Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Using the Local Language When Teaching ESL Abroad

A nice post from Tefl Newbie on the subject.  This is the part that I liked best:

"You have this great job as an EFL teacher because you are a native English speaker and the expectation is that your classes will be solely conducted in English. There are plenty of local teachers—often paid much less than you are paid—who will use the local language to explain concepts and drill translations. You are expected, because you are foreign, to challenge the students with an immersion experience for the duration of your class. That is what makes you valuable as a teacher."

My thoughts:

Yes, we are indeed paid to speak English, which is why I always find it quite bizarre that some of my foreign colleagues seem to speak a lot more Korean than English in the classroom.  Of course it's easier for the students, but it's not exactly helpful if someone is trying to acquire proficiency or fluency in another language.  If students wanted a class that was conducted in Korean, they'd take a class with a Korean teacher (and it would be much cheaper too!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Interesting Results from my Presentation Class

This semester, I taught a presentation class for the first time, and actually it was only my second time teaching a content course (the first one was a social issues class last year). Yesterday was our last class, and as kind of a wrap up, I got the students to share with the class something they really liked, or something they learned from the class. And then something that they found challenging/difficult or didn't like. And I'm also reading their journals too, where they had to talk about similar kinds of stuff.

Surprisingly, almost all the students mentioned that doing speeches in English was quite difficult and that for some, it was the first time they'd ever spoken English in front of a large group or in front of Koreans.  And, some of them mentioned learning a lot of new vocabulary as well, which was interesting.  Neither the actual English, nor the vocab were a focus of anything I did for this class.  I didn't correct a single grammar mistake the entire time (purposely!)

I expected most of them to say that standing up in front of people, or that something like speaking loudly, or using gestures was what they found difficult. But, not really.

Anyway, the learning vocab/improving their English ability kind of makes sense if you take into account Stephen Krashen's comprehensible input theory. The students in this class listened to a total of about 120 speeches (!!!), all at their own level. That's A LOT OF input and it makes sense that they'd learn some new vocabulary this way. Interesting.

Another thing that the students mentioned was that they were happy to have a skill to take them with in the future, for job interviews, presentations in other classes, at work, etc.

If you're looking for a textbook to use when teaching presentations or public speaking, by far my favorite one is Speaking of Speech: Basic Presentation Skills for Beginners. It's at an ideal level for university students in Korea and covers all the basics.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Teaching with few resources

A helpful post from a friend of mine.  Check out Wandergeek's "Teaching English with Minimal Resources."

And this book is a good one for some lesson planning ideas:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

You know what I find amazing?

These past couple of days, I've been doing review for my basic, conversational English classes.  The test is next week and these days were the last class before the test.  So, I made up 8 example questions that were almost identical to some of the questions on the test, and I covered every style of question that they're going to encounter on the test.  And, without fail, at least 5 of the 30 students in each class were sleeping, cruising on their cell-phone, or talking to their friend.  Another 10 or 15 didn't even bother to write down the examples.

Crazy.  I don't quite understand.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Interesting Thread Over at ESL Cafe

It looks like Seoul National University is cancelling their mandatory freshmen English program, claiming that their students are proficient at English and don't require it.  It will be interesting to see if other unis follow suit, even those whose students are far from proficient (like my current uni, as well as my old one).  If they do, time to start looking for new jobs in other countries :(  Or, develop some sort of specialization.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Listening Lesson Plan: Thomas Edison

I used this listening exercise as a warm-up for part 2 of my "used to/didn't use to" lesson plan.  The rest of the lesson consisted of talking about inventions and what life was life before and after the invention.

I put the students in groups of 4 or 5 and gave them the questions beforehand and gave them a couple minutes to read them.  Then, I showed the Thomas Edison video one time and gave them 2 minutes to talk with their group and try to fill in the answers.  Then, I showed the video a second time and gave them 3-4 minutes to again talk with their group.  Then, I checked the answers and the group with the most questions right got a little prize.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Help with Teaching Presentations

I wish I had found this before my presentation class was almost finished!

Presentation Expressions

Lots of good stuff here...I still need to explore!

And of course, check out my favorite book on Teaching Public Speaking and Presentations:

Monday, November 19, 2012

You're worth more than that...a small rant

So, not that I would ever do private teaching.  First of all, it's illegal unless you have a certain visa, such as if you're married to a Korean.  Second of all, I kind of loathe the 1-1 teaching and would rather just have a big class.  Thirdly, I hate cruising 'round the city after my normal working hours and would rather just go home and relax and be done for the day.

But, if you're doing to do it, then for the love of all things, don't even consider doing it for free or for a ridiculous pittance!  Like, a co-teacher or a co-worker asking you to hang out with their friends' kids on the weekend is actually private teaching in disguise.  You should be getting paid for this. And at least 50 000 an hour to give up your weekend to hang out with kids that are not even yours.  Or, at the very least your movie paid for and a nice dinner at Outback thrown in on top.  You're worth more than free.

And one time, my old uni asked me to teach kids on weekends and the pay was 30 000 Won for 2 HOURS!  Not 20 minutes.  Yes, 2 hours.  I'm worth more than 15 000 an hour, so I said no, of course not.

Or, teaching English at a Church or something.  If the students are orphans, or abused women, or refugees from North Korea, or kids that come from single parents homes, then yes, of course you shouldn't ask for pay.   But, if they are just regular old people who are business professionals, or teachers, or something?  Or kids, whose parents are doctors are lawyers?  Then, yes, you are worth more than free, even if you're doing it at Church.

Rant is over :)

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Second Conditional...If I had a Million Dollars Lesson Plan

As kind of a fun review of the second conditional, I'm going to use the song, "If I had a Million Dollars" by The Barenaked Ladies.  Here is my lesson plan and powerpoint:

If I had a Million Dollars Lesson Plan

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The Cell-Phone Addiction Unit

It seems like every single ESL Textbook for adults/uni students seems to have a unit on increasing cell-phone usage/addiction.  A fun way to introduce this is by having students use their smartphones to take a quiz.

It was really easy for me to give students the link via Twitter.  I use Twitter instead of giving handouts for things like the syllabus or midterm exam review papers in my classes, so it motivates all the students to sign up for it.  Anyway, I asked the students to open up their Twitter app and look for the Tweet that I'd already posted that morning before class.  They clicked on that tweet and were shown a link for the cell-phone quiz.   It took them about 5 minutes to do it and they could then get their result in a percentage for how addicted they are to their cell-phone. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Homework for the Second Conditional

My most recent homework assignment.  And, because I hate the following:

1. fighting with the copy machine
2. dealing with paperwork, 
3. killing the environment
4. not letting students use tech when they love it 
...I only put this assignment up on Twitter and then they have to send it to me electronically.

Homework #4 (4%) “If I had a million dollars”

Finish time:  Monday, November 12, 10pm.

***if 2 are the same, 2 people= “0/4” ***

In the USA or Canada, if you have $1 000 000, you are considered to be rich.  In Korea, that’s 1,091,300,000 Won.  That’s a lot of money!  For a Christmas present, your mother or father bought you a lotto ticket.  You checked the numbers and you won!  $1 000 000.  What would you do with it?

