Friday, April 29, 2011

Don't be this guy at the office

A hater story from a Geek in Korea.  One of his co-workers is bringing the whole office down due to his constant complaining.  It makes me thankful that I have a private office.  It's definitely one of the things to ask about when you're comparing your uni job offers.  To me, I'd take a 100 000/month pay hit just to not deal with all the gossip, negativity and inane conversation that happens when a bunch of foreigners in Korea get together. 

Anyway, some advice for you.  Don't be that person.  When you come to Korea for the first time, or start a new uni job just chill out for the first few months.  Things are going to be chaotic.  Korea style is bali bali (fast/fast), last minute.  It usually works itself out in the end.  Try to never complain.  Just tell yourself things are different.  And in your first semester at a uni, you probably won't get that much overtime.  All the vets who know the ropes will snap it up before you.  Don't complain or stress about it.  Just make some connections and figure out how things work for next semester.  Drop your name around as willing to work OT.  And if you have a bad schedule your first semester?  Well, things change in 16 weeks so don't stress. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A new site added to my sidebar

I've added a site that I hope will be helpful for you in your lesson planning.  It's called and it's made by a uni teacher in Busan.  He also happens to be a writer for the Lonely Planet.   The site has plenty of activities to keep your students engaged and learning, covering not only writing but speaking and listening as well.  His link list also has lots of good stuff that I'm going to check out further. 

Pod English

I've just recently discovered these Pod English Videos on Youtube, covering a wide array of topics.  They're a perfect way to introduce a unit.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reader Question about Testing

These ones from Caroline:

"Are your exams strictly oral, or do you also administer a written component? Is the final designed in a group by all the instructors together, or does each instructor do his/her own thing? Do you do one on one interviews, or do you have them come up in groups of two or more and do situation cards with roleplaying? Do you have the resources to videotape the interviews? What about audio recording resources?"

Lots of questions!  I will do my best to answer them.  At my university, the instructors are left up to their own devices as to how to test the students.  The only requirement is that there is some sort of "oral component," since it's a conversational English class.  Some of my colleagues interpret this strictly to mean 1-1 conversation with the teacher, while other are a bit looser and do things like presentations or role-play cards.

I do different things every semester with regard to written evaluation, since I like experimenting and keeping it interesting for myself.  I have done written tests and quizzes in the past, but I'm not doing it this semester.  20% of their final grade is online homework (as mandated by my uni), which is all of the "written" variety, mostly vocab, grammar and reading.

I have done 1-1 interviews in the past, but I find it way too tedious and stressful so I prefer not to do it this way anymore.  I have some classes with up to 30 students, so 1.5 hours is just not enough time to do it fairly and accurately.  I've never tried the situation card thing before.  I'm not so sure how to set it up, to be honest.  I just can't make the logistics of it all work out in my head.  Perhaps the readers could give me some advice?

In recent semesters, I've started doing partner testing, with random partners. This semester so far, we've studied 5 units.  I gave them a list of questions from each of the units.  About 4 questions/unit. So around 20 questions in total.  Then, I bring them into my office in groups of 6.  I pick 2 of the people to ask each other questions, one from each unit.  I just listen and evaluate.  They can't use a paper and have to memorize their questions.  I give them a grid by which I evaluate. 

I could probably get a Video Camera, or audio record, except I don't.  I test 150-200 students each semester, so it would be incredibly time-consuming to go back and re-evaluate each student.  Students generally seem to be happy with their grades and feel it's fair.'s that time of year again

The yellow-dust season in Korea (otherwise known as Spring in Canada), also known as Mid-term Exams!  They usually bring joy to my heart, since it's a week where I'm not on center stage, doing my little teaching thing.  I'm not a person who loves being the center of attention, I've just learned to adapt to it because of my job.  Instead this week, I just take a back-seat role and let the students do their thing. 

Coming up to this week (and the morning of my first test-now!) I always have the little debate in my head about how exactly to do it.  1-1, which is exhausting for me.  And I actually try to avoid the situation where I'm in my office (I have a private one), alone, with a student.  2/3-1, which is a good mix but can take a long time for a class of 25 students.  Or, just do it with the whole class together, but that can amp up the stress, as students are worried about embarrassing themselves in front of their peers. 

So, I usually settle on taking students into my office in groups of 4-6, depending on the class size.  A smaller class: groups of 4, larger: groups of 6.  It is big enough to have some witnesses, should a student bomb miserably and I give them an "F."  They can't really argue with me when it was clear to 5 other people how truly terrible they were.  Yet it is small enough that the atmosphere is kind of friendly and not so high stress.  And in a big class, it goes fast enough.  Just 4 groups of 6.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reader Questions from George

"1.What do I need to do in order to get hired by a university in Korea? I had heard from another Canadian (who had taught secondary students there) that I should just send my resume out to universities directly.
2. Do you have any suggestions? Another preference would be to teach working adults as well (I'm older myself).
3. Can I assume that all contracts for Korea must be for 1 year?"
Let me answer these questions in turn.  For #1, you basically need to have all your documents ready to go (I'm no expert on this, but you'll need an RCMP background check, and diploma that have been notarized/certified by the Korean consulate, as well as a few others bits and pieces).  This is for immigration.  
Unis will usually require a Masters degree, which you have.  They will usually only hire people that are in-country, but there are a rare few who do telephone interviews.  You could send out resumes to universities directly, but I've never heard of it working.  A better plan is to cruise the Korean job board on and apply for jobs there.  Be sure to follow directions precisely and send in exactly what you need for each job.  There are 3 or 4 uni jobs advertised everyday, at this time of year.
#2.  There are other adult teaching jobs here besides unis.  However, these are often not so ideal because you'll have to do a split-shift.  Think 6-9am and 6-9pm.  You'll soon be burnt out and exhausted.  
#3.  Yes, all contracts are for one year.  
General advice:  Why not apply for a public school job?  They're much easier to get from out of country.  Specify that you'd like to work with high school students perhaps.  While you're here, make connections and try to get the uni job for your second year.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

If U R Young and White, U R Alright

I wish I could say this wasn't true, and Korea wasn't a racist kind of country, but it really is.  There seems to be a hierarchy of Koreans at the top, whities next, then other Asians, followed up by black/brown people.  If you're Asian, or brown or black, or any other shade besides white, you'll probably have quite a hard time finding a job in this country.  It's not impossible, but you'll just have to search a bit harder.  And in a land where you must send a picture with your resume, it's impossible to hide.

That said, if you're young, with blond hair, from North America you should snap up a prime job in no time.  A female is even better. 

Sorry for the lack up updates on the blog.  Still fighting the yellow dust cold of death and need to muster up all my energy just to get to class and back. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Make your own dice

Playing a game where you need some dice, but you don't have enough sets for the whole class, or are just annoyed by the noise?  You can buy some giant dice, or just make your own (kind of). 

There are 2 things I do:

1. Make a grid pattern on a piece of paper.  Put numbers (1-4, or 1-6, whatever!) on it in a random pattern.  Then, to pick the number the students get their pencil, close their eyes and pick a square. 

2. Get some of the new, small 10 won coins.  Have the students throw them and see how they land.  2 heads is a 1, 1 head and 1 tail is a 2, and 2 tails is a 3.  Makes sense? 

Friday, April 1, 2011

What I know Now but Didn't Then

An excellent post (as always) from David Deubel.  What I know Now but Didn't Then.  He reflects on teaching as a learning and growth process and some things he's picked up over the years.