Wednesday, August 29, 2012

5 things to include on your EFL teaching resumes

1. A picture
 Many times, like it or not, we are hired because we look the part. I look like an American. It gets me jobs. I have helped hire replacements and seen them trash anything without a picture, so put a picture on it. Your picture doesn't need to be anything fancy. I think I took mine with a timer against a blank wall. If you normally wear tons of make-up tone it down, but let them know what you will normally look like (so they aren't surprised by the green eyeshadow on the first day). Be sure to smile! Employers want to hire someone who doesn't look miserable all the time and your smile shows that you are someone who they want.

2. Skype
Most of my job interviews abroad have been via Skype, so I make sure to give this in addition to my phone number and e-mail address. I am also sure to always keep my Skype "statuses" appropriate. Nothing about nursing a hangover or wanting to kill a boyfriend.

3. Keep the English simple
Usually the person reading your resume will speak English well, however sometimes I am applying to schools who are google translating my resume. In that case complicated phrases and idioms won't work too well. Keep it succinct without flowery language. Now is not the time to show off your fantastic English; it is the time to show you can communicate clearly with second language speakers without speaking down to them.

4. Content
As far as content goes, I am now blessed enough to have enough experience I don't need to include non-education jobs. However, in the past I would include jobs that weren't education related. I just made sure to point out what skills it gave me that would help. Multi-tasking, Making things simple, Organization etc. For example as Aquatics Manager I trained people, that is a type of teaching so it gets highlighted. I also created a new filing method for the swim lessons to up enrollment and retention. That shows I am organized and for language schools that I understand keeping clients happy.  When I au-paired I focused on the educational aspects: Created activity books, Made TBL activities (which was essentially all we did), etc.

5. Abroad Experience
If you have it PROMOTE it! Even if it was just a Summer in Italy in high school show that you can live in a different culture. So many people take jobs and head back home within a month. This really messes things up for the school and is one of the reasons I am convinced I get as many job offers as I do. I have shown I have no problems living abroad and I am not a flight risk. Before I had my teaching experiences abroad I added it to my education section:

Dec 2007         B.A. Degree in Communications and Minor in Spanish           3.0 G.P.A                                               San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
Also studied through SDSU’s abroad program:
Dec 2005         Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
May 2006        Antonio de Nebrija, Madrid Spain
Summer 2006  Women’s Studies Course Throughout Turkey 

What am I missing? What do you make sure to inlcude on your resumes when you are headed to a new place?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why grammar comics are amazing...and where to find them

Comics are awesome.

They just are.

They make students laugh (always a plus) help visual learners, and tend to have very succinct summarizations of otherwise complicated grammar topics.

If nothing else, they give examples that grab student's attention.

But where to find these miraculous creatures?

You can always resort to google. Just google the grammar topic and comic and then click on images. If you need help Googling check out this link.

The downside is that you tend to get a lot of stock images and irrelevant pictures.

I tend to read and every day and Pin comics that I know will work well for me, my classes or topics that come up a lot.

I also keep up on as they tend to have a lot of good stuff on you vs your, they're vs their and other common mistakes that your students will relate to (and have probably already seen as they love 9gag)

The comic above is from Boggleton, who has grammar comics involving misused words and participial phrases as well as full on grammar explanations.

Otherwise some sites have specific sections for grammar comics. The oatmeal has some nice full on grammar explanations; such as, how to use a semicolon.

I talked about GrammarCat before. There aren't a lot of strips, but the ones that are there are good.

BrightlyWound is no longer updated, but it does have a collection of grammar comics.

This bitstrips comic has some great grammar reviews

My students just used The Yuniversity, which I decided to look up and was super pleased to see that they have some awesome explanations that students would surely find more interesting than a simple list.

More on why I don't like standardized tests

A brief reminder from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal on why I don't like standardized tests.

Punctuation PostSecret

I got this from day. I usually use it as a hook/ brain teaser during the warm up portion of a punctuation lesson.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Tutor: by Debra A. Boyle M.Ed.

