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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Your Second Contract

Once you have found a job and have been working in a country for a year, you will have a good idea of the work and employment environment, benefits, and norms within the industry. However, when faced with the process for getting a new contract, some teachers have trouble knowing what to ask for and how to go about arranging a new job.

Before your first contract is up, you should talk to you school about what your plans are. Most employers will be open to re-hiring you. There are several reasons why a school would rather hire a teacher who is already there over a new teacher.

The first and most obvious reason is that they already know how you work and have seen you in action. If they are not happy with your performance, they would not be offing you a new contract. Another reason is that the school has a better ability to negotiate your new contract terms with you. They may lessen the amount of money they offer as flight money since you are already in the country and the fact that they already have your resume and visa details on file, means they need to spend considerably less time processing your enrollment. The school can also save money by keeping you in the accommodation you already are. They also can assume that you remember the processes you need to fulfil your visa and this will make the transition to the new contract even easier.

A lot of these things are benefits for you also. It is difficult moving in and out of different places (and after a year or so, you start to build up more luggage). You don’t need the school to pay as much flight money, because you may not need to go home between contracts. The important thing is to think about your needs. There is no point to agreeing to something that you are not happy with. After a year, you should also have an idea of what to expect from the school and other schools in the same market. Depending on each individual school director, they going could be reasonable and flexible, or offer as little as possible and expect you to negotiate.

Remember that you can consider other schools, as well. In many cases, people find that they love the job of teaching, but have problems personally relating to their particular school director. Which is understandable, as everyone has a different personality, and some just don’t get along. Other schools might even offer you sweeter deals in order to lure you away from your current school. It is up to you what you do in this situation, but remember to follow your contract, and be respectful to your employer.

Be careful telling a school that you will be going to work for a competitor. They are only human and may get jealous that you feel like a rival can offer you a better deal. Remember that you are the commodity, and most schools will not want to lose a teacher who has been a good coworker. While schools will try and negotiate you out of flight ticket money or bonuses, you can ask for extra pay, bigger bonuses or longer holidays. Be sure you compare your old contract to our new one and question any discrepancies.

You will most likely have to leave the country to renew you visa, so think about your options. Some teachers are family oriented people and need to return home as often as possible. Others use whatever time they have to travel and experience more. A few months before you finish work, find out what your options are for flights and be prepared to bring this information to your school when you negotiate your new contract.

Overall, you want to improve your situation. Shop around and ask other teachers in the community if they know of any jobs that are available when you finish your first contract. Find out about the schools and which other teachers work there. Most of all, be positive about whatever choice you make. Going to a new school means having a fresh start with a new group of students and co-workers. Maybe a new apartment in a different part of town. Staying where you are means you get the comfort of consistency in a foreign land.


How did you decide where to work on your second contract? What benefits did you receive?

Monday, 29 September 2014

Good Words to Learn when Teaching EFL

When you first start teaching English as a Foreign Language, you are often thrown straight into teaching only a few days after arriving. You may not be fully comfortable with your surroundings and may be struggling with culture shock. Sometimes teachers don’t know how to talk to their students in a friendly way due to the language barrier and just have trouble overall communicating. Below, we outline a few of the words that we feel it is important to learn the translation of when traveling to a new country for TEFL.

Hello/Good morning- Greetings are typically the first words anyone learns when they start to learn a new language. Learning some basic greetings can help you come across as more friendly with your students, but also your co-workers and students’ parents (if applicable). Remember that different languages have different functions for formal and informal speech, so it is important to match honorifics with the audience you are speaking to.

Please/Thank you- Once again, these are words that will help you appear more friendly and approachable. You do not want to overuse the native language, but sometimes students just need to be asked politely and sincerely before they respond. Showing that you are willing to go to the effort to be polite is a good thing for any teacher.

Hot/Cold/Hungry- Sometimes, you will be in the middle of an engaging lesson, when you look around and see that students aren’t paying attention. You might hear them repeating words and looking a little distressed and don’t know why. It could be because the room is either too hot or cold, or it may be that they students have been studying for a long time and are hungry. EFL students may also feel too embarrassed to ask for help, or think that you can’t help. By learning these words, you can quickly identify why the students are uncomfortable and help them out.

