Wednesday, 15 February 2017

A Warning About Teaching in the Czech Republic

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The following post is from Ella L., a guest blogger. She taught in Korea, went to the Czech Republic and is now back in Korea. You might also be interested in reading, Stories from an EFL ClassroomWhat are your stories?

Some months ago, i thought the grass was greener on the other side in Europe. I had a job offer in the Czech Republic, and thinking it was the offer of a lifetime, flew to Europe. However, what I got was less than what I expected thanks to a broken contract, unhelpful bosses, and theft.

First, the contract was broken as soon as I had landed. I was told that the contract was invalidated at the immigrations office and so had arrived there with no legal documents to support me. I wound up being paid less than half of the promised salary and had to use online teaching to support myself.

Second, the bosses there didn't help with anything. They made me pay for everything, never got me a refrigerator, and expected me to do my visa by myself, which was nigh impossible to do. They also did not pay for insurance, and expected me to cover it.

Third, I had some items stolen from me. My son, who is nearly 2 years old, had some toys taken from him. I had a couple of valuables taken from me at the bus terminal. It broke my trust in humanity that a nanny could steal toys from a child they had cared for.

I don't feel that Europe is the place to go anymore. You might find yourself having difficulty getting the work visa, spending a lot of money, having your items stolen from you, and find yourself struggling if you're not paid enough. Asia provides jobs with living wages and the people are more helpful, so I recommend going there.

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Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Stories from an EFL Classroom

The following post is from Maria D., a guest blogger.

Being an English teacher in Korea can be a thankless job. The hours are long, vacation is short and cultural boundaries can be intimidating and annoying. But the thing that keeps me teaching are the students. Watching them progress is rewarding, but they also provide ample entertainment in the classroom. Here are my favorite stories!

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1. I was teaching a class of middle schoolers. One of them absolutely loved attention and constantly disrupted the class to get attention. I told him, “If you’re going to act like you’re in kindergarten, you can sit on the floor like in kindergarten.” So, he sat on the floor for the rest of the lesson and quietened down. At the end, when I gave him permission to stand up, he stretched up, then started rubbing his rear, and said, “Teacher! My ass!”

Other disruptions included, “Teacher! He said he cut my pen-is!” and “Teacher, what does ‘wasted’ mean?” He was never boring.

2. I got engaged and had a nice diamond ring to prove it. Often, my partner would pick me up outside the school. One of my other middle school students proceeded to say, “Oh! Teacher, boyfriend handsome!” then held my hand and slid my ring off, then wore it herself. I pretended I was going to fight her then took the ring back.

3. The fifth graders were learning body parts, and the expression, “I hurt my [body part].” When students were lining up to leave, one of the boys walked around to each student, pointed to his crotch and thrust, then said, “I hurt my penis! I hurt my penis! I hurt my penis!”

4. For some ridiculous reason, a middle schooler thought it would be a great idea to bring her 3 tiny pet fish to school in a water bottle. I put it to the side on my desk. Two of the students started play fighting then fell onto the bottle, breaking it apart and suddenly there were three flapping, traumatized fish on the floor and a bunch of screaming middle schoolers. I had to pick up the little things and place them in the remains of the water bottle.

5. And last, but not least, one of the most adorable students I had was a chubby cheeked first grader. She told me about her pet hamster named, “Pudding-ee!” I confirmed with her, “Pudding-y?” and she replied, “No, no, no, teacher… Pudding… EEEEEEEEEEEE!”

These moments are what make teaching worth it, for me. What are your stories?

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Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Looking Back on the 2004 Earthquake and Tsunami in Indonesia

The following post is from Thomas Tye, a guest blogger.

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Earthquakes. Tsunamis. More earthquakes. I’m not trying to sound nostalgic in the midst of all of these natural disasters, but it makes me think about the really BIG earthquake, the really big tsunami that called upon me to come to Asia. In 2004 it was the earthquakes of all earthquakes, the big one that hit off the coast of Ache in Indonesia. Sent a tidal wave that caused destruction and mayhem in its wake. Everyone on the planet that was supposed to go, went, including me. It took me a few weeks to decide if I was going to leave America or not, but I finally did.

I had no money, just enough gas to get my truck down to Texas to the only NGO that was willing to take me over. I had no relief training, no idea how or why I even wanted to go. All I knew was that there was something pulling me across the planet, something… a feeling I couldn’t ignore that was making it hard for me to drive down to the rickety 747 that was held together with duck tape and chicken wire, an airplane that belonged to the organization Global Peace Initiative, and to Dr. K. Paul, an immigrant who used his life as a radio beacon between him and God who went anywhere and everywhere to bring aid and assist in the time of heartache.

I was lucky enough to bum a ride, along with Congressmen, reporters from all the major news agencies, doctors, and aide workers that constantly have a bag packed and ready in the closet of their homes for times like this. Like I said, I bummed a ride, so I had no idea or control over where we were going. Our first stop—Abuja, Nigeria during the African Conference. No room on the runway for our plane, so we had to park at the end and hike 45 minutes over blazing tarmac to the gates, which proceeded to lead me into the craziest night of my life, a story meant for another time.

