Monday, 30 November 2015

Korea Teachers Pension Fund Guide (Private Pension)

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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

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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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