Monday, 30 November 2015

Korea Teachers Pension Fund Guide (Private Pension)

Image source
The KTPF (Korea Teachers' Pension Fund) has published a useful guide for foreigners in English about the pension scheme. There's info about retirement, taking a loan out against your pension, switching to the public pension, and more. Here's the link to PDF guide.

NB: I won't be blogging at TEFL Tips during December or January. While I'm on break you can read posts by other TEFL Tips authors as well as my other blogs. I will start blogging again at TEFL Tips in February.

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Friday, 27 November 2015

The No Jeans Dress Code

Image source
I have a love-hate relationship with dress codes. I know they're a necessary evil. Some places have a strict no jeans dress code. I understand that you shouldn't be wearing ripped, faded jeans to class, but there are nice jeans out there. Premium denim trouser jeans often carry a hefty price tag. Dark denim can easily be dressed up and can be just as versatile as black pants.

I've seen women teach in harem pants, skin tight pants, and even mini skirts (but they're ok because they're not jeans). I've seen both men and women wear old ratty sweaters, jean jackets (somehow those are ok), and beat up shoes to the office. I think many places should ditch the no jeans dress code or at least change it. If it's professional, like dark denim, it should be ok to wear to work. If it's not professional, like a mini skirt, you shouldn't wear it. People should use common sense and not just ban jeans simply because they're denim.



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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Getting Married While Living in Korea

Below are some options you have for getting married while living in Korea.
If you or your future spouse are USFK and plan on getting married at the gucheon (district office) in Korea there are some more steps that you will have to do ahead of time. If you are eloping or doing  a proxy marriage you will not have to do this. There are different steps to be taken depending on if both of you are American or if one of you is not American.

Before you get married, there are certain things that you should discuss. Here are some questions that although they are aimed at military couples, they still pertain to many couples. There are also many books with questions you should discuss before you get married.

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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Getting Married in Korea: Proxy Marriages

This is part of the series, Getting Married While Living in Korea. Proxy marriages have been around for a long, long time (dating back to the Medieval Ages) A proxy marriage takes place when one person is not able to physically attend the ceremony and another person is given power of attorney to stand in for that person. If both people are unable to attend then it's called a double proxy marriage.

Before you get married, there are certain things that you should discuss. Here are some questions that although they are aimed at military couples, they still pertain to many couples. There are also many books with questions you should discuss before you get married. 

Is this legal?
It depends on where you do it. In the US, for example, Alabama, California, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, and Texas all allow single proxy marriages. This means that one person doesn't have to be there. Montana allows double proxy marriages if one of the people getting married is active duty military.

Is it recognized elsewhere?
Do your research. Many countries honor other countries' marriage certificates, however, some countries might not accept marriage certificates if the marriage was a proxy marriage. You can tell by simply looking at the marriage certificate since the people you gave power of attorney to will sign on your behalf.

What the US Military Says
They recognise them and give more information here.

Gay Marriages
Gay marriage is now legal in the USA and the US military offers benefits to gay couples, so you can get married by proxy.

Double Proxy Marriages in Montana
"Marriage by proxy is when one or both parties to a marriage cannot be present at the ceremony. Section 40-1-301(2), MCA If a party to a marriage is unable to be present at the solemnization, the party may authorize in writing a third person to act as proxy. If the person solemnizing the marriage is satisfied that the absent party is unable to be present and has consented to the marriage, the person may solemnize the marriage by proxy. If the person solemnizing the marriage is not satisfied, the parties may petition the district court for an order permitting the marriage to be solemnized by proxy." (Taken from Flathead County's website).

Double proxy marriages in Montana (Flathead County to be exact) are big business. One person must be active duty military or a resident of Montana and it can be done even if the other person is a foreigner. While some people might say it's not romantic, if you live in Korea you have to jump through hoops to get married anyways. If you're both American or if you plan on living in the USA, this would allow you to get an American marriage certificate. It's also fast: usually less than two weeks.

