Sunday, February 27, 2011

Low Quality/ High Quality...what exactly do you want?

Korea seems to have a sort of schizophrenia with regard to native English Speaking teachers.  The media clamors all the time about all the "unqualified," "low-quality" English teachers whenever there is a social problem and a scapegoat is required.  Except the thing is, all the English Teachers here (except the illegal ones...but they are not so common) are "qualified" according to the Korean Government.  And, someone in Korea, either in the public sector, or a private company actually hires the person with a degree in basket-weaving and no experience, so whose fault is it really?

And more (scroll down into the comments) and more reports come out about how public school boards no longer have room for the Level 1 teachers (those with experience and educational qualifications in teaching) because they have to pay them too much money.

What exactly do you want Korea?  Maybe you should make up your mind.  It's frustrating to be caught in the middle. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Textbook Review: Top Notch Series

My school just changed over to a new book for the practical English freshman classes.  We had previously used the most fabulous World Link: Developing English Fluency series, which I enjoyed immensely.  However, it was 3 long years, and by my count, I had to teach each lesson a whopping 28 times over the years.  So, this change is welcome.

We've switched to Top Notch and at first glance, it looks pretty solid.  The book is well-done, with interesting topics.  There is a resource book with ready made activities, as well as a CD ROM with a million and one worksheets and stuff.  However, the coolest thing is these elaborate online homework/testing thing they've got going on.  It takes a while to set up, but once you do, you're solid.  You can give homework for each unit online, and then at the end of the semester, get one final homework score for each student.  It's just my style.  For real. 

Anyway, more reviews later, as I use it on actual students.

A little mid-day hear-say

So my readers, I like to think of myself as a disperser of information.  I dash about here and there on the internet gleaning only the best little tidbits to give to you.  But now, check this out.  I have some original information.  Kind of.  I was talking to my coworkers at our little beginning of semester meeting and people were telling me that needing Criminal Record Checks and Health Checks if you're renewing your contract was not necessary until 2012.  Which I kind of knew already, but didn't believe.  But now, I have faith.  I'm officially a believer.

And you can put it on record that I will officially be leaving Korea before whatever time I would need all that crap.  Kind of like a protest of something.  Whatever.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CDI/Chungdam now gone sketchy?

I've previously reported on this blog that CDI/ Chungdam Institute was one of the better hagwon chains to work for.  There were really no bad reports about them around the internet, and I even went as far as having interviews and considering working there a few years back.  However, some bad things are going down now, with lawsuits and such.  Check out the link.

Now, in the interests of fairness, as far as I know, they have an option where you basically are a freelancer.  You work national holidays, you don't get vacation, etc, etc.  But, you get paid a high hourly rate.  So perhaps the people in question signed this type of agreement and didn't read the fine print closely enough.  Who knows.  Everything with a grain of salt I guess.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Public school jobs are a safe thing?

So you've heard that hagwons in Korea are kind of sketchy and that you'll probably get ripped off.  You look to public schools, hoping for some stability. Well, perhaps you should think again.  It seems like every year, there is a story out about how school boards cut their funding for NET's at the last minute, leaving hundreds of foreign teachers in the lurch.  This time, it's GEPIK

Monday, February 14, 2011

Competitive vs. Cooperative

In the past few years, I've made my classrooms a kind of competitive place.  I've talked before on this blog about my reward system and that most of the stuff I do in class has at least a few students who get a stamp, which equals 1% of their final grade.  Most of the students seem to enjoy it, but there are some who comment in every class that they weren't so into it.  The non-competitive, or weaker at English students I think.  However, in Korea it's all about ranking and comparing against your peers, so my system plays right into the Korean mindset and culture.

But, I can't stop having this kind of nagging feeling in the bottom of my stomach that learning is all about cooperation and collaboration, not competition.  And I wonder if it's time for a change.  And, it would have been years earlier if my students genuinely wanted to learn English and had their own internal motivation/reward thing going.  But, sadly, most do not.  Hmmm....what to do.  Reader ideas?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reader question...many teachers or only one

This one from Melinda:

"(I see that you're in South Korea)...Do you enjoy it? Should I work at a hagwon with more english teachers or be the only english teacher at a public school?"

The first question first...Do I enjoy teaching in Korea.  I've been here for 6 years now, so obviously I enjoy it to some degree.  Because I work at a uni, I get a relatively high salary for the amount of hours worked and I also get significant vacations so I can travel and also do courses and stuff.  The culture holds no real fascination at this point, but it was fun for the first couple years exploring the country and learning Korean.   But let's just say that if I worked at a hagwon or crappy public school for 6 years, I might be contemplating desperate measures. 

The second question.  I think hagwons are a good place for your first year.  Expectations will be low, in terms of teaching, which is a good thing if you have no training or experience.  You'll only have 8 kids to control instead of 40 at a public school.  Everyone will speak English.  You'll have other foreigners to hold your hand.  In the big hagwons, you'll even have a foreign manager.  On the down-side, you'll probably get ripped off.

Public schools probably won't rip you off (but some do), but you could have a much more stressful year.  Huge classes of unruly kids, and your co-teacher is nowhere to be found.  Office politics that leave your head spinning.  Not a single person in the school speaking English.  Etc, etc.

Tough call!