Friday, August 28, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Even Public Schools Can Go Bad

We all know that hagwons in Korea are corrupt. While there are a few good ones out there, the majority rip of the foreigners in some way. Money, vacation, taxes, health care, housing, bonus pay, flight money. Something. And there is almost no recourse except the toothless labor board which seems able to be bought off by the employers. Due to this, I would generally recommend people stick with public schools or unis.

However, there are more and more cases of people getting screwed over by the public schools as well. There is the latest scandal, this time with SMOE (Seoul Public Schools) about them canceling 100/600 teachers the night before they were due to come to Korea. And getting renewed at the public schools seems to be at the whim of your potentially quite good or potentially pure evil co-teachers. Certainly not a comforting thought at times. And I also hear increasing stories of public schools pulling the same crap that hagwons are notorious for with money and housing and stuff. They get paid a certain amount/foreign teacher at their school and so many of them look to make a buck off of it and don't actually spend that full amount on the teacher.

So, if you are a newbie, looking to work in Korea, I would sincerely recommend that you look elsewhere. Somewhere where you can own your own visa and aren't indebted to your employer like an indentured servant. Somewhere where you have freedom to change jobs, with minor paperwork if your employer starts to screw you over. Somewhere where there are government regulations that actually protect and look out for foreign employees. Sadly, it is not Korea.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shootout at the ESL corral

I played this game with the kids at my last camp but think it could potentially be somewhat fun for uni students as well. Divide the class into groups of two. You can do this on 2 sides of the class, at their desks standing up or get the kids to make a line at the front of the class as well.

Then, there are are 2 variations. The first one is that the first 2 students play rock/scissor/paper. The loser has to answer a question about what you've been studying. I used it a lot of math when I was studying that for a couple days with the kids. I'd say what is 5x8 and give them 5 seconds to answer. If they got it, they went to the back of their line, or remain standing. If not, they sit down and the game is over for them. The second variation is to just ask a question to both students and the loser sits down.

It's a fun, high energy game with a lot of excitement to it. The kids seemed like they couldn't get enough of it. And you can use pretty much any topic you want. And it's definitely heavy on the listening and speaking skills.

Task Based Teaching

At my uni, the foreign teachers had a presentation on task-based teaching. While this is nothing new for most of us, I did pick up a few things. Of particular interest was the "task generator" that the presenter talked about. The basic idea is that there is a topic that the class is based upon and then various task based on that are created by the teacher.

This is the list of tasks, basically from easiest to hardest. I'll use the topic of weather.

1. Listing. Various types of weather conditions.

2. Ordering and sorting. What is the typical weather in spring/summer/fall/winter.

3. Comparing. Weather in Korea vs. weather in Canada

4. Matching. Pictures of weather conditions to the names.

5. Problem solving. Pick a destination you'd like to visit. When will you go and why? What special things do you need to bring?

6. Creative project. Research a major natural disaster and make a poster about it.

7. Sharing personal experiences or stories.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Making my life easier

I've talked about this before, in that there needs to be some sort of motivation in classes in order for the students to perform. While there are some highly motivated students around, I've found it to be the exception rather than the rule in Korea.

For the rest of them: rewards are key. In my uni classes, it's all about the final grade at the end of the semester.

Everyone else: candy and prizes. If I'm doing a single class with students that I won't see regularly, I'll buy a few cheap candies and such and hand them out liberally for games and activities. If I'm doing a camp with students over a week or two, I'll make a chart with their names and give them stickers for the winners of games or good behavior or whatever. I'll let them know at the beginning of our time that there will be small prizes for the top 4 or 5 students. I'm currently doing a camp and I picked up the following: a hula hoop, colored pencils, jump rope, pen and pencil. This system made my life considerably easier every day and it was all for under 10 000 Won. Well worth it, in my opinion.

The things I like about doing this:

1. It make a little excitement in the classroom, about things that are often not so exciting.

2. People like candy and prizes.

3. And most importantly of all, it rewards good behavior and I can ignore the bad after the first day or two. If someone is misbehaving I'll just generally give them no acknowledgment and it usually stops pretty quickly. Instead, I can focus on the well-behaved and give a lot more attention to them (as it should be!)

Friday, August 14, 2009


So I meet a few English teachers here and there who have extremely bad spoken grammar. I guess that written grammar mistakes could possibly be forgiven, since most of our jobs are of the English "conversation" variety and pretty light on the grammar/writing kind of stuff.

But a few people that I know, in the space of a 5 minute conversation will make at least one or two grammar mistakes of the subject-verb agreement type, or a word used in an odd way, a cliche-ish saying, or grasp at a simple word that they can't quite recall at that moment. It is the exception, for a native speaker who teaches ESL to make mistakes with this high of frequency. I even think that more advanced ESL students could pick out these mistakes.

