Friday, 1 September 2017

How to Get a Job on an American Military Base Overseas

Assuming you don't want to join the military, there are loads of ways to get a job on an American military base overseas. If you're a veteran, be sure to take advantage of the fact that more jobs are open to you due to the veteran's preference. Veterans 2 Federal Government Jobs and Feds Hire Vets are great resources to start with.

Pros and Cons of Federal Jobs
Federal jobs offer many perks and benefits such as long paid vacation, housing, tuition reimbursement, free or discounted schooling for your children, moving allowance, flights, and more.

Of course there are negative aspects to working for the government as well. There's lots of paperwork, red tape, things seems to take forever and sometime with furloughs you'll get unpaid leave or the start date of your contract could get push back.

The Federal Resume
Like no other resume, the federal resume and application packet will get you ready to work for the government. Expect lots of paperwork. There are tons of guides available out there to help you. Read them. Don't think that a normal resume is going to cut it. You will not get the job unless you follow the rules. If you have a foreign degree, you will need to go through a degree evaluation service. Here are the ones the government accepts. My advice is to pick on that has been an NACES member for a few decades.

Advice for Getting a Job on Base
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Network, network, network. I can't say it enough. It's all about knowing the right people, and being in the right place at the right time. If you know the right people, they can tell you where and when you need to be. Not on LinkedIn? Might be time to sign up. Make a name card / business card and hand it out to everyone you might. You never know who will know someone. Don't forget to follow-up on your connections and always, always thank them for their time even if they weren't able to help you.

Taxes and Visas
If you are able to get a SOFA visa, then you will not need to pay local taxes on your income. However, not all of these jobs will get you the necessary paperwork to live and work in a foreign country. Some are only open to dependents while the military member is in country and therefore their dependents get their SOFA visa through the service member. Make sure you ask and see whether or not they sponsor visas.

Keep in mind that you may not be eligible for a SOFA visa even if you are an American. Many of these jobs require you to be an ordinarily resident in the US. The problem is that it's a very grey area, but the more ties you have to that country, the less likely you are to be able to get a SOFA visa. Examples of ties are:
  • Any visa besides a tourist or SOFA visa (such as a work, study, resident, etc)
  • Marriage to a local citizen
  • Children attend local schools
  • Paying local taxes
  • Buying a house or apartment there
You can find more information on page 62 in this doc and on this site. Even if you are granted a visa, they can change their minds in the future. Here's an example of someone who had to pay six figures in back taxes to Germany and some contractors in Korea who had their visas revoked.

Types of Federal Government Jobs
There are many types of federal government jobs overseas. Here is a basic overview of the main ones. For the most part you're going to have to be an American citizen or green card holder.

Banks and Credit Unions
Banks and credit unions on base often have really good hours and are enjoyable places to work. Check out Community Bank and Navy Federal

Contractor Jobs
You're not working directly for the government when you have a contractor job. The government is their customer (i.e. they work for the government) and you work for the contracting company. They can range from meh jobs to amazing jobs. There are tons of contracting companies out there. Here's a list of United States defense contractors, a list of worldwide defense contractors, the Top 100, and the Top 9. Here's an old list the USCIS put together.

DODEA Teaching and Staff Positions
You'll be working at DODEA schools, which are on American military bases. If you're a certified teacher, then you can get a teaching job on base. Math and science teachers will have an easier job finding a job than elementary school teachers. You can also work on the staff, such as being a secretary, school nurse, or even principal. They advertise on USA Jobs.

GS Jobs
You'll be working for the government on the General Schedule. They also mainly advertise on USA Jobs, but be sure to check the link section below to find out other places to look. GS jobs have 15 grades and each grade has 10 steps. Here's more information about GS jobs and their requirements.

MES Corp
They run testing facilities on military bases. Here is a list of where they work.

Military AutoSource
Ok, you're going to be selling cars and working long hours, probably weekends too. There's definitely a learning curve. I've been told that the first year you don't make much. Maybe $20,000 but once you learn the ropes, the sky's the limit. They'll get you a SOFA visa and you'll get a ration card which gives you access to the commissary and BX/PX. Plus, you get to talk to super diverse people. The people working there are often retirees who want to stay in-country. They have jobs on their site.

