Thursday 1 December 2016

10 Hoops To Jump Through to Get Renewed at a Korean University

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Anyone who has taught in Korea knows that there's a lot of paperwork to go through to get a job. Nowadays, more and more universities are making you do lots of paperwork just to keep your job, especially for those people who have some of the best TEFL jobs in Korea.

Even if you do everything they ask and pass all their tests with flying colors, it's may not mean anything. They can fudge the results or decide they want to have retroactive job requirements. While I don't want to say that it's a farce, most of it is just a formality. They are going through the motions to show their higher ups that they did what they had to do. More often than not it comes down to them liking you and them having the budget to hire you. Below you can find somethings that people have had to do to renew.

  1. Sign a document saying that you know your contract is up: this is just a legal formality. They need to tell you that your contract is finishing.
  2. Sign a document saying you want to renew: this usually states that this is not an offer of employment, but they just want to know if you want to renew. You can always decide later not to sign the contract.
  3. Verbally tell them you want to renew: and you might have to tell multiple people, such as your head teacher, boss, secretary, and/or dean.
  4. Email them and tell them you want to renew: they cover all the bases and this is just another one of them.
  5. Interview: you might have to have an interview with people such as the head teacher, your boss, and/or the dean. It's usually short and less stressful than an actual job interview.
  6. Self-evaluation: this can get lengthy so be sure to ask if there are guidelines. Some places think the more the better, while others think that less is more. 
  7. Achievements: You'll have to list any awards, publications, new degrees or diplomas, committees, or workshops you gave or attended.
  8. Submit proof of your achievements: you'll have to provide originals or copies to show your awards, publications, committees, TEFL certificates like the CCELT or the University of Toronto, new degrees or diplomas, or workshops you gave or attended.
  9. Student evals: You usually just have to list your score but you might have to print off a copy of them as well.
  10. Have your class observed: unfortunately this is not that common since students really don't know much about methodology and most places completely rely on students to decide which teachers should stay or go (based on popularity). If it's done it's usually internal and the people observing you might not know much about methodology either. 
This is not an extensive list since all places are different. This is just a list of some of the more common things that you might have to do to get renewed. Contracts may be signed early, but more often or not they are signed a few days before the semester starts and it's not unheard of for teachers to sign contracts after the semester has started.

NB: I'll be on vacation in January and February and will be publishing guest posts. While I'm gone you can read posts my other blogs. I will start posting again at TEFL Tips in March.


Tuesday 15 November 2016

Pros and Cons to Entering Grades Last Minute

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'Tis the season. Here in Korea, the school year is coming to an end and so is the semester. All Korean universities work in a similar way. You have X amount of time to enter the grades, students have X amount of time to complain about their grades, and then you have X amount of time to change their grades if needed.

I've found that teachers can be divided into two groups when it comes to the grading period: those who enter their grades as soon as possible and those who put off entering their grades as long as possible.

Pros to Entering Grades Last Minute
  • You will get fewer complaints. The reason behind this is that if you enter grades last minute, students will have less time to check their grades. Less time means fewer students to deal with. 
  • You will spend less time checking your emails. Koreans aren't exactly known for their patience. I've had students email me an hour after they sent their first email demanding why I hadn't answered them. If you're lucky, the office will keep your personal details from your students. Sometimes, the secretaries will give out your personal email and cell phone to students. I've had students text and call early in the morning. 
  • You will have more time to do your grading. This way you can double check to make sure there are no mistakes.
Cons to Entering Grades Last Minute
  • If you enter grades at the last minute then your students will have less time to check their grades before the grievance period and this means that mistakes might slip through the cracks.
  • More students will complain to the office that they can't see their grades right away. Korean professors might only teach 1-2 classes a semester and then have TAs do all their grading. Foreign professors typically have 5-6 classes a semester and forget about getting a TA. 
  • You have the deadline hanging over your head which means more stress for you.
The complaint or grievance period is definitely one of the most stressful and annoying parts of the semester. With that being said, I love working at a Korean university and have even written about how to get a job at a Korean university, as well as some of the best places to work at. During the grievance period, students can be very persuasive. Some try to give you gifts. Others will play the pity card and beg and plead with you. However, you need to be firm and let students know that you don't give grades; they earn them.


