TEFL 101: The Job Hunt

With the entire world at our fingertips on the internet, it is completely possible to search for jobs on the other side of the world without even getting out of bed.  Long gone are the days of lugging piles of CVs from place to place or of scouring the newspapers for jobs that had probably already been filled by the time you got in touch.  Now we are able to have immediate access to the most up to date job opportunities out there – perfect for looking for a TEFL position in any destination of your choosing.

Before exploring any of the options laid out below, make sure you have an up to date and relevant CV, a working Skype account and email address, both of which don’t have inappropriate names (sexymama101 might not be as funny to a prospective employer as it is to your friends) or profile pictures.  You may also be asked for scans of your degree certificate and transcript, your TEFL certificate and potentially a criminal record check.  It helps to have all of these things already attached to a draft email so you are good to go without having to run around looking for a working scanner at the last minute.

Websites

Quick, easy and up to date – job sites provide a hassle free way to look for a job.  Here area few websites that I have used myself when looking for a TEFL position;

ajarn.com specialises in jobs in Thailand and lets you search by area and salary

tefl.com has jobs from around the world including online work

Dave’s ESL Cafe has country specific job boards for China, Korea and beyond

Be warned – some schools are notorious for posting ads and then never getting back to the applicant, filling the position in person with a friend of a friend – don’t be put off but be aware that you may not be flooded with responses!  Persevere and over-apply – it’s always better to have a choice of job offers than becoming desperate and jumping into a position just because they said yes.

TOP TIP” be aware of and look out for scams asking for the applicant to spend hundreds of dollars in made up administration/application fees, or dodgy looking positions for phony companies.

Facebook

If you know which destination(s) you are looking at, do a few searches for expat facebook groups in the area.  These groups are not only useful for meeting other expats living in the area but will also be a good place to find local job adverts that you may not find on national websites.

A few good groups for Thailand include Teachers in Thailand, English Teaching Thailand, Thailand Foreign English Teachers Network Group, and more locally Phuket Teachers and Friends (there are similar groups for locations across Thailand.  More international groups include TEFL English Teachers Networking Group and ESL Teachers.  There are countless more groups out there, these just happen to be the ones that I have ended up joining myself.

TOP TIP: Just because you are using an informal platform for your job search, it doesn’t mean that you should treat it any differently to any other enquiry about a position.  Don’t just comment on the post – a well worded private message with a forwarding email to enable you to continue the enquiry outside of facebook is better.

REMEMBER!  Potential employers can and do check out your facebook profile before considering hiring you – so either get those privacy settings on lock down or think hard before posting that picture of you doing shots on the bar on Saturday night.

Agency work

If you find yourself moving to your destination of choice and looking for work, consider working for a teaching agency.  Yes, you should do your research first – ask around, try to speak to people who work for the agency to make sure that they are 100% legit (AKA can get you a visa and pay you a full salary).  Agency work can range from being a substitute teacher to providing maternity cover or doing one off english camps.  Many agencies are linked to a language school and so part-time evening and weekend work can become an option.  It is definitely worth considering even just to make sure you have a bit of income while you look for a more permanent position of your own.

Agency work issue of contention in the TEFL world; many, many people have had their fingers burned by agencies and so tar them all with the same brush.  You will hear tales of non payment, or broken contracts or visa troubles.  I myself was placed with an agency after completing my TEFL Heaven course and I continued to work with them for 18 months with no issues.  If anything, working for an agency meant that I got to void some of the pitfalls of working directly for a school – I was less involved in school politics and I knew that someone had my back if the proverbial hit the fan.  If I had to take a day off sick, all my classes would be covered by the agency.  All of my visa and work permit paperwork was processed by the agency with no problem.  I never had a problem with unpaid tax bills.  Yes, that agency must have been making some money off me but I earned exactly the same amount as my colleagues who were working directly for the school.  Maybe I was just lucky.

TOP TIP: If you are looking at working in the south of Thailand (Hat Yai, Songkhla and around) and don’t mind working for an agency, go say hi to Visions and see if they can help you out.

The old fashioned way

While I don’t recommend rocking up in person at every school in your chosen destination (unless you are prepared to do a lot of aimless wondering around looking for someone who can speak englishand has the time to help you), a little bit of research can go a long way.  Search the internet and find the local schools.  Get an email contact (preferably the HR department) and try your luck with an email including your CV.  Yes, many of those emails will bounce back.  Yes, many of those emails will go unanswered.  But, you may just have some luck.  I actually got my last job doing just this.  I sent out over 20 emails to schools in Phuket and of that 20 I had 3 replies, all of which were the standard we will keep your CV on file.  I didn’t have much hope.  However, 2 of those schools did keep my CV on file and did in fact get in touch when a job position came up.  Having already made the first contact I was already on the minds of the HR department and was told about the job before it had been put on job websites, putting me at an immediate advantage.