Photo via her LinkedIn profile

I recently had a chance to read, The Tutor by Debra A. Boyle. Debra is a tutor with a Master’s in Education with over 20 years experience tutoring.
Per her own words, "This [book] is not a documentary nor is it a fiction novel. It is also not an autobiography. What this book hopes to accomplish is to provide information for both parents and teachers into the difficulties students face, especially those with disabilities."
As someone who has both tutored and taught I found some of her conclusions interesting, For example, “Only a teacher who is confident of his/her position and skills will welcome outside help from a tutor.” I had never had a teacher who did not welcome my help as a tutor, nor have I ever discouraged tutors from helping my students (with the exception of those who have a “tutor” who writes all their papers for them). Since I had never experienced this on either end news of this shocked me, however... it does make sense. She goes on, “In contrast, a teacher having few years of experience, new to the district, or otherwise lacking success in their own skills... attempt[s] to show their principal, students, and students’ parents that they are fully able to manage their challenging students without other professional help."
At other times she speaks ad nauseum about the smallest details, which I would hope most tutors would overlook. She discusses the horrors of a hungry child, the perils of a messy room, and the nerve of a cat to bathe in front of her. She refers to the increase of diagnosed ADD students, and while I know that is true I also know that many parents encourage their children to be ADD as the extra time on tests helps them academically and the drugs make them easier to parent. Thus I am always wary of anything mentioning ADD.
Many other opinions she mentions however I completely agree with. My thoughts on standardized tests mirror hers. When she refers to Standardized Tests she refers to a student she had who despite improving in class and in their tutoring sessions had received a lower grade on her standardized test. She explains to the father, “Ella may have not felt well; was stressed since state tests are dreaded indicators of what class a student will be in for the next school year; or had rushed herself so that she placed her answers in the wrong spaces. It is difficult to determine just exactly why a student receives an odd grade in comparison to his/her typical grades... Give a student the same test three days in a row and it is likely that you will get three different scores. So which score is the accurate one?”
She discusses the different ways of teaching (since all students learn differently, “For some students, it is necessary to present concepts in extremely visual methods—via videos, drawings, pictures, objects, artifacts, as well as nearly pantomiming every word while speaking, much as like using sign language. For other students, it is essential that auditory methods be accentuated by using a recording of their own voice while reading or speaking; asking them to explain a concept just learned as if they were “the teacher and I was the student”; involving music, singing; or overly enunciating phonemes until they can be repeated with accurate distinction....” this is something I am really a believer in (I am a very audio learner. It is very difficult for me to remember something I read or saw, but if I heard it I can usually remember it verbatim. As such I make conscious efforts to vary the methods I use to teach. (Kinesthetic: (Origami, TPR Audio: Songs  Visual: Drawing Stories, Drawing Sentence And things that combine (songs with TPR or chants with TPR which are both audio and visual etc.)

She goes on to mention her experiences in the class and out of the classroom with special education students where my heart goes out to her. I have rarely worked with them but I know what a challenge it is to use different methods constantly to try and keep their attention and help them learn. She also mentions emotionally and behaviorally disabled (EBD) students of which I have only taught in the lower class levels (preschool) but have always been a test of patience.
Throughout the book she quotes facts about tutors, famous tutors, poems about tutors etc. She also includes various case studies which I felt were more like vignettes, some of which I found very intriguing, others of which I finished reading wondering why she had bothered to include them.
She ends the book with a plea for education to consider changing. Her proposal is learning centers. “Imagine that every public school building in your community was a quality learning center. Any person residing in the vicinity could visit the center so that there would not be a restriction on the number of students—not even a lottery would be necessary. During regular school hours the center would be open for students to work year-round on their graduation requirements. While some students may progress faster than others, the goal would be to assist each student through the basic and advanced knowledge needed to be a 'graduate'.” While there are many things I disagree with I encourage her ability to think outside the box and recognize that there is a lot lacking in the current education system.
Overall the book was something that I learned from and had me thinking. Though I didn't always agree with her, critical thinking to defend my own perspectives is always helpful. If you are a tutor, a teacher whose students use tutors, a parent who has used tutors or really just someone wondering what on earth a tutor could have to write a book about I'd recommend that you check out Debra A Boyle's book The Tutor.