Friday 28 October 2016

A Brief Attempt to Understand Understanding

The following is a guest post written by Dan Bailey, Konkuk University, English Department.  He's written a couple of posts on TEFL Tips before, What do you mean you don't teach writing? and Motivating students in a web-enhanced class. You can reach him at

The following is an answer I gave to a midterm assignment for one of my classes. Please forgive the overly-academic tone and try to understand the original purpose of this composition was to be a term paper. I thought it would be cool to share because a lot of these ideas presented here came to me during the past week. The first section attempts to describe the relationship between self-perception of competence and task-value. The second passage looks at attribution theory and attempts to describe how learners view success and failures. The last section attempts to tie together constructs related to the self (self-concept, self-competence, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and expectancies). In the third section, I introduce something called the hierarchical model of conceptual change. This is an undeveloped idea of mine that I hope to contribute more to in the next few years. Basically, it’s a model that tries to explain how conceptual change occurs in a learner.

On self-perception of competence and task-value: 
Self-perception of competence and task-value influence each other over time. If a learner places value on a task then they will cognitively engage in that task until they have built up the self-schema to consider themselves competent. The learner’s identity becomes defined as they becomes more competent at the task. Identity development with respect to competence towards a task will influence task-value. For example, your competence in teaching promotes your identity as a teacher and fosters value towards teaching. This is an example of a positive relationship between competence and value. Alternatively, the learner loses value towards a task if competence is not developed. Devaluing the task may help justify the learner’s lack of ability.

A longitudinal relationship may exist between expectation of success and subjective task value, and they are two important predictors of achievement, but they do not necessarily predict each other. For instance, a learner may place high value on a task due to personal reasons or societal ones while having little expectancy for success towards completing the task. Furthermore, a learner may have high utility value with low competence. In other words, a learner may think math ability will be useful for their life while at the same time hold very low competence in their ability to learn math.

I believe task-value should be developed first in order to encourage engagement and lead to competence. Competence can negatively affect task-value, but task-value, which is often socially driven, has less effect on competence. For example, if you don’t feel competent as a teacher, you might justify your lack of competence by degrading the value of being able to teach. On the other hand, having a degraded value of teaching may or may not influence your competence as a teacher.

According to expectancy value theory, subjective task-value can be thought of as the motivation that allows an individual to answer the question "Do I want to do this activity and why?” Understanding the utility of a learning objective is foremost important when cultivating motivation. Accurately calibrated competence towards achieving a learning outcome rarely occurs at the initial stages of learning (because of a lack of feedback and trial-and-error experience) and therefore cannot be expected to trigger consistent motivation. The learner will be motivated up until they fail in which time they may lose competence and motivation. To avoid this situation, first the learner should understand why they are doing something (i.e., develop value) and then they can learn how (i.e., develop competence). Competence needs experience to be accurately calibrated and learners begin experience by first identifying value. Once value such as utility is established, educators should hope that early successes in learning promotes sustained motivation. Developing talk-value should be a priority.

I would like describe the process through which successes and failures individuals experience affect their subsequent motivation and performance via attribution. I will describe this process through the achievement attributions of ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck.

With respect to ability, success would have a positive effect on motivation. Success attributed to ability will empower self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-competence. This in turn, may act to motivate the individual to perform better than they otherwise might. This success would be attributed to internal ability. In other words, the individual would take ownership of their success.

Failure due to lack of ability has opposing effects for learners who are self-regulated compared to their less regulated counterparts. For a self-regulated student, failure due to lack of ability is part of the learning process. Consistent failure due to lack of ability for a self-regulated learner would be an indication to recalibrate the environment or learning objective to better suit their ability. A self-regulated learner is aware of their zone of proximal development and operates accordingly. On the other hand, failure for a learner who is not self-regulated would be demoralizing and demotivating. Failure would cause anxiety which, without established affective learning strategies, would cause avoidance behavior in which the less capable learner would either not attempt a learning task, attempt an easier task, or approach a difficult task with the intention to fail. An example of attributing failure internally for a less capable learner would be learned helplessness. In other words, they believe their lack of ability is fixed and cannot change (i.e., learned helplessness). This feeling of helplessness demotivates the learner. These less capable learners may also attribute their failure externally in the form of blame. This blame could lead to neurotic behavior and anxiety with a less regulated learner while a more regulated learner would accept a sense of agency and attempt to manipulate external influences in order to avoid the perceived negative external influence.