Metalanguage- While metalanguage is best used in the language you are teaching, it can help to learn a few simple words from the students L1. Words like “noun”, “verb” and “adjective” often have literal translations in other languages and it can be useful to draw on these for quick reference when students don’t recognize new vocabulary or need a reminder of English metalanguage.

That’s funny/fun- Learning to tell when students are enjoying a game or activity can be as important as practicing the language itself. Students, especially young students learn much better and faster when they are interested and engaged. Hearing students praise your class in their own language is satisfying and also shows that they are paying attention.

I hate it/don’t like it- Sometimes you will ask a student to perform an action as part of a task, such as work together with another student, or do something slightly embarrassing (as an example). Students who do not want to play along will often say “no” in their own language because they don’t want to get into a debate with the teacher in a language they struggle to command. Recognizing when a student is not responding to a task is just as important as when they are.

Students’ names- In an EFL context, it can be difficult for a teacher to learn all of the students’ names. Particularly in cases where names can be hard to pronounce. Some teachers (and schools) prefer to give the students “English names” to help with cultural exchange, however, students always appreciate when the teacher cares enough about connecting that they overcome this.

Are you ok?- It is a random occurance, but every now and then you will be faced with an upset student and have no idea why. Perhaps, they are ill, just had an argument with a friend, got some bad news, or something entirely different. It can often be quite hard to comfort a student or even know how to help them when there is a language barrier. Learning the simplest form of checking if someone is ok is a massive benefit. They may need medical help, or they may just be sleepy.

Really?- If you have a class of teenagers or children, you may have to stop what you are doing because the students are chatting instead of listening. Especially for new teachers, this can be highly frustrating, as you don’t know enough of the students’ L1 to know what they are talking about. Are they gossiping about you, are they discussing the lesson or something completely different. Learning to feign understanding can stop students chatting pretty quickly. Next time you have students gossiping behind your back in class, shoot them a quick “really?” in their own language, the results may surprise you.

In English, it is good to brush up on your metalanguage and grammar. Make sure you know what you are talking about when you come to class. Don’t forget that students do learn from repetition, so if there are words or phrases you repeat, students will pick up on it. Even if it is something as simple as saying “…ok?” when giving instructions. On this note, you may want to prepare yourself to give some different types of feedback. By varying the specific words you use to praise and correct errors, you demonstrate that you are treating the students individually, which is great, excellent, awesome, fantastic and wonderful.

Is there any particular word we missed that you think is essential to learn in your students’ L1 when teaching English language? Leave your comments suggestions below.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Benefits of Taking a TEFL Course Before Travelling

Who doesn’t love to travel to interesting locations and make money? Travelling is one thing that invariably opens people’s eyes and gives them a new perspective on life. If you have the opportunity, teaching English language is a great way to make some extra money while travelling. You will have the opportunity to learn all about another culture while you are immersed in new sights and sounds.

When people first decide to travel and teach, one of the first questions they ask themselves if whether they are qualified. In very broad terms, being a native English speaker already gives you some important qualifications that help you to teach English.

Native English speakers have an excellent recognition of errors in non-native speakers. It is incredibly easy to detect problems in grammar, and pronunciation. When you hear someone use the wrong word, or miss a word entirely, it can grate on you. Unfortunately, while we can easily hear/see the problem, without proper training, it can be incredibly hard to know how to fix it.

If we think about our own schooling and what kind of teacher we don’t want to be, we think about a droning, repetitive bore. We all realistically know that just repeating the words back is not enough to actually help the students understand where their problems lie or how to correct them.

Taking a TEFL course before you head off can help you feel more confident in going and teaching that first class by arming you with the latest skills and techniques used by teachers already in the field. You can learn to identify when a student makes a grammatical error, as opposed to making a vocabulary error. It can also help you understand the roles teachers have to play in the class, and think about how you will interact with students.

One of the most important aspects of teaching is planning lessons, so a good TEFL course should include some aspect of how to prepare your day to day lessons. While the first couple might take you some time, it will get easier and easier. Walking into any class with a plan is better than not.

Some people can feel overwhelmed when trying to prepare their trip and learning to teach English as a foreign language. Some TEFL courses are offered completely online, which can help ease that tension. When you complete the course, or even while studying, you can use your new found qualifications to help secure a job. Securing a job can also help you feel better about travelling. Many schools offer accommodation and health insurance, which can be a weight off your shoulders.