Documents Needed
You'll need to fill out a few forms. They're pretty straight forward: application, power of attorney, bride's name change, Rubella waiver, and credit card info. Some need to be notarised and those can be done for free at Legal on base or at your embassy for a fee. You'll also need a copy of your ID which could be your birth certificate, military ID, driver's license, or passport. Some places may require your divorce papers, and/or a copy of your Social Security Card. Fees vary, but most places are around $600-$700 and all offer military discounts. Some may offer payment plans.

Warnings about Double Proxy Marriages
First of all, it's not uncommon for people to get married for the benefits, so make sure you know what you're getting into. Second, Montana doesn't ask for divorce decrees, so it's entirely possible for the person you're marrying to already be married and therefore voiding your marriage. If they're in the military, there are two documents that show a person's civil status: their LES (leave and earnings statement) and their ERB (enlisted record brief). Ask to see one of them. Their most recent LES would be your best bet. They can blacken out all the other info just as long as you can see their name and civil status. After all they're going to marry you so they should be able to trust you with at least that info.

Companies that Perform Double Proxy Marriages
Here are some of the most popular companies.

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Friday, 20 November 2015

Getting Students Talking: Consistency is Key

One of the first lessons I learned in the classroom was the necessity of structural consistency in lesson planning. That’s not to say that each lesson should be a carbon copy of the last. But if you want to create a low pressure atmosphere where students feel comfortable, I recommend using a stable lesson structure that is easy for students to follow. Obviously, each classroom and curriculum is going to be different, but I want to talk about specific methods and activities that I use with all of my freshmen and sophomore basic English classes. In every lesson, I include objectives, warm-up questions that use the target vocabulary, language and picture prompts in Powerpoint form, and consistent pair and group work.

Lesson objectives are an important cue for students at the beginning of class. Many students write down the lesson objectives and  appreciate being introduced to the basic and order of the class. You also might want to repeat the lesson objectives at the end of class or perhaps you can ask students to tell their partner what they learned that day. Either way, students should be aware of what their learning itinerary includes in any given class.

I have also had a lot of success with warm-up questions at the beginning of class. I include the target vocabulary in the question and answer to encourage students to use the vocabulary when talking with a partner. On the Powerpoint, I include a language prompt with a blank space so that students can fill in the blank with their opinion. For example, let’s say that ‘reliable’ is a vocabulary word this week. I will include a quick definition of reliable on the Powerpoint along with the question:
‘Q: Who’s the most reliable person in your life? A: The most reliable person in my life is my          .”

I use these warm-up questions for a few reasons. First, it allows low level students the ability to talk with their partners easily. Also, students are well prepared for vocabulary exercises in their book later in class after viewing and using the word previously. Third, the questions serve as a kind of icebreaker at the start of class when students are often tired and sometimes hesitant to participate.
With low level students, I recommend using both language prompts and pictures. Language prompts with blank spaces for students to fill (like the one above)  are an easy way to equalize low level and high level English speakers. If your high level students aren’t feeling challenged, try adding extra follow up ‘wh’ questions or encouraging students to add their own ‘wh’ questions. You can’t go wrong with visual aids just so long as they are relevant to the lesson. If you can find interesting or funny pictures to grab student attention, even better. Asking students to help describe a picture is also an effective way to cover tough vocabulary or as a hook to start class.
Next, I’m often told by my students how much they appreciate pair and group work. At the beginning of class, I have students facing the head of class for only a short time. I recommend the “think, pair, share” model. Students collect their thoughts at the beginning of class followed by pairs and group speaking activities. After students are paired for a time, I put them in groups of four for book work, games, and more activities. Keep in mind that with a focus on pair and group work, the teacher has to closely monitor students and keep them on task. But despite the minimal challenges, most classes should be centered around pair and group activities. The teacher should not be the center of the classroom, but rather a spirited facilitator who aids and encourages student discussion.
There are numerous ways to modify the ideas I have just shared. Depending on the class context, I find myself modifying them each semester. Just remember that lesson consistency can be very beneficial for your students as they navigate their way through the language classroom.