Effort is another variable that influences attribution. A self-regulated learner with a wide variety of learning strategies are able to capitalize from their effort more efficiently than less regulated ones. This added efficiency in their learning process has a positive effect on motivation. A self-regulated learner attributes successes and failures to effort or lack of effort. To find motivation through both failure and success, the learner should be both self-regulated and experienced. An experienced learner will be able to compare present successes and failures to prior ones (i.e., utilize temporal learning strategies). This is an excellent example of why learning portfolios are valuable tools. Learners can draw motivation from failures when they compare and contrast present examples with past ones. For instance, a learner will be able to identify patterns in their scores that coincide with the amount of effort they invest (e.g., 3 hours of study = A, 2 hours = B, 1 hour = C). Less self-regulated and inexperienced learners may lose motivation due to failure. They would, as in the case with ability, attribute their failure externally. Again, I use the term blame because blame helps the low performing learner justify their poor outcomes. They may blame themselves by thinking regardless of the amount of effort invested they still performed poorly, or they may blame an inconvenient situation that disrupted the amount of effort they could invest.

The third achievement attribution is task difficulty. Successful learners are able to break difficult tasks into manageable pieces while less successful one cannot and therefore experience a sense of feeling overwhelmed. A less proficient learner may attribute failure due to the excessive nature of a task while a more proficient learner will better match their ability to task-difficulty.

With regards to luck, a successful learner attributes less to luck than an unsuccessful one. For instance, if an unsuccessful learner succeeds with minimal effort (i.e., guessing) then they will consider themselves lucky. They are unlucky if they fail. For higher proficient learners, they are aware of how they are doing in the moment which means less guessing and therefore less attribution to luck.

Hierarchical Model of Conceptual Change 
I believe a hierarchical order exists when viewing the conceptual change that occurs in language learning, and learning in general. This hierarchical model of conceptual change goes from self-concept (most global and cemented), to self-perceptions of competence, to self-efficacy, and finally to expectancies (most domain specific and malleable to change). While I place expectancy below self-efficacy, I believe the two are reciprocally related more so than the others because of their plasticity with the environment. Self-esteem is the positive or negative view of our self-concept and could possibly be used to gauge efficiency of the hierarchical chain. In other words, if expectations, efficacy, and competence are accurate, then a healthy self-concept will emerge represented by a positive self-esteem. On the other hand, this could be our perception of self-concept suggesting that self-esteem may just be a figment of our imagination.

I believe self-concept (self-identity, self-perspective, or self-structure) is most important when considering the relationship between these constructs. Having an accurate self-concept means knowing yourself (i.e., your strengths and weaknesses). Self-concept can contain a combination of identities and each identity can be influenced separately by more domain specific competences and efficacies. Within each identity exists unique agency that affords different levels of environmental control. Therefore, expectancy, efficacy, and competence are more malleable to change with respect to the environment while self-concept is more engraved within the learner’s self-schema.

I would like to introduce the construct of self-regulated learning behavior in my contrast and comparison of the constructs within my hierarchical model of conceptual change. All of the constructs work either for or against the learner depending on their calibration. An individual who identifies as a self-regulated leaner with a wide variety of learning strategies will operate in the positive realm because they utilize environmental feedback. This utilization of feedback allows them to hold realistic expectations and calibrate self-efficacy and self-competence. On the other hand, less capable learners practice avoidance behavior and exhibit learned helplessness.

The self-regulated learner achieves accurate conceptual awareness of their self-concept through feedback from their environment. In other words, the self-regulated learner knows themselves, knows what to expect, and knows they have the skills to accomplish their goals. Through this accurate understanding, the learner reinforces their self-concept.

Competence can be relatively global (e.g., competent at all math) or local (e.g., competent at algebra) while self-concept is generally global (e.g., good at math and bad at English). My hierarchical model posits that accurate competence within local areas has an incremental effect on local competence. Consequently, inaccurate competence will have the opposite effect.

