Sunday 30 June 2013

Hot Topic: Being Forced to Pass Students

While I can see the pros and cons of grading on a curve, some people take this a step further and are being asked to pass students. Sometimes there are good reasons and sometimes there aren't. Some of the excuses I've heard for passing students that should otherwise fail are:
  • it'll set back their therapy
  • they or their family recently went through a crisis
  • their family donates a lot of money to the school
  • the school wants to have a high graduation rate
Obviously the first two are understandable, nonetheless, crises or therapy shouldn't mean that students can simply slack off and expect to pass. Personal circumstances should be taken into account, but there must also be a way to catch the student up to the class. The last two examples are pretty pathetic, but time and time again I've seen it happen. Hopefully when teachers are considering whether to pass or fail a student they take a variety of factors into account.


Quick Tip: Use the Pause Procedure in Class

The Pause Procedure is one part of enhanced lectures. The principle behind it is simple: stop talking. Attention spans for adults are only about 10-20 minutes long, so a lot of what is said during a lecture will be shortly forgotten afterwards. Kids have even a shorter attention span with some saying it correlates to their age. So if they're 5 years old, they can pay attention for 5 minutes.

Research backs the pause procedure up. Lectures would talk for 12-18 minutes and then stop talking for a couple of minutes. During this time students would work in pairs without the teacher interfering. After the entire lecture finished students had 3 minutes to write down what they learned.

The results were shocking. 12 days after the lecture a 65 multiple choice quiz was given. Teachers who had employed the pause procedure had students sore up to two letter grades higher than students whose teacher did not use the pause procedure. Teachers are only lecturing about 6 minutes less than if they don't use the pause procedure. It's all about quality not quantity.

Some people say that the pause procedure isn't good since it cuts down on lecture time, but the results speak for themselves. Teachers work less but get paid the same. Students are more active in class and learn more. Students and teachers are happy so the admin is happy. It's a win-win-win situation.


Friday 28 June 2013

The Pros and Cons of Getting a Housing Allowance

It's common in some countries, such as those in Asia and the Middle East, to get a housing allowance. There are advantages and disadvantages to getting a housing allowance. You might be also interested in reading the pros and cons of getting free housing.

  • Housing allowances are often added to your salary and if your housing is cheaper than what you're given for your allowance you can often keep the difference.
  • You can choose where you want to live and what type of housing you get.
  • It allows you to separate your work from your personal life.
  • You can decorate it and make it homey.

  • Since housing allowances are often added to your salary you may be taxed more.
  • You're responsible for your housing, so will have to buy anything you need or arrange to have things fixed yourself.
  • Your housing allowance might not be enough to pay the monthly rent or the key money so you might have to supplement it with your own money.
  • You have to deal with the landlord and your employer might not help you.


Wednesday 26 June 2013

Should You Take Attendance in Class?

Some people say yes and others say no. Most schools have an attendance policy. Some places might deduct points for being absent and others might fail you if you have more than X number of absences. But is being in class important?

People think it's necessary
  • In order to learn they have to come to class. 
  • It allows them to interact with people as well 
  • It helps them know what's going on in class.

Other people don't think it's necessary
  • They think it's a waste of time. 
  • They say they learn better on their own. 
  • Or maybe they already know the material and are simply required to take the course, but would rather just do the assignments and take the exams and not attend class.


Monday 24 June 2013

Job Site: Association of American Schools in South America

If you want to teach in an American school in South America, then AASSA is a good place to start. Keep in mind that you'll need to be licensed in order to teach in international schools.  AASSA has a recruiting fair, which is a great place to start if you're looking for an international school job.

If you're curious about which schools are a member of AASSA, then take a look at their Members and Directory section. They also have professional development opportunities, such as conferences as well as educational research and grants.

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.


Saturday 22 June 2013

Hot Topic: Why You Should Assign Seats in Class

Everyone seems to have their opinions about assigned
seats. I think assigned seats are great
  1. It's easier to take attendance.
  2. They allow students to get to know people well. 
  3. They add structure to the class.
  4. They help with classroom discipline
What do you think about assigned seats in class?