Write 5-6 sentences explaining what you will do with the money.  

“If I had a million dollars, I would.....”

Send it to me on Twitter, or email, or Kakao Talk. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reader Question...Can students choose their classes?

This one from Chanel:

"I was wondering how the students' everyday schedules looks like.  Can they choose classes as they please like
in the American college system?"

My answer:

It depends on the university.  But, it's quite common for students, especially in the first and second year to have block schedules.  That is, everyone in the same major in the same year has the exact same schedules and has no choice about it.  The students may have one free option they are able to choose.  In the third and fourth year, it seems like students have a lot more freedom in choosing their schedules.

But, take all this with a grain of salt.  Each uni is different!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Second Conditional Game

To practice the second conditional, I use will use this powerpoint game in my class.  Second conditional Game.  I'll put the students in groups of 4 or 5 and then they'll have to choose a captain who will come to the front of the class and face away from their classmates.  For each slide, the group and the captain will have to write down their answers.  Then, we'll compare answers and see who got the most points correct.  And of course the winning team will get a small prize!

Free: 40 Tried and Tested ESL Games and Activities

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reader Question: Qualified Teacher

Another reader question:

"I'm a college student working on my teaching degree and I was curious if you needed teaching credentials, in addition to your degrees, to teach in a university?

Also, is it possible to get a teaching position in a university without experience? From what I've seen, most universities want at least 2-4 years teaching experience at the university level. "

No, you don't need teaching credentials.  Korean unis don't really care, unless you have a Masters degree in education.  A Masters in anything actually is kind of a basic requirement.  As for getting a uni job without any experience, refer to the previous post. 

Reader Question...Qualifications necessary to get a Uni Job in Korea

These ones from Chantelle:

"I would really like to teach at university level next year. But I only have an honours degree.  I also don't have a TEFL qualification yet. Do you think it is possible to get a position to teach at university level and how can I go about? Or do you maybe have any advice etc. I'm still in the beginning phase of my research so I don't have much information on the topic yet."

Hi, these days your chances of getting a uni job with your qualifications are pretty slim.  From what I understand, an honors degree is a basically a pumped-up BA.  If you peruse the Korean job ads over on ESL Cafe,  you'll see that most unis are asking for people with Masters + 2 years Uni experience, or a BA with 4 years Uni experience.  And, I think they'll be able to fill their positions with people who match the qualifications.  Koreans don't generally care about TEFL qualifications so don't waste your time with that.

 So, you may randomly luck out, but I'd say that there is a 99.99% chance you won't get a uni job.  However, you can still come to Korea and work at a public school or hagwon and try to work your way up in the world through making contacts, professional development, etc. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Free Talking

This semester, I'm doing some overtime at my school's "Global Zone."  It's a program where students can sign up in 30 minute time slots with a Native Speaker.  In theory, they're supposed to prepare something, like a writing sample, some Toeic speaking test questions, some homework they want help with or a conversation topic or reading they'd like to discuss.  About 1/2 of the students do this and it's actually quite helpful.  The other 1/2 of the students show up with nothing, and just want to do "free-talking."

Free talking is kind of ridiculous after the first session together.  Sure, it's fun to sit and chat, in English about hobbies or classes, or general school life stuff but then it's gets boring and not helpful.  And almost each of these students say, "I really want to improve my English!  How can I do it?"  And then I tell them that they should read some articles or listen to a newscast or tell me about what they're learning in their classes, just in English.  Or read a book and then tell me about it.  Anything to challenge themselves.  Except they don't.  They just come back and want to do more free-talking.  Ridiculous.  Free talking is definitely not an English improvement tool, let's just say that.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kotesol 2012 Review

Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the Kotesol conference this year.  Here are some thoughts:

1.Registration for me (a presenter) and my friend (registered on site) was easy and painless.  Signage was much clearer this year to prevent any confusion about where to go.

2.As a presenter, I was much happier than last year.  The Internet in my room worked.  I had a prime-time slot.  I had a room monitor.  I didn't have to figure out how to turn the projector on.  My room didn't get changed at the last minute.   

The only thing that I still find extremely distressing is the fact that presenters have to pay more than regular attenders for the "privilege" of presenting.  The only response I can get from Kotesol is that it's standard practice around Asia.  And, that I get some picked-over muffins and coffee without sugar or milk in the presenter's lounge!  But, as my friend said, "Isn't is just common sense that presenters should get in free or get a reduced rate?  That's so crazy.  You're doing them a favor!"  Yes, that about sums it up for me too. 

3. For the presentations I attended, it was again hit and miss as it always is.  I think a large part of the problem is the fact that presenters have to submit presentation titles/abstracts about 6 months before they actually do the presentation.  And, in those 6 months, the presentations often morph into something else that perhaps I'm not particularly interested in.  I wonder if giving presenters a little window to update their info, say 1 month before the event would be a good thing?

One thing I liked is that the presentations by publishers had "commercial" marked next to them in the schedule.  So, I avoided them and had much less annoyance overall! 

And one thing I loathed about the presentations?  People that insist on using all this tech stuff even though it's clear that they are totally incompetent at using it.  When presentations are only 50 minutes long, but the presenter wastes 15 or 20 minutes figuring out their stuff, it's annoying.  And the one worst example was a presentation on leadership (not naming names!) that had the 1:30 slot on Saturday.  This was after lunch, where there were no presentations.  So truly, there really was no excuse for not coming early to get everything set-up.  And this was one of the "featured" ones.

4. The venue was again fabulous, as usual.

5. I'm wondering why there isn't a reduced rate for those that attend only on Sunday?  I had a couple friends in this situation.  From what I can tell, Kotesol has a lot of money in the bank.  Or, they could just invite fewer of the featured speakers (like 2-3 famous people is enough!) and then reduce the fees for regular attendees/presenters. 

Kotesol 2012 presentation

Here is the powerpoint that I used for my recent presentation at Kotesol 2012.  Teaching: the Small Stuff that Actually Matters.  Since I'm not a Powerpoint warrior as a matter of principle, you'll probably note that there are very few details on it.  But, don't worry.  I will probably do a 2-part podcast on it soon.  And, I see that I got a quite favorable review from Foreigner Joy.

More Kotesol soon!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Comprehensible Input

Stephen Krashen thinks that comprehensible input is the most important factor in learning a language.  Our brains have an LAD (language acquisition device) and our job it to provide input to it, in a low anxiety situation.  Classrooms can give input in a comprehensible way but it's often not interesting.  The real world gives interesting input, but it's often not comprehensible for language learners, especially beginners.  So, classrooms and teachers still have a place in language learning, especially for the beginner.

Comprehensible input can offer language learners a good start, but it's not really appropriate for academic English, or ESP (English for Specific Purposes).  Language learners have to acquire this language in the same way that a Native Speaker would (naturally) because it is actually too complicated to teach it directly.  This language is naturally acquired through extensive, free reading.  For example, starting with comic books, easy novels, progressing to sci-fi books, up to journal articles and then serious textbooks in an area of interest.  There are different paths, but all involve reading, for pleasure. 