Another thing to remember is that as an English teacher, you are your school’s biggest asset and they will generally do everything they can to help you adjust. You will have the support of your school in most matters, such as immigration affairs and going to see a doctor.

For many years, native English speakers have been able to find new career opportunities and personal horizons when teaching oversees. It can be financially and spiritually rewarding.

Please share your experiences with travelling and teaching in the comment below.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

How to Overcome the “First Class Jitters”

When an EFL teacher takes his/her first position, it can be a nerve wracking experience. You have just landed in a new country, you have just arrived at the school for the first time, been shown your desk, given some teaching resources and now the school director is telling you that your first class is about to begin.

This can be a scary situation. You may have taken a TEFL course before you left, but now you are actually about to teach, it all seems irrelevant. You may not have even had time to prepare a first lesson plan. Your hands get sweaty and as you walk into the classroom with fewer notes you have been given, you see the expectant look on the students' faces.

There is no need to lose your cool and jump from the nearest window. We all experience that initial “Oh, so that’s what this is like” moment when we walk into a new classroom, and you can rest assured that this is not the first time these students have met a new teacher.

If you work for a good, responsible school, you will have some time to prepare before the lesson and talk to the other teachers about what you need to do. In other cases, you may not have this opportunity, so a good thing to do is prepare a simple “getting to know you” lesson that you can use on this first day, and every first class you walk into. Teaching well is something that comes from experience as well as training, so don’t be surprised if you find that your initial expectations are quickly broken.

Preparing a “getting to know you” lesson that relies very little on students producing accurate language is a good start for any class. Students may get excited and almost inundate you with questions, so remember that this is also an opportunity to learn, and ask the students just as many questions. Talk about your past experiences, and why you came to the country, but also find out what a typical lesson involves and what parts of English study they enjoy.

For this “getting to know you lesson”, prepare some simple games so that you have plenty to do without running out of material. You can also use these to gauge how much students can draw on English when they are not studying it directly. Remember, however, that you don’t want to push students and that this first impression will stick with them as long as you teach them. Keep the mood light and friendly.

Use this time to identify strong and mild personalities in the class and do your best to learn the students’ names. Allow them to speak freely and don’t worry too much about trying to correct their language. You will have plenty of time in later classes in work through language material. In this first class it is much more important that you get comfortable with the class.

Also, remember that it is just one class. In your English teaching career, you will teach hundreds of lessons and dozens of ‘first lessons’ and if this one is not so successful, you will have plenty of opportunities to improve your tactics. Students are also quite forgiving, and can understand that you are adjusting to a new environment. They will usually walk into each class with a fresh perspective and be ready to learn. They will also look to you as a leader and authority figure, so it is important to be professional, yet friendly.

Finally, have fun. Every new experience is an opportunity to learn something new. By reading this article, you are already more well equipped than some teachers. If you are calm, approachable and open to your students, you will not have anything to get sweaty palms over.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Be a Traveler, Not a Tourist

jstreetThere are two main reasons people travel overseas. They may be going for a work engagement, or it may simply be a holiday. Everyone loves that feeling of arriving somewhere new and exciting, and even work trips can involve a little sightseeing. But anyone who has lived or worked in a popular spot for international guests, knows that there are inherent differences in the way some people conduct themselves when in a foreign place.

There is a colloquial saying in English; that is, “Be a traveler, not a tourist”. But what are the differences and why does it matter?

Below, we outline a few of the things that can mean the difference between being a tourist and a traveler.

Know your surroundings. Once you arrive in a new country, the first thing you should do is scope out the area where you will be staying. Do you know how to get to transport quickly and easily? Where are the closest shops for food, water and supplies? Spend a little bit of time seeing what the traffic is like out on the street. Are there busy times and quiet times? And who is nearby that can help you if you need it.

Be aware of your immediate vicinity. Many tourists get into trouble because they are too busy being awed by the new environment. Remember to keep your eyes on where you are walking and mind people around you. Often, wide-eyed tourists are taken advantage of because they are not paying attention to what is going on around them.

Be careful what you are carrying with you. Remember that you don’t need to take everything with you when you go out. The last thing you want to be doing is pulling out guidebooks and brochures every two minutes. Before you go somewhere, make sure you know where you are going and what you will need when you get there. Tourists become a target for criminals when they show their inexperience, and when they are carrying too many possessions to keep track of.
Learn some basic language. Remember that in this place, you are the foreigner and the locals might not have good English skills. People are usually sympathetic, and will try and help you, but it is courteous to at least greet and thank people in their native language. The more you know, the better off you will be. Remember that other words such as “please”, “water”, and “sorry” are also invaluable. You will find yourself much more prepared if you can also master some basic numbers.

