Volunteer to work for many years teaching English in North Korea

I guess working in North Korea is so appealing, that Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, PUST doesn’t have to pay their English teachers.

Description of Ideal Candidate:

The ideal candidate will be an energetic, responsible, and well-qualified professional teacher with relevant English teaching experience. In general, a Master’s level degree (in any subject) is required, as well as at least one year’s classroom English teaching experience at high school, college, or university level. An English teaching qualification (TEFL/ CELTA/ TESOL) is also highly preferred. (For undergraduate classes, a Bachelor’s qualification may be accepted if the applicant has sufficient relevant teaching experience.) Due to the nature of the work and campus-based lifestyle, candidates should also be willing to work as part of a team, submit to authority, and exercise flexibility, cross-cultural sensitivity and perseverance.


Deadline: Always Active

Cost/funding for participants:

Not Funded. Positions are not funded – they are voluntary! Those who come to serve with us must have their own financial support, for various costs and expenses incurred.

They copied and pasted a description from Wikipedia (including the “citation needed” part) so academic rigor is there.

The job ad says you have to submit to authority. Maybe read this BBC article to help you guess what that means.

Students “are the sons of some of the most powerful men in North Korea, including senior military figures.” And the students sing: “Our supreme commander Kim Jong-un, we will defend him with our lives,” as they march to breakfast.

Here’s the job ad.

What’s the appropriate punishment?

Teachers at a bar playing a game where they would list 3 colleagues (not students) and choose one to kill, one to marry, and one to sleep with.

Here’s an article with more info.

The debate among my friends seems to be whether or not the teachers should be fired (nearly everyone I have spoken with agrees the teachers should be punished).

Domestic violence discussion

Here’s a potentially interesting discussion topic. I’d suggest asking students if they would expect similar or different reactions in their hometown. The video shows two scenes in the UK – one where a man grabs a woman and one where a woman is the aggressor.

On a related note, I sometimes did a roleplay with my students based on a scene from season 1 of Lost – the scene where the Korean woman is wearing a bikini and the husband is working too hard to get her to cover up. The Korean husband ends up knocking his wife over and an American intervenes. The American punches the Korean guy only to be slapped by the Korean woman. I felt that scene would lead to an interesting discussion of domestic violence in different cultures and made for a good 3 person roleplay.

A handy place to link to conferences that interest me

Since other intercultural trainers / language teachers may be interested in the same conferences I am, I thought I’d share my notes and links.

TESOL international submit by June the year before (June 2014 for the 2015 conference)

TESOL’s calendar – (focuses on immediately upcoming conferences for which the deadline for submissions has passed. Scroll down far enough and you may see something you can submit to)

IAICS 2014 – submit to the The International Association for Intercultural Communication Studies by Feb. 2014 for their July-August conference.

Controversy in New York over Smarter Balanced Assessment of Common Core State Standards

SBA = Smarter Balanced Assessment
CCSS = Common Core State Standards
NCLB = No Child Left Behind

The CCSS and SBA have led to a huge uproar in many New York State school districts. Many parents had their kids opt out of testing, fearing the tests put too much stress on children.

Here’s what one parent had to say:

My daughter is going into 4th grade so she took them this past year. Man what stress. I can’t imagine being that stressed about anything when I was 8! In my town too there was quite an uproar during the testing time. My wife and I would never have had her not take it. I’m an OT in a school, my wife is a speech therapist in a high school, mot of my family are teachers. I believe that it’s just not a good message to send to have your child not take it.

Here’s what one teacher had to say:

The Common Core State Standards are simply a set of standards that outline what should be taught as students progress through their pre-college career. From what I gather, most educators (like myself) don’t have a problem with the new standards, beyond the typical resistance to change you’d find in any organization. Teachers must invest tons of time rewriting curriculum and lesson plans to be aligned with CCSS. This isn’t something everyone wants to do. Also, there is a growing number of educators in the circles I run with who are of the mindset that CCSS is going to be replaced or repealed eventually, so why bother?

In truth, I think a lot of people, educators included, can get behind a universal set of standards, and that’s why they were written. Teachers just want to know that the rewrites aren’t going to happen every few years.