Calibrating self-competence from environmental feedback can be accomplished at the self-efficacy and expectation levels. The self-regulated learner utilizes learning strategies to calibrate their self-efficacy and competence. For example, the learner can gauge their self-efficacy through social learning strategies such as asking for feedback from others and/or metacognitive learning strategies such as reflecting on personal growth over time (via learning portfolio). Through accurate self-efficacy, the learner knows what to expect when beginning learning objectives.

Alternatively, having accurate expectations will reinforce accurate self-efficacy. I rank expectancy below self-efficacy because expectancy is related to value (utility, cost, etc.), and can be influenced by emotion, making self-expectancy prone to change even more so than self-efficacy.

All constructs mentioned in this hierarchical model of conceptual change share a similar attributional relation with failure and success. Self-regulation of learning through the use of a wide variety of direct and indirect learning strategies help maintain a calibrated leaner at all levels (self-concept, competence, efficacy, and expectancy) of my hierarchical model. This is accomplished through failure more than successes. Humans have a tendency to learn more from their failures than successes and a self-regulated learner manages these failures by transforming them into teachable moments. Failure is necessary for calibration. Without failure, efficacy and competence cannot be accurately known leaving us with a false concept of ourselves. The learner measures these constructs of themselves through failures. The self-regulated learner grows from these failures while the less proficient leaner struggles.


Saturday 1 October 2016

Pros and Cons of Norming in the EFL Classroom

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While norming has been part of education in some parts of the world, such as the USA for a few decades, in others it's just starting to take place. It's the third part of team building: forming, storming, norming, preforming. While norming can be a good thing, care has to be taken to make sure it is done correctly.  Below you can find a few pros and cons to norming.

  • Rubrics are the same: teachers ensure that students are graded based on the same standards.
  • There are standards to learning: since the teachers know what will be on the rubric, this ensures that all students, even those taught by different teachers, will learn the same thing by the end of the semester.
  • It's fairer: all students are held to the same standard.
  • Teachers can easily find problem areas: and then fix them if most students due poorly in one area.

  • No catering to students' needs: individuality is not acknowledge. Everyone is expect to reach the same level despite their different starting levels, abilities, or majors. 
  • Lots of time is wasted: it's hard for teachers to agree on what to put in the rubrics and they rarely receive any training on how to make them.
  • Teaching to the test: since teachers want their students to do well many just teach to the test. 
  • Data isn't used: all this data is gathered, but teachers don't see how their students did compared to other teachers' students.
As you can see there are pros and cons and both need to be carefully considered before norming is used.


Thursday 1 September 2016

11 Tips for Working with People You Hate
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You're not going to like everyone you work with. However, as an adult sometimes you're going to have to suck it up and deal with it. You might even have to work on a project with your worst enemy. Below are some tips to help you work with people you hate, whether it's your boss or your colleagues.
  1. Control yourself: It’s easy to get angry or frustrated. Try to keep calm and not take things personally. 
  2. Keep your lips sealed: Don’t complain, especially to your co-workers. If you need to vent, find a close friend or family member who isn’t in the same field as you are. 
  3. Look within: Maybe there’s something that you do that sets the other person off. See if there are some changes you can make. 
  4. Get to know them: I know that you hate them and don’t want to spend any more time than necessary with them, but if you get to know them as a person, you can find out if there’s some reason they act the way they do. Maybe they had a death in the family or are going through a divorce. Getting to know them personally will allow you to empathize with them. 
  5. Confront them: Sometimes people might not intentionally try to set you off. It might just be their personality or sarcastic attitude. Talking to them directly might make them change. If follow what they say in relationships, to say “I feel ____, when you do _____” you’re just using facts to express your feelings. You could also ask them if there’s something that you do that bothers them. It can be a tough pill to swallow, but they might feel that you’re out to get them. 
  6. Rise above them: Don’t sink to their level. If you do it’ll just make you look immature. Rise above it and colleagues will notice.
  7. Give them reasons: Explain why things have to be done by using because. For example, you could say, “Could you please email me the report by 5pm because our boss needs it on his desk first thing tomorrow?” And mind your Ps and Qs; saying please and thank you always help. 
  8. Kill them with kindness: Compliment them. When they offer a snarky opinion, tell them that that’s an interesting perspective. You could also compliment their hard work and effort. 
  9. Remember that relationships are 50/50: It’s all about give and take. Each person adds something to the relationship; rarely is it all one person’s fault. 
  10. Be aloof: Don’t take anything personally. Sometimes people say something because they expect a certain reaction. If you keep your cool and pretend not to care they might stop egging you on. 
  11. Find a mediator: If nothing works, you might have to take things to another level and get someone else involved. Do this only if nothing else works. As adults, you should be able to manage most work conflicts without mediation. 
Looking for more tips?
Check out these links.