Stephen Krashen in Busan

A couple nights ago, Stephen Krashen came to Busan.  That's pretty big news!  He is one of the foremost people in the  world of Language Acquisition theory.  I'll do a couple of posts about the good stuff he talked about (and any of those who know his theories well/were there at the speech, please feel free to leave a comment if I misunderstood anything).

Basically, he explained that there are 2 ways to learn a language:

1. Acquisition.  This is the "natural" way and happens subconsciously.  It can happen at any age, so you're never too old to learn a language!  If you can speak a language fluently and easily, it's because you've acquired it.

2. Learning.  This is the "conscious" way and is what happens in a classroom.  It deals with grammar rules, etc.

He used to think that a program balanced between the two was the way to go.  However, that's actually not true.  If you learn a language by acquiring it, you'll be able to speak/write fluently and you'll actually be similar to or better than the "learners" in grammar tests.

So how does someone "acquire" a language?  By getting large amounts of comprehensible input, which is at the learner's level, in a light, easy kind of way.  A teacher talking louder, or saying it again if useless if the learner doesn't understand it.  And speaking, especially for beginners is not really necessary.  There is a silent period where learners just take in this input, and eventually, they'll be able to speak in a coherent way.  As teachers, we should encourage speaking, but not force and actually, the most value in speaking is for the partner who gets more input.

Interesting Developments

With all the recent cuts of foreign teachers in Korean public schools, I'll have to see this to believe it.  All schools to Have Native English Speakers Next Year.  And, I think some of the more rural schools might actually have a hard time filling positions due to foreigners not wanting to work out in the boonies.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Content Classes

This year, I was given a class called, "Open Discussion" or "Advanced Conversation" or "Skillful Speaking."  Who really knows actually.  It was a lost in translation moment.  Anyway, what I took from that was that I could basically just do whatever I wanted, that I would have around 15 students, and that most of them would be somewhat advanced, especially considering that it's an elective class.  I chose to do a "Speech Class," because it was something that I'd never taught before, and that I thought could actually be quite helpful for the students, for their lives, and presentations that they have to do in their other classes.

I love this class for a lot of reasons, but here are a few:

1. The students are actually really into it.  Like they've basically covered every single topic that one could "conversate" about, and so an English class that doesn't involve this is a nice change of pace (for me too!)

2. It's a sneaky way to teach new vocab.  Like I'm sure none of these students knew words like: "gestures, voice inflection, posture," but now they do.

3.  It's also a sneaky way to teach listening/speaking/reading.  They do all of these things each class, but kind of forget they're doing it because the content is the focus. 

4. They take some skills away with them besides English.  Like how to make a good PPT, or how to speak with confidence in front of a group.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Korean Uni Jobs

Although I have a job that I've just signed a 2-year contract for, if you're in the market for a job at a Korean Uni, it seems that now is your prime-time.  Have a look over on the ESL Cafe Korean Job Board.

I'm so tired of this...

40% of public school Native English speaking teachers in Korea are "unqualified."  As Matt points out, if Koreans are concerned with this, why do they not require teachers to have some sort of qualification such as a Teacher Certification from their home country, or a Celta?  But, this is Korea, and in general, Koreans would much rather hire the most handsome blond/blue-eyed 21 year old rather than a slightly overweight 60 year-old with greying hair and 45 years of teaching experience.  You can't have it all I guess.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Review Game for Midterm Exam

This is my midterm exam review game.  I usually just write it up in pen on paper, but I was inspired to be more organized :)  Anyway, I'll explain how I use this and how it works:

I draw up the same grid on the chalkboard and then put the students in 4 or 5 teams.

E=easy question (2 points)
M=medium (4 points)
D= difficult (6 points)

You can see the questions I used below the grid.  They are directly from the study paper that I gave my students for the midterm exam (only speaking, 1-1 with me).

Then, there are special squares:

T=Typhoon (lose all points)
H=Hurricane (choose 1 team, -5 points)
V= Vacation (+5 free points)

I go around the class from team-team and then the students have to choose a square.  I write up what letter they get and then ask a question/add points, etc.  At the end, the winning team gets a prize of some sort.  It's an easy, fun way to do review and I always add additional commentary for almost every answer.  Like, if it was a A/B/C..answer, or how it could be improved, etc.

Free: 40 Tried and Tested ESL Games and Activities

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Once vs Twice/Week

At my old uni, I used to teach a lot of Practical English (Conversational English/Freshman English) classes once/week to 7-9 different classes of students.  Each class was 1.5 hours long. 

And where I'm working now, it's kind of the same deal, except I have only 4 Practical English classes and I meet them twice a week for 1.5 hours each time. 

Why I liked once/week?  It's easy for the teacher.  Obviously preparing only one lesson and teaching it 8 or 9 times is quite simple.  But, on the downside, it can be tedious and boring by the time you get to round #9.  However, you have a chance to learn from your mistakes in the early lessons about what didn't go so well and by the later lessons, you can actually be quite a fabulous teacher :) And, it's easy to keep things fresh when you only see students for such a short amount of time every week.

However, on the downside, it's not enough time for students to actually improve in their English skills, even with homework outside the classroom.  And, it was often weeks into the semester before I actually learned student's names and got to know a bit about them.  And also, it would often work out that a certain class would have 2 or 3 or 4 holidays during the semester.  When you only have about 15 weeks with a class, missing 4 classes is a lot. 

Teaching each class twice/week is more work for the teacher in terms of preparation.  Basically, it's double.  And, it's not as easy to plan activities that are new and interesting and exciting for the students.  However, students can actually have a change to improve their skills.  I'm finding it quite useful to teach a lesson in one class, and then have a kind of "review session" the next one to consolidate what the students learned from the last lesson.  And, I feel like I have more freedom to have relaxed days, where I can try different activities, such as a Picture Quest, since I will see each class about 25-30 times.  And, if there are a few holidays, it's not really a big deal, since it's quite rare that the class will miss both their days during the same week.

Anyway, to sum things up:  I'm finding that I like teaching the same class twice/week a lot more than once! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Picture Quest

Today is a beautiful day outside here in South Korea, and the students were just coming back from a long vacation.  We've been working hard in class lately, so I decided to give the students a bit of a break.  I made a Picture Quest and put them in teams of 5 or 6 people.   I shared the link with them on Twitter and they could download it onto their phones.  I flashed it up on Powerpoint and explained the purpose and the rules.  Then, I gave them 5 minutes to make a plan and translate anything that they needed to, as well as ask me any questions.  And then I sent them off.

Essentially, the students have to take pictures of all the things listed as quickly as possible and the first (second/third) place teams to come back, get a prize of some sort. worked really, really well.  Like this class that I just had is generally unenthusiastic about anything, but they really enjoyed it!  Success!  However, I'm not sure I would necessarily do this at a public school or hagwon.  I'm lucky at my job in that nobody is looking over my shoulder at what I do and it's fine to send students outside for some fun on a nice day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Universities to NOT work at in Korea

Korea's Ministry of Education recently named and shamed 43 of the worst universities and junior colleges in Korea.  They will receive less funding, and could possibly be closed in the coming years.  My advice?  Before you take any job, double-check the list and make sure your school is not on it.  If it is, you could be finding yourself a new job before you know it...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How to make students sign up for Twitter

I use Twitter as my main form of communication with students.  It's easy and simple to use is the main reason.  And, there are private messages, as well as messages that go out to everyone.