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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Getting Married in Korea: Leaving and Eloping

This is part of the series, Getting Married While Living in Korea. Ok, so technically you wouldn't be in Korea when you got married. However, for many people living in Korea, eloping is one of the easiest things to do. You won't have to jump through the hoops required by the Korean government, your marriage certificate won't be Korean, and friends and family might be able to come. For example, if both of you are from England it might make more sense for you to elope to England and get a marriage certificate from there and also give friends and family the chance to see you right after you got married.

There are tons of options when it comes to eloping. Do your research. Make sure you have all the necessary documents and ask if there's a waiting period before marriage. Pick your country wisely. While it might be great to elope to a foreign country, if you ever need more copies of your marriage certificate it might be really hard to get.

Before you get married, there are certain things that you should discuss. Here are some questions that although they are aimed at military couples, they still pertain to many couples. There are also many books with questions you should discuss before you get married. 

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Monday, 16 November 2015

Getting Married in Korea: At the Gucheon (District Office)

This is part of the series, Getting Married While Living in Korea. Contrary to fact the embassies don't marry you: they just provide you with the paperwork so that you can get married in Korea. You will get married at the gucheon. Here's what Yongsan Gucheon requires.
  • Documents proving that you're able to get married (proof that you are either single, divorced, or widowed). You'll get this from your embassy. They will have to be translated into Korean. (If one of you is Korean then you'll get the necessary family registry documents.
  • A copy of your passport (or Korean ID if one of you is Korean)
  • Marriage application
  • Two witnesses (Ask if they need to be Korean. Some people have said that their gucheon requires the witnesses to be Korean)
Check with your embassy for more information about marriage in Korea. It's a civil ceremony. Religious ceremonies aren't legal in Korea. You will get a Korean marriage certificate and will probably need to have it translated, notarized, and apostillized if the country where you want to use it is in the Hague Agreement. If it's not, you'll also have to get it authenticated at the country's embassy in Korea. Lots of fun paperwork. Before you decide to get married in Korea, consider you and your future spouse's nationality and where you plan on living.

Before you get married, there are certain things that you should discuss. Here are some questions that although they are aimed at military couples, they still pertain to many couples. There are also many books with questions you should discuss before you get married. 

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Thursday, 12 November 2015

Using Category Games to Construct Speaking Activities


I teach a variety of classes at my university and some of those classes focus on speaking, listening & grammar for first and second year students. English levels vary among students and it’s often a challenge to set up fun and engaging speaking activities. With lower level classes, students need scaffolding and preparation before they begin an activity. On top of this preparation, it can also be difficult to explain the rules and guidelines. This process can be time consuming and can sometimes feel futile.

So recently, I started a new ‘category’ activity with all of my freshmen and sophomore English classes. It has been successful beyond expectations and I hope that it can help other teachers. Full disclosure: I didn’t invent this activity but I haven’t heard other teachers use it in quite the same way.
First, look at the vocabulary your book uses in any particular week. Last week, my student’s vocabulary lesson included “rude” and “polite” in their learning objectives. So I gave students 3 minutes to make a list of polite actions in Korea and another 3 minutes to make a list of rude actions. I allow students to use their phone dictionaries and each group (usually groups of 4) assign one student to be the writer. The other students in the group have to give their team writer ideas. After the combined 6 minutes is up, I have students count up the number of rude and polite actions they have written down. The team with the most points wins. It’s simple, I know. It’s also an EFL version of Scattergories but there’s more.

Next, I try to combine vocabulary learning objectives with grammar learning objectives. For example, I asked students to practice gerund phrases and agreement/disagreement in their groups after the activity. Students now have a list of words that they have created and are given a language prompt to practice with their group. Instruct students to use the words on the list to give their opinion and pass the paper to the next student. In this case, students said something like, “Spitting is rude” with a response, “I agree/I disagree.” Higher level students in class can be encouraged to expand on their speaking by answering why they think it’s rude or polite. I recommend supplementing these games with pictures and language prompts to help lower level students get involved.

