teaching English in Korea

T.G.I.F

Seriously, I don't know what I would do without you Friday. Even my students today remembered when I asked them what day of the week it was, "Ellie teacher, your favorite day!" (I felt a little bad though, since they have school tomorrow...)


How-to teach in South Korea

Thought I would give a few pointers for people that stumble on my blog looking to move to South Korea and teach English. Remember, this is just my opinion and just one way to do it, there are endless possibilities of ways to teach and live here, do your research and figure out what's best for you!

what a wonderful world!

For chapter 4, What a Nice Day! I did a music video project with my 5th graders and they could not have made me prouder! I gave them each a lyric to the song What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong (Student: He has brown skin, teacher? Me: Yes! He is African American! Student: Like Obama!? Uh....) and they were instructed to be creative and draw a picture to describe the lyric. They could do anything they wanted and I got some interesting illustrations including a coffee cup for the lyric for "what a wonderful world" and nuclear bombs covering the page for "saying how do you do." Those kids really make me laugh! These are a couple of my favorite pictures, from the minds Korean 5th graders :)

Everybody gets their day

May 8th in Korea is technically called Parents Day, they sell small baskets of flowers and children who were just spoiled on May 5th for children's day show their parents a little love. I really wish I had children's day when I was a kid but my mom used to say, "Everyday is children's day!"  Kids here got the day off school (and so did I so no complaining here) and were spoiled with fun activities and gifts and today families were out celebrating in the sunshine. It is a beautiful week to be in Seoul.

Being an American traditional gal, I still celebrate mothers and fathers on separate days. Inspired by a friend, I decided to make a video for my mom for her special day this year. It was a fun project and I was so excited with the final product, I have to share. Happy Mother's day Mom:)


Day in the life of...

It is amazing how simple life has become here in Korea. I am 8 months into my 1 year contract and my daily routine can be the same as it was at home some days, mundane and boring. Wake up, take the bus to school, check my email, teach some classes, have lunch, teach some more classes, fuck around online/lesson plan, walk home, go to the gym, eat dinner, shower, sleep, repeat. (Sometimes spruced up with a little Woodstock Wednesday action but I keep it real during the week, real being I cannot function hungover and teaching the last thing I want to do after a night of booze.) That is the true life in the day of a English teacher in Korea (hey MTV, you should do that one!) During the week that is .

Reason #1 why I love my job...

Went out last night to celebrate a good friendship and have my last drink of alcohol for a month (after eye surgery it is recommended to not drink because the blood vessels in your eyes swell when you do) and I never go out on school nights. Woke up on time for school (if my normal 10 minutes before I need to leave is "on time") with only a slight hangover which is a surprise after that bottle of Cook's Champagne! I taught 5 classes this morning, with the students doing roles plays (ie. I don't have to do much) and am now getting ready to head up to the nurses office for a little cat nap. Nothing wrong with that in Korea, they all do it. Totally one bandwagon I will jump onto! Naps are the best thing ever created, hands down.

Q&A With Dr. David Noonan at 2010 PAC-KOTESOL Conference

Drs. Ken Beaty, David Nunan, Kathleen Bailey, moderator Alan Maley, Rod Ellis, and Martha Cummings.

This year KOTESOL (Korea Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) celebrated its 18th International Conference in Seoul. Under the slogan of “Advancing ELT in the Global Context,” over 1,500 English teachers from around the world visited the conference.

Among those attending were also a stellar list of presenters. This year was the first time there was a plenary panel discussion about the state of ELT in the world today. One of the members of the plenary panel was Dr. David Nunan.

The following are some follow-up questions to the plenary panel discussion:

What is your experience with KOTESOL and teaching English in Korea?

Dr. Nunan: I’ve been coming to Korea for conferences, consultancies and teacher education for the last twenty years. I have been a presenter at many KOTESOL conferences.

What was the most important topic/theme (related to ELT) you heard people talking about at this year’s conference? Why?

