Category: ELT jobs

Question about privates

I recently got this email about teaching privates. I’m answering it here in case other teachers have similar interests.

Dear Jim –

I have recently come accross your website and think it’s fantastic.

I need some advice.

I have taken an ESL course from Trinity / Windsor but have not had classroom experience outside the course. The course was great in giving us a basic set of skills, but I would like some advice on how to give a private student value for money.

I am taking on some private students but would love some clues on how to tackle estcablishing a curriculum for a student – are there skill indicator tests for grammar and the like ; should i use one particular set of text books (and do i need to buy the student, teacher and exercise books as many come in these sets and the cost can be astronomical) as a basis – any particular recommendations?; any other ideas.

Any help greatly appreaciated.


Your first question was about curriculum. Honestly, designing a long term course is very difficult and I’m guessing your Trinity didn’t cover anything beyond 6 hours; I know my CELTA didn’t.

So I don’t suggest trying to come up with your own curriculum. Find a book that works for both you and the student. If you want to ask questions about that specific book, try my message board (if you don’t see a forum for whatever book you’re using send me an email and I’ll add whatever you need).

The best skill indicator test I know of is talking to the student. This shoud allow you to find out what the student wants to learn, what situations the student will be using English in, what kind of grammar mistakes the student makes, and what level of vocabulary the student posesses. Make sure to ask the student what books s/he has studied from in the past so you don’t try to use a book the student has already completed!

When it comes to who pays for the book, I would say that this is a question of personal preference. There may be a precedent wherever you are, but I don’t know of one here in Korea. If the student is paying above average for your services, strongly consider paying for the book. Otherwise go with your gut. My wife normally makes students pay for their own book (but not for the teacher’s manual). I never ask students to buy the book (unless I’m teaching a class; no way am I buying 10 books!).

Hope that helps.

How important is facilitating a SIG?

I thought that being the KOTESOL CALL SIG facilitator would really impress people when they saw it on my CV. Now, however, I am beginning to think it’s not very impressive.

My first clue was when I interviewed for a higher position here at Catholic University. They asked me if I was able to teach a CALL class. I was taken aback by the question; hadn’t they seen “CALL SIG facilitator” on my CV?

Then recently I tried to resign. Only one person expressed an interest in the position and that interest was limited to one email and may have been more about curiosity than anything else.

And I remember when I got the job back in 2003. I went to join this SIG and noticed a message on the KOTESOL web page “The CALL SIG is currently in need of a facilitator”. There just aren’t that many people who want to do the job.

Now if I somehow turned the CALL SIG into some monster organization like Kip Cates has done with the Gloabl Issues SIG in Japan, I would end up making a name for myself. But just being a facilitator does not seem to impress.

Working for free

So you may remember the teacher who helped the university out by taking on numerous extra classes. Then he learned that the university couldn’t pay him for all 33 hours he’s teaching.

There seemed to be no way around this (which bothers me because it seems that the university doesn’t realize how indebted they should feel to him) so he offered to teach 3 hours free and not do office hours (he would be available by appointment only).

The university should have agreed to this right away or offered to take one of his classes. They have done neither.

Too much overtime

You may remember me complaining about my schedule. Well I recently learned that a friend of mine has too much overtime. The university does not ahve enough teachers and my friend is doing 15 hours overtime. But it seems that a Korean law prevents him from getting paid all that overtime.

So he is ready to drop a few classes if the university won’t bend the rules for him. Of course, we all feel we have too much work (though I think he wins) and no one wants his classes. This might become an interesting story so I’ll keep you posted.

May be blogging a bit after all

Well I had complained about my schedule and it has gotten a little better. I now ahve 6 classes instead of 7 and one less writing class so fewer papers to correct. Of course i still ahve 6 preps as no two classes are the same so i will be planty busy this semester…

May not be blogging much this semester…

I’m asking for a change, but if I don’t get one I’ll be quite busy during the Spring semester. My contract calls for 12 hours, but my schedule calls for 21!