Avoid tourist traps. While this might sound obvious, be wary of businesses set up to directly cater to tourists, and not the local people. While some tourist organizations can help you get to and see some famous landmarks, others are trying to make a quick buck. Also, places where tourists congregate are often targeted by thieves. By going where the locals go, and doing the types of activities that they do in their leisure time, you are more likely to have a positive unique experience.

Don’t dress like a tourist. You just bought that cool Brasilian flag T-shirt and now you want to wear it. There is nothing wrong with enjoying your tourist purchases, but remember that tourists can be targeted and dressing in all of your new clothes and accessories can identify this way. Remember to dress comfortably and naturally; there will be time to show off your holiday wares when you return home.

Make friends with trustworthy locals. While you don’t want to walk the streets of a new place asking people to be your friend, there is a definite advantage to having some local knowledge. If you can strike up a friendly relationship with someone local who you trust, they can be your biggest defense against being taken advantage of. Pay attention to the places they suggest to eat, and the types of places they avoid. If they are open to some cultural exchange, they can also help with the basics of the language.

Most of all; Be Aware. This is really the underlying message whenever you travel. Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. Read the mood of the situation, and pay attention to directions. If you look and act as if you know exactly what is going on around you, you will look like less of a target. Keep your belongings as close and secure as possible.

Have a good time. Traveling is a positive experience for almost everyone and you should not let paranoia about thieves put you off. The sooner you feel comfortable with your surroundings, the sooner you can start enjoying yourself. Follow our tips to enjoy your trip without fear of making yourself look like an uneducated tourist.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Experience the Culture of China while Teaching

China is a popular destination for EFL teachers. Most children in China begin learning English at school from the age of 10. There are currently millions of English language learners in China and while many of those are studying in formal schools, there are also private language academies which offer out-of-school classes. EFL employers draw on teachers from all over the world and China is rich with cultural diversity among the teaching community. The history and culture of China is also undeniable. Below we will outline a few things that we feel every visitor should see while staying there.


1. The Great Wall

The Great Wall of China is one of the 7 wonders of the world and a must see tourist destination for anyone visiting China. Its immense size and popularity means that it is accessible from many parts of the country. Stretching from horizon to horizon, it can be the most amazing and relaxing place (if you can get away from the crowds of tourists).



2. The Forbidden City and Tianammun Square

If you get some time to spare in Beijing, you should spend some time visiting Tianammun Square and the Forbidden City. These two incredible sightseeing locations sit adjacent in the center of the city. Unfortunately, Tianammun Square has a reputation for tourists, and therefore hawkers as well. Getting there when it is quiet can be difficult, but definitely worth it.


3. Pudong District

If travelling through Shanghai, it is worth visiting the Huangpu River and looking across to the Pudong District. This area has risen as the new commercial and financial hub of China and is home to some of its most recognizable skyscrapers.
The best views of the city are early in the morning, and when you have had enough of these gleaming towers, you are just a short taxi ride from Puxi, the historic capital district of Shanghai.


4. Giant Buddha Statue, Leshan

China is such a huge, old and diverse country that no matter where you are staying, you can find something amazing. In the western province of Sichuan, you can find the Leshan Giant Buddha carved into the side of a cliff by the sea. It is over 71 meters tall, making it easily the largest non-modern statue in the world. It is situated at the confluence of three rivers (the MinJiang, the Dadu, and Qingyi), which only adds to its majesty.



5. Mount Huang

In the east of the country is a mountain range known as “HuangShan”. It is a popular tourist destination among tourists and especially hikers. It includes groves of pine trees, and the granite mountain peaks. Among the spectacular views, sunsets are particularly popular, and there are places that are so high, clouds can be viewed from above. If you don’t feel like hiking, there are cable cars which can take you straight to the top, and hot springs to relax in.



6. Victoria Harbour

If visiting Hong Kong, it is a great idea to visit Victoria Harbour. With Kowloon bay on one side, and Hong Kong Island on the other, it offers fantastic ‘night views’ as the lights from the skyscrapers reflect across the water. There are plenty of opportunities to get out on the water. Hundreds of boats travel up and down the shore and some of these are ferries which allow tourists to snap some magnificent pictures of the Hong Kong skyline.