 However, there are just some students who won't sign up.  I even give students a few minutes on the first day to get out their phones, download the app, and follow me.  Many of them do it.  But, some students just sit there and do nothing.  It's kind of weird actually.  I'm not sure why...but maybe:

1. They don't understand me?
2. They don't want any messages from me?
3. They don't like downloading apps?
4. They don't have a Smartphone (very rare in Korea)
5. It's not what the cool kids are doing???

Anyway, whatever the reason, I can't physically take their phones from them and do it.  So, the secret to my success to get students to sign up is to just literally stop using the photocopier and handing out paper.  Just post the links to all reviews/assignments on Twitter and tell the students to check it if they want a copy.  And...most of them do :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reader Question: Do you love teaching abroad?

These questions from Judy:

"How much do you love it out there?  What is teaching abroad like"

That is a very general question.  But, I will do my best!  First of all, I will refer you to this other site of mine: Is Teaching ESL Abroad Right for You?  I think it will be helpful for you.

I'm not sure what you mean by "out there" but I'll assume you're referring to Korea and not some kind of offensive thing like "Asia" or "not the USA."  Anyway, Korea is kind of an in-your-face country.  Some people love it and stay for years or decades, while others hate it and are on a plane a week after they get here.  But, there are very few people who think it's just "okay."  It's my 8th year here, so that says a lot.  But, I think I've adapted quite well.  I live in a very small apartment, treat stop signs +red lights as just suggestions, love Korean food, rarely frequent Outback Steakhouse, speak Korean (enough to get by), read Korean fluently, get my whole bathroom wet every time I take a shower, don't use a clothes dryer, shop Gmarket obsessively, and love going to the Homeplus late-night!  If you don't adapt and try to maintain "Western-style," life here you'll probably hate it.

As for what teaching abroad is like:

One line in your email that you sent me kind of raised some red-flags for me

"Since I do love traveling I've thought why not broaden my horizons and teach abroad?"

Teaching abroad is a job.  If you get an entry-level one (which you are likely to get in your first year), you'll have 1-3 weeks vacation time.  You won't exactly be "traveling."  And even on weekends, you'll likely be tired from dealing with culture shock and energetic kids all week!    You have to go to work everyday.  Usually for 7-8 hours.  And deal with the office politics, and crap from your boss, just like back home.  Just remember, you're "teaching" abroad, not "traveling" abroad. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Reader Question: Studying Korean while teaching ESL in Korea

And the last one from Julie (thank you for asking such intelligent, interesting questions and giving me lots of ideas for blog posts!):

"I would be interested in taking Korean language courses - is this doable with the expected work schedule? I think I would prefer a very structured program but I'm not sure."

The short answer to this is yes, it is possible.  But, you'll really need to do your homework about where you take a job.  If in central Seoul, you'll have a myriad of choices to choose from.  As you go further from there, you'll have far less choices for programs even in the bigger cities like Busan or Daegu.

It all depends on the job you take, what your work schedule will be.  For example, if you work at a hagwon that has the most excellent working hours of 3-9, you'll have plenty of time in the morning for classes.  If you work at a Kindy Hagwon that works their teachers hard (ex: Wonderland/SLP) you'll have no free time or energy to do anything besides drink to make it through the week :)  If you work at a public school and do the 9-5, you should have plenty of time to do your homework while at work, and then have your nights free for classes.  However, these days, it seems like public school jobs in Seoul are few and far between.

And of course, working at a uni leaves you with the most free time for study.  However, in my experience you often won't know your schedule until a few days before the semester starts, and it can often be anywhere from 8am-8pm, which can make it difficult to plan something like Korean classes. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Save the trees...

...and perfect for lazy teachers too!  Lately, instead of copying things like assignments or midterm review papers, etc, I just type them up in Google Docs (now Google Drive).  And then, I make them public and send a twitter message with the link.  Most students have smartphones, so they can view Twitter that way, but if not, they can log in with their computer at home and use it that way.  Google Docs has a nice Interface for viewing on Smartphones as well.

Some students also will take a picture with their phones of the document when I put it up on the screen to explain their assignment. Anyway, make your life simple and don't deal with annoying copiers!  And the world will thank you as well.

Salary, Savings, Taxes in Korea

And a few more from Julie:

"Do you know if salary is tax free? I've heard you can earn up to $38,000 USD equivalent pay - is this true? Do you save as much as they say?"

The salary is not tax-free.  You pay 3-5% tax, depending on various factors.  And, in some cases, you may be liable for paying taxes back home as well.  And, you'll also have to pay about 4.5% of your salary into the National Pension, and you may or may not get that back, depending on what country you're from.

$38 000 US= 42.5 million won or around 3.5 million/month.  And yes, it is possible to make that much money in Korea.  I usually do.  But, I've been in Korea for 7 years and know how the system works, and how to make this much.  And, I work at a uni with base hours of only 12/week.  This leaves PLENTY of extra hours in the day for me to work overtime.  Standard starting salaries are around 2.2 million/month, teaching 30 hours/week.  You can assume that this is what you'd be starting out at.  And overtime opportunities are not really plentiful in the entry-level jobs.  Most people save around 1 million/month, for a total of around $10 000 US/year in savings. 

City vs. Country in Korea

Another one from Julie:

"Is the city or country is better?"

 I've already covered this topic.  You can find it here:

Reader Question: City vs. Country

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kotesol International Conference 2012

You'll be able to see me at the upcoming Kotesol International Conference on Saturday Oct. 21 from 2:30-3:20, presenting on "Teaching-the Small Stuff that Actually Matters."

I hope to see some of my readers there!  Especially now that it's a prime-time slot, unlike last year's Sunday 9am.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reader Questions...Different Teaching Programs in Korea

This one from Julie:

"There are quite a hand full of different programs. I am not sure which ones have a good reputation."

My answer:  Yes, there are a lot of "programs" you can teach in, in Korea.  The categories are:

1. Hagwon (private institute)
2. An ESL teacher at a public school
3. University
4. Working at a company, teaching employees
5. International Schools

And, there are lots of categories of jobs in each of those categories, ranging from nightmarishly terrible to excellent. So, there truly is no way to give you any blanket advice on what place has a good reputation.  Even the same hagwon chain can have some excellent branches and some horror-story ones.  Same with public schools, even administered by the same district.  And, there are even some unis that have different types of jobs, where some are great and others, well, not so much. 

However, before deciding on a certain place, do your research about that specific one before signing on the dotted line.

Saturday, September 15, 2012!

Technology is pretty fabulous, and I generally use a little bit of it almost every class.  In fact, when I had to do my practice teaching at the British Council in Seoul for the Celta course, I wasn't allowed to use anything besides handouts and a whiteboard and it really crimped my style.  I had to sneak my IPad in there a couple times to make things not so terrible.