TOP TIP: It’s not a good idea to send one blanket email to all 20 schools – they can easily see that your email is completely generic, and this makes it look like you aren’t putting much effort into your job search.  Do a little bit of research and take the time to tailor each email that goes out.  Sure, you can have the same main body but adding in those little details that show you have taken the time to actually think about the school you are contacting will make you stand out from all the other emails they get asking for jobs.  It’s worth a shot!

It’s not what you know…

If you have already relocated and are frantically looking for a job, go and make friends with other teachers NOW.  Not only will they be able to tell you which schools are best to be avoided, the teachers already on the ground will be the first to find out about job positions as soon as they come up and will be able to put in a good word for you.  This is certainly the case in smaller communities where it really can be a matter of knowing the right person that will put your chances ahead of the rest.


Do you have another tried and tested method for finding a job?  Please share in the comments below…

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TEFL 101: Frequently Asked Questions

TEFL101FAQ

Some people are able to pin point exactly the moment that they decided that they were going to pursue a TEFL adventure abroad, for others it is more of a slow build up than a sudden realisation – however you come around to it, soon enough thoughts of sunshine and new surroundings and cute children and idyllic classrooms begin to fill your mind.  You begin to peruse the internet reading TEFL blog after TEFL blog, looking at this course and that course, this destination and that destination…  with all of the options that are out there it can be a confusing world of TEFL courses and Internships and online courses and 60 hours and 120 hours and Asia and Europe and South America and… Here are some of the questions that I am asked here on the blog and on my facebook page, and I expect this page to grow – I will continue to update with more FAQs as they appear…


Is an online course worth as much?

Put simply (not simply) – yes, and no.  If you are just looking for a piece of paper to land any teaching job (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially if you are only looking at a short term TEFL stint) then the online courses are not only cheaper, but can be completed from the comfort of your own home, in your home country.  You could even complete an online TEFL before you have even thought about booking flights or looking for a job. However, if you are looking to actually gain some in-depth learning and experience from your TEFL course, then a classroom based course is much more worth it.  Whether completed in your home country or in your destination of choice, being able to interact with other people and try out different teaching methods and activities is priceless.  Another benefit of taking part in a classroom based TEFL course, especially in your destination country, is that you will develop a network of friends that will provide a great base for future friendships throughout your time working abroad.


Are the TEFL packages offering ‘guaranteed jobs’ too good to be true?

I chose to do my TEFL course with TEFL Heaven – taking part in their 120 hour course in Koh Samui.  This course came complete with accommodation , support from TEFL Heaven before, during and after the course, and a guaranteed job at the end of it. The team at TEFL Heaven have a vast network of schools and agencies across Thailand and it does offer some sort of reassurance that there will be a job offer at the end of your course.  These jobs are mostly your run of the mill, Thai government school in a random town kind of jobs, but this is realistically what you would be looking at as a first time TEFLer anyway.  When I did my TEFL, everyone was placed near at least one other TEFL trainee from their course so no one was left completely alone and in the sticks. For me, it was a case of having the stress of a job search in a foreign land taken out of my hands, and it added a sense of adventure not knowing where we were going to end up.  I was lucky enough to get placed in the south of Thailand (hello beaches!) and although I have moved around a bit, I have always stuck to the south, so for me it really worked out well.


Which country should I pick?

This largely depends on why you are choosing to embark on your TEFL adventure. If you are in it for money, then look at countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Japan or the Middle East, or out in the sticks where it is impossible to spend any of the money you earn.  Countries in Europe also pay well, but this is offset by high costs of living. If you are looking for culture shock, countries outside of the comforts of the Western world check all the boxes, with Asia being a popular destination with TEFL opportunities in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan… each offering their own unique cultural differences. If you are looking to change the world or do your bit for humanity, then lower paid or possible unpaid positions are available all over the world, from working in the favelas of Brazil to teaching street children in India. You will also need to consider the requirements for each country – some will require a degree or will only accept those with teaching experience under their belt.


Can I get work without a degree?

