Sunday 24 February 2008

Tips for Living in a Foreign Country

Updated 18 February 2012

Things to Do When Living Abroad
  • Be prepared. Learn how to blend in. Know that culture shock is normal and think about what you go do to fight it.
  • Be respectful. Follow the local culture's customs.
  • Do research. Learn about the country’s history, culture, people and language before you go.
  • Make a list. 30 days to move abroad is a great reference to make sure you have everything you need when you move.
  • Have fun. Try different foods, go dancing, visit other cities, go to festivals, and take photos. Interact with the locals and make friends. Visit local markets and artisan shops and try out your bargaining skills in the local language.
  • Be nice. Compliment the food and culture. Keep an open mind about differences between your culture and theirs.
  • Learn the language. Learn a bit of the local language. People appreciate it when you make an effort to learn their language.
  • Getting moving. Learn to use the local transport system.
  • Show me the money! Learn the value of local goods in the local currency.
Things Not to Do When Living Abroad
  • Stereotype. No one likes stereotypes.
  • Think you're better. Cultures are different. One isn’t better than the other.
  • Be an ugly tourist. Don't stick out by acting or dressing poorly.
  • Carry valuables. Take only the money you need and don’t flaunt your wealth.
  • Comment on prices. Don't compare things to your country and say how cheap things are. They're not cheap for the locals.
  • Be rude. Don't speak English loudly and overuse gestures. Lots of people understand English.
This article has also been published in the ELT Times.


Thursday 14 February 2008

11 Tips for Teaching English to Beginners

Updated 14 July 2013
  1. Do your research. There are many books geared towards teachers who teach beginners. If you're teaching children try reading teaching English to young learners.
  2. Explain things again. Most people aren’t going to grasp a concept on the first try.
  3. Review. Do this daily and allow for different situations such as individual, pairs, small groups, and the whole class. You can find lots of material for lesson plans online.
  4. Be patient. While some students are ready to make mistakes and start talking, others are perfectionists who want to make sure they can say something perfectly before they say it.
  5. Give students more time. Wait and then wait some more. Don’t worry if you have to wait 30 seconds or a minute to have someone respond since they’re thinking of how to say it.
  6. Give homework. If you give homework the students will review what they learnt in class.
  7. Forget the slang. Learn to speak properly and enunciate your words.
  8. Give compliments. Let your students know that they are doing well. Have them save their past work so that they can see the progress they’ve made.
  9. Make learning fun. There are plenty of websites and material out there to make your class a blast.
  10. Use technology. From games to online tests, there’s loads to choose from. Try assigning an online test or game for homework.
  11. Enroll in a language course. This is the best way to empathize with your students. You’ll know how they feel if you feel the same way. You’ll understand that learning a language requires a lot of time and effort. Try Speak From Day 1

    Also published in . . .
    This article has also been published in the ELT Times.


    Thursday 7 February 2008

    Things to Consider Before Accepting a Job

    Updated 8 September 2013

    TEFL Jobs Aren't Just About Money
    Remember that money's not everything. If you budget and supplement your teaching income then you should do pretty well. Who you work with, potential for professional growth, pay rises and other benefits are also important. If money's an issue, there are grants out there for people who work abroad, such as the Christianson Grant.

    Recommended Questions

    Basic Questions To Ask About TEFL Jobs

    • Who makes the quizzes? How often are they?
    • What other responsibilities are there?
    • How much freedom do teachers have over the syllabus, lessons, curriculum, etc?

    • Is there reimbursement for flight? When is it given?
    • Is there airport pickup?

    • Paid or unpaid? Can you take them when you want? How many days do you have?
    • How many sick and personal days are given? Do you need to have a doctor's note to be excused?
    • Do you have to make-up the classes for holidays or are they cancelled?

    • What's the maximum hours a day/ week you'll have to work?
    • Do you have to keep office hours?
    • Will you ever have to make up classes on your days off?
    • How many days a week do you have to work?
    • Are extra hours / relief compulsory? If so how much notice is given?
    • Morning or afternoon shift? Split shift? Weekend work?
    • How long is each class?
    • What's the maximum number of students per class?
    • What about overtime?

    • Is the water and electricity in your housing reliable? Does it get turned off often?
    • Is there helping find a flat? How much is the rent / utilities typically? Is it necessary to put down key money? How much is it usually?
    • Is there housing or a housing allowance?
    • If housing is provided what's included? How many bedrooms? Is there a balcony/parking/AC/internet?
    • Will you put new wallpapering up and new flooring down? 
    • How far is the housing from the school?
    • Is it shared housing?
    • Is it close to stores, bus stops, etc?