Anyway, it's so frustrating when it goes wrong.  In one classroom that I teach in, there are these really terrible little speakers that should be used in a small office.  Except, they are being used in a large classroom.    And, last week, I couldn't get the youtube video working in that same classroom.  You know, the video that I had based my whole lesson around.  Anyway, I explained it, but it wasn't the same as seeing.

Then, today.  I'm doing this presentation class and the book, "Speaking of Speech" has a DVD with it that has sample videos.  I'd planned the entire class around one of them.  And, I even got to class early so I could have time to figure it all out.  Like, maybe the sound would be muted, or it wasn't obvious how to lower the screen.  But, the DVD drive on the computer didn't open.  Maybe I'm confused, I thought to myself.  Is there actually a DVD player in one of these hidden cubbyholes?  I look more closely.  No, there really isn't.  So, I thought I could maybe find the video I needed on youtube.  I didn't find it, but I did find out that would possibly work.  But, there is no sound.  I look around more closely.  There are no speakers in the classroom. Ridiculous.

Anyway, a quick phone call later to the assistant at the other campus, who finds a secretary or someone on the campus I was at, who comes to tell me that that classroom has no speakers, but I could switch classrooms.  And it all worked out.  But, not before massive frustration ensued. On the up-side, the lady who came to help me is really nice and speaks English well.  I plan on going to say hello next week and making friends!

Sometimes I feel like giving up on the tech altogether and just going old-school.  The chalk, the walk and the talk, as one of my old grad school profs used to say seems pretty appealing at this point.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reality TV

Today, I taught a lesson about countable/uncountable nouns and a theme that worked really well was Reality TV.  This was my lesson plan:

1. I showed a short clip of an immunity challenge on Survivor.  I explained the game, how it works, the hardships and how much money the winner could get.  Then, I had the students talk with their partner about whether they would like to be on the show or not.  Then, we had a short conversation about popular reality shows in Korea and the students explained 3 or 4 of them to me.

2. Next, I introduced countable/uncoutable by using the "deserted island" activity.  They had to choose from a list of objects (a tent, bottles of water, a box of matches, etc) the 5 things they would take from the sinking ship and why.

3. Then, we did a listening activity from the book that continued along with this theme of "Survivor" and uncountable/countable nouns. 

4. Finally, I explicitly showed the grammar rules on the board, and we played a card game to practice. 

Next class, I will get the students to play the card game in small groups, instead of with the whole group as I did today.  And there are some practice exercises that I will have them do in the book to review what we covered today.

Free: 40 Tried and Tested ESL Games and Activities

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Speaking/Speech Class

I heard that I'll be teaching a Speech class for the first time this semester, so I went onto the Kotesol Facebook Group (very helpful: join!) and asked for some advice.  People mentioned lots of stuff ranging from no book, to books, to video-taping presentations.  One book that was mentioned a few times was "Speaking of Speech" by David Harrington & Charles LeBeau, so I decided to order it and check it out.  It's quite expensive on Amazon, but I found it on Gmarket for around 15 000.  And, it arrived 3 days later. 

It looks pretty fabulous: it's beginner level, easy to understand, covers all the highlights such as posture, gestures, slides, etc and has fun, in-class practice things.  Plus, there are around 8 (didn't count yet!) ready-made speech assignments, complete with evaluation grids.  What more could a teacher want?  Planning/executing this course will be not as overwhelming as I first thought it would be. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Speech/Presentation Books

So, I'm in Busan now and just went into work yesterday.  I found out that I'll be teaching a class on speaking/presentations.  Any textbook recommendations?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Reader Question: Non-Native Speaker Jobs in Korea

This question from Angelica from Mexico:

"I really would love to have the chance to teach in Korea but all websites that I have seen are only looking for native speakers. Of course I understand why, but I hope I can find a school like the one where I used to to teach in Thailand. Even if it's for volunteer  work I would love it. I am not interested in the payment, but in the experience."

Unfortunately, it's almost impossible for non-native speakers to get visas to teach English in Korea, no matter how fluent they are in English.  However, there is a way around this: become a student!  I've had some international friends in the past who were students in Korea, and as a student, you're legally able to work up to 20 hours a week (I think) during semesters, and more during vacations.  So, you could get a part-time job at a hagwon while studying Korean at the same time.

Monday, July 30, 2012

No more Native Speakers in Seoul Middle or High Schools come February

Korea times article here.

My $0.02? I think it's not a bad move.  I'd take a "young Korean teacher...with overseas experience" any day, over a fresh out of uni, completely untrained Native Speaker.  However, perhaps a far better idea is the public schools requiring a Celta for all English teachers, both foreign and Korean.  I think there are very, very few Koreans who could pass, simply because their language skills are not up to speed.   From what I've heard, the "'Teaching English in English certification system of English teachers" is a bit of a joke.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Speaking Activity Ideas

From English Teacher X, here are Speaking Activities that Don't Suck.  It's impressive, and really does contain good stuff that you can use in your classroom.

Job Security for the EFL Teacher

Another fabulous post from one of my favorite English-Teaching-Related Bloggers:  Ted's Tefl Newbie on job security for the EFL Teacher.

He makes some good points, including:

1. You make your own security.  This means that it's quite likely you will have to find a new job every year if you choose to make teaching ESL your profession.  Of course, if you like your school and they like you, you could stay for another year, or two (or 4 more in my recent case...I could have probably stayed another 5 easily if I had chosen to). 

2. You'll need to take care of your own future, which is a good thing.  Look at all those people who depended on Enron or Citibank to look after them.

3. Get your own medical coverage (and I would add, if possible, housing arrangements as well).  Then, you're more free to get out of a bad situation if necessary.  And even Korea, the King of indentured servitude for ESL Teachers has been making things easier if you want to change jobs mid-contract to get out of a crappy situation. 

And although Ted kind of alluded to it, he didn't expand upon the need to create your own job security through professional development.  Here are my suggestions:

1. Join a professional teaching organization, such as Kotesol and make it your goal to get on a committee of some sort, publish an article in their journal or newsletter or do presentations at conferences.  This shows that you're serious about being a good teacher and it gives you something to put on your resume besides the kind of flaky, "I attend Kotesol conferences."

2. Do a course, such as the Celta or an online Masters degree.  An online TESOL course is probably not worth the time or money you'll put into it because employers don't really look that favorably upon it. 

3. Another part of professional development is making contacts and building a network.  That way, if you ever find yourself out of a job, you'll have some people to possibly help you get a new job.  You can do this through Kotesol.  I've also met lots of teachers at Korean unis through this blog.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Teaching: the Small Stuff that Actually Matters

I've just gotten the email....and....I will be presenting at the upcoming Kotesol International Conference 2012 in Seoul.  It will be on Oct. 20/21st, so mark your calendars and buy those KTX tickets!  When I find out my presentation time, I'll let you know.

My topic is: "Teaching: the Small Stuff that Actually Matters."  The idea came about after (over) hearing and (over) seeing lots of my fellow teachers at my uni (there are thin walls and lots of people leave their doors open), watching fellow teachers on my recent Celta course, being in many presentations, as well as reflecting on my own teaching.