This completely depends on which country you are looking at and what kind of job you are going for; countries including China, Cambodia, Russia, Mexico and Peru do NOT require a degree.  However, the majority of countries do require a degree; and in fact this will not only be a requirement to gain employment but to secure a work permit and legal visa.  Here in Thailand, plenty of people work without degrees but they are either not working as a teacher (for example, you can work in a language school as an instructor without a degree) or they are working illegally.  With immigration clamping down on every type of visa here in Thailand it is becoming more and more risky to do so.


When is the best time to look for a teaching job in Thailand?

There are many different types of schools in Thailand and so there are multiple academic calendars being followed within the country.

If you are looking for a TEFL teaching position in a Thai government school or Thai private school, their school year runs from May to October and November to March.  Most recruitment takes place during March/April for a May start, but with a high annual turnover of staff and a general lack of organisation, most Thai run schools tend to be looking for someone throughout the year.

International schools in Thailand usually follow the academic calendar of the country that their curriculum is based on, with some minor adjustments.  Most British international schools will run from August/September until June/July and most recruitment will take place during Jan/February as these schools tend to have a more rigorous interview process with multiple stages to get through.


Are you in the midst of making plans for your TEFL adventure?  Feeling lost in an ocean of TEFL confusion?  Ask away in the comments below – I promise I don’t bite!

Teacher Tuesday: Biography cubes

Biography cubes lesson idea
Completed biography cubes.

An excellent activity for any classes studying within the topic Talking about other people which seems to crop up in any TEFL textbook I have had thrust on me.  I have used this lesson multiple times with various classes and it has always been really successful.

Students choose their favourite celebrity and complete a worksheet with five basic sections;

What is his/her name?  Where was he/she born?

What does he/she look like?

What is his/her personality like?

What are his/her likes and dislikes?

Write three sentences about your chosen celebrity.

The sixth section requires a printed photograph of the celebrity.  Six sections = 1 section for each side of the biography cube you will be making!

If you have internet access this can be completed in class, but I preferred to do an example on the board and set it for homework.

Once the worksheet is completed and the students have a photograph, use the cube template and write the information from the sections on the cube (1 section = 1 side), sticking the photograph on the sixth side.

Et voilas!  Biography cubes!  I like to hang them from the back of the classroom (to show them off and also to stop them getting damaged).

The concept of using a 3D paper cube to display work can easily be adapted to fit within plenty of topics; it’s a nice creative way to explore an otherwise dry subject.  Have a go yourself and let me know all about it in the comments below.

This is part of a weekly feature on the Cornish Kylie blog.  If you have a lesson idea you would like to share, please get in touch!

 

Teacher Tuesday: ReBeats NEW online learning resource

rebeats 4

ReBeats is an online game that aims to improve English language learning through listening to music.  Using a simple fill in the gaps format, users watch a music video and select the correct word from two options to complete the lyrics of the song.

Scores are awarded for choosing correctly, speed and streaks of correct answers.  Users can then enter a leader board or send a challenge to a friend’s email address.

At the moment the website is still in its early stages of development and they are asking for feedback.  I decided to give the website a test run, looking at its potential as a fun resource to be used in the classroom with students.

rebeats screen shot
Screenshot from ReBeats.tv

The website is very simple with minimal instructions but it all becomes self explanatory very quickly.  You have the choice of using the mouse of the left/right buttons on the keyboard to choose the correct word.  The latter is a lot quicker.  I would like to try it out on an interactive whiteboard, with students taking it in turn to be in control of the ‘magic’ pen (watch this space).  Students left to watch can shout out suggestions or sing along, karaoke style.  I would be singing regardless.

One missing feature that I immediately picked up on is that you are unable to select the song.  They are currently randomly generated, meaning that you don’t know if Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball video might pop up next to your class of 9 year old girls, or if the vocabulary in the next song might be too easy/hard for the group.  A representative from ReBeats has assured me that this is all due to the site still being in development and hinted at song choice and making your own playlists as developments in the near future.  An even bigger improvement could be to rank songs from easy through to hard, based on the language used.

The word choices offered give a good range of easily confused words, homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings/spellings), context specific choices and basic grammar rules.  Sometimes either word could be correct, requiring students to use their listening skills.  There is only one word missing for every few lines of the song and if a song is particularly high tempo or the class are struggling to choose the correct word there is the option to pause the video and go through the sentence with the students.

At the end of each game, points, accuracy percentage and reaction times are displayed, with the option to add this to a leader board or challenge a friend via email.  My students love competition so the fact that there are points and rankings is very important when trying to keep them engaged.

rebeats 2
End of game points review.