    • Is medical insurance provided? Is it private or public? If you're going to be paying into insurance, make sure you get proof of that insurance. Many teachers have found their "insurance payments" go directly into their boss's pockets.
    • How much are taxes?
    • Is there help with opening a bank account? What documents are needed?
    • Can you freely exchange money?
    • Are there bonuses? What are they based on? Student surveys / re-enrollment / hours / qualifications?
    • How is salary decided? How will it differ with a certificate/degree and/or work experience?
    • Are there raises? How are they given?
    • How often is the pay?
    • Is there a contract completion bonus?
    • Is there relocation allowance?
    • How are you paid? Cash/direct deposit?
    • Is there overtime? How much is it?
    • Is transport provided or is there a transport allowance?
    • What other facilities are provided? Pool/library/gym/internet?
    • Is there a pension plan? How much does your employer pay? If you're going to pay make sure you get proof. Some have found their "pension payments" to go directly into their boss's pockets.

    • Are there books or are teachers expected to make their own material? What books are used? Do they come with the teacher's resource book, workbook, and CDs for listenings?
    • How much freedom do teachers have over the syllabus, lessons, curriculum, etc?
    • What's the photocopying system? Is there a copier or do you have to request copies to be made?
    • What facilities are available? Library/Computers/Interactive Whiteboards/Video camera?
    • Is there a mentor or buddy system for new teachers?
    • Is there a particular methodology or pedagogical philosophy to be followed?
    • How is management structured?
    • Will you have to teach a summer or winter camp? Is it optional or mandatory? Is there extra pay?
    • How old is the school?
    • Is there training? Is it paid?
    • Are there free or discounts for language lessons for teachers?

    • What’s the typical student like?
    • How many students are enrolled at the school?
    • What level are they?
    • How many per class?
    • What is the school's discipline policy?

    • How long do teachers usually stay at the school?
    • How many foreign teachers are there?
    • What percent sign on for a second year?
    • What percentage of teacher renew their contract?
    • How many years of experience do they have?
    • What qualifications do they have?

    Vacations: see Holidays

    • How long does it take to get the visa? Will you enter the country on a work visa?

    In-depth Questions To Ask About TEFL Jobs
    • What are the three best things about working at your school?
    • What are the long and short term goals of the school?
    • What's a typical day like for a teacher at your school?

    Go to their website and find specific things that to ask about. If they don't have a website, look over their advertisement again.

    Questions To Ask Teachers At The School
    Keep in mind that the school isn't going to put you in touch with unhappy teachers. Some schools go as far as to offer cash bonuses for teachers they recruit.

    • Are duties fairly divided between foreign and local teachers?
    • What's the hierarchy like? Can foreigners hold management positions?
    • Do you often have to work overtime? (meetings, English corners, subbing). Are you paid fairly?

    • Can you teach private students/work at another school?
    • Are you given the benefits you were promised when you were promised?
    • Do you always get paid in full and on time?
    • How modern is the school?
    • Is student limit maintained? (if they have a max of 25 do they add more?)
    • What percentage of teachers complete their contract? renew? quit?
    • Are students divided by level?
    • How involved are the students' parents? Do they pressure you outside of class? Can they sit in on classes?
    Also published in . . .
    This article has also been featured in the ELT Times.


    Tuesday 5 February 2008

    The Ultimate Guide to Teaching in Peru

    Updated 21 February 2012

    It can take some time to get used to Peruvian culture.  It may be months before an employer gets back to you after you send your CV. It's not uncommon to get a phone call at 4pm and have them tell you that you have an interview the next day at 8am. If you ask them to reschedule chances are that they won't call you back.

    Try to find out the salary first since some places pay so low that's it's not even worth going to the interview. If you're looking to work at an institute, getting a TEFL cert would be helpful. You can find lists of schools at conferences and training in Peru.  

    Pay and Where to Apply
    • Institutes usually pay $6 to $12 an hour, don't expect visas, flights, housing, medical, or pension.
    • Bilingual schools usually recruit up to 6 month in advance. They tend to get you visas, medical, pension, paid vacations, and they may pay your taxes too. Expect about $700 to $1500 a month.
    • International schools have two categories of teachers: those who are hired abroad and local hires. You need to be a qualified teacher. Teachers hired abroad get flights, paid housing for a couple of weeks, medical, pension, visas, reduced tuition for their kids, and up to 3000USD a month. They often recruit through their own websites, on TES and through recruiting fairs.
    • Universities pay from $5 to $20 an hour. In Lima they don't help out with visas, but outside of Lima they might. Expect medical and some of them pay "utiles" in May which is a share of the university's profits. They recruit up to a semester ahead of time.
    Places That Get You a Visa
    In general institutes will not get you a visa. Saxoncourt advertises jobs but their salary is so high that I'm not if it's legit. TEFL Job Placement will place you in an institute, but they don't mention visas. ISR has reviewed schools and you can read more on their forum.

    Places That Require You to Have Legal Working Status
    Most places will hire you on a tourist visa and have you work illegally. These places are the exception.

    Finding Work
    Working on tourist visas is not uncommon, but it's not legal either. Most people get 183 days upon arrival and either border hop or pay the $1 a day fine. Some institutes require Recibos de Honorarios and unless you are legally in Peru you can't get them. You’ll have to find someone who does have these. If you’re in Peru try buying El Comercio on Sunday. you can also look online at Teach Abroad, Living in Peru, and Expat Peru .If you're looking to make extra money you can teach online or teach private lessons.