Friday 1 July 2016

25 Tips for Keeping Cool During the Dog Days of Summer

My post with 26 tips for staying warm in the cold winter months was pretty popular, so I thought I'd write one about how to save money while keeping cool in summer.
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Eating and Drinking
  1. BBQ. It's fun and you won't heat up your house by cooking.
  2. Certain foods like mind, cucumber, and spicy foods can help cool you down. 
  3. Don't use your stove or oven. They really heat up your house. 
  4. Drink more water or drinks with electrolytes
  1. Airism by Uniqlo will help keep you cool by wicking away sweat.
  2. Breathable clothing with natural fibers, such as linen, cotton, silk, and bamboo is a must.  
  3. Cooling toiletries like lotion with aloe vera can really help.
  4. Dress appropriately. Cover up, and wear light clothing and a hat like people in deserts do.
  5. Ice your feet. A cold foot bath with or without ice will help cool you off.  
  6. Hand held fans with or without water are great to take with you anywhere.
  7. Put your hair up. Bonus points if you wet it first. 
  8. Splash water on the back and front of your neck and your inner wrists. 
  9. Spray bottles are great for a quick pick me up. 
  10. Take off your socks. You'll cool off instantly.

Your house
  1. Blackout drapes will keep the hot sun out.
  2. Change your bedding to thinner cotton or bamboo sheets.
  3. Cold packs. These nifty devices can be used again and again. 
  4. Cover your sofa and chairs with light fabric so they don't get too hot. 
  5. Fans. They're much cheaper than running the AC all the time. 
  6. Get out of the house. Go run errands, hit the library, or go to a friend's house.
  7. Open the windows and get a breeze going in your house. 
  8. Go swimming! That's what summer's all about!
  9. Turn off the lights. You'll save money and keep your place cooler.
  10. Watch movies or read books about cold places. 
  11. Put wet towel or glasses of ice in front of a breezy window or a fan.
NB: I'll be on vacation in August. While I'm gone you can read posts by other TEFL Tips authors as well as my other blogs. I will start posting again in September.


Wednesday 1 June 2016

3 Ways Reverse Culture Shock Hits Me

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It's that time of year again, when I go home for the summer. I've been living abroad since 2003 and even though I'm still abroad, I get reverse culture shock when I go home to visit. Knowing about culture shock and what to expect will help you get used to life back home. I wrote about some tips to help people deal with reverse culture shock. Even though I know what to expect there are 3 things that get me every time I go back home.

#1 Tipping
I am not a fan of tipping. The history behind tipping is bribery. While it used to be optional and that you only had to tip for exceptional service, nowadays a tip is expect, even if the service is mediocre. 15-20% seems the norm and when you add that on top of taxes and the bill, things can get pricey.

#2 Sales Tax
Where I live tax is included in the bill, so there are no surprises when you go to check out. Although it varies state to state (some states don't have sales tax and some have local taxes on top of sales taxes), the average in 2015 was 5.45%. However, sales taxes and tipping can quickly increase how much you'll pay for things.

#3 Friendly People
I live in a very hierarchical society, where titles and bowing are the norm. While sales clerks may greet you as you enter a store, no one would think to greet you on the street or say hello unless they knew you. Since I'm not used to random people I pass saying hi, sometimes I get accused of being rude and cold back home.


Sunday 1 May 2016

3 Reasons Why I Closed My LinkedIn Account

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Last updated 15 September 2017

I opened another LinkedIn account in September 2017. I'm looking into other career options and it seems like LinkedIn is a good way to network. I wish LinkedIn had an option where you could take a break.