As for the standards themselves, as a high school math teacher I personally wish the math standards focused less on process and more on mathematical thinking. There already is a lot of reference to the use of computer-algebra-systems in the standards, but the future of mathematics is clearly moving away from the traditional computations toward the computer-based maths model.

The thing that so many are opposed to is the testing developed based on the standards. This testing is often referred to as the Smarter Balanced Assessment. While related, I think the best discussions come about when people are able to distinguish between the two (CCSS and SBA).

I have found that criticism of SBA is actually more a criticism of the heavy emphasis on testing that the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) laws have promoted. Teachers generally hate the pressure of high-stakes testing, and are quick critics of the process, the pressure, the outcomes, and the conclusions of these tests. I believe it’s the teacher’s job to focus on teaching the curriculum the best way possible and not be distracted by testing of any kind, so I don’t really have a problem with the testing. I kind of remember always being tested as a kid (we did the CTBS and ITBS when I was young). To me it’s just a part of the process for students. The issue teachers should have is with the administrators who overreact to everything and pass pressure down to their teachers ineffectively, instead of leading them to improved teaching.

The way I view it, there are a lot of ineffective teachers out there. Administrators are responsible for the development or elimination of these teachers. Unfortunately there are a lot of ineffective administrators as well. The NCLB laws can help eliminate those administrators. The benefits of this should be obvious, although admittedly there can be a lot of pain as entrenched administrators fight to keep their jobs as the ineffective ones will resort to all kinds of tactics to improve test scores. Teachers should, imo, support the laws and work to improve their own teaching. A true teacher can lead from the classroom and help their school beyond the walls of their own classroom, imo. This should be their focus.

It’s just so much easier to complain. I mean if the dumb NCLB laws were to go away, we wouldn’t have to do any of that, now would we?

And another educator:

These kids have three days straight of the ELA test and three days straight of the Math test. These kids are stressed because it is a lot of information and if you don’t do well you go into an AIS class. Kids are embarrassed to be seen leaving our AIS classroom.

The stress students feel is because they are worried about the outcomes. The outcomes they fear (AIS classes) are not federally mandated, but are the product of weak administrators passing the fear along to the students. Is it possible to create a positive, winning attitude about tests? Absolutely. But that takes a disciplined, fearless leadership, which is obviously missing in many school districts.

Also, these AIS classes are a joke. You have like 10-15 kids that all have different teachers and are all working on different material at the same time so you can’t really do a lesson with them. It’s basically a study hall. You just have them take out their math work and work on that. Then you have to deal with, “I don’t have homework, I can’t find my work, I did it already, etc.”. Now you have to have them get out their folders and do computer work. If you have 10 kids then they get about 4 minutes of my time each to help them out on the best days. On the worst days you are dealing with kids having temper tantrums, kids crying, kids upset, etc. so you get about 2 minutes a piece.

Here is the problem. It is very simple. These rules, laws, etc. are made up by non-educators. We never get any input. They may listen to us but we aren’t heard. Then you have your local administrators want you to think their hands are tied, that all your problems are the result of the stupid laws they have to follow. They spend more time persuading parents that it’s not the administration’s fault than they do trying to make things better for the kids.

The national laws, the CCSS do not mandate when anything is to be taught. Educators have the freedom within CCSS to create their own curriculum – they are just supposed to use the CCSS as the underlying guide for that curriculum. Also, educators have the freedom to adjust within the year the amount of time spent on units and the order of the units. But the administrators throw more restrictions down and then blame the national law instead of their own incompetence.

ESLgo.com FAQ – certificate / letter for the TOEFL

The question: Hi Jim, I’m a foreign nursing graduate from the Philippines and I submitted applications to take the licensure to some states like Nevada but they required me to take ESL class before I could take a TOEFL exam. Is there any chance you could help me achieve that requirement. I know you help so many people by your site. I would really appreciate a reply from you. I’m looking for a free ESL class or teacher that will provide me a proof document/letter or certification that i attend a English class. Thank you and God bless.

My answer: Hi there! All study materials are online. The idea is to use the exercises at eslgo.com/classes.html, than practice on the forums at eslgo.com/conversation/ . When I see your language on the forums, I can reply with corrections and suggestions.