NAF Jobs
These are Non-Appropriate Fund jobs. You can find out more information about NAF jobs here. They usually advertise on NAF Jobs or USA Jobs

There are a few universities that are strongly associated with the military and they often have jobs overseas, whether they be teaching, staff, or admin positions.
The USO is awesome. They really help service members and their families. It's a wonderful place to work because they are constantly doing outreach to the community. They post jobs on their site. 

More Links

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Saturday, 26 August 2017

When Should Teachers Throw In the Towel?

The following post is from Jessica H., a guest blogger who has been teaching at a university in Korea for over 15 years.

When do you throw in the towel? I don’t mean quitting expat life or changing your career or even quitting and finding a new employer. When do you quit a class? I was once offered a class of middle schoolers. It was twice a week for several months and offered through my employer at my work site. It paid well and I didn’t have to worry about getting into trouble for working illegally.

Teenagers have never been my favorite students. The hormones and the sassiness that invariably accompanies them has always tried my patience. But I sucked it up and said yes because I needed the money to pay those ever-looming college loans.

How bad could it be??? Show up a couple times a week and try to impart some knowledge of the English language and maybe even have a bit of fun. I didn’t get to interview the students before the class began. I didn’t get to choose the book. The admin decided that would fall on another teacher’s shoulders.The day before the class I’m told that the parents wanted the students to do homework. OK, whatever I can do that. The first day of class I walked in and found a group of twelve elementary school students. They were between 10 and 12 years old. They weren’t middle school students. They didn’t have the ability to speak middle school English. Yet here I was with an inappropriate book and unprepared.

In this situation in Korea you’ve got two choices: suck it up buttercup or complain. Both will get you the same results. Nothing. Nothing will change. You’ll talk to someone, plead your case, and get a smile and the ever helpful shoulder shrug. I charged ahead trying to make the best of the class week by week. I made worksheets and used the textbook as little as possible.

I soon realized the students didn’t know how to write 1-30 in English. No problem! It’s homework! They didn’t know days of the week or months of the year either No problem! It’s homework. Then came the problem. Very few completed their homework. Yet I had no way to enforce it. No amount of pleading or cajoling or bribing would get the homework done. But remember I was told the parents wanted it. I wasn’t given a list of home phone numbers or emails to let parents know that the homework wasn’t complete. That the thing they wanted wasn’t being done.

I threw in the towel. I couldn’t do it anymore. I gave up. The money I so desperately needed wasn’t enough to keep me there. I don’t want to say quit when you’re challenged. Of course no one wants to be a quitter. However, sometimes you’re over your head or your teaching style isn’t working. You can try to change and make the best of it. Sometimes you hand the class off to someone else and shake the dust of your boots and go home. In the end I learned a valuable lesson. I learned that sometimes things are beyond our control as EFL teachers in Korea.

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Thursday, 1 June 2017

Loads of Links for Student Evals

I have written a handful of articles about student evals and how they can impact things such as contract renewal and bonuses.  Below is a compilation to the various articles I wrote as well as other ones online.

Problems with Evaluations and Their Affects on Teachers
There are many, many problems with student evals. One problem is that students aren't customers even though they may think they own you because of the high cost of tuition. Here are a few more problems. Lastly, here's what teachers think about student evals

Student evals affect contract renewal and this means teachers might do anything they can to increase their evals, including being a dancing monkey.

Sometime you get punished if students don't evaluate you. An easy way to make sure they do is to do the evaluations during mid-term or final exams.

Ideas for Evaluation
What should the standard be for evaluation? Make sure the evals are reliable and valid. Or better yet, stop evaluating and start mentoring.The admin should be supporting teachers.

Teachers don't get a break. They are always being evaluated. Here are 4 different ways teachers are evaluated. Since the admin evaluates teachers, then have teachers evaluate the admin. It would be a great way to get rid of some of the horrible administrators sitting around. Having teachers do self-evaluations can also be useful.

