Monday, 25 May 2015

Are Schools Just Churning Out Grads?

Many people would say yes. The Independent and The Times Higher Education think that schools and universities aren't doing their job. Thanks to grade curves and students being treated as customers, teachers are being forced to pass students that don't deserve to pass. Business Insider has an article about how As aren't what they used to be.

Teachers that try to stand up for what they believe in are quickly shot down due to student evaluations and not renewed. It's up to the admin to change this. Their goal should be to create better teachers who can in turn teach their students the best they can. They need to realise that quality is more important than quantity and graduates are products that reflect the quality of teaching.

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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Packing Tips for TEFL Teachers Going Home on Vacation

From Independent Traveler
It's taken me a while, but I've finally got packing down to an art. I don't have to ship items, re-pack my luggage at the airport, or worry about weight. Here are some of the best packing tips I've learned over the years. Howdini and Heathrow Airport also have some good packing tip videos that tell you how to pack a suitcase.

Take only what you need
I'd always over-pack when I went home for the summer. I'd bring way more than what I needed. Figure out how to coordinate your clothes. Leave all the little extras; chances are you won't use them anyways.

Bring old clothes
Going home for me means relaxing. I don't really need to dress to impress. I'm on vacation. I bring old clothes. Things that I don't mind donating to charity when I leave.

Buy less
Nowadays you can find most things that you need where you live or online. Natural beauty products and food can be found on iherb (up to $10 off your first order (Code: LNQ216)). Ebay is also good for buying things, though shipping from places such as Hong Kong may take a while. ASOS is good for clothing and they have free shipping. There might be local groups where you can buy things. Korea is a very transient community and there are a number of FaceBook groups where people sell new or used items. Craigslist is also popular here for buying things.

I buy most of my clothes from Europe so shipping is international anyways (US vs Korea). I prefer to have things shipped to Korea since the Korean post office has much cheaper shipping than the USA. This way if I want to return something I'd spend far less than if I'd ship it from the USA.

There are also mail forwarding services, such as Mall Tail or Ship2Korea that can help keep shipping costs down and save on suitcase space.

Use vacuum bags carefully
I find that weight, not space is often what people have to worry about. Vacuum bags don't help with this. They create more space, but allow you to put more weight than you normally would into your suitcases.

Forget travel sized toiletries
I bring full sized items, but make sure there isn't a lot of product left. This way it takes up space going there and I can leave it behind when I come back.

Bring gifts
It's a nice touch and they take up space in your suitcase on the way there.

Go during the summer
You'll have to bring less clothes and it's less bulky than winter things.

Bring an empty suitcase
My goal is to be able to fit all my clothes and my daughter's clothes into a backpack. One suitcase has gifts and things that I'm going to leave in the USA, such as crafts my daughter made or important documents. The other suitcase is empty. You can also bring an empty carry-on bag which will allow you to take more back with you. Be careful though, some airlines weight carry-ons.

Leave things behind
I only go home once a year, but I still leave clothes behind. I have a couple days' worth of clothing at my parents house that I wear when I go back.

Plan ahead
I start making my shopping list the day I get back to Korea. Over the course of the year I can see what I really want to buy when I'm back in the USA. Somethings I'm able to get online, other things people buy for me when they go home, and other things I decide I don't really want. By doing this I'm sure I'll only get things that I really want.

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Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Golden Ticket: Teaching English Abroad

The following post is from a guest blogger from Patrick Wolf. He's hoping to start a debate on the need for writing instruction and would welcome feedback. You can reach him at

Whether you’re fresh out of college or experiencing a mid-life crisis a passport from a major English speaking country, such as the United States, enables one to cash in a “Golden Ticket”. That “Golden Ticket” enables an individual to teach English almost anywhere in the world! I was suffering a mild mid-life crisis myself and was looking for a way to combine my love of travel and helping others.

My name is Patrick and I’m from Green Bay, Wisconsin and in 2008 I decided to come to South Korea at the age of 45 to teach English. I teach children from the ages of 8 to 18 at an English Academy called a “hogwon”. I teach English 30 hours a week and receive great benefits such as; good pay, two week vacation, free flight, free apartment, cheap utilities, affordable health-care and a great life style! That is why one year teaching quickly turned into four years and after a quick year in America to deal with some personal tragedy I came back to South Korea to a life I have grown to love.

 I recently just decided to stay another year. I will be here at least until May, 2016. Over the years I have met many people from all ages and different countries and the one thing we all have in common was wishing we would have cashed in that “Golden Ticket” sooner! So, whether you’re looking to pay off some college loans or fill in a gap year why not seriously think about teaching English overseas. I will post again soon and if you have any questions feel free to contact me by e-mail.

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Friday, 15 May 2015

What Should be the Standard for Evaluations?