Dr. Nunan: The hot topics right now are globalization and the emergence of English as the global language, the teaching of English to younger learners and the use of technology to enhance the teaching of English. all these issues are interrelated. English has emerged as the international language of business, entertainment, education, and media because of the dominance of the USA as the largest economy in the world. Organizations, governments and individuals know they can increase their value by learning English. Middle-class parents believe that they can give their children an advantage at school and ultimately in the workplace by having them learn English. Because of the belief that the earlier you begin learning a language the better you will be at that language, educational systems around the world are lowering the age at which English is introduced as a compulsory subject. The insatiable demand for English is far outstripping the supply of adequately trained teachers. Technology has stepped in to supplement face-to-face instruction.

English in Korea (and the world) is quickly becoming a form of social and economic exclusion. Many Korean’s believe that forcing everyone to learn English is another way to separate the “haves” from the “have nots”. Do you think that is true? Do you have any suggestions as to how this can be prevented?

Dr. Nunan: I believe that a situation of “haves” and ‘have nots” is an unfortunate reality. One 25% of the world’s population have the opportunity to learn and use English and these are people who are already advantaged. The only solution has to be a political one – governments have to improve the quality of English language education in public schools.

Some people say teaching English is not a “real” job. It is something you do to save money for a backpacking trip around the world or a way to hold off being a corporate slave back home. Furthermore, many English teachers (even the ones with masters degrees in TESOL or Applied Linguistics) eventually leave the field because there just isn’t enough money in it. Is teaching English a job with a sustainable future or more of a short-term career move?

Dr. Nunan: Until the public perception that all you need in order to teach English is to be a native speaker is reversed, this will not change. It is up to us as teachers to argue the case for English as a profession, to demonstrate that well-trained non-native speakers of English with good English skills and appropriate training as just as effective, if not more effective than Native English teachers.

Many Koreans would prefer to learn English from a native speaker with little or no experience teaching English than from a certified Korean English teacher. However, David Graddol in his book English Next says that there is a trend that native-speaker norms and native speakers themselves are becoming irrelevant. Will we [native speakers] be out of a job in the near future?

Dr. Nunan: Absolutely not. I would like to see the first language status of the teacher become an irrelevance, and that employment and advancement be based on criteria other than first language status. Associations such as TESOL have developed performance standards for teachers, and these should be the criteria for deciding who gets to be employed as a teacher.

Where do you see the ELT industry in the next 10 years?

Dr. Nunan: I was asked this question ten years ago, and will give the same answer now as I gave then. “Technology will become increasingly significant, the teaching of English to young learners will become more effective through the development of age appropriate curriculum models, materials, teacher training, and (this is a wish rather than a prediction), government agencies will look to bodies such as The International Research Foundation for Language Education (TIRF) for data-based advice upon which to base policy decisions.

Do you have any advice on for current teachers or people interested in getting into the field?

Dr. Nunan: Teaching is a vocation. You have to love what you do and care for your students. If you’re doing this job simply for the money, or because you can’t think of anything else to do, then get out now.

Dr. David Noonan

Dr. David Nunan is the Academic President of Anaheim University based in Anaheim, California. Dr. Nunan serves in a concurrent role as Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Professor of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). He is also a best-selling author. In 2003, Business Review Weekly ranked him the 7th most influential Australian in Asia, and in 2005, he was named one of the top “50 Australians Who Matter.”  Dr. Nunan has this year authored “The Learner-Centred Curriculum: A Study in Second Language Teaching.”


Korea Changes E2 Visa Process: FBI Background Check How To


Question from a reader: reliable recruiters?

UPDATED and ADDED 27 October 2010: Recruiters mentioned in the comments have been added to the list - readers, do your own due diligence, but having multiple, unsolicited, unpaid, positive recommendations from fellow expats is about as good as you can get.

A reader writes in:


Should you teach English in Korea? A 10 question quiz to help you find out

Author's note: this post is dedicated to the wonderful readers that aren't in Korea yet, but have been thinking about coming to teach English in Asia. For those readers already in Korea, do the time warp back to before you came to Korea - I'd be interested in hearing your scores as well.

OK, admit it. You've been on the fence for awhile now, and you've thought that teaching English in a foreign country might be kind of fun. Still a job, but fun. Take it from a guy that's doing it - there's a lot more to it than being an Education major or being good with kids. Your entire lifestyle will change, pure and simple. To see if you're ready for those changes - and to see if you're cut out for this line of work - take the quiz.

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