Often, it's easy to get caught up on the big stuff: which activities to use, making a syllabus, designing homework, making Powerpoints, and keeping up with the latest ESL research.  While these things are somewhat important, there are plenty of "little things" that are equally, if not more important.  For example:

1. Smiling.  Does anyone like/want to learn from a grouchy teacher?

2. Keeping your cool in all situations.  Yelling at students never, ever gets you the results you want (which is your students actually learning English!)

3. Being punctual.  Be in class before your students are.  Set up before they arrive if possible.   Greet them as they come into the classroom.  Just because your students are late is no excuse for you to be as well.

4. Write an agenda on the board (or PPT).  Show your students that you've thought about the class and are ready to help them learn English.

5. Don't hide behind the book or technology.  Teaching is all about relationships. 

6. In Korea, appearance is everything.  Dress formally (at a uni or public school).  Students expect this, and respond well to it.

Any suggestions?  Things to add? 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Camp Ideas

Thanks to all the readers for their good ideas.  Here are some of theirs and some of my own as well:

1. Paper-Airplane contest.  Distance and/or accuracy.

2. Building a bridge with straws/Popsicle sticks, etc.  The one that can hold a certain amount of weight for the longest time wins.

3. Scavenger Hunt

4. Water Balloon Toss.  You know the one where 2 people face each other and toss balloons back and forth and see who can get the furthest apart?

5. Foursquare competition

6. Egg Drop

7. Building the highest tower possible out of straws in a certain amount of time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Public Schools Jobs in Korea

According to Gusts of Popular Feeling, Chungcheongbuk-Do (province) is reversing the trend of Gyeonggi, Seoul, and Busan by planning to increase Native Speakers in their schools.  And this chart about where Native Speakers are working in Korea is also quite interesting.  Per student, there are generally more native speakers in the countryside than in the big cities.  At the top of the list are rural provinces Chungnam, Gangwon, and Gyeongbuk.  Towards the bottom are big cities Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon, and Incheon.  So, what this means is that in the next few years, it will be increasingly difficult to get a public school job in the big city, but if you want to work out in the countryside, it should be no problem.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The cutest student email ever

It's Jackie here.  The TOIEC camp that I recently taught was a bit of a mixed bag.  On the one hand, it was tediously boring and very difficult to make interesting for the students.  Toiec listening games with bags of chips and chocolate bars as prizes seemed to be the only thing that kept us all going at the end.  It's usually my policy to not resort to junk food for motivation, but there was no other way in this case.  But, I did like having something so well-defined and specific to teach which was a nice change from what I usually do.

Anyway,  I told the students to email me their test scores, so I could drink a beer in celebration of their great success in the listening section.   And here is the cutest one so far.  (L/C=listening comprehension: the part I taught, R/C=reading, which the Korean teachers taught). 

Hi~  I'm ******. We met in the Toeic Camp. I'm belong to class :D
How are you?

 After end the camp, I'm helping people in Tax Officer. Because,it is practical exercise.


 I can't believe the day is finally here!
Today, be given a test result in camp!
Before, June
L/C 205+R/C 180=385

After, July
L/C 295+R/C 190=485

L/C score is upgrade!
I appreciate your help ! Thank you!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reader Question: Weekend/phone interviews

From Nicholas:

"Something that worries me is my capability to be able to attend the interviews mid week. I know that my schools would have a heart attack if I didn't show up for work and there is no way that they would ever give me time to go for interviews. From where I am at the moment it takes me over 2 hours to reach Seoul and then God knows how many extra hours to reach the potential interview destination. Do Universities do weekend interviews? How about skype and phone interviews?"

The answer that I can give you based upon my own recent experience is that you might be out of luck.  Of the 5 interview offers I've gotten during my recent job search, 3 of them gave me a certain time/day that I needed to attend on weekdays.  I turned down one since I was giving exams, and there was no mention of re-scheduling.  1 uni gave me a choice of 2 different times (both weekdays) and the other one said a certain day, which I couldn't attend and re-scheduled for me. 

Basically, all unis want in-person interviews and if you're in Korea, there's almost no excuse that is good enough for why you'd need a Skype or phone interview.  And nobody wants to work on a Saturday or Sunday, so I think you'll have an extremely hard time finding someone who will schedule an interview for those days.  I know your current school might have a heart-attack, but don't you have a sick day or two in the contract?  I hope you haven't used them yet :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

ESL Textbook Reviews

That time of year is coming soon....when we'll all get out schedules and see what classes we're teaching and start choosing books and getting organized.  If you need some ideas for ESL textbooks, here are my reviews of the excellent ones to use and the terrible ones to avoid.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Reader Question: too young for a Uni Job in Korea?

This question from 24 year old Sean:

"You mention that the 30-50 age bracket is the most suitable. As far as your own experience of living and working in Korea is concerned, would you say that this is pretty much standard policy for hiring or more of a rule of thumb? You see, I've applied for at least 15 teaching Uni positions in the last two months. Some of them have required as little as a BA and teaching experience while others have required much more. I have a Bachelor's degree, a Master's degree, a TEFL certificate (maybe not so useful as I thought), and over two years of teaching experience (18 months of which have been in Korea) - yet I have not had one single reply (never mind an interview invitation). Having read your blog, and having spoken to a few Korean friends, I am starting to come to the conclusion that my age is making it nigh impossible for any of my applications to be even considered."

Hi Sean, the biggest question I have for you is why you only applied for 15 jobs.  In my own recent job search for another uni job in Korea, I applied for 17 jobs, and these were only the top uni jobs in Korea that were equal to or better than my current job conditions and in Busan or Seoul.   My thinking was that I'd just stay in my current (most excellent) position if nothing worked out.  I'm wondering if you did the same thing, which may have been your downfall.  Even with my 5 years of Korean uni experience at the same uni, plus Masters/Celta, I only got 5 interview offers.  So, as you can see it's quite competitive and someone like yourself with no Korean Uni experience might not even get a second look. If I was in your position, looking for my first uni job, I  would have applied to 40 or 50 jobs and taken anything I could have gotten.  Even "uni-gwans."  Then, you could have moved up to bigger and better in your second or third year, with a bit of uni experience on your resume.

As far as the age thing goes: yes, you are quite young.  Maybe in your picture you look even younger than you really are?  In Korea, age is everything.  And people even a year older than each other cannot be "friends" but are considered "elder sister" or "younger sister."  If you think about uni students, the boys would have left after their first or second year to do 2 years of military service.  So, if you teach them where they're seniors, they could actually be the same age as you, which can be quite dangerous in terms of them trying to intimidate you, not having respect for you, etc.

Speaking Activities for English as a Second Language Students

It's not easy to get Korean students speaking.  At times, it's almost impossible.  However, help is here!  These are my top ESL activities and games that are guaranteed to get your students speaking.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tips for Teaching TOIEC Listening Part 3

Toiec listening part 3 consists of a short conversation (played only one time) between a man and a woman and then 3 multiple choice questions, each with 4 possible answers.  The questions/answers are printed in the student's test booklets.  The best tip you can give your students is to read the questions/possible answers first, before listening.  If they don't do this, they'll likely get the question wrong.  Even I found it very difficult when I didn't read first.