This activity has worked very well in my classes. There are a few reasons I think it’s an effective game and speaking activity for students. First, students are creating their own opinions and sentences in collaboration with one another. Also, students have fun competing with one another. The game isn’t just fun for the sake of fun either. The speaking activity that follows is crucial to maximizing student talk time. Lastly, this game is simple, can be used with a variety of students and a variety of lessons. I have used this activity in many of my classes and my students find it fun and engaging every time. Again, I’m not inventing anything new . I’m merely putting a twist on a popular game and using it to get my students talking in an engaging, competitive, and low pressure situation. Try using it with your class. You might find that it works.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

USFK Personnel: Getting Married in Korea to an American

This is part of the series, Getting Married While Living in Korea. If you or your future spouse is a service member, DoD civilian employee, or contractor AND both of you are Americans, there are some steps that you must take before you can get married. You can see what you have to do in the photo below. If one of you is not an American, there are tons of hoops that you will have to jump through and you can find them here.

Before you get married, there are certain things that you should discuss. Here are some questions that although they are aimed at military couples, they still pertain to many couples. There are also many books with questions you should discuss before you get married.


It's a bit of a pain to do all the paperwork and because of this, you might want to look into other options, such as getting married back home, eloping, or a proxy marriage. I have information about the latter two: eloping and proxy marriages.

The US Embassy has more information about marriage in Korea. You won't be getting married at the embassy or on base. Most people get married at the gucheon (district office). It's a civil ceremony. Religious ceremonies aren't legal in Korea.

You will get a Korean marriage certificate and will probably need to have it translated, notarized, and apostillized if you want to use it outside of Korea. Check with your state back home to see if you can record (not register, it's semantics) your foreign marriage there. Some states no longer do this. Since my husband and I are both Americans, we decided against getting married in Korea specifically because we wanted an American marriage certificate.

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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

USFK Personnel: Getting Married in Korea to a non-American

This is part of the series, Getting Married While Living in Korea. If you or your future spouse is a service member, DoD civilian employee, or contractor AND one of you is not an American, there are some steps that you must take before you can get married. You can find all these steps here. If you're both American, you can find the information here.

After looking at all the hoops that you have to jump through to get married in Korea when one of you works for the US government, you might want to look into other options, such as getting married back home, eloping, or a proxy marriage. I have information about the latter two: eloping and proxy marriages.

The US Embassy has more information about marriage in Korea. You won't be getting married at the embassy or on base. Most people get married at the gucheon (district office). It's a civil ceremony. Religious ceremonies aren't legal in Korea.

You will get a Korean marriage certificate and will probably need to have it translated, notarized, and apostillized if you want to use it outside of Korea. Check with your state back home to see if you can record (not register, it's semantics) your foreign marriage there. Some states no longer do this. Since my husband and I are both Americans, we decided against getting married in Korea specifically because we wanted an American marriage certificate.

Before you get married, there are certain things that you should discuss. Here are some questions that although they are aimed at military couples, they still pertain to many couples. There are also many books with questions you should discuss before you get married. 

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Thursday, 5 November 2015

Helping Students Take Responsibility for Their Absences

From larremoreteachertips.blogspot.com
I believe that students need to take responsibility for their own learning. Using being absent as an excuse simply doesn't fly. It wouldn't work in the real world and it shouldn't work in the classroom. Just because you're absent doesn't mean you have an excuse for not handing in your homework or not knowing about a test. If you were absent from your job and you missed a meeting you'd still be responsible for knowing what happened during that meeting.

There are a couple ways you could help students take responsibility for knowing what happened in class when they were absent.
  • You could create a box and have folders for each day of class. Inside you could put the lesson plan and any supplemental material you used. You might want to write the name of the student on each paper. This is more work for you, but you can see who took the papers and who didn't.
  • You could also have the students get the names and numbers of classmates and tell them they are responsible for calling them and finding out what happened in class.
  • You could have a sign-up sheet where the student would come and talk to you and ask what they missed in class. If they talked to you, they would write down the date they were absent and sign their name. 
Whatever you do I think it's important that you tell the student it's their responsibility to find out what happened in class. When teachers are having upwards of 100 students they simply can't go chasing every absent student down. Also make sure they know what you expect of them. If they're absent one day would they get an extra day to do homework and an extra day to study for the test? It's up to you, but make sure you write it down in your syllabus.

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Friday, 30 October 2015

Poll Results: My Time in Korea . . .