    Applying to schools can be discouraging. Many places won't reply because many people email their CVs, promise to come, and never show up. Don't give up. Being persistent pays off. Go to schools in person. If you’d prefer to work in a school or university than an institute check out the LA Job list. Try also contacting top hotels as their staff often needs to speak English.

    If you’ve done a TEFL certification programme they may have a lifetime job placement service. There are also companies that specialise in job placement for teachers like Innovative English. Try your local college or university's career service centre they might be able to provide you with some places that are looking for teachers. Conferences and Training in Peru have a list of events that you should consider attending. Going to conferences is a great way to network.

    It can be expensive and some places charge very high fees. Here are some places that have low fees: AYNI, Awaiting Angels, Britannia Teachers Peru, Cross Cultural Solutions, Habitat for Humanity, My Pro World, and Volunteer South America.

    Teaching in Peru
    The school year goes from March until December. International schools and schools may start looking for teachers at early as September. Universities may wait until the beginning of the year to start hiring. Many institutes hire year-round. You may have to work split shifts. Sometimes classes finish as late as 10pm. Smart casual is usually the rule here though you may be allowed to wear sandals, especially in the north.

    The minimum Peruvian salary is around $275 a month. However, you have to remember most of them live with their family so they are not paying rent or food. The average pay is at institutes about $600 a month. Expect $10,000 at a bilingual school and at least $25,000 at an international one. Benefits may include transport, insurance, lunch, a housing stipend, and paid vacations. Some schools may put you on planilla which means that you get an extra month salary in June, July, and December. For more information about teaching in Peru check out top institutes in Lima, the best institutes in Peru, FAQ Peru, and The Ultimate Peru List.

    This article was featured in Transitions Abroad.


    Saturday 2 February 2008

    How to Write a TEFL Cover Letter

    Updated 4 November 2014

    • Realise their importance. Cover letters are just as important as your CV, if not more important. They're the first thing that an employer sees and have to make a good impression. 
    • Personalise it. You should address it to an actual person. Try not to use "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom it May Concern". Call and ask who does the hiring then address your cover letter to that person.
    • Be careful of titles. Sometimes with foreign names you might not know if you're writing to a man or woman. In that case you could just put their full name followed by Director of Studies, Coordinator, Applications Officer, etc.
    • Be brief. Keep it short and simple. Your education and experience should be on your CV. Your teaching philosophy can be a different page as well. Your cover letter should tell the person why you want to work for them and why you're best suited for the job.
    • Write in English. Even if the job advertisement was written in another language your cover letter and CV should be in English. Using another language might work against you as the employer may think that you would use class time to learn the language rather than teach English.
    • Put some effort into it. If you're emailing your cover letter as an attachment one of the worst things you can do is just write "Please find my documents enclosed". Try to write a couple sentences about who you are and where you found their job advert.
    • Drop names. If you heard about the job from someone mention them name in your cover letter. Just make sure to get their permission first.
    • Explain why you want to work for them. Show the employer that you know something about them. Do a bit of research about the position and tell them why you think you're suited for it.
    • Say what you have to offer. Why should they hire you? This is your chance to sell yourself. If you have experience creating exams, placing students, or being a head teacher, let them know.
    • Be formal. There should be no contractions or informal language in your cover letter. Have someone else take a look at it and make sure it's ok.
    • Proofread it. Some people use similar cover letters and plug in the necessary information when it comes time to apply for a job. If you're going to do this highlight the sections you need to change. I've seen a cover letter that said "I think I'm suited for this position because of blah, blah." Needless to say they didn't get the job.
    • Contact info. Give your phone number and email so that they have a choice of how they would like to reach you.
    • Update it when necessary. Take out the old information and put in the new whil.

    • Be negative. Don't say that you don't have any teaching experience or that you only have taught for a short time. Your goal is to make employers hire you.
    • Get off topic. Don't discuss subjects that aren't related to the position. The fact that you like playing guitar or are only applying to the job because it pays well should not go in your cover letter.
    • Talk short term. Don't state that you only want to stay for a few months unless the position is a short term one.
    • Talk badly about past employers. One of the golden rules. Don't break it. Ever.
    • Talk about other people. That’s great that your mom’s a teacher, but how does that relate to you? Unless you helped her teach or observed her don’t mention it.
    • Rehash your entire CV. A cover letter is suppose to entice people to read your CV. If they both have the same information there’s no point in reading your CV.
    • Procrastinate. Don't wait until the last moment to update it. You should update it every time you have something pertinent to add.
    • Make stupid mistakes. Spelling, punctuation, dates, etc should all be double checked. You can find some more examples of stupid mistakes in post on Dave's ESL Cafe.
    Also published in
    This article has also been featured in the ELT Times.


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