In order to do this, students have to be trained to read extremely quickly.  Scanning instead of reading for detail.  I showed my students how to move their eyes down the page instead of across it.  When the instructions are being given for section 2, students need to be reading the questions for conversation 1.  Then, they need to have quickly answered the questions within 1 or 2 seconds of the conversation being finished.  If they don't know the answer, they can just make a quick guess and move on to the next set of questions.  While the questions for the previous section are being read out, students should be reading the questions for the next conversation.  And so on.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Teaching TOIEC Listening Part 2

Some tips:

Toiec Listening Part 2 consists of a question or a statement and then 3 possible responses.  Students have to choose the best response.  It's repeated only once. 

For example:

When did the bus leave?
A. From Seoul
B. At 10pm
C. It will leave tomorrow at 6am

It's actually quite difficult for the students because there is no context.  It's just random sentences being thrown at them.  Sometimes, I even thought it was hard!  Haha.

Anyway, the best tip that you can give your students is to pay attention to what kind of question is it.  There are W/H questions and yes/no questions. If it's a W/H question, usually one of the answers is a variation of yes/no, which is obviously incorrect.  And the opposite applies for the yes/no questions.  If it's a W/H question, it's extremely important to pay attention to the first word and even if you can't catch the rest of the question, it's often possible to get the correct answer or narrow it down so you have a 50% choice, instead of 33%.

Another thing to pay attention to is tenses, especially "did" and "will."  

Using the example above, if you only heard "when," you could listen for some sort of time, which eliminates choice A.  So you'd have a 50% chance by guessing either B or C.  And if you only heard the first 2 words, "When did," you could get the question right since C is future and did refers to the past.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Simpsons...Lesson Plan

This is the lesson that I've made for the last day of Toiec Camp.  It will be "learning" hopefully disguised as "fun." 

Here are the questions that the students have to answer.  The link to the show is at the top, and it conveniently already has Korean subtitles. 

And in case your students have never watched the Simpsons, here is a (basic!) Powerpoint I made with the characters. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Vacation Plans?

I hope you have some vacation time coming up!  For me, I have one more week of TOIEC camp and then I'm free for a few weeks until kid's camp.  I'll be heading down South to Busan, moving some of my stuff to my new apartment and chilling on the beach.  If you have time, but no plans, check out this site:

"Top 10 Places to Visit in South Korea."  Lots of travel advice and insider information for each place too!

p.s. Any readers from Busan?  Want to meet up?  I'll be there for a few days between July 16-27 (not sure yet). 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Reader Question: Distance vs in Person MA Degree

This one from Neil:

"I was wondering about what impression you get from your university and others you hear about regarding distance degrees. As several reputable ones are being created each year, I was curious if it counts against one who completes his or her degree online as opposed to in person. I'm considering a distance degree, an M.A. in Tesol, to eventually land a university job in the next few years. The other option is to return to the USA and earn the degree in person from a prestigious university, which is of course much costlier."

MA TESOL distance degrees seem to be fine to get a uni job in Korea.  The ones from Australia have a bit of a bad reputation, but apart from that, you should be good.  I would never go into a huge amount of debt if you plan to be an ESL teacher.  While you can make a decent living, the salary is not high enough to warrant having a crazy amount of student loan debt.  And, it also makes a lot more sense to actually have students to practice the things you're learning on when you're doing your MA.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

Teaching TOIEC Listening Part 1: Some Tips from the Trenches

Toiec listening part 1 is picture description.  Students look at a picture and then hear 4 statements, 3 or which are false and one which is true.  They have to choose the true one.  It can be quite tricky and plenty of times I actually had to put some mental energy into choosing the right answer.  I'm actually going to see if I can take the TOIEC test with my students at the end of the camp and see if I can ace it :)

Anyway, here are my tips from the trenches if you are teaching this:

1. DON'T (let your students) MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. If there is an older lady, she is just an older lady, not a grandmother.  If people are in a building with luggage and it looks suspiciously like an airport, it might not be.  Ditto with a guy and a young girl: don't assume they are father/daughter.  If a guy is in a business suit and his back is to you, don't assume he is wearing a tie.  Etc, etc, etc.

2. Always look at the picture first!  Here is the system I taught my students to think about as they are looking at the picture:

W(ho):  Man/people/he/she/they (pronouns are very important).  For example: there will be a picture with 3 people, 2 of which are holding papers.  A statement will be: "They are holding papers."  This is false because "they" refers to all 3 people.   

What: (main action verbs).  I got students to think of the ones that are correct, as well as some incorrect verbs that they might hear to throw them off.

Where: A. Location/place (but don't assume).  B. Prepositions (next to, under, inside, etc)

When: (sometimes)

Vocab: think of the 5 most important words you'll need to know

It's easy for student to remember: W, W, W-1/2, (W), V

3. Vocab is huge.  HUGE.  If students get very low scores in this section, it's probably because of this.  My camp does vocab tests everyday and the TAs administer it, but if you're on your own teaching TOEIC listening, you need to be giving daily vocab tests.  

 4. If students don't know the answer to a previous question, just guess and move to the next question.  It's important not to waste time and thinking about the "W/V's" of the next question is a more valuable use of time. 

 Next week: TOIEC Listening Part 2.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A reponse to "Foreigners Can't teach Grammar or Anything of Substance"

Brian left an excellent comment in response to my latest post on foreigners teaching non-fluffy stuff.

Here is his comment:

"Somewhere along the line it became accepted as common knowledge that Koreans (well, Asians) have a superior command of English grammar, but simply lack speaking ability. This is due, they say, to Koreans (and Asians) studying almost exclusively grammar for 15+ years in school, but never actually speaking or using the language. Personal experience never bore that out, because their grammatical knowledge---in general, with some exceptions---was limited. While they did have some detailed understanding of some points, it was, as you sort of mention, due to their learning it in Korean, not in English.

Unless I'm being way too optimistic and generous, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a native speaker English teacher with a Master's and / or CELTA in a university who had a practical knowledge of English grammar inferior to that of a Korean counterpart. The weakness is that they often aren't able to explain or illustrate in Korean, and that's usually what's required, or considered "good" or effective. But the strengths---being able to show those grammatical points in use, to show and teach subtlety of meaning, and to understand different usage---makes up for that limitation, if the NSET is given the chance."

And, yes, I agree wholeheartedly.  I've found that Korean students are generally EXTREMELY weak at grammar.  Like not having the conjugations of the "be" verb down, or knowing how to ask a question in the simple past, or not knowing the rules for comparatives/superlatives.  I think a lot of it has to do with grammar being taught in Korean, in a way that is disconnected from real-life communication.  On the Celta course, I learned that teaching grammar is all about context and that without context, the lesson is complete waste of time.  Why even bother teaching grammar (or vocab too) if students don't know how and when and in what situation they can use it?  This is where Native Speakers can be far, far better than most Korean teachers.

