Sunday 30 December 2012

It's the Little Things in Life

Things are always stressful at this time of year. There are holiday parties, end of the semester grades, and for some of us it's the end of the school year. It's always a frantic couple of weeks for me. Here are a couple things to help you relax that I got from a past co-worker as well as from Self-Care Goals.
  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Crying with laughter
  • Sleeping in
  • Sleeping in freshly washed sheets
  • Making someone smile
  • Catching up with a friend
  • Morning coffee
  • Popping bubble wrap
  • Curling up on the sofa with a good book
  • Listening to a baby laugh
  • Watching a sleeping baby
  • Getting a massage, manicure, or pedicure. Or all three!
  • Getting into bed after a long, hard day
  • Taking an afternoon nap
  • Getting a nice compliment from someone
  • Breakfast in bed
  • Looking at old photos
  • Eating takeout
  • Enjoying the first snowfall of the winter
  • Having dinner or drinks with friends
  • A cold beer after work
  • Browsing in a bookstore
  • Going to the movies or a show
  • Getting tipsy
  • Getting a haircut or a new hairstyle
  • Getting dressed up for a night out 
  • Taking yourself out on a date and enjoying your favorite activities
  • Making your favorite meal or trying out a new recipe
  • Stretching 
  • Eating fruit daily
  • Going on a weekend getaway
  • Seeing a museum exhibit
  • Organising your office, room , kitchen, or closet
  • Drinking tea
  • Journaling
  • Making holiday cards


Thursday 27 December 2012

The 4 Ms of TEFL Teachers

The 4 Ms of People Who Go to Afghanistan
The other day I was reading The Kabul Beauty School and the author mentioned the three types of people who come to Afganistan . . .
  • Misfits
  • Missionaries
  • Mercenaries
The 3 Ms of TEFL teachers Who Go to China
This made me think of what I heard about TEFL teachers in China years ago: there were 3 types of TEFL teachers. . .
  • Misfits 
  • Madmen
  • Missionaries
A Link Between the Two?
It's possible to teach English almost anywhere in the world. Take Afghanistan, where you can go with Fulbright or the US army, how about merging these lists together?
  • Misfits 
  • Madmen
  • Missionaries
  • Mercenaries
Don't think that this list is totally negative. I personally think that I fit into two of these categories: misfits and madmen (madwoman). How so? When I go back home I don't fit in. I'm not saying that I'll never go home, but for the moment I'm a misfit there. As far as being a mad person, let's face us, those of us who live abroad have to be a little mad to put up with many of the daily occurrences we deal with (motorcyclists driving on the sidewalk, old ladies putting your hood on because it's cold outside, women giving your baby hard candy because they're crying, people refusing to talk to you because you're a foreigner, and the list goes on!)

Granted not all TEFL teachers are nutty, but most of us have something in us that allows us to put up with all the craziness of teaching and living abroad. There are a lot of normal TEFL teachers out there, but if you've taught English for a year or two you're bound to have run across some crazy people.


Sunday 23 December 2012

Worldwide Opportunities for Teachers

Here are some worldwide opportunities for teachers.You can also read the articles about  . . .
Worldwide Opportunities
  • AIESEC offers internships from 6 weeks to 18 months in various countries around the world.
  • CSIET has comprehensive information about exchanges, such as study abroad and volunteering.
  • Crucero Stms has work on cruise ships.
  • Educators Abroad (ELTAP) have worldwide student teaching programmes, assistant programmes, and practicums.
  • The English Language Fellowship Programme through Georgetown University needs Junior and Senior Fellows to be placed around the world. They teach, train or do research. You'll need an MA. Generally if you have lived abroad for 5 out of the last 6 years this will be a disadvantage.
  • Fulbright offers teaching exchanges that last from six weeks, to a semestre to a year. But be sure to read the eligibility and ineligibility info first. Generally if you have lived abroad for 5 out of the last 6 years this will be a disadvantage.
  • Hispano Tours they have au pair, intership, work and travel, and trainee programmes in North America, South America, Australasia, and Europe.
  • IIE: Institute of International Education helps set up exchanges and fellowships with colleges and universities around the world. 
  • INTEJ has work and study, work and travel, language and higher education programmes, and au pair programmes for North America, South America, China, Australasia, and Europe.
  • Intered has work programmes in the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia.
  • South Australian Education Department (eslstudies) offers exchanges with the United States of America, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany, France, Switzerland and Denmark.
  • Student Partners they have work, language, and higher education programmes for North America, South America, China, Africa, Australasia, and Europe.
  • Universal Student Exchange they have work and study, work and travel programmes for North America, South America, China, Africa, Australasia, and Europe.


Saturday 22 December 2012

Avoiding the whole "Teacher, please raise my grade" fiasco

In the schools and universities I worked in before I had students complain about grades. They often want a higher grade because they made an effort. While I appreciate the fact that they tried hard, effort isn't incorporated into my grading scale. It's like running a marathon and saying that everyone deserves first prize because they tried. It just doesn't cut it.

Furthermore, most universities in Korea have a cap on the number of As and Bs you can give out. My university is very generous. Many other universities only allow 30% As. 50% of my students can get an A or A+. 40% can get a B or B+. Grades are being inflated as it is.

That's the max I can give. I don't have to give that much. I could give 0% As and give 90% Bs. Or I could give 10% As and 80% Bs. As long as As and Bs add up to 90% it's ok. Taking this a step further, I try to give out as many pluses as I can. Since an A and an A+ are different in terms of GPA.

Since I give my grades out before I enter them into the computer, sometimes I have to deal with telling students that they'll not be getting an A. It's hard. Yes, I feel bad. But like I said, it's impossible that everyone gets As. The computer won't let me give more than 50% out.

We have a specific grievance period that usually lasts about a week and that's when the emails start pouring in. In order to try to lessen the number of complaints I get, I give my students bad examples of complaints.