I asked people what they thought about their time in Korea. Here are the results.
    From rmsbunderblog.wordpress.com
  • It was just right. I'm still here. 30.19% with 48 votes.
  • It was too long. I should have left earlier. 14.47% with 23 votes.
  • I'm still here after 5 years. 11.95% with 19 votes.
  • It was just right. I left when I should have. 11.32% with 18 votes.
  • It was too short. I should have stayed longer. 8.18% with 13 votes
  • I'm still here after 3 years. 5.66% with 9 votes.
  • I love everything except for the fact that I'm still single. 5.66% with 9 votes. 
  • The legal system is crap! 3.77% with 6 votes.
  • It was too long but I'm here for another year yet. 3.14% with 5 votes.
  • It was too short. I came back! 2.52% 2ith 4 votes.
  • Regretful. 1.89% with 3 votes. 
  • Never go there. 0.63% with 1 vote.
  • Wish I had a uni job in the US or Thailand with better pay 0.63% with 1 vote.
With 159 responses an overwhelming 70% have positive things to say about Korea. You can read more about Korea at the Best TEFL jobs in Korea, Is Korea still a good place to work, and Getting a uni job in Korea.

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Monday, 26 October 2015

Life After ESL: Foreign Teachers Returning Home

Jackie Bolen has written a few guest posts for me including how to choose an ESL job wisely, how to advance your TEFL career, and why I love teaching at a Korean university. She's been teaching in Korea for 10 years and has decided to make the move back home to Canada. She's active in a number of Facebook groups and has a few websites including Wealthy English Teacher and Teaching in a Korean University.

Granted Jackie does get some flack, but I believe that's because people are jealous. She's a real go-getter and doesn't waste her time. She uses her free time to build websites and write books. By doing this she's been able to create a substantial passive income stream, meaning that she literally makes money while she sleeps. Here are some of the books she's written and I'm sure there will be many more to come:
While some people will end up in the TEFL field forever and will hopefully advance their TEFL career, sooner or later many of us will go home. We'll have to leave our bubble and face the real world.

Years ago I wrote a blog post about life after TEFL with some advice for teachers going home. While I only skimmed the surface, Jackie has a new book out called, Life After ESL: Foreign Teachers Returning Home that is jammed packed full of stories and advice from teachers who have made the transition from TEFLing abroad to getting a job back home.

Her book starts with the results from a survey she did about teachers going back home. Then she goes on to offer 13 pieces of advice, job options that you will have, her own story, and then what jobs will be in high-demand by 2020 for a handful of countries around the world.

If you're thinking about going home soon or even in a few years, I highly recommend you read Life After ESL: Foreign Teachers Returning Home. Start planning now and it will make the transition so much easier.

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Sunday, 25 October 2015

Grading Shy Students on Participation

From collegetocareers.com
Most of the classes I teach are based on conversation, however, not all students like to talk in class. Being an introvert, I understand where they're coming from. Just because they don't like to talk every single class does not mean that they deserve a low participation score. There are other ways they can participate in class. Below you can find 7 ideas to help you grade shy students.

  1. Tries to use English when working in partners or small groups. Some students don't like talking in front of the class, but feel more comfortable in small groups.
  2. Pays attention to the teacher and classmates. Even if a student volunteers all the time, if they're talking while you're talking or on their cell phone, then they should get a lower grade.
  3. Doesn't use their cell phone. Students are addicted to their phones, but don't you think the shy student should get points for not using their phone while the outgoing student is constantly texting?
  4. Listens actively. They take notes and/or give people their undivided attention.
  5. Does the activities and stays on task. They concentrate on the task at hand and get it done.
  6. Helps other people out. Just because they're shy doesn't mean they don't understand.
  7. Actively seeks out help. They ask a classmate or the teacher if they don't understand.