The workload is a real problem because I have 7 classes with 6 different preperations. 4 of these are writing classes which will require lots of correcting and public speaking also requires much correcting. Also on Tuesday I begin teaching at 9:00 AM and finish at 10:30 PM (but only have 3 hours of classes) while Thursday is only slightly better. I can live with a 5 day work week, but as the schedule stands now I’m not sure if I can handle all the classes effectively.

Sponsored by Puppies for Sale, a good place to look for puppies.

Switching departments

So I’m moving to another department at CUK. My previous director was fantastic, especially when my grandfather passed away and I had to leave Korea for a week and a haf, but after two years of teaching New Interchange (three if you count my previous job) I was looking for a new challenge. I was having difficulty being creative with only two hours a week and a requirement to cover the text.

Plus as some of the regualr readers will know (almost 300 different people/day now), I was having issues with some teachers being given raises and a warning that the raise promised me might not be given. At the new department I get more vacation time – I teach only the two 16 week semesters with no summer or winter camp.

And there’s a bit more prestige within the university as every teacher in my new department has at least a Masters. In my old one a few of us had Masters, but not all (I’m not saying that you need a Masters to be a good language teacher, just that when everyone has a Masters the department gets more prestige).

I’m told that one of us had no teaching experience of any kind – just an undergrad degree. Again, this person might be a brilliant teacher (though no experience makes this more unlikely than no advanced degree), but some people must wonder why the school calls us visiting professors.

A remarkable career

One of the most stressful things in life for me is the job hunt. I don’t enjoy wrtiting cover letters and going to interviews. One of the books I got for Christmas, Purple Cow by Seth Godin, has some advice for making your job hunt easier:

Be remarkable. Do an outrageous job. Work on high-profile projects.

Think about Dave Sperling of Dave’s ESL Cafe fame. His teaching qualifications are pretty standard but he gets more speaking invitations than me. He did something remarkable.

I do a lot of academic things; I make presentations, publish papers, faciliatate the KOTESOL CALL SIG, have a Masters. I used to think that made me special, but that’s what professors are supposed to do. It’s expected.

Maybe what I really need is for ESL go to take off. Or this blog of course…

Is a promise a promise?

A complaint about my job. Last semester I was promised a raise when I completed my Master of Applied Linguistics. I completed it, waited a few months for them to mail me the diploma, did a bunch of paperwork, and was told I wouldn’t get the raise until next year because they couldn’t change my current contract.

The other day they asked me to stay and I agreed. Then they told me I might not get the raise I was promised. My colleague got a raise when she finhed her Masters, thanks to some strong lobbying from the previous coordinator. I’ve asked the new coordinator to do the same for me but she ahs only been here a few months while the previous one had been here a number of years.

This whole thing is very upsetting. I don’t like thinking that the university won’t back up the previous coordinator’s promise. I don’t like thinking that my colleague will be making more money than me while we have the same qualifications. I was wondering if I should be mad because another colleague who has been here only 6 months told me they promised him a raise next semester. I’m not going to be angry if that’s a raise for the entire staff, but otherwise I think I’ll be very angry.

Ewha University job interview

So the 20 minute sample lesson was OK, but not spectacular. The students didn’t seem to know each other and were a bit uncomfortable talking to each other. In a real class we would have been playing games to break the ice…

Anyway I didn’t get the job but want to write down the questions they asked before I forget them all.

Your sample lesson was a vocabulary lesson. Do you use any other methods to teach vocabulary?

What is your approach to teaching writing?

What is your greatest strength as a teacher?

Are you willing to work many extra hours?

Why do you want to leave your current position?

A while back, why did you leave a school after only one year?

What responsibilities do you have at your current school other than teaching?

How do you assess students in your current school?

There must have been more, but I can’t remember them now. What I noticed and didn’t like was that they didn’t allow time in the schedule for me to ask questions.