I wonder if they know what they sound like? And how did they ever get like that? Was it their parent's lack of education? Or just their part of the brain responsible for language doesn't quite work as well as other people. Too much TV and not enough real life interaction? Is there any way to improve it? Interesting to think about.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Techings Kids Style

Over the course of the week at the kids camp at my uni, I've had a chance to observe all the Korean TA's and a number of the other foreign teachers and their style of teaching/leading. And I've noticed one major thing that sets a few people apart from me, and that is how much feedback they give the kids. I'm not talking about feedback directly related to activities in class and their English and spelling of words and stuff. Of course, I am pretty active in that regard. But it's all the other stuff I'm talking about.

For example, my TA keeps telling the kids to be quiet and to not talk, when they're waiting in line and stuff. But, in my eyes they are waiting very quietly and in an orderly fashion, so I don't really care that they're chatting a little bit with their neighbor. What difference does it make...and I wonder if he even has any clue how much negative feedback he is giving them and that that has a way of making kids not like you. Shouldn't camp be fun?

And some of the other people are yellers. Even yelling (as opposed to talking at a normal level) at other teachers without even really realizing it because they're so hyped up from yelling at the kids the whole day I guess. Yelling chants while walking down to lunch. Yelling at kids in the cafeteria to put down their umbrella and about where to sit. I will never yell. Never. Instead, I use the stare until quiet ensues. It will almost never take more than 20 seconds or so. Or I just use a gentle touch on the arm to get their attention and give them some directions. Walking down to lunch, I just don't care that they want to talk to their friend in Korean. They need a break from me and English. If they want to have a little conversation, in English with me, I'm happy to do it (and most of them do). In the caf, I just don't care if they bring their umbrella into line with them or where they sit. Basically, I see no need to yell or give directions to kids for things that just don't matter, or can be done at a much quieter level.

Now, I'm not a kid superstar, I fully admit this. These are just some thoughts. What do you experts out there think?

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Fun Camp Game

I'm working at a summer camp at my school and we played a pretty fun camp last night, that the kids seemed to enjoy for the most part. It was called Mission Impossible and they had to go in their classes around to 10 different stations, seeing if they could complete various challenges in 5 minutes.

Some of the stations:

1. Trying to make one of the teachers laugh.
2. Having to guess 10 words in 5 minutes, based on the teacher explaining them. Example. Teacher: "It's an animal that eats bananas" Student: Monkey!
3. Making shapes as a class. Square, diamond, etc. They did 2 in 5 minutes.
4. Listening to a song and writing down words they hear. If they get a certain number, as a class they get their challenge completed token.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

It's Camp Time!

I'm teaching at a kid's camp at my university for essentially 8 days and we have our homeroom class (mine is grade 4/5 elementary school) for 4.5 hours/day. That is fine, but the kind of annoying thing is that we have been given literally no material to teach them. Nothing. So we've had to be on our toes, coming up with 36 hours of stuff out of thin air, on short notice. We were all kind of under the impression that there would be books or something. Anyway, after much frantic internet scouring and such, I've come up with the following plan. Maybe it can help you if you're stuck in a similar situation.

Period 1. Make your own country. Each day will be a different theme. Example, day 1: make/draw a map of your country, with animals and kinds of plants. Day 2: education system and rules/punishments. Day 3. Type of housing/draw a picture of that. Etc, etc.

Period 2. Reading, I've picked out a book and will make copies of it for the students. I'll play various little activities and games to go along with it.

Period 3. Vocab and games relating to that. Day 1: days of the week/months. Day 2: people descriptions. Day 3: Numbers up to 100. Day 4. Review game for the first 3 days.

Period 4. Something active. Tag. Duck, duck, goose. Scavenger Hunt. What time is it Mr. Wolf? Leapfrog relay. Etc.

What are your best camp ideas?

Monday, August 3, 2009

How to maximize savings in Korea

I save a lot of money. As in my entire base pay, that I earn for teaching 7.5 regular classes of freshman English for 2 semesters of 17 weeks in a year. Do I not spend any money? That really is not the case at all....I just do a lot of overtime. During the semester, it seems to work out to 12 or more hours/week. And in the breaks, I do a camp and various other little things to essentially pay for all my traveling.

So, when you're looking for a uni job, the key is not really how much your base pay is. 2.0 or 2.5, it's not that big of a difference. The hours worked for that base pay and overtime opportunities are what really matter. If you make a base pay of 3.0 but have to work 25 hours a week to do it, you won't have that much time for overtime opportunities. Ditto if your accommodation is far from where you live. And if there is more overtime than you can handle, such as at my uni, that's how you can really make a lot of money here in Korea. Of course, you can do private teaching but there's the whole stress of getting busted and kicked out of the country, so I just avoid that whole scene in order to have a happy life in Korea.

When you're checking out uni jobs in Korea with an eye to make the big $$$, remember the 2 things that really matter.

1. Hours worked for base pay.

2. Overtime opportunities (ask the other foreigners working there for the 411).

(3). ....and, if camps during breaks are mandatory (which is okay in my eyes), are you paid extra for it?