Monday, June 29, 2015

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My Life! Teaching in a Korean University is Moving

This site will no longer be updated (although the content will remain). I've started the very (slow!) process of moving the best posts from this site over to a new one. Put it into your feed to stay updated.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Working in Korean Universities- Good for the Long-Term?

An interesting topic came up during my recent Kotesol presentation on How to Get a University Job in South Korea . Someone asked whether they should get a PhD or teacher's certificate in order to improve their employment prospects at Korean universities.

My answer was that they should get a teacher's certificate which opens up the possibility of international schools, which are actually better jobs than Korean unis for a host of reasons but the way the conversation turned was whether or not Korean unis are good jobs for the long-term.

While it is amazing to have 5 months paid vacation, work 10-15 hours a week and still be able to save $2000 US/month, there are some serious downsides. Here are the 4 biggest ones:

No Room for Advancement 

Once you have a job like I do (full vacation, 3 days/week, high pay, teaching only English majors), there is quite literally nowhere to go but sideways or down. I could be promoted to the "head teacher" but this almost always involves way more work for no extra money--it's usually a total headache and I wouldn't really wish this position on my worst enemy. 

Serious teachers aren't rewarded

Korean universities generally pay all teachers equally--like someone can have 10 years experience, a CELTA/DELTA, do presentations at professional conference (me!) and get the same pay as someone who gets the job with one year of experience at a hagwon. Great teachers often get more work heaped on them such as proof-reading, organizing camps, or recruiting new teachers but often don't get any extra pay for this.

No Professional Development

I would love to work at a place that was serious about helping teachers improve their skills. Like in almost 10 years, I haven't been observed in a class, ever. It's my guess that 99% of the universities in Korea don't care about this and it's up to the individual teacher to put the work in, if they care about it. Many don't.

The Jobs are Getting Worse

It's basically an employer's market right now because of the large numbers of very qualified teachers floating around Korea. It's only going to get worse due to demographics because there will be fewer and fewer college age students in Korea. Job conditions will not be going up in the next 5-10 and I personally find it quite demoralizing to work at a job year after year and not see an increase in my salary.

To Sum it Up!

Working at a Korean university is a sweet job--for a few years. You can start a side business, travel the world, write a book, etc.  But, unless you're married to Korean, I don't recommend making this your long-term plan. It's a big world and there are certainly better jobs out there, especially if you're a "real" teacher.

New Book: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities

My new book is up on Amazon: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities- For Teenagers and Adults. If you teach middle school, high school or university, I think you'll find it useful. The activities really are low or no prep so you can pull something together in the last few minutes before your class.

I take a student-centered approach, unlike many of the other books out there because after all, your students should be working hard, not you. You're already really good at speaking English!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Knowing Korean: an advantage when applying for university jobs in Korea?

Another great question from an audience member at my recent presentation at the Kotesol national conference on the topic of How to Get a University Job in South Korea.

They were wondering whether or not knowing Korean would give them an advantage when applying for university jobs. My short answer is that it's basically a neutral. While it may give you a slight advantage in some cases, the university is hiring your for your English ability, not your Korean one and the reality is that you can function very well in this job without even being able to read Hangeul, much less speak it. 

Here's a short video I made about the topic:

Monday, June 1, 2015

Thank you notes after a Korean University Interview

thank you note
Thank you note-Korean University Interview

A reader question from Kristina:

"I read your helpful book about getting a uni job in South Korea, and I’ve had two interviews over the last two days.

In the US, it’s expected that interviewees will send thank you notes to the people who interviewed them, but I’m getting the impression on various online job sites that this is a peculiar American custom. My British friends who teach in Seoul said they did not do that, and one friend even suggested that it could be misconstrued as overly aggressive in the Korean context.

I didn’t see anything in your book about following up after an interview and am wondering if you have any advice about whether I should email the people who interviewed me to thank them."

My answer: 

I didn't include anything in the book because it's really up to you. I don't think it's going to help you and most administrators at universities in Korea will probably look at it, think it's kind of strange, throw it in the trash and then not think twice about it.

However, unlike your friend I don't think it's going to hurt you either.

Basically, I just think it's a total waste of time and money! Perhaps an email a couple weeks after your interview if you haven't heard anything saying something like, "I'm wondering if you've made any decisions regarding this position yet" is better.