Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Should TEFL Teachers get their Boss a Christmas Gift?

TEFL teachers have the chance to be immersed in the country and culture. Giving gifts are an important part of many cultures. There are a few things to remember before giving Christmas gifts.
Image source

1. Is Christmas celebrated?
In some countries, Christmas may not be celebrated, such as in Muslim countries. Or if it is, it's not that big a deal, like in Korea, where gifts are usually given during Chuseok and not during Christmas. When in doubt, ask what the local customs dictate; you don't want to end up committing a major faux pas.

2. Don't expect something in return 
Gifts are all about giving; not receiving. Just because you give a gift, doesn't mean that your boss has to get you something in return. Expecting something in return brings us to the next point: bribery.

3. Don't use gifts as bribery
This should be a given, but some people still expect preferential treatment because they gave their boss a Christmas gift. Don't expect to be treated special or that giving a gift will get you that promotion that you've been wanting. This is probably the main reason people don't give their bosses Christmas presents; they don't want people to think they're bribing their boss.

4. Stick to the budget 
If you are going to give your boss a Christmas gift, ask your co-workers how much they usually spend. Spending too much or too little is not good. You don't want to stick out. Remember the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. You want to blend in. Maybe everyone can pitch in and buy your boss an amazing gourmet gift basket.

5. Is it appropriate?
As an adult, you should know whether a certain gift is appropriate or not; however, the company culture also comes into play. Some offices give gag gifts or white elephant gifts. Others do secret Santas. Find out what the norm is for your office and follow it.

6. Get something for the office 
Speaking of the office, perhaps the safest thing to do is get a gift for the entire office. Homemade cookies are always appreciated. If you can't bake, no worries, there are plenty of delicious store-bought items that you can buy and everyone can enjoy. Food like mixed nuts, dried fruit, coffee cake, and cookies are always a safe bet. Drinks such as a variety box of coffee, tea sets, and assorted hot chocolate are sure to be enjoyed during break times.

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Sunday, 1 October 2017

How to Legally Work on a SOFA visa (ex. Teach English)

If you're coming overseas with your spouse and are hoping to get a job off base, you'll need to jump through some hoops in order to do so legally. If you want to do it off base, you're going to have to go to the immigration office and get permission. The only way that you can work legally on a SOFA visa is if you're doing it on base. If you want to work on base, there are many options available. You can find out more in the post, getting a job on an American military base overseas.

 Amazon
Amazon

Please don't believe people who tell you that you can work on a SOFA visa. The SOFA visa allows you to live in Korea. Live. That's it. Not work. Not study. Just be here. If you work, it will not be legal. If caught there will be repercussions for you as well as your sponsor, so don't risk screwing up their career because you didn't go to the source. Fines, deportation, counseling for your sponsor have all happened to people who have been caught. Don't risk it. Same goes for modelling. Here's more info about modelling in Korea.

Go to the Source
The people you need to ask are immigration. The Legal Office does NOT issue visas. They will refer you to immigration, who are the people who issue visas, fines, and revoke visas.

If you're in Korea, the immigration office can be reached from 9am-6pm on 1345. Like everyone else in Korea (except teachers), the entire country shuts down and they have a lunch break from 12noon-1pm.

The immigration website can be hard to navigate since the url doesn't change and it's not globally friendly at all. You have to use an antiquated version of Internet Explorer and even then it's not guaranteed to work. 

What will happen to your SOFA visa?
You have two choices. What you choose depends on your situation. I choose the second option since my sponsor was leaving Korea and my SOFA visa would be cancelled. By getting my own visa, I could stay in Korea.

1. The first is to keep your SOFA visa and simply get "permission for activities outside your sojourn" added to your SOFA visa. That means you have your A3 SOFA visa but have asked for permission to do something else and they have granted it. Basically, you're legal. Go to the immigration website and choose "immigration", then "immigration guide" on the left you'll see "foreigner sojourn" then pick "participation in activities certified for current sojourn status? According to their website it costs 120,000. I think that since SOFA visa holders are not required to have an ARC, then you wouldn't have to pay 30,000 for the card plus 3,000 for delivery, but don't quote me.

2. The second option is to cancel your SOFA visa and get another visa. You do not have to do a visa run. You can do it right here in Korea at an immigration office. This cost 100,000 to change your visa, 30,000 for a new ARC, and 3,000 to mail it to you. Here's the fee info.

Going to the Immigration Office
Many immigration offices now require you to make an appointment first. This has to be done on their website. You need to register first and download a whole bunch of random keys, ActiveX, and TouchEn. It's a pain. I'd see if you can get someone to help you. The other option is taking your passport to your immigration office and getting them to make an appointment for you. They'll then send you a text with the info. Screenshot that text.

What docs you need depends on what job you want. Basically, you need to fulfill the same requirements as anyone else who would get that visa would need. Let's say you want to teach English and would get an E2 visa. Here's what you need.
  • A passport from the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, or Australia
  • An apostillised criminal background check (within the last 6 months) (more info)
  • A bachelor's degree and apostillised copy (more info) with sealed transcripts   
  • A self-medical check
  • A medical check from a specific hospital or clinic
  • 2 photos 3.5cm X 4.5cm
  • Fee (bring about 200,000)
  • Lease with your name on it (or document that certified you live there. Go to the immigration website and choose "Application forms" from the bottom right. It's at the top of the pop-up under "sojourn related forms")
  • Utility bill
  • Your school will also have to provide you with docs, like your teaching schedule, contract, business registration, and educational certificate.  
  • Photo copies of everything 
Congrats!
Get the right paperwork together and you CAN legally work on a SOFA visa. No need to worry about doing something illegal and getting yourself and your sponsor in trouble.

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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
Image source
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
Amazon
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
Amazon
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.

Amazon
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

Amazon
Universities
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.
USO
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.

From stuyspectator.com
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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