Also, once a song is completed you have the option to review all of the lyrics with the correct answers revealed.  This could be a great time to discuss why certain words wouldn’t work in certain sentences and to review any incorrect answers made.

rebeats 3
You can review incorrect answers at the end of each game.

During the time that I played, I had songs from artists ranging from Kings of Leon, Queen and Avril Lavigne to Olly Murs, Adele and Lana Del Rey.  Most of the songs are current and ‘cool’ enough to keep my students happy.

Overall I think it’s a good resource to use in the classroom as a bit of fun at the end of the lesson.  Personally I don’t think this is a tool for serious language learning, although the team at ReBeats are promoting it as a potential resource for making real improvements in English language learning.  The site has a slick, app-like appearance and is  ad free.  As it’s currently in the beta stages of development, expect further feature and game play developments to appear in the not too distant future.  I will definitely be checking back to see what improvements are made as they receive feedback.

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All reviews on this blog are my personal and honest review.  ReBeats is a product from Tonguesten, an education technology start-up based in London and currently incubated by Wayra UK and UnLtd.  I did not receive any payment, monetary or otherwise, to write this review.  If you have a product you would like me to review please get in touch – info@cornishkylie.com .

Teacher Tuesday: Picture dictation listening activity

Teaching English typically falls into one of four categories; reading, writing, speaking and listening.  Often, the listening aspect can be overlooked or be reduced to the poor effort of pressing play on the cassette that came with the twenty year old workbook your school provides you with, (if you are lucky enough to be provided with anything, decades old or not!).

Listening doesn’t have to mean a silent class listening to an unnatural conversation carried out by actors with questionable pronunciation, it can be interactive and fun if you look outside of the realm of role play and rote Q & As.

Here is an incredibly simple listening activity that can be carried out with very little preparation – the good old dictation.

Traditionally, a dictation would require the class to sit in silence listening to the teacher reading a passage and writing word for word what they hear.  Not fun.

In this activity, the teacher reads a passage but instead of writing what they hear, the students have to draw it.

Either in groups or individually, students have to engage their ears and utilise their listening skills without getting bogged down in worries about spelling or grammar – this is a listening activity after all, not writing.

There are some variations for how you can carry this out depending on the ability of the class and how challenging you want to make it;

  • teacher reads the passage and students can only listen
  • teacher reads the passage and students can make notes
  • teacher reads the passage multiple times including part way through the drawing process
  • teacher reads the passage once and students can come and ask questions to clarify specific details
  • teacher reads the passage and gives a copy to students
  • teacher reads the passage and shows it on the projector/writes it on the whiteboard

Below is an example passage that I have used in my classroom.  You can of course use your own words, taking into consideration the previous learning you have done with your class, or perhaps a descriptive piece of writing from a book.  The important factor is that there are specific details that can be checked off afterwards.

It is a hot summer day and the sun is high up in the sky.  A few white fluffy clouds sit in the bright blue sky and three birds are flying.  The sea is sparkling in the sunlight and the beach is looking beautiful.  A family is sitting on the beach; mum is sat in the shade of an umbrella reading a book, dad is making sandcastles with the daughter and the son is standing in the sea, feeling the cool water on his feet.  A crab is close to him and he can see fish in the sea.  Everyone is happy and having fun.  Two palm trees stand tall, one on the left, one on the right.  On the right, four monkeys play in the tree, throwing coconuts down below.

I’m a big fan of (healthy) competition in the classroom, so I always do this with small groups of students, each group with a  piece of A3 paper.  I encourage students to take different roles, with less artistically inclined students responsible for reading the passage or asking the teacher questions (depending on how you run the activity) and checking off particular details.  The artists in the group will go to town creating wonderful pictures that you can then keep to display around the classroom.

After a set amount of time, I like to get groups up one by one to show their work and as a class we go through the passage and check off each detail.  The group whose picture has the most correct details, wins!

Further variations and extensions of this activity include;

  • students write passages to read to each other
  • matching descriptive passages to pictures
  • students look at a picture and write a passage describing it

Even if you don’t specifically teach listening as a subject, it is an aspect of English teaching that is often overlooked.  Needing so little preparation other than having a piece of writing to hand (you could even write one on the spot if you were caught out) this activity is perfect to insert into any lesson as a warm up, filler or just a bit of creative fun.  Why not try it yourself and let me know how it goes?

This is part of a weekly feature – Teacher Tuesday – make sure you come back next week for another lesson idea.  If you have an idea to share as part of Teacher Tuesday feel free to get in touch.