Wednesday 25 February 2015

How Important Are Interviews Anyways?

From Experience Factor
My post about TEFL interviews and demo lessons is one of my most popular to date, but exactly how important are interviews really? Some people will say that they're not that important and in a way I agree. Networking (ie wasta or guanxi) and being recommended for a job can work wonders.

I also believe that employers have a good idea about who they want to hire before the interview takes place. Although, due to logistics they have to interview people that they may not want to hire. Their top picks may take a job elsewhere or turn out to be crazy. I personally think that interviews are important, but not the end-all to getting a job. 

This doesn't mean that you should walk into an interview without any prep. There are a ton of good books about interviewing tips. If you haven't read any books on how to ace an interview, I highly recommend doing so.


Friday 20 February 2015

Teachers Don't Give Grades, Students Earn Them

From Dr. Adam Cox
It happens every semester without fail. After grades are given, there's a complaint/grievance period when students are allowed to write emails to teachers asking them to raise their grades. I try to explain to students that the grades are outside of my control. There's a curve in place and the computer will not allow me to give more As than allowed. I also tell them what constitutes as a legit reason to ask for a higher grade.

Nevertheless I still get students email and ask for a better grade. I've been told that they've been told to always, always ask for a higher grade. In a way I can understand. I tell people to apply to jobs even though they may not be qualified for them.

After years of dealing with this I've come up with a set response that I tell students. I explain that there's a curve in place and that only X% of students will get an A or whatever grade they're asking for. I also tell them their rank in the class and what rank they needed to get an A. I explain that effort or needing to keep a scholarship or what have you aren't legit reasons for me to raise their grade. Finally I explain that I didn't give them their grade, they earned it. Other teachers do things differently.

I keep to the facts. I don't get emotional even if they do. I email them back promptly and offer to go to school and sit down and explain their grade to them. I've never had an issues with this. Students just want an explanation and more often than not they will thank you and tell you to have a nice vacation.


Sunday 15 February 2015

Teaching English Online: Alone vs With a Company

From American TESOL Academy
More and more teachers are earning extra money by teaching English online. It's somewhat of a legal loophole that allows teachers who can't work outside of their place of employment to earn extra money. Since it's online, there's no payments made to local banks. It's usually done via Paypal or to a bank back home. Also, since it's online it's more flexible; you can do it any time. Another advantage is that you don't have to pay for transportation. You can teach in your living room.

Once you decide to teach online you will have to decide if you're going to go with a company or venture out on your own.

Teaching English Online with a Company
There are a ton of companies out there that need teachers to work online. I've heard really good things about Open English but you will need to know Spanish in order to work there for them.

It's an established business. People trust them and aren't afraid to pay for class.
Page rank. They'll come up higher in the search results.
Platform. They usually provide an online platform for you to teach your classes on.

Materials. You may have to create your own curriculum.
Hard to get students. You may have to compete with other teachers to get students. 
Hours and vacation. You may have to work odd hours and not get any vacation.

Teaching English Online on Your Own
Some people decide to skip the middle man and teach English on their own. There are a number of books out there, such as how to teach English online, taking you step-by-step through the process. Amazon has some good books as well like Teach Online: Make Money Doing What You Love and Teach Online: Develop Your First Online Course.

You're in control. You can set your hours, choose the curriculum, decide how much to charge, etc.

It's a start-up. You'll have to work harder finding students, a platform, making your own material, etc.

No matter if you decide to work for a company or on your own, teaching English online is a great way to earn extra money. You might also be interested in reading about supplementing your teaching salary and earning money online.


Tuesday 10 February 2015

Publish or Perish: Coming to a University Near You

From CDling
I've worked in universities now for about 8.5 years in both Peru and Korea. Times have changed and it's no longer super easy to get a university job in Korea. More and more places are asking for a master's degree plus university teaching experience. A PhD triumphs an MA any day. If you have publications and presentations, then all the better. CDling

Some unis here will give monetary incentives for you to publish. I've heard of anywhere from $500 to $20,000 depending on where you get published. While publishing does have advantages for both the university and the teacher, it also has distinct disadvantages. Teachers are meant to teach, not do research. While I realise that action research compliments teaching, it's getting to the point that universities are requiring more and more of teachers and offering less and less in return.

There's also the time issue. Having been published myself I know that it can take a long time for peer-reviewed articles to come out. I've had articles come out in a few months, but some places may take years. This means that a teacher has to constantly submit different articles to different journals and hope that at least one gets published in order for them to keep their job.

Another issue is that universities are hiring famous teachers, but they're not teaching. They're spending most of their time researching while a TA teaches the class.

There are many problems with publish or perish and I think that universities have to take a closer look at how they go about this.


Sunday 8 February 2015

Quick Tip: Offer Your Students the Chance to Earn Extra Credit

After the semester ends I invariably get a few emails from students asking me to raise their grades. Unfortunately I have to grade on a curve and that means some people don't get the grade they deserve. More often than not students will cite effort as a reason for getting a higher grade. As much would like to give them points for effort, they are graded on results. I can try as hard as I want in a Chemistry class and I still won't end up with an A.

One point can separate an A student from a B student or a B student from a C student. Since I believe that students should have multiple ways for earning points (such as quizzes, tests, exams, being prepared, attendance, participation, homework, etc), I also offer them two chances to do extra credit.