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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

7 Tips for Finishing an Online Course

Image source
Whether you're doing a diploma, a masters, a doctorate, or a MOOC, here are some tips to help you finish what you start. This is based on the #ELTchat Summary of 24th September 2014.
  1. Pay for it: Whether it's true or not, people still think that you get what you pay for. If you're taking the class for free you're less likely to finish it. If they have a paid option, such as some of the courses at Coursera, consider paying the fee. 
  2. Know what's expected: Make sure you're able to do the course. That means that you have the appropriate background knowledge as well as the time to devote to it. 
  3. Organise yourself and manage your time wisely: Some courses just have a final project while others will have quizzes and tasks for you to do throughout the course. Make a weekly plan of what you want to get done so that you don't fall behind. It's challenging to juggle your personal life, work, and studies. Make a plan to make sure that you're not stressing out the night before the final project is due.
  4. Make sure it works for your learning style: Some people prefer videos to readings, or many small quizzes compared to a bit final project.
  5. Enlist a friend: Have someone who can keep you accountable. It could be someone taking the course or even a friend. If it's someone taking the course it's even better as they could become your study buddy.
  6. See if it could help you at work: Tell your boss that you're studying. This will keep you accountable and also show her that you're interested in CPD.
  7. Ask yourself why you're doing it: You need to be motivated in order to complete the course. If it's required you still need to find out what benefits you will get by taking the course.

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Using Differentiated Instruction in Mixed Level TEFL Classes

Differentiated instruction has become popular amongst teachers. Ron recently wrote about it a few months ago in his post, the start of a new semester and differentiated instruction. TEFL courses also cover it. Check out the CCELT (100 hours) and the University of Toronto. Teachers may struggle in mixed level classes because they know that it can be hard to cater to all the different levels. While convention may tell the teacher to teach to the average level, they know that some students are being left behind and others are bored with the lesson. This does nothing for student motivation.

Differentiated instruction can change that. There are many ways that you can use this in your classroom. It will allow all students to progress and better their English. Have a variety of different assignments. After teaching a lesson, students need to practice what they have learnt. You could have different exercises available to them. Lower students could do multiple choice and higher students could do fill in the blanks.

Offer students choices for homework: Just as you would do in class, allow them to choose which homework assignments they’d like to do. Go online: Tell students about websites that they can use to practice their English. Your textbook might have options as well. They often have online quizzes and listenings that are interactive and appeal to learners.

Meet with students: Have quick progress meetings with your students. It will help them achieve their goals, give you feedback on class, and ask you questions. Some students may not want to meet with you one-to-one so give them the option of meeting in a small group.

Pair strong and weak students: It’s a win-win situation. The stronger student solidifies what they have learnt by explaining the concept to the weaker student. The weaker student gets to have the concept explained in a different way. Often students are better at explaining things than teachers.

Try TBL (task-based learning): By using English for authentic tasks students see how English can make a difference in their lives and students can be assigned roles based on their English abilities.

Try flipping the classroom: Studies have shown that flipped classrooms allow for more learning and less time wasting. It’s more student-centered and there’s less grading involved. Students and teachers enjoy flipped classrooms as well.

As you can see there are many options for using differentiated instructions in mixed level classes. Try some out and see how it goes!

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Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Flipped Classroom

Image source
With all the focus on autonomous learners, it's only a question of time before the flipped classroom becomes the norm. Although it's a relatively new concept, there have been a number of books written about the flipped classroom. It has students learning outside the classroom as well as inside. It's a type of blended learning. The flipped classroom takes the focus off the teacher and becomes student centered. A great example of the flipped classroom is Khan's Academy.

Technology is often used. Activities that are usually used for homework are used in class. Examples of this are peer-editing and PBL (project-based learning). The goal of this is to allow students to apply the knowledge they have learned rather than just regurgitate it. Students problem solve, work in groups, and do research. The teacher isn't seen as all-knowing, but rather as a guide. Students are more actively involved and motivated and take charge of their learning.

Studies have shown that students in flipped classes outperform those in traditional classes. There are pros for teachers as well: no daily lesson plans and no grading papers. Students are also able to choose how they want to be assessed. This allows them to work with their learning styles. Just because some students test well and others don't doesn't mean that the latter don't understand. They can choose a test, an essay, speaking, or even making a game.

If you're interested in learning more, #ELTchat has had two discussions about flipped classrooms: the flipped classroom and flipped learning in English language classes - what's the best use of your face-to-face time in class?