These are not reasons to ask for a higher grade 
  • You want a higher grade.
  • You need a higher grade for a scholarship.
  • You need a higher grade to stay in the dormitory.
  • Your parents will be disappointed.
  • You did your best in class.
  • You put your best effort into class.
  • You tried very hard.
  • You came to all the classes.
  • You did all your homework. 

Reasons for grievances
  • You have a legitimate concern.
  • You have a legitimate question.
I'm only human. I make mistakes. If I make a mistake, like not recording a grade correctly, switching numbers around or anything like that, I'll fix it. I always max out the number of As and Bs that I can give, but I usually don't enter all the As I can at first because of the fact that I might make a mistake. Later on at the end of the grievance period I go and change those Bs to As. I know I teach required courses and want to give out the highest grade possible. Unfortunately, everyone can't get an A. That's just the way it is.


Friday 21 December 2012

The Real Deal in that Online English Degree

Updated 17 June 2014
The following is a guest post by Brandon Wilson who has been consulting on higher education degrees and helping families find the best value for their money. You can follow Brandon at and learn more about online college degrees.

The Real Deal
You have to wonder, can you really earn an English degree online? Many students are finding the distance-learning alternative offers a compelling advantage. The US Department of Education has recently released a study that shows that students who study online perform better.

A virtual education provides more choices in where you attend; however, the ability to learn without any structure obliged by classroom attendance and overcoming student procrastination are both crucial factors. Without a doubt, online education is cost-effective, but virtual doesn't translate into an easy out. The virtual classroom requires the same work and time commitment as any on-campus program.  

Narrowing Your Choices
So you have a firm commitment to achieving an English degree online, but which college should you attend? You've probably heard people talk about whether you should choose a big school or a small school; there's some truth in general stereotypes of each: larger colleges and universities tend to offer more opportunities but often have more red tape. Additionally, adjunct professors and graduate students often teach their virtual classes, while small schools tend to have a closer community of students, with more undergrad focus but limited academic programs.  

For-Profit versus Non-Profit
For many career-oriented students, for-profit colleges represent a persuasive alternative to public and non-profit colleges. For-profit schools focus on job training, which in today's economy would seem to offer students an edge. They tend to offer more online classes than traditional colleges and longer sessions year-round. But according to a Harkin Senate Committee Report, students could end up drowning in debt with a questionable degree for choosing a for-profit institution.
  • Students at for-profit colleges incur more debt and tend to default on student loans more than in any other sector. 
  • Some for-profit schools have had their accreditation questioned, which can be risky and make you non-employable.
To get a credential worth having and paying for, you need to take a close look at the school and resist any hard sells. For-profit schools make their money by getting students into their classrooms. They don't benefit from federal and state subsidies like public and non-profit education. Most of these schools relentlessly recruit students with easy approved loans and promises of help finding jobs after graduation.

Since the 2008 Harkin Senate Committee investigations began, bad publicity has caused enrollment to decline. Eight Democratic senators are now calling for investigations into the tactics of for-profit colleges, in part because of reports of shady practices, including deceiving prospective students about future job prospects.  

Measuring what is Important
There will always be a host of intangibles that make up a college experience, but for those concerned with finding the best program for an online college English degree here are the starting points:
  • Check the undergraduate academic reputation: peers rating academic programs.
  • Retention: The higher the proportion of undergrads that return to the school after their freshman year, the better.
  • Financial resources: Spending on sports and dorms don't count; generous per-student spending indicates a college can offer a wide variety of programs.
  • Graduation rate: Measure the difference between a school's six-year graduation rate and the rate predicted for each class. If the graduation rate is on point or higher, they are meeting expectations.
Finding the perfect fit will take some time, but it's totally worth it when you earn that English degree.


Thursday 20 December 2012

Examples of Comprehensive Teaching Interviews

Over the years I've had some great interviews, some horrible interviews, and some downright weird ones.

Weird Interviews
I'll never forget the interview I got at 2am from China while I was living in Peru. Being woken up in the middle of the night makes your heart race. You think something's wrong, maybe someone died. But no, I had an impromptu interview from someone who didn't realise that the whole world isn't on Chinese time.:/ It basically went like this:
  • Interviewer: You apply to China job?
  • Me: Yes. (still groggy with sleep).
  • Interviewer: You native English speaker?
  • Me: Yes. (now annoyed that I'm being interviewed at 2am)
  • Interviewer: Ok, you start next week.
  • Me: No! No, I'm not going to start next week.
  • Interviewer: Oh. . .
  • Me: I cannot start next week. Goodbye.
Horrible Interviews
I've also had interviews where the interviewer was a tad bit condescending. They asked (in a voice that you use when you talk to children) me things like how I learned English. I'm a native speaker for the record. Born and raised in the US. Although technically my mom is an immigrant, she came to the US when she was 16 months old and since her mom was born in the US and they wanted my aunt and grandfather to learn English quickly and assimilate, they only spoke English to her. It was their way of practicing. She doesn't speak her father's native language. English is the only language she speaks.

Fantastic Interviews
I always prepare for interviews, but some of the best interviews I've had they've asked off-the-wall questions. Not inappropriate, but just questions that you wouldn't expect. I think one of the reasons they do that is to see how creative you are, how well you think on your feet, and how well you deal with the unexpected. Of course I won't post examples of the questions I've had because they're supposed to be unexpected. ;)

Fantastic interviews are often composed of a couple parts. There are two universities in Korea that I've heard about that have comprehensive interviews: Ewha Women's University in Seoul and Yeungnam University in Daegu.
  • Ewha: In addition to a panel interview, you'll have to grade an essay, and give a demo class that you've planned in advance.
  • Yeungnam: You'll be given 30 minutes to type the answers to 4 questions about teaching, then 10 to plan a 30 minute demo lesson, and then finally you'll be interviewed by a panel.


