out of offering you any benefits, such as health insurance, pension, or housing. They are perhaps wanting you to work as a "contractor" of some sort, instead of a full employee.  

Anyway, I don't know.  You'd have to go over the contract carefully to figure it out.  And maybe ask the uni exactly what they mean by that.  

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I generally really like the job that I have.  If I had to pick one thing that I dislike the most, it would be the competitive atmosphere among the teachers.  We basically compete against each other in order to keep our jobs.  Students evaluate us and if you're "above average" then you're "safe."  If you're below average, well then you should be worried about getting your contract renewed next semester.  And the admin actually does drop the hammer on a couple people each semester so it actually is a reality and not just empty threats. 

Even more bizarrely, the admin picks out the top 3 people each semester and makes them give presentations, basically along the lines of how they got such high evaluation scores, to "help" their colleagues attain such scores. 

My coworkers are smart people that have a grasp of basic math.  If I help someone to raise their evaluation scores, and then I maybe have a bad class or two and my scores are low, then am I the next to go?  It's a system where other people's success might come at the expense of my own job.  It creates this atmosphere that is certainly not friendly or cooperative. 

I will have 12 new co-workers this semester and I have a feeling that they're going to have an extremely hard time finding any help with anything from any of the foreigners here.  And that's not how it should be.  And I wish it wasn't the reality.  It's kind of sad and demoralizing. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Review of Top Notch 1 & 2

Top Notch 1 and 2 are the books that I use for my Freshman English Classes, of which 95% of my consists of.  So, I use them a lot.  Like the same lesson up to 10 times/week.  My school chose these books mainly because they have this comprehensive online component to them, of which we are required to assign at least 20% of the student's final grade.  On the initial glance through the books, and setting up the homework, I was excited.  Now, one year later and I'm just frustrated.

The books are terrible.  Really.  Confusing grammar.  Vocab pages that are useless.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Reader Question...Maximum Time Limit at Korean Unis

This question from Peter:
"I recently was offered and accepted a full-time English Professor positon at ***** University in Seoul.  However, I found out yesterday at the university that the maximum amount of time that non-tenured, foreign faculty - such as myself - can be employed there is four years.  As a result, I am considering Seoul-area universities in the future that don't have any limits on length for employment and was wondering if you might know of any universities - including yours -  that fit such a description."
My response:
There are some unis that have this rule, and some that do not (maybe 50/50?).  It has to do with the amount of pension money your school would have to pay you in your 5th year and beyond being significantly more than the amount required for the first 4 years.  My uni doesn't have the rule and there are plenty of us that have been here for over 5 years.   It's just something that you have to ask about at the interview and before accepting a job.  It's not like many of the schools will just come out and tell you, because a lot of people, such as yourself would be scared away.

That said, working for 3/4 years at a place is a decent amount of time and it's probably still worth it to take the job, if it's a good one.  Being stuck in a rut is never a good thing, so you can just think of it as a mandatory kick in the butt to get yourself moving upwards and forwards in your ESL Teaching career to bigger and better things. 

Reader Question....Delta, but no Masters

This question from Zoe:

"I have been teaching English for 3 years, I have the CELTA and now the Diploma in teaching, the DELTA so am well qualified in the area.

As this is the case i am not prepared to teach in a hagwon and would really want to teach in a Uni, unfortunately i dont have a Masters and have seen that uni want to employ people already in the country.

I was wondering if you think i could still apply? In addition when is the best time to do so?"

My response:

Most people (even with a Masters in TESL/Education) have a difficult, but not entirely impossible time getting a job from outside the country.   There are a few unis (not the jobs really worth having!) that hire from overseas.  These will usually involve things like camps during the breaks that are unpaid, or teaching some kids at night, or a shared office with 20 other people, or something of that sort.  But, it can be a decent way to get your foot in the door and then look for a prime job in your second year.

Unfortunately, Korea is not a country that places really any value on the Celta/Delta.  Many people that are hiring won't even know what they are and will just want to know if you have a Masters or not. 

The best time to apply for jobs was 1-3 months ago, for a March start.  There are also jobs starting in September, so have a look around 1-4 months before that time.