How to Get Better Evals

More Articles about Student Evals

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Monday, 1 May 2017

3 Different Ways of Dealing with a Curve

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Grading on a curve can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. I've found that most teachers do one of three things when faced with using a curve.

1. They max out the curve
If you take a TEFL course you will find out that many of us are teaching required courses. Even if it's not required, I highly recommend you take a course even if you've been teaching for years; there's always something new you can learn. Some popular online courses are the CCELT (100 hours) and the University of Toronto (100, 120, and 150 hours). Due to this, many of the students don't care as much about these classes as they would about classes in their major. Although English is important, a basic course probably isn't going to make or break their career, so why fight it? If the curve allows for 30% A's, then they'll give 30%, no matter how low the scores are.

There are a couple of exceptions to this, one is when teachers save a couple A's just in case there are mistakes. If they have students with identical scores, they might bump them both down to B's, though some teachers will take a look at how much they improved or their effort and give one an A and one a B. I personally find that difficult to do. Some students are naturally better than others and will score higher with little effort. So what do you do in that case? Reward the student who has slightly better English or reward the student who tried the hardest? Either way, these teachers will do their best to max out the curve.

2. They use cut-off scores
Commonly referred to as a cut-line in Korea, these teachers ignore the curve. The purpose of the curve is to put a cap on how many grades you can give. They don't state that there has to be a minimum number of A's. Therefore, these teachers might use a straight 90-80-70-60 cut-off, or make up their own. If the highest score in the class is a 79, then no one gets an A or a B. The highest score will be a C. Of course, this might set you up for a bunch of student complaints, but I've found that most teachers who do this don't care about complaints and are very firm with grading. They believe that students get what they deserve.

3. They look for a natural separation
This method kind of combines the first two methods. The teacher isn't going to max out the scores nor are they going to use per-determined cut-off scores. They're going to look for bunches. Let's say you're allowed to give a max of 30% A's and the top 23% of your students have scores in the 90s and then there's a huge drop from there and the next score is an 84. Teachers who use this method are going to use the drop as a cut-off score since that's where the divide naturally falls. Of course, even with this method, you're going to get students who complain, however, there will always be students who complain, even when you max out the curve.

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Monday, 3 April 2017

A Quick and Easy Way to Decrease the Complaints You Get About Writing Scores

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At once time or another I'm sure every teacher has been asked by a student to re-grade their writing. Usually what happens is that they'll come to you and say something like they think they deserve a higher grade. Sometimes, they'll bring their friend's paper and say their friend got a higher score and they think that they also deserve a higher score.

In the past I made the mistake of increasing their score. In hindsight, this definitely was a major mistake to make. First of all, it tells the student that you didn't do a good job grading. Second, it lets them know that if they complain, you'll raise their grade. The only reason I would give them a higher grade when they came and complained was to appease them. Once students find out you'll raise their score if they come talk to you, you'll be bombarded by students.

After over a decade of teaching at the university level, I know what grade a student deserves. Due to the that and the fact that it can be depressing for students to see red all over their paper, I don't correct every single mistake. Plus there's the fact that very few students will actually look at the corrections I've made.

One little change I've made has dramatically decreased the amount of complaints I have once I hand a writing activity back.When students come to me and ask me to re-consider the grade I gave them I start at the very beginning and correct every single mistake. Usually after a sentence or two the student will realise that they got a higher score than they deserved. If not, I'll refer to the rubric and start deducting points. Then I'll give them the option of keeping their score or changing it. When they come with their friend's paper, I do the same to their friend's paper and they quickly realise that their friend will lose points.

Some people will say that it sounds mean, but I personally know that I do a good job grading and grade fairly. I don't play favourites. More often than not give them higher scores than other teachers would. This isn't a problem since all my students are graded against themselves: not against other teachers' students. In addition, there's a curve involved.

Granted, there are times when I've made a mistake with the math involved and when that happens I'll happily change their score. However, if you make this one change, students will realise that complaining will not necessarily raise their score and if anything, it will decrease it.

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