Thursday 20 June 2013

Learning Styles: Dunn and Dunn

In 1967 Dunn and Dunn they presented a learning styles model that focused on five categories: environmental, emotional, social, physiological, and psychological. They believe that learning styles change and develop over time.

Dunn and Dunn stated that teachers need to help students and make changes so that all students can learn. Changing the layout of the classroom or how students work are just a couple of examples. They use "contract activity packages" to make this work.

If you're interested in learning more about this, there are a number of good books written about Dunn and Dunn's learning styles. You might also be interested in . . .


Tuesday 18 June 2013

Employers Should Have FAQs at Interviews

Of all the interviews I've ever had, some of the best ones were those that had taken the time to put together a list of FAQs for prospective teachers. It doesn't take much time on their part and reduces the likelihood of interviewees asking the same questions over and over.

FAQs don't need to be complicated either. Here's a list of questions interviewees often ask. Employers should simply choose ones that apply to them and draw up a list. They can then either print it off or email them.


Monday 17 June 2013

Kids at International Schools Aren't as Worldly as You Think

ISR wrote a blog about Going International With Children back in May 2011 and they state that international schools are culturally diverse and students can participate in a variety of experiences. In addition, you might be able to get household help cheaply, such as maids, drivers, cooks, and nannies, allowing you to live the high life and save money. They also have an article on Family Friendly Schools.

They caution teachers to ask questions about things such as . . .
  • Medical and dental insurance
  • Childcare
  • School's benefits package such as tuition, insurance, and flights
While it might be true that international schools are diverse, ISR paints a too rosy picture. International schools are actually very homogenous as most of the students come from rich expat families, diplomatic families, are teachers' kids, or rich local families. Money's key. At $20,000 a year for tuition, the average local won't be able to afford it. Especially in poorer countries where that may be two or three times what they make in a year.

In addition, it's a very transient community. Due to the parents' jobs, students tend to move often. It's hard to build long-lasting friendships when 25% to 35% of the students leave within a couple years.

Lastly, living abroad doesn't necessarily mean that you'll make a connection with the local community. Sure you might get bragging rights for having lived abroad, but since English is the medium, it's not very likely that your child will pick up the local language, especially if they're only there for a couple years.

While many people have good experiences, they also might be a bit delusional about what they're getting themselves into. Maybe they want their kids to be fluent in another language (going to an English speaking school isn't going to happen), rub shoulder with rich people, or simply live and travel abroad. Here is some advice from people who have done this.
  • 2xaround has had a bad experience with a school that lied to him as well as barred him for seeing his kids during school. 
  • Beenaround had a totally different experience, but it seems like he is just bragging about all the stuff they've seen and done. 
  • Anonymous states that fitting in is hard since his kids are a minority.
  • Nomad says there are trade-offs involved and you need to do your research.
  • Beck did her dissertation on TCK (third culture kids) and said that many of them feel bullied, depressed, anxious, and are more likely to get a learning / behaviour problem. If your child has a learning disorder, good luck finding a school since many will flat out refuse to accept kids like that. In addition, all that moving around doesn't help since you're constantly having to rebuild your support system.
  • Christina says that you need to get everything in writing before you go so that there's no chance the school will change things on you.
  • WyGal says that their school is hardly giving them any money to relocate and didn't want to pay for all the flights. 
  • The article Local Staff, Parents, and Neighbours as Friends is very insightful about how money impacts friendships. 
In September 2011 in the ISR article Guilt Trips from Home - Taking the Grand Kids Overseas, there's also some good advice.
  • Whiner states that there's a good support system, there's less bullying, but some peopel feel entitled and the kids become spoilt. In addition, international schools often have less supplies and resources than those back home.
  • Elaine seems to brag about her kids and that's probably one reason people go overseas.
  • Kathleen Moore says her son learned to study hard and learn about new cultures. 


Sunday 16 June 2013

How TEFL can Intertwine with an MBA

The following is a guest post.  

Clearly when you first earned a degree teaching was your path. This is admirable and for those who are able to do this for a lifetime I consider you heroes. However, if you are like so many Americans you will have two different careers. Often one will inspire the other. At least that was the case for me...