Tuesday 18 December 2012

TEFL Job Applications Are Becoming Too Difficult and Time Consuming

Updated 2 December 2014

I have to admit that like most people I'm a bit lazy. I'd rather just shoot off my CV and cover letter than fill out a job application. In fact, the first time I applied to university jobs in Korea I only had two requirements.
  • They didn't require an in-person interview (because I was living in Peru).
  • They didn't require me to fill out their application (because I had spent hours on my CV).
I changed my mind about filling out forms for job applications though. Since people are lazy, there will be less applicants for a job that require you to fill out an application, meaning that there's less competition and you have a greater chance of getting the job. Second, because it weeds out the lazy teachers, the employer has a better chance of getting serious, professional teachers.

While some places only require minimal documents, such as your CV and cover letter, most places ask for more. Copies of reference letters/proof of employment, passport, degrees, and transcripts are getting more common. Some places also ask for copies of your publications or thesis. Others ask you for a sample lesson plan.

I'm willing to jump through some of the hoops, within reason though. I figure that if there is a lot of red tape just for the application, working there will be even more bureaucratic. If you want to teach at a university in Korea, I'd definitely recommend Jackie Bolen's book, “How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreams.” She wrote a couple of guest posts here at TEFL Tips, How to get the university job in Korea that you want and why I love working at a Korean university. She's been in Korea for over a decade and really knows her stuff.

Adverts Requiring Original Degree for the Application
I've seen a couple job adverts that require original degrees and transcripts to be sent to them. Just for the application. I don't apply to those. All I need is for my degree to be lost in the mail and transcripts take time and money to get. I had a friend apply to a job that required his original degree. He got it back; folded twice though and with holes in the top where it had been stapled.
  • Online application form and Introduction form
  • Recommendation letter
  • A copy of foreigner registration card and passport information page
  • Diploma(the last one), transcripts(including every degree), certificates for one's career and current work experience * Only original document will be accepted. In case that you want to submit a copy, please bring it with the original for verification.
  • Two 3x4cm color passport photos
Adverts Requiring Thesis/Publications
I haven't applied to jobs that require copies of my thesis or publications either, such as Ewha Women's University. I have copies of them, but they're scanned (publications) or PDF (thesis). I guess I think it's because I think they want hard copies.
  • In addition to filling out their Ewha Women's University (Employment Application Form) with passport-size photos. You'll also need your cover letter, CV, certificates of academic degrees and professional licenses, official transcripts (for an application!) for all degrees (total GPA included), two letters of recommendation from professors in the relevant fields of study, copy of passport and alien registration card (photo page), record of past employment (if applicable), and copies of published works for the last 4 years and thesis for the final degree (if applicable) 
Adverts for Prestigious Unis with Not-so Prestigious Salaries
Often places that require more documents are worth it because they pay more or are at a prestigious university, such as the ones at SNUE. Some prestigious universities don't pay all that well even though they require you to have at least an MA. However, you often have days off, less hours of teaching per week, and long vacations. 
  • The college programme at SNUE: Teach twelve (12) class hours per week. Maintain two (2) office hours per week. Spring and fall semesters are respectively 15-week long. Lecturers are required to be on campus a week before the semester begins. The monthly salary is 2,695,000 won (before taxation and insurance deduction). You will be paid 35,000 won for any additional/extra hour of teaching.Annual total of 20 weeks of paid vacation. Foreign faculty members are entitled to stay in on-campus apartment for the duration of the contract. Monthly rent varies between 398,000 won (studio apartment) and 630,000 won (two-bedroom apartment). Key money (3-month rent) and first-month rent should be paid before moving in. The College English Program will provide at least 600,000 won as a monthly housing subsidy. 
  • TESOL Institute at SNUE: Salary: 2,800,000 won/month. Accommodation fee 500,000won/month will be provided if applicants have a place to live in Seoul or Gyeongin area) 28 working days of paid holiday a year. m40 hours work per week including 20 hours for teaching and practicum observation. Masters degree (ideally in an education related field).TESOL qualification (one that has a teaching practicum). Teaching experience (at a variety of levels such as intermediate, advanced, adult, children etc and in a variety of areas such as general English, Business English, Exam preparation).Teacher training experience (a number of years(min 1 year) experience in training teachers to be TESOL teachers). Certificate IV in TAA (Australian requirement for teaching any accredited course) preferred. *Teacher training experience preferred

Adverts That Are Way Too Time Consuming
Some adverts are a bit excessive. I've never seen one like this. If they were a prestigious university or a university in a big city I could understand. Or if they offered a huge salary, it might be worth applying. However, this one is a bit too much. It seems like following directions is a bit thing as well, if you send more than one file, your application will be rejected. Now I understand that they want to weed people out, however, they're running the risk of not having enough applicants to choose from. Here's one example:

Andong National University – Department of English Education – Excellent Compensation Package, Small Classes, Personal Relationship with Students

Hello. I am the Teacher Coordinator at Andong National University, Department of English Education, speaking on behalf of the Department Director. We are looking for an experienced, reflective, team-oriented EFL teacher to teach conversation and academic writing classes in our English Education Department (Teacher’s College). Additionally, you may teach content classes (multimedia, culture) and methodology (teaching conversation) classes. This job is not a university, freshman-English language center job. Rather, our students take the Korean Teacher’s Certification exam in their 4th year, and will become well-rounded, fluent English speakers and writers who teach EFL in Korean public middle and high schools. We look forward to hiring a qualified individual to join our close-knit team of native English teachers. We will interview finalists on Skype on January 2 and 3, 2013. The contract begins on March 1, 2013. 
A. Location: Andong National University (Gyeongbuk)
1) from Daegu: One and a half hours north by bus
2) from Daejon: Two and a half hours east by bus
3) from Seoul: Three hours southeast by bus; four hours by train
Andong is a rural city, home to outdoor markets and the famous International Mask Festival in September. We enjoy a low-stress lifestyle with access to bars, restaurants, Home Plus and Emart. The teacher housing is located a 3-minute walk from a supermarket and the Nakdong River, which has newly constructed recreation facilities, including a basketball court, a soccer field (earthen), outdoor exercise equipment, landscaping, and miles of walking and bicycle paths. 