That’s how the learning happens. I can write a letter once I’ve seen enough of your language, but I don’t know the TOEFL requirements so I can’t promise that my letter will entitle you to take the TOEFL.

I hope you decide to study with us at eslgo.com (though you may want to check the requirements for that letter for the TOEFL) and I wish you luck on your journey.

Hourly rate in America vs. Korea for ESL teachers

I recently taught a 3 week course for some Brazilian teens here in Florida. The pay was $24 an hour. The money didn’t impress me but it was a good experience and I was exposed to some cultural differences that gave me an idea for a series of roleplays designed to help teachers prepare for classroom management issues.

More recently I interviewed for a position in the continuing education language program at the local Valencia Community College. I wanted the job because I’ve rarely taught classes with lots of nationalities, and all my experience was in an EFL setting; this was ESL. The pay was $20 an hour. I didn’t take the job, though I would have were it within walking distance. The gas, wear and tear on my car, driving time, etc. just made me feel that it would cost me money to take the job.

I could spend the time working on my second book or working on eslgo.com or writing articles to pad my CV. I could even spend the time teaching SAT classes much closer to home and I imagine I would get the same money or more. I mean when I taught SAT classes as a recent college grad 13 years ago I think I got 20/hour or slightly better. Now I have a Master of Applied Linguistics, a CELTA, and a bunch of experience.

Plus in Korea I don’t think I’ve ever been offered less than $40 an hour. So it’s a bit hard for me to understand this $20 an hour thing. Are American employers just working harder to profit off the work of teachers than their Korean counterparts? Do Koreans take English education more seriously than Americans? Is it simply the high unemployment in America that leads to a big supply / small demand for English teachers while unemployment in Korea doesn’t really impact native English speakers like me?

New roleplay for intercultural practice

New roleplay based on something my students taught me. Much like Korea, Brazilians often live with their parents until they get married. An American might not see this as normal so an American dating a 30-year-old from Brazil might wonder what’s wrong with the Brazilian who lives with his or her parents.

Describe these videos: wanted, asked, told, said practice

Friends, The Sopranos, Ace Ventura, Mr. Baseball – here are scenes I think are worth describing for students to practice reported speech, past tenses, story telling, etc.

Punish the zoo? the animals? the mother? noone?

Sad story here, with a few topics causing some controversy in America on this election night. In the next days it might make for a decent discussion topic in language classes. It is a gruesome topic – a young boy’s parents watched their son be killed by wild dogs.

The boy’s mother had picked him up and put him on top of a railing at the edge of a viewing deck late Sunday morning when he lost his balance and fell, said Barbara Baker, CEO and president of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. There was a safety net below the railing, but it failed to catch him and the boy dropped more than 10 feet into the enclosure, she said. The child did not die from the fall. The child was mauled by the dogs.

Blame the mom: According to the article, the railing was four foot high and sloped inward so that anyone perching on it would likely fall back to the observation deck. The mother had to actively defeat safety mechanisms. Personally, I think she should face child endangerment charges.

Blame everyone nearby: How no one jumped in is beyond me. I would have been right behind my son. Or anyone’s son. I couldn’t live with myself if I was a bystander and just stood there as the kid fell in and got mauled. Such a tragic incident. The kid’s father wasn’t right there but the mother and the other people around didn’t want to help the kid?

Blame the zoo (and the mother): I’m just saying that the zoo’s precautions failed. They didn’t fail because someone went to extraordinary, unforeseeable means to avoid them. They did something stupid. Again I’m just saying that in my opinion, the zoo will be found to have had a share In the liability. They will settle and build a better barrier.

Defend the zoo: In my mind, you enter a zoo knowing there are dangerous animals there. If somebody wants to vault over an enclosure, so it be the zoo’s right to stop them? If somebody wants to dangle a child over an open area surrounded by wild dogs, should the zoo be the one preventing that? My take is the same in these matters. Unless a structural failure caused the problem or an animal got wild into an unenclosed area and tore somebody to shreds, the zoo took reasonable precautions. Why should the zoo be on the hook because somebody decided to dangle their child? Why should the zoo be held liable for somebody violated the safety measures? I hate when everyone becomes at fault when really there’s just one person at fault – the parent.