Closing my account
I closed LinkedIn in September 2014 wary of what would happen when I deleted over 2,000 contacts and 3 dozen recommendations. Now nine months later, I have no regrets and feel less stressed thanks to backing away from social media. There were 3 reasons why I decided to close my LinkedIn account.
  1. Spam: It came in many different forms. There were people selling gold, asking for dates, and just random "just my business" spam. I didn't want to deal with any of it.
  2. Privacy: Lack of privacy was a big issue. Although I was partly to blame since I had so many contacts and had added my information, I wanted to get away from it and protect myself. I don't think everyone needed to know where I went to school, where I had worked, or what conferences I had been to.
  3. No leads: I had originally joined LinkedIn in order to network and learn about jobs. The only job offers I had were from pyramid scheme or multi-level marketing.
LinkedIn Isn't the End All
Some people never had a LI account. Others have decided that they'd had enough and closed theirs.
  • Chris Brogan closed his in 2012.
  • Doug Belshaw closed and then re-opened his account.
  • Finding the Forest listed a number of issues leading to why they closed their account. 
  • Heather Bussing from HR Examiner closed her account.
  • Simply Zesty closed theirs in 2011.
There are plenty of ways to network and get good jobs without using LinkedIn.


Saturday 2 April 2016

Allow Your Students to Give Themselves Participation Points

In 2012, I wrote a post about having students grade themselves and I still stand by that post today. I don't think it's fair for a teacher to judge how much effort a student puts forth. After all, you could get a student who's lived abroad and speaks English fluently, so English is easy for them. Or you could have a shy student who isn't comfortable talking in front of the class.

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I used to have students grade themselves at the end of the semester, but found that it was hard for them to remember what they did on a daily basis. Now I have them grade themselves at the end of each class. Below you can find what I do. Here's another rubric a teacher uses. It discusses participation, collegiality, and conduct. Some teachers downright refuse to grade participation. Here are their reasons why.

The first day of class I give them all a note card. They write their name, school ID, and class ID at the top. On the front there are two sections: Active and L1. On the back there are also two sections: Phone and Materials.

The first section is worth 3 points each. If they're active in class they can get up to 3 points. If they use their L1, they can lose up to 3 points. The back is worth 1 point each. If they didn't use their phone for texting or social media they can get 1 point. If they didn't bring their materials (pen, book, A4 paper), then they can lose 1 point. If they're absent, even if their absence is excused, they get no points for that day.

At the end of the semester, they add up all the points and subtract the points they lost. I then grade them on a curve and give participation points out in increments of 5. The top people get 25%. The bottom people get 5%. I don't usually give 0% for participation unless they never showed up or slept in every class. I've found this works as you have proof of their participation, makes grading easier, and students are becoming responsible for their grades. It's also much better to do this daily as they are more likely to tell the truth.


Tuesday 1 March 2016

Is Not Getting Renewed the Same as Getting Fired?

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The short answer is no. There are many reasons teachers don't get renewed ,such as . . .
If you truly did something bad, a school wouldn't keep you on their staff and wait for your contract to run out. Don't take it personally. The bubble burst long ago and it's an employers' market.

Pick yourself, dust yourself, and move on. There are better jobs out there (the best TEFL jobs in the world is a good place to start looking) and you might as well get one of them. 


Monday 1 February 2016

Retroactive Job Requirements

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About a year ago I wrote about whether Korea was still a good place to teach in. There is an oversupply of teachers and it is definitely an employers' market. Many universities are taking advantage of this and some have decided to initiate retroactive requirements.

Take Sungshin University in Seoul, for example. Many people were hired there with only a BA. However, last year Korea decided to start requiring university teachers to have a BA + 4 or an MA + 2. This meant that they had to have at least that many years teaching at a university or equivalent and preferably this experience was in Korea.

What Sungshin University did was look at what teachers had when they were hired, not what they had then. That meant that even if you had an MA + 2 now, but only had a BA and no university experience when you were hired you weren't allowed to renew.

Having spoken to teachers who worked there it seems like they wanted to clean house. No notice was given and it's simply not logic. Yes, I understand that that's the requirement now, for new teachers. However, you should implement a current rule to teachers that have already been hired.

My advice is to continue to build up your CV. Create material, teach new classes, get an MA, do a TEFL certificate such as the online CCELT or the online University of Toronto certificate, network, attend conferences, and look for jobs every single time you're up for renewal. You never know what will happen plus it's always good to get interviewing experience. 

I'd love to hear your opinion. What do you think about retroactive requirements?


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