B. Academic Qualifications and Minimum Work Experience:
[1] Qualifications: B.A. or M.A./M.Ed. in English Literature, English Linguistics, English Language Teaching, TESOL/TEFL, English Education, Applied Linguistics or other language intensive/related fields (e.g., philosophy, journalism).
[2] Preference given to TEFL certification (100 hours or more) holders
[3] Minimum work experience: 3 years’ total EFL teaching experience with 14-year-olds and older. Preference will be given to applicants with teaching experience in an Asian public middle or high school combined with university language center experience. 

C. Compensation Package and Working Conditions:
[1] Period of employment: March 1, 2013, to February 28, 2014. Contract is renewable with both parties’ agreement.
[2] Class content: freshman – senior conversation and academic writing classes. May teach some department content courses and teaching methodology classes. Class size is typically 10-18 students.
[3] Monthly Salary: 2,200,000 won for B.A. (2,300,000 won for M.A.). A huge private office with computer and internet is provided.
[4] Weekly contact hours: 13 teaching hours; 5 office hours. Normally, teachers have Fridays off, although this is not contractually specified.
[5] Overtime hours (>13/week): 30,000 won/hour (rare to teach OT)
[6] Winter/Summer Camp for English Education Students: after end of semester, and before vacation leave, up to 40 teaching hours. Typically, our camp runs at 12 hours/week for 3 weeks, Fridays off.
[7] Paid Vacation: minimum 30-day holiday at the end of each semester.
[8] Fully-furnished studio accommodation (26 m2 with glassed in balcony) in all-foreigner building. Small outdoor common area. Utilities and additional services paid by the employee.
[9] Additional Compensation: Medical insurance (50% paid by employer); national pension program (50% paid by employer); one month severance pay upon completion of one-year contract.
[10] Additional Duties: the employee will assist the Department of English Education and its faculty as needed (e.g., student performances, school festivals, workshops, off-campus camps, etc.)

E. Application Process and Materials for Document Screening:
[1] Applicants must submit a portfolio via email. The portfolio MUST BE one document (format: MS “.doc/docx”, PowerPoint “.ppt/pptx”; or “.pdf”).
[1A] Portfolios received as numerous individual documents will not be reviewed. Portfolios will be deleted for your privacy on January 1, 2013.
[2] Your portfolio MUST be constructed as follows: (page numbers are approximated):
Page 1: Formal cover letter addressed to Dr. Joong-Eun Ahn, Ph.D. (no address blocks necessary): state purpose, intent and what you bring to our department (1 page).
Pages 2-4: Resume (3 pages maximum)
Pages 5-7: Recommendation letters. Please submit at least two (three is better) recent recommendation letters from persons of authority (program/department directors, school principals, teacher coordinator). Provide phone numbers for direct contact.
Page 8: Your teaching philosophy (400 words max).
Pages 9-14: Written responses to six interview questions (see bottom of this announcement).
Pages 15-18: one sample of a detailed lesson plan for a middle school, high school or university conversation class (can involve all language skills); must include original worksheets created by you.
Pages 19-20: one 2-page sample of a detailed lesson by lesson, 15-week syllabus designed for a conversation class. If you have one, include an additional 2-page sample of an academic writing class.
Additional Pages: include up to 5 additional pages/slides of material you consider fundamental to your portfolio (one page of photos max).
Official Document Pages: photo of: passport, university diploma and academic certificates. Include your current E-2 visa, if applicable. 

Dr. Joong-Eun Ahn
Director, English Education Department
Andong National University:

Mr. Douglas Baumwoll
Foreign Teacher Coordinator:

Written Interview Questions
Please answer the following questions (repeat the question at the top of your response). Write 350 words per response. Use Times New Roman 14-point font (or similar) and line spacing of 1.15 for our ease of reading. Thank you.
[1] Discuss specifically how and why you will employ spot-checking of basic grammar in 50-minute, communicative approach conversation classes for our education major students.
[2] Describe your teaching style, content, and learning outcomes of a 45-hour, “How to Teach Conversation” methodology class for seniors. Address cultural learner issues (for our students and for their future public school students).
[3] Describe learning outcomes regarding a 45-hour, “Beginning Academic Writing” class for sophomores. The focus is writing structured paragraphs. Include three paragraph types you will teach and why.
[4] For conversation classes, I encourage you to use outside materials for 25% of your lesson time. Discuss materials and activities you will use in your freshman – junior conversation classroom. Why?
[5] Regarding reflective teaching practice, what is the most significant change you have made to your teaching style in the last 12 months? Why?
[6] How does your own experience as a second language learner (from the age of 14-22) shape the content and learning outcomes of your university EFL conversation classroom?


Saturday 15 December 2012

An Excerpt from Using Drama in the ESL Classroom by Chris Boudreault

The following is a guest post by Chris Boudreault. Chris has taught in Asia and South America. 
An Excerpt from Using Drama in the ESL Classroom by Chris Boudreault 
William Shakespeare claimed that . . .
All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139–143

If so, then maybe we need to use drama more in the schools. Using drama in the ESL classroom is not a new concept. Drama provides an excellent platform for exploring theoretical and practical aspects of the English language (Whiteson,1996). The improvisation aspect of drama gives students opportunities for developing their communicative skills in authentic and dynamic situations. By using drama in the English classroom, we can use English with our students in intriguing and useful ways. The language can be used in context and makes it come to life. Drama has the potential of making the learning experience fun for the students and even memorable because it is interactive and visual.