I always knew travel was in my future. I wasn't always sure how I would obtain this goal, but it was almost bigger than my career plans ever were. My need for travel set me up to major in education (teaching abroad) as well as my minor in business (figured I could do anything with that). From there I kind of just followed the universe listening closely to all it had to say.

I started my teaching career in Asia. I loved the culture and was especially drawn to the Philippines. I found it interesting that each town was essentially a way to separate one family from another. I also found the cost of living to be quite remarkable. It seemed I could start a business, own a nice home and raise a family for far less than I could at home. This is where I began to feel some inspiration.

From there I moved to Africa where the culture and landscapes kept me inspired every day. I was welcomed with wonderful personalities and the children had a keen desire to learn. I loved my time there and if teaching were to be my end all I may have settled down and began my life there.

While in Africa I began to reflect on the things I learned while in the Philippines. This is when I realized that my minor could come into play. I knew my days of TEFL were not yet finished so I decided receiving my MBA would be a great thing to do in the meantime.

Clearly traveling the world wasn't the best way to obtain another degree, but with so many universities offering online degree programs it seemed possible if not extremely convenient. Cornerstone University in Michigan offers a wonderful online Christian MBA program that not only fit my needs for distance learning, but catered to my faith as well. They are not alone, but after doing A LOT of research I feel as if they have incredible amounts to offer.

As an extra bonus you will find that with TEFL you will often be presented with opportunities that go beyond teaching kids. Sometimes you will find yourself in a situation of teaching English to business owners or those who are employed by such businesses. Having experience or at the very least an education that coincides with what you could potentially teach is never a bad idea.

So here I am at another crossroad in life. My contract is up and I can do one of three things. I can continue to teach the youth of the world. I can broaden my teaching experiences by taking a job that involves me teaching the corporate world how to communicate better in English. Or I can start my life with a brand new business and home in the Asian country I fell in love with. Something tells me TEFL is not quite out of my system, but it may very well be time to incorporate my MBA with my degree in education.


Saturday 15 June 2013

Learning Styles: Gregorc

Gregorc started his work in 1969 and found there are four ways that people learn
  • Concrete means that you use your five senses
  • Abstract means that you look for hidden meanings
  • Sequential means that you like order
  • Random means that you look at the whole picture 

Each learner type preference a certain way of learning. 
If you're interested in reading more about learning styles, there are a number of good books out there that can shed some light on the subject. You might also be interested in...


Friday 14 June 2013

Job Site: European Council of International Schools

If you want to teach at an international school in Europe, then take a look at ECIS (European Council of International Schools). They've got professional development such as conference, workshops, and certification programmes, as well as awards and fellowship options. While they don't have job listings per se, they have a list of the member schools, so you can try contacting them for more info.

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 12 June 2013

Learning Styles: Honey and Mumford

Based on Kolb's work, Honey and Mumford created their own model of learning styles. Rather than being based on the classroom, like many learning styles are, their model was based on the decision making process that managers go through.

Their four steps are having, reviewing, and concluding an experience, and planning the next steps. From this they found out that people are activists, reflectors, theorists, or pragmatists. Their model is still widely used among government workers in the UK.

If you're interested in learning more about Honey and Mumford's learning styles, you should check out these books. You might also be interested in . . .


Tuesday 11 June 2013

Learning Styles: Gardner

Updated 18 May 2013

I wrote about different learning styles previously and this post will talk about one of the most well-known research about learning styles was done by Dr. Howard Gardner about Multiple Intelligences.

I got this information from a conference I went to a couple of years ago in Piura, Peru. Unfortunately the presenter didn't put their name on the worksheet, so I don't know exactly who to give credit to.

Linguistically: They think in words.
  • They enjoy reading, writing, telling stories, and playing word games.
  • They need books, CDs, writing material, paper, diaries, dialogues, discussion, debate, and stories.