My classes are based on 100 points and each extra credit assignment is worth 1 point. Other teachers may do things differently. Perhaps offering more points or a scale (1-5 points) depending on what is done. I just started offering extra credit about two years ago and am happy with the results. Students get more chances to use English and they may earn enough points to bump them up a grade.


Thursday 5 February 2015

Reach to Teach Blog Carnival: February 2015

This month I'm hosting the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. This month's topic is: "At what moment did you finally start to feel like you were at "home" during your time living abroad?"

Check out the responses from teachers around the world. If you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please get in touch with Dean at, and he'll let you know how you can start participating!

Abigail Nedeau-Owen
Link: February 2015 Reach to Teach Blog Carnival: Feeling at Home when Abroad

Description: Four main, personal moments of feeling at home when living and teaching English in South Korea and lots of reminiscing about those good time.

Bio: Abigail prefers walking to motorized vehicles and likes the idea of slow travel, getting to know a place by building up a routine that absorbs the new culture. Her interests include illustration, editing (film and writing), reviews, boston terriers, artist books, and iPhonography. You can find her blog at Bodging for Apples II.

Dean Barnes  
Link:  February 2015 Reach to Teach Blog Carnival: Feeling at Home While Abroad

Description: I knew from the beginning that it wasn't going to be an easy year living abroad and one of the biggest challenges was going to be homesickness. But it was something that I just knew that I not only wanted, but needed to do for myself.

Bio: My name is Dean, I have been traveling for around 4 years now with a small stint back in my home country. I’m from the UK and I began my teaching career on the island of Bali. I then made the move to Taiwan where I currently reside. Here I have the joy to fulfill my passion for writing by providing ESL/travel related articles to the Reach To Teach website.

Holly Beddome
Link:  February 2015 Reach to Teach Blog Carnival: At Home Around the World

Description: One of the biggest challenges long-term travelers might face is the struggle to feel at home in a new city or country. Throw in a new language, alphabet, culture and workplace environment and the move to teach English in Korea can seem rather daunting! Feeling like I'd found 'home' didn't occur in one eureka moment, but rather over a process of several months. Now, I'm happy to call Korea home, and encourage others to come see what makes this country so unique for themselves!

Bio: Holly was bitten by the travel bug in her early teens and has long since rejected the idea of spending her entire life in Canada! She loves to read good books, flail about on the dance floor, and form new friendships. She documents cityscapes and the natural world around her through the lens of a camera. Having volunteered in Honduras, backpacked around Southeast Asia and studied in Australia in the past, she now calls Seoul home for the next year. Her plans: eat ALL of the kimchi, hike ALL of the mountains, form incredible memories and friendships, and hopefully have a positive impact on her students’ lives!  

Jamie Phillips    
Link: February 2015 Reach to Teach Blog Carnival: Existential Migration  

Description: In India, I explored the art of doing nothing, of sitting in silence and plumbing the space between breaths. And I discovered a new sense of home, stronger than any other, that was curled up within me and accessible any time, anywhere. I started to feel at home in sections of time and shades of emotion.  

Bio: A few years ago, I packed up, sold, redistributed all of my non-essential belongings, crammed my life into a backpack and wandered aimlessly into the world. I've backpacked South America, work-holidayed in Australia, travelled South East Asia with my mom, and, most recently, I became a yoga teacher in India. I blog about my (mis)adventures at The Accidental Nomad. I am currently navigating ex-pat life in Oxford, UK.  

Liane Nichols
Link:  February 2015 Reach to Teach Blog Carnival  

Description: During my travels, I never really got that homesick feeling, but my most "At-Home" feeling came when I moved to Thailand. Between the welcoming people and the irresistible food, Thailand was home for me since day one. Here's a brief story of what I loved most in Thailand.  

Bio: Liane is a Texas high school Geography teacher, travel writer, and former foreign English teacher. She graduated from Texas State University in 2010 with a B.A in International Relations. During college, Liane interned with the U.S. Department of State - Foreign Service Institute, and volunteered as President of the International Studies Club and Sigma Iota Rho Honors Fraternity. Since then, she has been fulfilling her dream of traveling the world by teaching English in Thailand, Georgia, and the Czech Republic. Follow her experiences by visiting her blog at Nichols Away.

Neysha Bauer 
Link: February 2015 Reach to Teach Blog Carnival: The Day I Ate All My Kimchi

Description: Everything just seemed to fall into place that day.

Bio: Neysha is the creator of, a travel diary fusing together the most awkward moments of living abroad and literary snapshots of the people and places that influence everyday expat life. In August 2014 she decided to pack her bags and move to Daegu, South Korea where she currently teaches youngster all about Spanish culture and how to dance Flamenco (poorly). As an amateur photographer, or freezer of time, she’s always on the lookout for the next thing to Instagram. When she’s not sipping green tea and writing, you can find her at the local craft beer joint or indulging in Korean BBQ.

Stephanie Boedecker  
Link:  February 2015 Reach to Teach Blog Carnival: Home is Where . . .  

Description: Moving, making new friends and creating a niche for yourself is never an easy task to accomplish, but somehow doing so halfway around the world turned out to be easier than I'd have thought. That first 'big move' has led to multiple homes in various countries, each looking vastly different from the next, but all sharing the comfort of home.

Bio: Stephanie gave up the 9-5 job three years ago, set her sights on Asia and hasn't looked back since. After two years teaching English in South Korea she continues to call this side of the world home, but now through a more nomadic approach. She is currently eating, traveling, volunteering and yogaing (new word) her way through SE Asia with plans to eventually explore Europe and beyond.


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