There are many studies about using drama to learn English. Wan Yee Sam talks about the communicative approach, drama techniques, value of drama in education, advantages and disadvantages (Sam,1990). Alan Maley and Alan Duff are classic sources for the benefits of using drama techniques; how it helps to learn new vocabulary, builds confidence, motivates the students and helps shift the focus from the teacher to the students (Maley,1982). Drama is a special communication situation which makes considerable demands on the flexibility and skills of the teacher (Kao,1998). We have Morrow (1981) who gives some guiding principles behind the use of the communicative activities. Susan Holden (1981) adds some definitions as to what drama is and how it provides opportunities for a person to express themselves. The personal nature of improvisation provides many outlets for self-expression. We even hear that children need to play as an important developmental process.

Benefits of Using Drama
This is all very relevant information concerning using drama in the ESL/EFL classroom. We can sum up the benefits of drama in language teaching as follows:
·         the acquisition of meaningful, fluent interaction in the target language;
·         the assimilation of a whole range of pronunciation and prosodic features in a fully contextualized and interactional manner;
·         the fully contextualized acquisition of new vocabulary and structure;
·         an improved sense of confidence in the student in his or her ability to learn the target language.” (Wessels, p.10).
Drama puts the teacher in the role of supporter in the learning process and the students can take more responsibility for their own learning. Ideally, the teacher will take a less dominant role in the language class and let the students explore the language activities. In the student centered classroom, every student is a potential teacher for the group.

Drama for second language learners can provide an opportunity to develop the imagination of the students. The students can go beyond the here and now and even 'walk in the shoes' of another. It provides an opportunity for independent thinking (McCaslin 1996). Students are encouraged to express their own ideas and contribute to the whole. Creative drama will offer exercises in critical thinking and the chance for the students to be creative. A good example of this is role-plays in small groups The ESL/EFL group will have many situations where they can develop their own ideas as well as skills of cooperation when interacting with classmates. The group work builds social awareness and understanding as we walk in the 'shoes of another'. Drama gives an excellent method for studying human nature and working in harmony. The play acting provides the opportunity for a healthy release of emotion in a safe setting which can work to relieve the tension of learning in a second language.

Drama Brings Literature to Life
Most teachers see the value of drama in offering training in speech. What is not obvious is how even abstract learning is easier when acted or demonstrated. Drama can also be used to bring literature to life for the students. It is more dynamic than simple text and helps the visual learners as well as recycles new vocabulary. While drama does have a characteristic of recreation, the fun aspect should not be under-estimated. When the students are enjoying an activity, they are learning and letting their guard down. The shyness and fear of using English very often blocks learning. When the students are submerged in an active fun activity, they are more open to new concepts and learning will occur. When the students are having fun, they let their second language guard down and become less inhibited. The student will tend to relax and stop blocking out the new language. They will forget how hard it is and start absorbing the ideas presented. Changing the students’ perception of the language learning from a negative to a positive is a huge plus for the learning process.

A good example of the attributes of drama being used outside the classroom is the game of theatre sports. Starting out in Loose Moose Theatre Company in Calgary, Canada (Johnstone,1999). This drama activity has grown to become an international endeavour, taken up by practitioners the world over, which involves the audience as much as the actors in creating a very spontaneous event. Theatre sports demonstrates how powerful a motivating force role-playing can become for the actors as well as the audience. There are presently teams in many different countries using different languages who put on an unrehearsed game for countless spectators and the appeal is only growing.

Drama as a Powerful Teaching Tool
In the ESL/EFL classroom, role-playing is a powerful tool. It teaches cooperation, empathy for others, decision making skills and encourages an exchange of knowledge between the students. These aspects alone make role-playing beneficial because the students are learning from each other. Yet, there are many other positive aspects to the role-playing. Apart from the obvious development of communication skills, it encourages leadership, team work, compromise, authentic listening skills and practice with real life savior-faire. However, it does not stop there. It teaches cooperation, empathy, develops decision making skills, promotes the exchange of knowledge, builds confidence and self-esteem, refines presentation skills, encourages self-acceptance and acceptance of others, features of empowerment, pride in work, responsibility, problem solving, management and organizational skills, begets creativity and imagination.

A good drama teacher can use the practice with role-playing to contribute to the self-esteem of the students, build their confidence in using the target language (English) as well as develop many of the skills mentioned above which will carry over to real life. It is certain that self-acceptance can be encouraged in subtle ways and acceptance of others.

Drama has the potential to empower the students, give them many opportunities to have pride in their work, it teaches them responsibility, problem solving, management and directing proficiencies. The many activities of team work force students to develop organizational skills and to think on their feet. These are tools that can be used in all aspects of their lives. These skills will be useful in the future job market when the students need to work with others or even in the future job interview when the potential employer asks an unexpected question and you need to think quickly.

Drama Reveals Aspects of the Human Condition
When you think about it, drama is a method to reveal aspects of the human condition, life is nothing more than a grand series of improvisations (Price 1980). Through the games, the students begin to realize the importance of shared space, time, attention, information and ideas. The games spark spontaneity and minimize self-consciousness which often inhibits learning. The games are also good for developing concentration and trust in the classroom. While the students are having all this fun, they are developing skills of coordination, imitation while focusing on the task at hand. The improvisation enables the students to flex their emotional, mental as well as physical muscles in a safe and controlled setting. A good example of this was a role-play one group performed where they displayed their displeasure with the school principal. There was no harm done and all the students were feeling the same.

Final Reflections on Improvisations and Benefits of Drama
'Improvisation, then, is an organic experience where skills are constantly being refined. In particular, students develop an increasing facility to meet changing or unknown stimuli with immediate responses. Ideally, improvisation leads to a blending; the students create the personality traits as he/she simultaneously identifies with the character as it evolves. Obviously, the teacher-director should never lose sight of the metamorphic and highly personal nature of improvisation; therefore, there must never be the question of success or failure.' (Price, p. 6)

Drama in its purest form gives the student several avenues to self-awareness. It is one of the closest literary forms to life itself. It is a dynamic process that reveals and examines aspects of the complicated lives we lead (Price 1980). All of this leads me to believe that there are many subtle benefits to drama in the ESL classroom.