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Monday, 5 October 2015

Poll Results: How Did You Get Your Job?

I asked people how they got their job. Here are the results:
    From rmsbunderblog.wordpress.com
  • Friends/Networking: 14.29% with 2 votes.
  • Online: on the school's website: 35.71% with 5 votes.
  • Online: from a job website: 42.86% with 6 votes.
  • Print: such as a journal or newspaper. 0% with 0 votes.
  • Cold call: 7.14% with 1 vote.
It looks like more and more people are going online to find jobs. Here's a list of great TEFL job sites that you should check out.

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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Applying for Jobs Before You Have Your Diploma In Hand

From New Republic
Congrats! You graduated! Many TEFL employers want copies of your degree and not being able to prove that you've graduated can hurt your chances of getting an interview. Here are some things that you can do to show that you've earned your degree. These ideas were taken from the Foreign Professors and University English Teachers in Korea Facebook group
  • Ask the registrar for digital copy 
  • Ask for transcripts either in PDF or hard copies
  • Just state that you've graduated but are waiting for your diploma in your cover letter 
  • Get an official letter stating you graduated

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Friday, 25 September 2015

How to Apply for Jobs When Your Current Boss Doesn't Like You

From V Productions
Getting reference letters can be stressful and it can be even more difficult if your current boss doesn't like you. There are a few things that you can do in this situation.
  • Write your own reference letter. It's really a lot more common than you think. Even when your boss likes you they may ask you to write your own reference letter.
  • Ask for proof of employment. Just the facts. Your name, date you started working there, and your responsibilities should be listed.
  • Ask someone else to write a reference letter. It doesn't have to be your direct supervisor. Try to find other people who can vouch for you.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

How a Tax Treaty Can Help You Save on US Expat Taxes

The following post is from a guest blogger from Greenback Tax Services.


How a Tax Treaty Can Help You Save on US Expat Taxes

Have you heard of US tax treaties? If not, you aren’t alone! While most expats can offset their US tax liability using the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, the Foreign Tax Credit or the Foreign Housing Exclusion, sometimes there are tax treaty benefits that can provide additional relief from US taxation. Not every country has a treaty with the US but if you live in a country that does, you may be able to take advantage of their tax-saving benefits!


What is a tax treaty?

Tax treaties primary help US non-residents or dual-resident taxpayers. Under these treaty agreements, residents of countries outside the US may be taxed at a reduced rate, or certain income items received by these residents could be exempt from US taxes.  Unfortunately the largest amount of tax treaty provisions do not apply to US citizens or green card holders living abroad; but there are some exceptions. For instance, the US tax treaties with the UK and Canada include provisions that apply to US citizens living in those countries.


Under these treaties, residents (not necessarily citizens) of foreign countries are taxed at a reduced rate, or are exempt from US taxes on certain items of income they receive from sources within the United States. 


As you might expect, the reduced rates and exemptions vary by country and by type of income received. In addition, residents or citizens of the United States are taxed at a reduced rate, or are entirely exempt from foreign taxes, on certain items of income they receive from sources within foreign countries, too. You’ll need to have a permanent residence in a foreign country for many of the treaty benefits to apply. 


However, most income tax treaties contain what is known as a "saving clause" which prevents a citizen or resident of the US from taking advantage of the provisions of a tax treaty to avoid taxes on US income. This clause preserves the right of the country to tax you as if no treaty existed if it appears you are trying to avoid taxation. This is a bit confusing, so you may want to read up on the savings clause in more detail.


To find out if your country has a tax treaty with the US, the IRS has an updated listing here


What is the biggest benefit of a tax treaty?

The prevention of dual-taxation is far and away the greatest benefit. To explain it simply, these treaties prevent you from being taxed in the US and in your host country on the same income. 


Let’s look at an example. 


You are a US person living in South Korea. You are employed as a teacher in an international school. The school is not a US company, so only withholds South Korean taxes from your income. Because you are a US person, you are required to report your worldwide income on your US tax return each year, and subsequently pay US tax on that income. So, on the surface, it seems as though you are being double taxed, paying taxes to South Korea and the US on the same income. This is where the benefit of a tax treaty comes into play. Since the US and South Korea have a tax treaty, you are able to use the taxes that you have already paid to South Korea on your income to offset any US taxes on the same income. 