And I've found that while teaching TOIEC listening, I encounter situations every class where I'm able to explain the subtleties of how and when and in what situation to use this one specific vocab item over another one.  An example from today: "Checking-out."  No student in my very high-level class knew a meaning for it besides borrowing a book from a library.  I was able to give an example situation of walking down the street and seeing a handsome guy or a sexy girl and checking them out.  Would a Korean teacher be able to do this?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I'm a foreigner, therefore I can't teach grammar or anything of substance

Just a small rant.  At my university (and from plenty of other people too), I get the line (from Koreans), "Koreans teach grammar, foreigners can only teach conversation."   

It happened to me just yesterday at my school's Toeic camp.  I'm working at the camp, teaching Toiec Listening.  I'm not teaching conversation, or general listening, or writing, or movie English, or any kind of fluffy "easy" stuff.  I'm actually teaching Toiec listening.  From a Toeic preparation book.  To prepare students for an actual Toiec test.  And yet, one of the Korean teachers at the camp still gave me the line about how it's more fun for foreigners to teach because we get to teach "fun" stuff and Koreans have to teach grammar.  Except, at this camp, foreigners are teaching the same content as the Koreans, which makes this line all the more ridiculous.  The foreigners are just teaching it through English, and the Koreans are teaching it through Korean.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Speaking Test Admin

This past semester, I've done something new for my speaking tests that I've never done before.  Usually, I would hold speaking tests for the entire class during their "class-time" on the midterm and final exam weeks.  It ends up being quite stressful for the bigger classes, because trying to get 25 students through in 1.5 hours is not easy.  However, this semester I got the students to sign-up for their time and come to my office.  I chose 5 days, for a total of about 20 possible hours. 

Things I liked:

1. It was nice to have more individual time with the students and not feel stressed about rushing them through.  I had 10 minute slots and let 2 students sign-up for that space.  Every 50 minutes, I "scheduled" myself a 10 minute break to relax and go to the bathroom or whatever.  I would occasionally squeeze some students into that slot if necessary.

2. I teach 3 different kinds of classes, so it was nice to have different tests interspersed throughout my day.

3. I liked having the students come to me in my office, instead of me dealing with them in the classroom together, when they're all feeding off each others stress because of exams.

Things I didn't like:

1. I felt very stressed the last day, because as student inevitably do, they choose the last possible time and day.  And then there are always lots of students who just didn't sign-up but thought they could breeze in the last possible moment and it would all work out.   

2. Some students didn't get the sign-up procedure.  I tried to make it beyond simple and explained it about 7 times, but the lowest level students just didn't get it and showed up during their "regular class time." 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Teaching TOIEC listening

I'll be working a three-week camp teaching TOEIC listening, parts 1-3.  It's my first time and I feel like a complete rookie.  Any tips/tricks/games/help would be much appreciated from my readers.  HELP!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Reader Comment/Questions...Chances

These ones from Christine in the form of a comment on a previous post: Getting a Uni Job.

"I see that many people are asking about their chances of getting a uni job without a masters or being outside of Korea... I have my Masters of Ed in Language Education and four years of teaching experience in public schools in the US and a public language center in Korea. My problem is that I don't have uni experience... I have been offered an interview at a uni, but the pay is significantly lower than my current pay and the vacation is only two weeks more. For this interview, I would have to fly there and take some time off work, so I'm not sure it's worth it. In your opinion, will this be my only chance? I guess I am asking... how are MY chances? I know I read your uni received 100 applicants at one point; how many qualified people usually apply to the average university?"

This is a very difficult question to answer, since I've never been on a hiring committee at a Korean Uni.  But, I do know that there literally are hundreds of applicants for the top Uni Jobs in Korea.  The ones out in the countyside with poor job conditions, not so much!

In my own recent experience of job hunting, I sent out 17 applications, got 3 interviews (one of which I couldn't attend) and 2 job offers.  I expect to get at least 2-3 more interview offers throughout the summer (which I will turn down).  I have 5 years uni experience, a Masters in the Humanities, a Celta and am a young, North-American female (which Koreans seems to like for some reason), which goes to show how competitive things are.  I think the jobs where I didn't get interviews ended up going to people with MA's in Education, TESOL, or English. 

So...your chances?  It's hard to say.  Some unis interview 5 people and hire 3.  Some interview 20 and hire 3.  This would be an excellent question to ask the hiring committee before taking time off work and flying over.  And of course, it all depends on how good you are at interviews.  I've had 4 Korean uni job interviews, which resulted in 4 job offers, but some people I know had like 7 or 8 interviews before they got a single offer. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Avoiding the end of the semester crunch

Although I am in the "crunch" this semester, due to being very busy for 12 weeks with the Celta (and  somewhat neglecting my uni classes), I usually try to avoid it.  Here's how:

1. Make your spreadsheets at the beginning of the semester (I assume everyone does this?!).  Although it does take a bit of time (for me, about 1 hour for 8 or 9 classes), I think it saves considerable time at the end. 

2. Input your attendance/grades as you go along.  Not only does this make sense if you might happen to lose your folder with all that stuff on it (never happened to me thankfully, but you never know), you'll be way ahead of the game come end of the semester.  I'd rather do 15-20 minutes a week instead of a marathon at the end.

3. Don't assign homework that is due for the last 2 or 3 weeks.  Not only are the students horrendously busy with other things for other classes, it can be quite stressful for you to get everything graded in time.  I made the last assignment for Internet homework due 2 weeks before the semester ended, so I had plenty of time to check their grades, and put them in the spreadsheets.  

4. I give students a study paper with potential exam questions on it.  I make an effort to input a question or two each week, based on the unit that we've just studied.  That way, I just have to quickly review it for any errors and then print it off towards the end of the semester.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Reader Question: Inferring good/bad Korean Unis based on # of foreign teachers

This question from a reader who wishes to remain unnamed:

"I was just thinking about good and bad universities in Korea (horror stories, etc).

Do you think there is any relation or association between the # of foreign English teachers at a university and the quality of the job?

How many foreign ESL teachers do you think a quality university should have?"

 My answer: interesting question that is quite hard to answer.  I can give you an anecdotal answer based on the unis in the city where I live (Cheonan/Asan).  My uni has a lot of foreigners (around 30) and it is also one of the best (possibly the best?) in terms of conditions for the foreign teachers (pay, housing, lack of micro-management, OT opportunities, no time-limit, full vacation, basic respect, etc).  However, the bad teachers get weeded out pretty fast at my uni, and it seems like 1 or 2 people generally get the cut every semester, so while conditions are good, it's not an ideal place for the slacker or someone who can't get along with the other coworkers.

However, there are 2 other unis around here that have lots of foreigners (30-40-50) who have to put up with things like unpaid camps, mandatory Church services, "free-talking" hours, crappy pay, lack of OT, unpredictable management, and sub-par housing.

As far as the unis with significantly less's kind of all over (just like the big unis) in terms of conditions.  So, I think there is really no hard and fast rule!  Just do your due diligence before taking any uni job. 

And the question about how many foreign teachers a uni should have?  Well there are just too many factors to really make any sort of generalization.  Is English mandatory?  One, two, three or four years of English?  Do Koreans teach in the program as well?  Is there a big English department?  Aviation students?  Global Business?  What's the total student enrollment?  Etc, etc, etc, etc!