The benefits of drama to develop the imagination should not be undervalued. In our rote school routines of memorization and compulsory subject matter, we sometimes do not spend enough time on encouraging our students to use their imagination. It is the spark that makes the ordinary into something incredible. Imagination is the magic force that is beyond facts, figures and techniques which can inspire new ideas. It is with imagination that the ordinary is transformed into something significant. There is a need to cultivate this trait in our students. Imagination is closely linked to dreams and inspire us to get up every morning. Drama has the capability to keep this alive and/or rekindle what our routine daily lives are burying in ourselves. We need imagination to make a better world. In order to accomplish anything worthwhile, we first need to imagine and dream it. We should not neglect this facet of human sentience. It may seem like a trivial point, but dreams without imagination would be like life without colour. We would all be worse off without it.

The Power of Transformation with Drama
We all present ourselves in everyday life as we want to be perceived. Erving Goffman (1958) talks in detail about how we present ourselves in everyday life from a sociological perspective. We are all acting out theatrical performances to present ourselves in regard to how we wish to be seen. When we are in the presence of others, we are to some extent on stage. We will act and communicate in our own interests to influence the people around us to act voluntarily in accordance with the individuals plans (Goffman,1959). We are in essence, recreating ourselves all the time as our social world evolves. In everyday life, first impressions are so very important. So, how we are perceived often depends on a blink of a moment which may define us for a long period if not forever. Our communication skills are so important in how we are seen by others. Our words and body language project subtle messages to those around us and others respond in accordance to what they perceive as "us". In life, we are all playing many roles, therefore, we are wearing many masks.

In a sense, and in so far as this mask represents the conception we have formed of ourselves- the role we are striving to live up to- this mask is our truer self, the self we would like to be (Goffman, p.30).

We know that an individual will attempt to induce the audience to see them in a certain way. The more convincing we are in our own roles only help to create the persona that we wish for. The better we are at communicating our ideas helps ourselves to become who we want to be.

Therefore, it makes sense that dramatic skills can help us become the person we want to be. In this way, drama has a wider reach than simply making us more fluent in a second language. It has the potential of making our lives better as we will be better understood and may help us become the people we want to be. Drama is all about how we present ourselves. If the student can communicate better, the more likely others will see him/her as he/she wishes to be seen. Therefore, the skills of drama can help the student become the person that he/she wants to be.

·         Goffman, Erving (1959), The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Penguin Books, London.
·         Holden, Susan (1981): Drama in Language Teaching. Essex: Longman
·         Johnstone, Keith (1999), Impro for Storytellers. Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, NewYork
·         Kao, shin-Mei and Cecily O’Neill. (1998) Words Into Worlds, Learning a Second Language through Process Drama. Ablex Publishing corp. Stamford, USA.
·         Maley, Alan and Alan Duff. Drama techniques in Language Learning. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1982.
·         McCaslin, Nellie (1996). Creative Drama in the Classroom and Beyond. London, Longman Publishers
·         Morrow, Keith (1981): Principles of communicative methodology. In: Johnson, Keith / Morrow, Keith (eds.): Communication in the Classroom. London and New York: Longman
·         Price, Pamela (1980). Creative Play Production in the Classroom. Yale, Yale Publishers.
·         Royka, Judith (2002). Overcoming the Fear of Using Drama in English Language Teaching. The Internet TESL Journal, vol.8, #6, June 2002.
·         Sam, Wan Yee (1990) Drama in Teaching English as a Second Language- a Communicative Approach. The English Teacher, vol. 9, July 1990. Malaya.
·         Spolin, Viola (1986). Theatre Games For the Classroom. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois
·         Wessels, Charlyn (1987). Drama. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
·         Whiteson, Valerie (1996). New Ways of Using Drama and Literature in Language Teaching. Alexandria,VA., TESOL.

from the book Using Drama in the ESL Classroom by Chris Boudreault
any comments can be forwarded to


Thursday 13 December 2012

Poll Results November 2012: How old were you when you started teaching?

November's poll was "How old were you when you started teaching?" Here are the results.
  • 20-25: 56.52% with 13 votes
  • 26-30: 17.39% with 4 votes
  • 31-35; 8.7% with 2 votes
  • 36-40: 4.35% with 1 vote
  • 41-45: 8.7% with 2 votes
  • 46-50: 4% with 1 vote
Be sure to vote in the last poll of 2012: How many countries have you taught in?


Tuesday 11 December 2012

Tips to Make Your Scholarship Stand Out So You Get More Free Money for College

Updated 17 September 2015

The following is a guest post.

Not everyone is able to go to college straightaway and due to this many people ask if a degree is necessary to teach English abroad. Some places require degrees and others don't. The article I wrote, Is a Degree Necessary? has more info. Many people complain about high fees and if that's the case then scholarships are the way to go.

If you’re getting ready to attend college, applying for scholarships is the smart way to go. Hopefully you’re applying to as many as you can, as the more free money you get the better. It’s likely that hundreds, if not thousands, of other students are applying for the same scholarships that you are, so in order to be successful and get the most amount of scholarships possible you need to stand out. Applying for scholarships can be a long and time consuming process, so in order to be successful you must stay motivated and keep yourself shining. After you’ve got all your college applications in to schools like, you need to immediately get working on your scholarships. Check out these tips on how to make your scholarship stand out to prospective scholarship providers and be more successful with getting some free money.

