Sunday, August 28, 2011

10 Tips for Getting ( and Keeping ) a Teaching Job Overseas

I see that I'm featured in this article on Footprints Recruiting.  It's actually written by someone who used to live in Cheonan and she asked some people for help for an assignment she had to do for her journalism course.  Anyway, it's good stuff so check it out.

It's Amazing...the stuff my coworkers do!

When the new semester starts, I always ask the students who their previous teacher was.  And I write it down on my attendance sheet.  As the semester goes on, I hear more and more little tidbits about what the previous teacher did, or didn't do.  Like they never spoke English in class, or did some crazy thing for the test.

Something that I'm finding out immediately on the first day is whether the previous teacher did the mandatory online homework thing.  We were supposed to do online homework that corresponded to our textbook and make it worth 20% (or more) of the student's final grade.  Pearson Longman has a whole system set up to use with "Top Notch" or "North Star" that is quite easy to use. 

As I pull up the website to remind students to sign-up, I ask, "Did you do this last year?"  "No!"  is the response I keep getting.  Which I find shocking.  My uni made it mandatory and some teachers just didn't do it.

My general rule about life at my uni (and perhaps why I'm still here 5 years later) is to follow the rules.  As with any job, if you follow the rules, you can probably keep your job.  If you don't, well, not so much.  The secret to success in working at a Korean uni!

First Day of Class

And so it begins...another semester, my 9th at this same university.  After 8 semesters, I'm still nervous for the first day of class.  Anyway, here is my plan for today:

1. Teacher Introduction.  I basically give my name, and how they can contact me. 

2. Attendance, and I pass around an information sheet so I can get their names, phone numbers and email addresses. 

3. Textbook stuff.

4. Rules and attendance policy. 

5. Grades and assignments this semester.

6. Online Homework: I will show a short video and do a demo for how they can sign up.

7. Homework for next week: sign up for online homework thing and buy book.

Then I let them go early.  I'm all business on the first day and for the first couple weeks.  Then, once I get to know the students better and they know me and we have a kind of respect thing going, I loosen up and have more fun with them. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More reader questions....contacting unis

These ones from Matt:

"Should I contact universities by phone, email, snail mail? What do they prefer over there?

Are there many non-English degree professors teaching English in the universities?"

1. I always think a snail mail package is much more impressive, but more expensive and time-consuming on your end.  You'll have a hard time getting through to the person who actually hires on the phone.  And email is an easy way to contact a huge numbers of unis.

Your best bet is to look at job ads ( and follow the directions PRECISELY.  Many people don't and the applications just get thrown out. 

2. Yes, most people don't have English degrees.  A master's degree in anything is good enough, especially for the lower-level unis out in the countryside.  It might be a challenge to get a job in Seoul with something not related to English, education or TESL. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Reader Question...uni job with a partially completed Master's Degree

More reader questions:

"I've been in Korea over two years teaching English at the elementary level. I've noticed most (or maybe all) of the job postings require minimum of a master's degree. Do you believe it's possible to get a position with a partially finished masters in education?"

My short answer: YES!

My uni has hired plenty of people in your position over the years.  And yours being in education gives you a leg up on a lot of people who have a masters degree in basket weaving, or something of the sort.   Just be sure to have proof that you have actually started (such as a transcript of completed courses so far) and include this in your application package.

I have a feeling that you wouldn't get a job at a top tier uni in a big city, but the ones in the countryside would likely be happy to have you.

Reader Question...only a 2 year associates degree

These ones from Jenniffer:

" I was intested in joining JET/ EPIK but was concerned it might be a problem as I am still in college and only have my two year associates degree currently. I was more interested in the public schools or universities rather than the hagwans and what have you's
I'm also still trying to decide between countries, I thought China would be a big no no for me seeing how our countries have a delicate relationship right now."

To answer your questions in two parts:

1. You will have an extremely hard time finding a job in Korea with only a 2 year "degree" (I would hesitate to even use that name for it).  I have heard of some people working for peanuts out in the countryside in some sort of special program or something, but perhaps the best option is to just get a 4-year degree if you're serious about teaching ESL. 

As for a uni job?  Impossible, even with a 4-year degree.  You have no experience or connections.  Public school jobs?  They are very competitive, and even with a 4-year degree not that easy to procure these days. 

2. China.  The average person on the street won't care that you're an American.   Just don't sport your flag proudly on your t-shirts or whatever and try to blend in and act chilled out (a good rule for any time you travel abroad).  And, this is the one country in Asia where you might actually have a slim glimmer of hope for getting a job with a 2-year thing.

Back to work!

Hello my readers...I hope you're still lingering around, after my extended absence.  Jeju got quite busy with diving, and friends, and going away dinners and other good stuff like that. 

It was back to reality yesterday with the orientation meeting my uni has every year before the semester starts.  It's essentially the only mandatory meeting we have, and it's only twice a year, so it's another reason why I appreciate my uni.

Anyway, the meetings usually feature the top 3 teachers (based on student's evaluations) out of the 26 of us doing a short presentation.  And yes, for the first time, I was in the top 3.  I presented on my reward/motivation system.  It was essentially what I did for my previous Kotesol presentation and what I will do for the Kotesol International Conference 2011 in Seoul Oct. 15/16.

Now, time to get that syllabus in order and organize my online homework thing, and print off attendance sheets and perhaps do a lesson plan or two, or three, or five.  It's my style to plan at least a few weeks ahead to avoid the mid-semester crunch.