If you are a South Korean resident, and you are sent by your employer on temporary work assignment to the US, you can also utilize the US – South Korea tax treaty. Your income earned while you were working in the US is only subject to tax in the US. Your taxes paid to South Korea can be used to offset the taxes due in the US and vice versa. 


To utilize tax treaty benefits, Form 8833 must be attached to your US expat tax return. You simply provide an explanation of the treaty-based position you are applying, as well as the amount of exempt income and a brief summary of the facts upon which the treaty position is based.


Can tax treaties offset Social Security taxes?

Yes, but only if the foreign country in which you reside has a specific type of tax treaty, called a Totalization Agreement. These agreements, which the US has with 25 countries, prevent you from paying into two Social Security systems at one time. 


If you work for a US employer, and you are relocated to South Korea for less than 5 years, your employer will continue to withhold US social security taxes from your pay. You will not pay social security taxes to South Korea. If you are sent for more than 5 years, or you were originally employed in South Korea, you will pay social security taxes to South Korea alone.  The benefit to the Totalization Agreement is that your social security credits will count whether you are paying into the US or the South Korean social security systems.  This means that if you choose to retire in the US after working under the South Korean social security system, the credits you earned while abroad will be used to calculate your total benefits in the US If you choose to retire in South Korea after working under the US social security system, your US credits will be used to help calculate your total benefits in South Korea. 


South Korea is not the only country the US has a Totalization Agreement with. Here are the countries that have Totalization Agreements with the US.:



Countries with Social Security Agreements
Country
Entry into Force
November 1, 1978
December 1, 1979
November 1, 1980
July 1, 1984
July 1, 1984
August 1, 1984
January 1, 1985
January 1, 1987
April 1, 1988
July 1, 1988
August 1, 1989
November 1, 1990
November 1, 1991
November 1, 1992
September 1, 1993
November 1, 1993
September 1, 1994
April 1, 2001
December 1, 2001
October 1, 2002
October 1, 2005
October 1, 2008
January 1, 2009
March 1, 2009
May 1, 2014


Source: SSA


What if I am self-employed?

Here is more good news! Earning income as an independent contractor or as a sole proprietor (small business owner) in one of these 25 countries exempts you from US self-employment tax. Self-employment taxes are Social Security and Medicare taxes on your income, and are calculated differently than income taxes.  The Totalization Agreement allows you to avoid US self-employment taxes as long as you don’t have a fixed base in the US available to perform the services. (A fixed based means a fixed place of business, which includes a branch, place of management, an office or a warehouse.) So, if you are living in South Korea, you will only pay self-employment taxes (or their equivalent) in South Korea. Remember that this doesn’t eliminate the need to pay regular ole’ US income taxes, however!  


In order to avoid paying self-employment taxes you will need to get a certificate of coverage letter from your local taxing agency or the US, depending upon the wording of the specific Totalization Agreement. A certificate of coverage is generally a letter or form that certifies that you are covered by that country’s social security system. You should only have to request this form once for as long as you stay in the same self-employment position, only requesting a new form if there is a break in your employment status. 


For South Korea, you would need to request a certificate of coverage from the National Pension Service. You will receive a form KOR-USA 4 from the National Pension Service. A copy of this form will need to be attached to your US tax return each year you claim an exemption from the self-employment taxes. 


Tax treaties are complicated, so we highly suggest speaking with an expat tax professional to determine if claiming a treaty-based position will help you reduce your US expat taxes!



This post was written by David McKeegan, co-founder of Greenback Expat Tax Services. Greenback specializes in the preparation of US expat taxes for Americans living abroad. Greenback offers straightforward pricing, a simple, hassle-free process, and CPAs and IRS Enrolled Agents who have extensive experience in the field of expat tax preparation.



For more information about Greenback Expat Tax Services or US tax treaties, please contact us or visit www.greenbacktaxservices.com.
 

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