Toot Your Horn
When writing TEFL cover letters for jobs, personal essays, or any other thing that requires you to write about yourself, it’s easy to become bashful and not want to write about how great you are. The same goes for many people who are applying for scholarships. While you of course don’t want to sound cocky, you need to make yourself shine to scholarship providers. Make sure you’re honest, but be wary of being too modest. Provide certain examples of your successes, and try and back them up with facts whenever possible. Many scholarship providers, just like job interviewers, will ask you what your weaknesses are. Stay away from a cocky or obnoxious answer like “my only weakness is working too hard”. Instead, provide your weaknesses but also include how you are successful in addressing your weaknesses. Your honestly will shine through to the scholarship provider and you’ll have a much greater shot at some free money.

Make Sure You’re Qualified
There’s no use wasting your time on scholarships that you aren’t qualified for when you could be spending time applying for ones that you are qualified for. Make sure that you actually have a shot at winning the scholarship that you apply for before you apply. Research what scholarships fit your qualifications. It could be your major, your ethnicity, your high school GPA, or any other targeted scholarship. You won’t be rewarded with a scholarship that you don’t qualify for, so don’t even waste your time writing an essay that is just going to be thrown out.

You’ve heard it from just about every teacher you’ve ever had in high school: proofread. The importance of reviewing your work is important in every scenario, and that includes scholarship applications. Here's a quick guide about the differences between editing and proofreading. One small typo could put you at risk for having your scholarship application stamped with an automatic denial. Spend five minutes reading over your application, and then do it again. And again. Then have a friend, teacher, or parent read it too. The more pairs of eyes the better, so make sure every scholarship application you complete is polished and completely free of errors.

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Monday 10 December 2012

Poll Results October 2012: How many hours do you teach per week?

Sorry for being late. Blogger's polls weren't working, so I had to use Poll Daddy. October's poll was "How many hours do you teach per week?" Here are the results.
  • less than 10: 33.3% with 1 vote
  • 10-15: 0% with 0 votes
  • 16-20: 10-15: 0% with 0 votes
  • 21-25: 66.7% with 2 votes
  • more than 26: 0% with 0 votes
A bit depressing that the majority are working so many hours, especially when you take into account that there's prep and grading.


Friday 7 December 2012

Recommended Volunteer Programmes for Teachers

There are many programmes out there, but here are a few that constantly get good reviews. There are many things you can volunteer: time, money, or skills.


Thursday 6 December 2012

Job Site: TES

The Times Educational Supplement or TES has lots of resources for international school teachers. In addition to jobs, they have teaching resources, forums, and a magazine.

In the jobs section you can search for jobs, get career advice, and check your salary. The teaching resources section has information for teachers who teach young learners all the way up to secondary school. They also have whole school activities and activities for special education students. Their active forum has lots of great information from teaching overseas, to entertainment and more. TES Magazine comes out weekly. You can read some articles online, but for the most part you'll have to purchase a subscription.

If you're looking for an international school job, be sure to check out TES. It's a great way to get a job without attending an international school job fair.

Got an idea for a job site?
Email me with your job site, name, and website (if you have one) and I'll post it ASAP.


Wednesday 5 December 2012

Cool Link: Starfall

Get kids excited about reading at an early age with Starfall. They use phonics to help young learners and children learn how to read.

Their colourful site takes your students through reading, from learning the ABCs to phonics to reading short stories.

They also have other neat things such as a calendar, 100 Day, a curriculum, and interactive activities, such as making a gingerbread man, snowman, or turkey.

Got an idea for a cool link?
Email me with your cool link, name, and website (if you have one) and I'll post it ASAP.


Tuesday 4 December 2012

Quick Tip: Have Fun in Class

Do you ever wonder why kids enjoy going to school? Simple; it's because it's fun. Learning should be fun and it's up to you to make it that way. I'm not saying that your class should be a free for all, but try to shake things up and make your students want to come to your class.

It's a win-win situation. You'll enjoy class more, your students will learn, their parents will be happy, which means that admin will be happy, and you'll get renewed. And maybe even get a raise.

Laugh, throw a ball around, play some games, move around the classroom. Lighten up and have fun!

Got an idea for a quick tip?
Email me with your quick tip, name, and website (if you have one) and I'll post it ASAP.


Sunday 2 December 2012

Hot Topic: Editing Work For Other Classes

Sooner or later it's going to happen to you. As an English teacher, you're probably going to be asked by your students to help them out with a problem or two. Sometimes it's a phrase or expression they heard on tv or lyrics from a song they don't understand. Or perhaps they came across something while reading a book or magazine. It's great that students study outside of class, but sometimes they want you to help them with other classes.

As more and more schools and universities are teaching subjects in English, students have to do their work in a language that isn't theirs. This makes it twice as difficult and some teachers grade their English, not just their ideas.

So do you help them or not? It's up to you. If it's a couple of questions, that's one thing. However, if they want you to re-write everything, that's another. You'll have to draw the line sometime and be sure you do, otherwise you're going to end up with a line outside your office.

What do you think?
Do you help students with outside work? Are there any limits you establish?

Got an idea for a hot topic?
Email me with your hot topic, name, and website (if you have one) and I'll post it ASAP.


Saturday 1 December 2012

Teaching in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a lot going for it. Spanish is spoken there, so many people who studied high school Spanish will be able to brush up on their skills. You can either study Spanish at a language school or you might be able to arrange teaching English in exchange for Spanish lessons. There are other ways to live in Costa Rica. You might also want to take a look at teaching at international schools and teaching exchanges and fellowships to find out more.

Costa Rica is close enough to the US and Canada, so is a nice option for teachers who don't want to experience a drastically different culture, like Asia. The weather is fantastic and the sheer beauty of the country will have you eagerly waiting for vacations so that you can go out and explore everything that Costa Rica has to offer from the beautiful beaches to the steamy rain forest.

Most people who go to Costa Rica do so for the lifestyle, not for the money. Be aware that while you may live very well, hit the beach in your free time, fantastic meals for less than $5 and being able to afford a maid, you may not bring a lot of money back home when you leave.