Logically-Mathematically: They use reasoning.
  • They enjoy experimenting, questioning, logical puzzles, and calculating.
  • They need things to explore and think about.
  • They like science materials, manipulatives, trips to planetariums or science museums.
Spatially: They think in images and pictures.
  • They enjoy designing, drawing, and visualising.
  • They need art, legos, videos, movies, slides, imagination games, puzzles, illustrated books.
  • They like trips to art galleries and museums.
Bodily-Kinesthetically: They learn by moving.
  • They enjoy dancing, running, building, touching, and gesturing.
  • They need role plays, drama, things to build, sports, tactile experiences, and hands-on learning.
Musically: They think in rhythms and melodies.
  • They need music and instruments.
  • They enjoy singing, whistling, humming, tapping their hands and feet, and listening.
Interpersonally: They learn by talking with other people.
  • They enjoy leading, organising, relating, manipulating, and talking.
  • They need friends, group games, community events, clubs, and mentors.
Intrapersonally: They learn by thinking alone.
  • They enjoy setting goals, meditating, dreaming, being quiet, and planning.
  • They need time alone, self paced projects, and choices. 
If you want to learn more, there are a number of books written about Multiple Intelligences. You might also be interested in . . .


Monday 10 June 2013

Skype Has Started to Replace International Schools Recruiting Fairs

Teachers can spend a couple thousand dollars flying to recruiting fairs, paying for food and accomodation. Many times job offers have been filled before you get there and schools that previously said they'd be there aren't. It's a great way for the coordinators of the recruiting fair to make money, however, for teachers and employers it can be a waste of time and money. With Skype teachers can bypass all that.

ISR wrote an article in May 2009 about Skype and Recruiting Fairs. YoYoMe's theory is that the directors like them since they get a free vacation, are lazy, and technically incompetant. My1cent believes that recruiting fairs' days are numbered. Schoolwatcher and Jot disagree with him and say that although recruiting fairs work, they expensive, time consuming, and not always necessary. Gadawg enjoyed the fairs he went to (ISS and AASSA), but said he currently got his job due to Skype and phone calls.

In December 2011, 2xaround said that he often spends about $4000 just to go to a job recruiting fair. Although you may be able to have a couple interviews, things may not turn out according to plan.

Hopefully Skype interviews will become more common for international school teachers and TEFL teachers. Take Saudi Arabia for example, if a teacher wants to work there, Skype is the way to go since getting a Saudi visa is a nightmare. Let's hope employers embrace technology since it can benefit all of us.


Sunday 9 June 2013

Learning Styles: Meyers-Briggs and Keirsey

The mother-daughter team spent decades developing their ideas. A Meyers-Briggs test can only be done by a certified tester, however, you can take the Keirsey Temperament Test online. It is found that ideal jobs and careers for people can be suggested based  on the results of this test.

They state that preferences can be strong or weak. They are as follows:

Extraversion (E) – (I) Introversion
Sensing (S) – (N) Intuition
Thinking (T) – (F) Feeling
Judging (J) – (P) Perception

If you'd like to learn more about Meyers-Briggs, there are a number of good books out there that can help you out. You might also be interested in. . .


Saturday 8 June 2013

Hot Topic: Crummy Ways Schools Cut Costs

Everyone's talking about budget cuts and it seems that most schools are doing something to lower their costs. However, they seem to be going about it a bit wrong. Rather than lower the salaries of the fat cats in the head office here are something's that schools have down in order to try to lower their budgets.
  • Give teachers a trial period and pay them less or get rid of them when the trial period is over.
  • 11 month firings: famous in Korea where a hagwon gets rid of you in the 11th month to avoid paying severance and flights.
  • Breaking copyright laws and copying books
  • Not giving teachers a computer
  • Cutting overtime hours and pay
  • Outsourcing classes
  • Not cleaning your office or classroom
  • Not turning on lights in the hallways
  • Not giving teachers a lunch hour
  • Not turning on heat (I've taught in classes that were 12 degrees Celsius which is about 53 degree Fahrenheit where my students and I were wearing our coats, gloves, and scarves and wrapping blankets around our legs. I'd love to see the admin not have heat in their offices.)


Friday 7 June 2013

Poll Results May 2013: Do you belong to a professional organisation?

May's poll was "Do you belong to a professional organisation?" Here are the results.
  • Yes: 100% with 1 vote
  • No: 0% with 0 votes
Be sure to vote in next month's poll: Are teachers paid fairly?