7. Terracotta Warriors

In the North West province of Xian, people can view a range of historical artifacts. Some of the oldest fossils of prehistoric human ancestors have been found there, and it was the seat of Chinese power during the 11th century. Easily the most famous historical artifacts and most recognizable symbols of Chinese culture, the Terracotta warriors, are also located here. Over 8000 soldiers, along with chariots, and cavalry horses are buried in four massive pits in Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum. Truly a sight to behold, the sheer scale of the operation is still impressive today.


8. Guilin

While the name may not be as familiar as the Great Wall or terracotta army, the countryside in Guilin is some of the most recognizable in China. Tall limestone peaks and bamboo groves line the calm waters of the Li river. While it may sound remote and isolated, Guilin city caters to tourists with many hotels and guest houses. If you would prefer a more authentic experience, a river cruise to nearby Yangshou will satisfy all of your sightseeing needs (just don’t run out of room for photos on your memory card).


9. Chengdu

If cuddly creatures are your thing, or if you happen to be travelling with your family, one place that shouldn’t be missed is Chengdu. Widely known as the Home of Giant Pandas, the Chengdu Panda Base is the worlds leading facility for the preservation of this majestic species, and the breeding of other rare animals. From here, it is only a short trip to Tibet and whole other country of fabulous sights for travelers.


10. Kunming

Located in the southern province of Yunnan, Kunming is known as the ‘Land of Eternal Spring’. Its subtropical climate means that there are plenty of large parks and Dian Lake remains a fantastic tourist attraction. The real drawcard of this city, however, is not in its natural environment, but with the people. A wide variety of China’s minorities live here and the many streets of the city provide tons of chances for amazing experiences.


Whatever you decide to do on your China trip, be sure to stay safe and be respectful of the ancient traditional culture. These are just some of the fantastic things you can see in China, we would love to hear your experiences in the comments section below.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A Teacher’s Approach to Teaching

The experiences we have with teachers while learning different disciplines can have a profound effect on how we look at that discipline in the future. We can all remember back to our school days and recall a favorite teacher; that one with whom you saw eye-to-eye, and didn’t treat you like a student, but an equal. The flip side to this, is we can all recall that terrible teacher, too; the one who called you out every time you spoke to your friends, or embarrassed you in front of the class.

When we become teachers, we constantly wrestle with that double edged sword in our own approaches. We want to make every student feel special, and nurture every student to become a better English speaker. We want to encourage and praise, keep the classroom a positive atmosphere. Looking back it is hard to imagine how that “bad” teacher from your past could really mess it up so bad and make you feel discouraged.

In reality, no teacher sees themselves as a ‘scary monster’ but some just come across that way. When you start teaching, you have to realize that it is impossible to make every student like you, no matter what your intentions are. Just as it is impossible to make everyone at a party your best friend, or to be a politician and have everyone vote for you. The thing to understand is that it is not about being a good or bad teacher, it is about connecting with the students as best you can.

You may have a prepared a lesson that you know students will enjoy, as you’ve done it before. You might clear your throat and do vocal warm-ups to make your voice clear and loud. You may check over the class register mentally prepare to help each student. However, there will always be an anomaly, an X factor, or an unforeseen circumstance. One of your star students might be sick, the video won't play, or the students are all tired from studying all night. As the teacher, you need to face these challenges and do your best.

Near the end of the lesson, most teachers begin asking evaluation questions to check how well students have taken on the knowledge of the lesson. This is where you really judge the value of your efforts. In almost every circumstance, some students will still be struggling, some will have forgotten the key points of the grammar and a few will know exactly what’s going on.

In the long run, a teacher can begin to focus on the negative and get frustrated when students don’t completely follow the lesson the way you plan. Stress can set in and every lesson can be a challenge to get as many of the students to follow every step and this can have a negative effect on the way students respond overall.

A better approach is to take joy in the students that do get the lesson, and overall you need to realize that learning a language is a journey of many steps (and many mistakes). It doesn’t matter if students occasionally have problems with certain areas, or even if the occasional lesson falls flat. The important thing to understand is that you are an example of good language use and through your use of language, you need to ease students through English language education in a friendly comfortable way.

What approaches do you take to teaching? Share your experiences in the comments section below.