As far as safety goes, just as you wouldn't flaunt expensive goods in London or New York, you shouldn't do it in Costa Rica either. Try to dress like a local and keep your expensive items under wraps and locked up and you should be fine. Below you can find a lot of information about teaching in Costa Rica, as well as recommended institutes to work for. For FAQs about Costa Rica, please visit the Costa Rica section in the FAQs for teaching in Latin America.

Where to Live and What to Bring
Many people head to San Jose because it's the capital, however, many people have fallen in love with Heredia. It has a great nightlife and is not as hectic as San Jose. It's also home to Intercultura, an institute that constantly gets good reviews on Dave's. The Central Valley is a popular choice to live in as is Escazu, Santa Ana, Cariari, Sabana, and Rohrmoser.

Bring twice the money and half your stuff and you should be fine. Be careful about bringing too much with you. Toiletries and electronics are more expensive, so bring those things with you. However, you can buy just about anything you need in Costa Rica or have it shipped to you later if you decide to stay. Remember, you're probably not going to move to Costa Rica permanently, so don't bring your entire life with you. The weather gets pretty cool at night, so bring a sweater. You'll also need an umbrella and rain coat, but you can easily buy them there.

Learning Spanish
The place where you work might be able to offer you Spanish lessons. If they don't then you still have a lot of options open to you. You could try getting a language exchange partner, finding a private teacher, or enrolling in an institute. You can find exchange partners and private teachers on Craigslist. And you can find institutes at Go Abroad.

Mature Teachers
Many people want to continue working after they retire and Costa Rica is perfect for that. Ingles Empresial and Whittemore de Costa Rica have been known to hire older teachers. As an older teacher you have a lot to offer, so stress that during the interview. Taking a TEFL certification course also might help you out.

Bringing the Family
Again, if you are at teaching at international school or married to a Costa Rican, things are much easier. For those wanting to go to Costa Rica with their partner, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, if you can both get jobs, then you should be ok.

If you have kids, that's a whole different matter. Schooling is going to be an issue, it'll be nearly impossible to pay for an international school on the salary you can make as an ESL teacher. If they're Spanish speakers, they might be able to go to a local school. Or if they're young enough, you could simply send them to school and have them pick up the language. Another thing to consider is daycare. And don't forget more people means that you'll be spending more money. Bottom line: if you're going to bring kids into the equation, you're going to have to do a lot of planning and budgeting.

Getting a Job
Costa Ricans place a high standard on meeting people face-to-face, so you'll find that while you may email your CV out to many employers, few will respond. Teachers who work in Costa Rica recommend simply coming and knocking on doors. Recruiters aren't used to find job and if you scout the job boards, you won't find many teaching positions for Costa Rica, except for maybe the Tico Times and Craigslist. If you're a qualified teacher, you might want to look into teaching at international schools.

The thing about teaching in Costa Rica is that some institutes may only offer you a few hours a week and those will be split shifts staggered throughout the city. That means that you'll spend a lot of time travelling, and you probably won't be paid for all the time and effort that goes into commuting across the city. It's worth asking where the jobs are and if there's extra pay for in-company classes.

When cold calling, wear professional clothing. Unfortunately, a lot of teachers that come to Costa Rica are young and inexperienced, or simply looking for a way to make a bit of extra cash while living in paradise. There are reasons why many companies will not hire young people. So if you're young, you can counter these stereotypes by dressing and acting professionally. Have your CV printed out with your contact information for Costa Rica. You should be able to buy a pre-paid (pre pago) cell phone so that employers can contact you. Put your photo on your CV as well; it's a basic part of a CV in most of the world. Read more about creating a teaching CV. As far as interviews go, be polite and professional, just as you would if you were applying for a job back home. Take a look at this sample interview at Innovative English.

If you work for an international school, then you're in luck and you'll get a visa. Ditto goes for being married to a Costa Rican. Otherwise, the majority of you are looking at border hopping to Panama every 90 days and staying there for at least 72 hours. It's not that bad and pretty common. In addition, it's a great excuse to take a short vacation and visit another country!

Getting a TEFL Cert
Ideally, all teachers would get one, however, they're not cheap and you'll need to take a month off work to complete one. There are plenty of TEFL training institutes in Costa Rica. You can find many at TEFL certification abroad. In addition, look at is a TEFL cert necessary?

Recommended Institutes
Most institutes will want you to be able to commit at least six months teaching with them. So if you're thinking of staying for a shorter amount of time, you're going to have more difficulty finding a job. There are many other good institutes out there, but there are also bad ones. Try reading warning signs of bad institutes to learn the signs of a bad place to work.

Recommended Universities
Finding a university job in Costa Rica is going to take time, effort, and most importantly connections. You could be highly qualified and still not get the job simply because you don't know the right people. This is just another great reason why you should go to conference and meet people.

Recommended International Schools
If you want to teach at an international school, you're going to have to be a qualified teacher in your home country and have at least two years teaching experience. Read more about teaching at international schools

Cost of Living
Costa Rica isn't as cheap as you might think. Housing will be your biggest cost, but you could decrease that by sharing accommodations, living in student areas, or a simple flat. If you want a decent apartment, be prepared to shell out about $400 a month. Compare that to about $150 for shared accommodations.

Bring a bit of extra money to help you get started. You probably won't get paid for a month after you start working and it might take you a while to get a full schedule of classes, so a couple thousand dollars will help make the move easier. If you want to live like locals, that means using public transport, eating at home, and having a modest apartment, you should be ok. However, if you want to live the high life like an expat, realise that you're going to have to have a lot of extra cash to fall back on. If you learn to budget, you should be fine.

Private Classes
Many teachers choose to supplement their income by teaching private lessons. There are lots of opportunities to teach businesspeople English. It's a great source of income, but be aware that you will have to put time and effort into planning your lesson plans and may also have to travel. You can find more information in the private student guide and tips for teaching 1-to-1 lessons.


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