Thursday 6 June 2013

Learning Styles: Kolb

The creator of LSI (Learning Styles Inventory) based his theory on the Experiential Learning Theory believed that people are convergers, accomodators, assimilators, or divergers. Ideally people should use all of these styles but one or two are usually dominant.

Although this theory has been around for a long time and is accepted, people are finding out that it has a lot of problems.

If you'd like to learn more about Kolb's learning styles, check out these books. You might also be interested in


Wednesday 5 June 2013

Learning Styles: Visual, Audio, Kinesthetic
Neil Fleming and Barbe and Swassing are both credited with this. It's one of the most common learning style theories and states that people predominately learn with one of the following: visual, audio, and kinesthetic. Fleming now uses VARK to describe his method with the R standing for Reading and Writing. 

Despite the fact that only 30% of students are auditory learners (60% are visual and 10% are kinesthetic), many teachers rely primarily on speaking in class, which means that a large portion of the students are left behind.

The TPR (Total Physical Response) method is a response to allowing students to move around in class. Remember the VAK theory the next time you have a student that won't stop moving in class.

If you'd like to learn more about VAK, check out these books. You might also be interested in . . .


Tuesday 4 June 2013

Hot Topic: Are Ice Breakers and Intros Worth It?

Class intros
Most teachers spend the first day or two of class doing ice breakers and introductions. I've done this too. I've gone around the room and had students introduce themselves and then I've introduced myself and asked them if they had any questions. I usually got questions like:
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have kids?
  • How long have you been in this country?
  • Do you speak the language?
  • What do you think of this country?
I willingly answered all their questions. Then I got to thinking. When had my teachers ever allowed me such as insight into their lives? Or when had we actually gone around the room and introduced ourselves? The answer to both questions is never. Even in language classes I've never introduced myself.

But this could be because:
  • It's unrealistic and contrived
  • It's a waste of time

Some people disagree and say:
  • We're supposed to be all friendly with our students
  • It allows teachers to gauge students' level
I know that I've stopped doing introductions. I found that everyone basically says the same thing. It goes like this, "My name is John. I'm from Korea. I'm studying Engineering."

Doing Ice Breakers
I've found ice breakers or warmers to be a bit more useful. After talking about the syllabus I move on to ice breakers. You know the classic "Find someone who" game or writing about goals for the class. I really like writing goals. It's less stressful since students are expected to speak and it's useful.


Sunday 2 June 2013

Signing a Letter of Intent to Renew Your Contract

Some schools still do this. It can be kind of annoying. Letters of intent are basically schools asking you if you want to renew your contract, but don't guarantee that you'll have a job. It's completely biased and in their favour.

They know who they're keeping and who they're not. They've also probably placed adverts to look for new teachers. Because of this, letters of intent can lead teachers on. After signing a letter of intent you may have to wait a while to get your new contract, if they decide to give you one. I've heard of some places wanting a couple months between the letter of intent and a new contract.

Now, most places do give everyone a contract who signs a letter of intent. However, you never know. Until you sign your contract on the dotted line, don't think that anything's set in stone.


Saturday 1 June 2013

Apostillisations and FBI Background Checks

Updated 8 July 2016

These are a type of legalisation that are recognised by a number of countries around the world. This agreement is called the Hague Agreement and most English speaking countries are part of it; Canada is not.

An apostillisation proves that the copy you have is a true copy of the orginal document. (It does not prove that the original is an original and not a fake. Despite this, many immigration departments are requiring apostillisation documents.)

If you live close enough to the places that you have to go then you're in luck. If you don't, then be sure to plan ahead of time as mailing things all over the place takes time. Apostillisations are good for life. So get a whole bunch of them done now, so that you don't have to do them in the future. If you have to mail documents, then I would plan on at least 2 months to get everything done.

Apostillisation is cheap, fast, and easy in the US. It should cost you less than twenty dollars and can be done by mail. Here's a list of the Secretary of State offices. In England, it's rather expensive, about a hundred pounds or so and you may have to find a lawyer. Either way, plan ahead as things may go wrong. If you're looking for a laugh, read what Expat Hell has to say about how useless apostillisations are. If you don't want to go through the trouble of doing it you can hire people to do it for you. Here are some companies.