From Advance at Brown
Both teachers and students are evaluated, but many times different standards are used. At many places where I worked students were given letter grades. When it came time for students to evaluate teachers, they would evaluate them on a number scale. Students are familiar with letters and may think differently when dealing with letters.

Admin should decide on one standard of evaluation and use it for both students and teachers. Even within letters and numbers, there are a number of possibilities.
  • Letters: A-F, pluses, minuses
  • Numbers: 1-5, 1-10, 1-20, 1-100
By sticking with one method, it will ensure that grading is fairer for all parties involved.

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Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Beyond Surviving - How To Thrive as an Expat ESL Teacher: 7 Tips for the Journey

The following post is from a guest blogger from Steve Schuit at Korean Bookends.

The questions were unfailingly predictable: What’s your name? Where are you from? What university did you graduate from? What was your major? They came in rapid succession. It was the start of my very first semester here in Korea and almost every student was asking me the same questions.

I gave my name, mentioned that I went to school in Boston and said that my hometown was New York. My major? American history. More than several students reacted in a similar manner:
“American history? How could that be a major? American history is only 200-years old. Korean history is 5000-years old. That’s a major!” 
That observation was not lost on me. “Wow,” I said to myself, “there’s something to this.” It didn’t take long for a self-induced wave of humility to cascade through my body. My country wasn’t the center of the universe? I began to unravel some 22-years of misguided self-importance that had been grafted on to my world of presumptions.

Tip #1 Be humble. 
No matter where you are from, it’s not likely you have 5,000 years of history backing you up. More than just ancient history, according to Daniel Tudor, author of Korea: The Impossible Country, South Koreans have produced the most impressive story of nation building in the 20th century. And besides, humility goes a long way here.

Tip #2 Learn the language. 
You hop in a cab, patch together a few words of the native language, telling the driver where you want to go. Only thing is, you said you wanted to go to the train station. That’s where he took you. You meant to say, the local subway station. He’s confused. You’re frustrated. Make the time to study the local language--even if you’re exhausted from all the teaching you’re doing. Learning the language helps provide part of the necessary tool-kit for navigating life in your adopted country. Learning Korean opens the window to a better understanding of this incredible culture.

Tip #3 Cultivate friendships with both Koreans and other expats.
Studying Korean, especially when done in traditional classroom fashion is a great place for meeting others. In my recent Korean language classes I was both the only American and the only professor. Befriending the owner of a local coffee shop or dry cleaners may lead to a weekend hike in the woods. Joining an area club or organization (running, paintball, softball, or traveling) is a great way to make friends and enrich your expat experience.

Tip #4 Avoid thinking you can change the system. 
By now you’ve heard all about the crazy drivers, the antiquated customs, the lousy weather, the seemingly ridiculous approaches to managing people. Guess what? Get a grip. It ain’t gonna change. And, more importantly, it’s not your culture.

Tip #5 Avoid Korea bashers. 
Yes indeed, misery loves company. Finding flaws and faults can easily become contagious. “Red flag” this dynamic as soon as you notice it. Take two steps back. Find colleagues and friends who have a more balanced view of their experience here. Korea is not a perfect place, but it does offer a world of mostly pleasant surprises. For most people, even those who experience a few early “speed bumps,” Korea provides more than its share of spectacular memories.

Tip #6 Keep developing yourself professionally. 
My current employer requires each faculty member to have an ongoing plan for professional development. You can do research, observe other teachers, attend conferences and write reaction papers, or give presentations to colleagues at regularly scheduled staff meetings. There’s a good message here: standing still professionally is not OK. There are many ways to become a better teacher--whether it’s through joining KOTESOL, becoming part of an acting troupe, taking traditional Korean art classes, or doing yoga.

Tip #7 Be an ambassador. 
You didn’t join the Foreign Service when you decided to become an ESL educator. That’s true, but for better or worse, you are an ambassador. You represent your country in the eyes of your students, your Korean bosses and colleagues, and to Koreans at-large. Many people don’t welcome such an appellation bestowed on them without their consent. Totally understandable, but it comes with the turf. In fact, how you behave is not only a reflection on you, and your country, it is also a reflection on all foreigners who are guests here in Korea.

Recently, a fellow former Korean Peace Corps volunteer mentioned that he thought there was much evidence to suggest that a stint as an ESL teacher can be an invaluable “Part 1” in preparation for the adventure that is life. For others, an extended tenure as an ESL teacher can, as in any profession, lead to burnout. Tips for success aside, inertia can be an intoxicating trap. Staying fresh, on top of your game, motivated, and most importantly, in service to your students, is a timeless and worthwhile challenge. Losing one’s humility may be like the canary in the coal mine—an indication that it may be time to check things out.

About Steve Schuit
The author, a professor and business consultant, returned to Korea 36 years after serving there as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Posting on the blog "Korean Bookends," he shares his reflections as an expat living "now and then" in Korea. Steve joined the Yeungnam University faculty in 2012.

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