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