American State and Local Documents
Examples of state and local documents are: birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, divorce certicates, state background checks, or degrees. For federal documents, please see the following section. You can mail or take the documents in person. I mailed things. Total time is about one month.

TIP: Get many copies apostillised. They're good for life and you won't have to go through this again. I had ten copies of my degree apostillised.

Step 1: Use the original document OR copy your document and get the copy notarised. Birth certificates are a perfect example of using originals. These are often already notarised by the emitting office, ex. the county clerk. If it is not already notarised, you will have to send it to the emitting office to get it notarised. If you're from the US and need something notarised, try Sign Now. It's accepted in all 50 states and much cheaper than going to the embassy.

It is often faster, cheaper, and better to copy your orginal. Photocopy the original. Take the original and the photocopy to a notary. The notary will examine both documents and the notarise the copy. In the US, it can often be done for free at your local library or bank. If it's your degree that you're notarising, your university will often do it for free.

Step 2: Put your original in a safe place. You won't have to mail it anywhere, BUT you might want to bring the original just in case.

Step 3: Get your documents apostillised. You will have to send your documents to the Secretary of State. Contact them and ask how much it is to get documents apostillised. It should be between $5 and $20. If you are using copies you do NOT send the original. Just send the notarised copies. If you are using orginals, you will have to send the original. This usually takes two weeks.

What You Will Have: You will have another document attached to your copy (or original). It should have a seal and special corner at the top. Mine have a gold sticker-seal and a blue paper at the top in the corner. Do NOT separate these documents or you will render them invalid.

American Federal Documents
An example of federal checks: FBI background checks. At the bottom of this post you can find the steps required to get an FBI check.

Step 1: Use the original document FBI background checks are a perfect example of using originals. These are often already notarised by the emitting office, ex. the FBI, IF you tell them that you will be using the documents abroad.

Step 2: Send it to the Department of State. It should cost less than $10 and take two to three weeks. You can also go in person if you live near Washington DC. You now need to have a notarised copy of your license or passport as well as a notarised request letter (I have an example of one that I used. You're welcome to email me at and I'll send it to you).

What You Will Have: You will have another document attached to your original. It should have a seal and special corner at the top. Do NOT separate these documents or you will render it invalid.

British Documents
Please see the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website for more information.

Canadian Documents
Please see the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website for more information.

Criminal Background Checks aka CBCs or CRCs
These are usually only good for 6 months, so plan ahead. If you have a criminal record, try reading teaching with a criminal record. If you're looking for a laugh, read what Expat Hell has to say about how useless CBCs are.  
American FBI Checks
  • Plan ahead. The FBI website states that "processing times may take up to 12 weeks." See number 9 on the FAQs. Some countries only accept FBI checks that are less than 6 months old, so planning is key!
  • Use a channeler: This is a private business approved by the FBI who can expedite your request. They receive the fingerprint submission and relevant data, and collect the associated fee(s). Then they electronically forward the fingerprint submission with the necessary information to the FBI CJIS Division for a national Criminal History Summary check. Finally, they receive the electronic summary check result for the individual. Here's some info about using channelers.
  • Legible fingerprints are critical. You can use the forms from the FBI site or the ones at the police station. Go to the local police station to get your fingerprints done. They recommend submitting multiple fingerprint cards.
You Need
  1. Get your fingerprints taken.
  2. Send all docs to the FBI. Look at the checklist. Have it sent back to your parents or family or friends in the US or use a company that helps out with apostilisations listed at the top of this post. It's recommended to send it via certified mail so that you can track it. FBI CJIS Division – Record Request, 1000 Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, WV 26306
  3. They get the form, then send it to the US Dept of State in Washington DC, not the Sec of State. It's a federal document, so has to go to the Dept of State in Washington. See: (FYI: If you want to send it to the Sec of State, then you could also do that, but it’s a hassle. First you need to get it notarized then send it to the Secretary of State.)
  4. They get the FBI check and then mail it to you.


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