I only reminisce about that time now because we just completed our 10th episode on our podcast Married to a Foreigner (Facebook) here in Korea. My wife and I just had our 5 year anniversary, 10 if you count how long we dated before getting married. If it wasn’t for that tsunami 11 years ago, I’d probably still be sitting on someone’s couch wondering when my life was going to begin, hazy eyed thinking that I’d one day get up and out of America. Instead, I hitchhiked on an NGO plane, set up Jack’s Place, a backpacker’s hotel in Sri Lanka, went to diving school in Thailand, spent 6 months learning to walk again after almost cutting my foot off, made a movie in Japan, lived in a castle in Spain and caravanned around Europe, met my wife in South Korea and spent 10 years teaching English around the world. All because one day, the universe told me to get up off of my ass and care about something other than myself. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. I’m sorry that I didn’t learn to give a damn sooner.

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Thursday, 1 December 2016

10 Hoops To Jump Through to Get Renewed at a Korean University

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Anyone who has taught in Korea knows that there's a lot of paperwork to go through to get a job. Nowadays, more and more universities are making you do lots of paperwork just to keep your job, especially for those people who have some of the best TEFL jobs in Korea.

Even if you do everything they ask and pass all their tests with flying colors, it's may not mean anything. They can fudge the results or decide they want to have retroactive job requirements. While I don't want to say that it's a farce, most of it is just a formality. They are going through the motions to show their higher ups that they did what they had to do. More often than not it comes down to them liking you and them having the budget to hire you. Below you can find somethings that people have had to do to renew.

  1. Sign a document saying that you know your contract is up: this is just a legal formality. They need to tell you that your contract is finishing.
  2. Sign a document saying you want to renew: this usually states that this is not an offer of employment, but they just want to know if you want to renew. You can always decide later not to sign the contract.
  3. Verbally tell them you want to renew: and you might have to tell multiple people, such as your head teacher, boss, secretary, and/or dean.
  4. Email them and tell them you want to renew: they cover all the bases and this is just another one of them.
  5. Interview: you might have to have an interview with people such as the head teacher, your boss, and/or the dean. It's usually short and less stressful than an actual job interview.
  6. Self-evaluation: this can get lengthy so be sure to ask if there are guidelines. Some places think the more the better, while others think that less is more. 
  7. Achievements: You'll have to list any awards, publications, new degrees or diplomas, committees, or workshops you gave or attended.
  8. Submit proof of your achievements: you'll have to provide originals or copies to show your awards, publications, committees, TEFL certificates like the CCELT or the University of Toronto, new degrees or diplomas, or workshops you gave or attended.
  9. Student evals: You usually just have to list your score but you might have to print off a copy of them as well.
  10. Have your class observed: unfortunately this is not that common since students really don't know much about methodology and most places completely rely on students to decide which teachers should stay or go (based on popularity). If it's done it's usually internal and the people observing you might not know much about methodology either. 
This is not an extensive list since all places are different. This is just a list of some of the more common things that you might have to do to get renewed. Contracts may be signed early, but more often or not they are signed a few days before the semester starts and it's not unheard of for teachers to sign contracts after the semester has started.

NB: I'll be on vacation in January and February and will be publishing guest posts. While I'm gone you can read posts my other blogs. I will start posting again at TEFL Tips in March.

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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Pros and Cons to Entering Grades Last Minute

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'Tis the season. Here in Korea, the school year is coming to an end and so is the semester. All Korean universities work in a similar way. You have X amount of time to enter the grades, students have X amount of time to complain about their grades, and then you have X amount of time to change their grades if needed.

I've found that teachers can be divided into two groups when it comes to the grading period: those who enter their grades as soon as possible and those who put off entering their grades as long as possible.

Pros to Entering Grades Last Minute
  • You will get fewer complaints. The reason behind this is that if you enter grades last minute, students will have less time to check their grades. Less time means fewer students to deal with. 
  • You will spend less time checking your emails. Koreans aren't exactly known for their patience. I've had students email me an hour after they sent their first email demanding why I hadn't answered them. If you're lucky, the office will keep your personal details from your students. Sometimes, the secretaries will give out your personal email and cell phone to students. I've had students text and call early in the morning. 
  • You will have more time to do your grading. This way you can double check to make sure there are no mistakes.
Cons to Entering Grades Last Minute
  • If you enter grades at the last minute then your students will have less time to check their grades before the grievance period and this means that mistakes might slip through the cracks.
  • More students will complain to the office that they can't see their grades right away. Korean professors might only teach 1-2 classes a semester and then have TAs do all their grading. Foreign professors typically have 5-6 classes a semester and forget about getting a TA. 
  • You have the deadline hanging over your head which means more stress for you.
The complaint or grievance period is definitely one of the most stressful and annoying parts of the semester. With that being said, I love working at a Korean university and have even written about how to get a job at a Korean university, as well as some of the best places to work at. During the grievance period, students can be very persuasive. Some try to give you gifts. Others will play the pity card and beg and plead with you. However, you need to be firm and let students know that you don't give grades; they earn them.

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