If you are interested in checking out the glamorous (or not-so-glamorous) life of a tutor via Mrs. Debra A. Boyle you can check out more about the book to the left OR the KINDLE version to the right.

You may also be interested in checking out the two children's early readers she has created. After reading The Tutor I have great faith that the books would be helpful for students who need assistance in reading or in tutors and teachers looking for books to help struggling students.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jobs for experienced teachers

In another post I point out a few good places to check out jobs if you are just getting into the TEFL. There are other places to look when you are already an "established" teacher and looking for jobs.

Now I am at a point in my life where I have experience teaching at multiple levels, a CELTA, and a Masters in a relevant field in addition to my Bachelors. This means that I am looking for other jobs than I did in the past.

I still think you should keep three things in mind when looking for a new job.

1. Is it legal? I always avoided anything that appears to be under the table. First, because I hate breaking the law (yes yes I am a goodie goodie) and second because I planned on spending most of my life living abroad; the last thing I needed was to be blacklisted from visiting some country because of visa violations. It is also safer to have a legal job. At this point in your career you are a professional and should not be sneaking around.

2. Is it verifiable? Google those people! Use your blind date stalking skills for good. Google e-mail addresses, names, the company, etc. Check out their LinkedIn profiles. Check blogs for past employees. Ask to speak to past/current employees. Again, you shouldn't need to take many chances here you aren't a risk so they should be a sure thing.

3. Is it appropriately compensating you? In Mexico I don't make as much as I would in San Diego (assuming I could get a job), but my apartment is much cheaper than what I would be paying in San Diego (as well as other expenses). So even though I am making less I am still able to save, and overall my pay is appropriate for my experience and location. There are other jobs here that pay half of what I make. Those may be great for other people, but at this point in my professional life they aren't for me anymore.

If you are looking into Korea I still recommend  EPIK(rural Korea and Seoul) or GEPIK (involving the doughnut shaped province that surrounds Seoul). Again you must be a "native English Speaker." You do get a pay raise depending on how your level of experience. Salary varies from 2 million won to 2.5 million won depending on your experience and qualifications (2,000-2,500 USD roughly) plus a one time settling fee (to buy pots, pans, etc). If you finish your contract you get a months salary as a bonus. You are given an apartment (which is paid for by the school) and there are often workshops. You work 8 hours a day 5 days a week, but you should only teach 22 hours a week. I believe now GEPIK requires a TEFL.

There's quite a few job search sites that you can find focused on different grades:
  • Now, everyone will tell you to check out Dave's Cafe, as it is a pretty good site with jobs worldwide. It is very popular (which means lots of jobs!)  but it doesn't really regulate who posts jobs. Because of this, it is really important to thoroughly check the company.
  • HigherEdJobs is available for people looking for jobs in higher education (which normally requires more experience).
  • The Chronical of Higher Education has a job forum which also focuses on higher education.
  • ESLJobs is a decent job forum as well.
Social Networking
  • Mainly however I find these jobs through networking. My Masters program still e-mails me when jobs are available that would be suited to my major. 
  • I am a big LinkedIn fan. Especially if you are active in relevant discussions people are more likely to think of you as a fellow teacher, rather than a stranger. 
  • I know that facebook is traditionally a personal site but every year when my school hires new teachers I make a quick announcement on my facebook to let my fellow teachers know that they can apply. If they were to apply then they would have a plus: a teacher working here now who can talk to the director personally. What a leg up! In addition a lot of schools have facebook and will post job openings on their social networks before reaching out to recruiters or job sites. 
  • Nowadays Twitter is a pretty easy place to check out jobs. You can keep it like facebook where you just follow schools' tweets and look for hints of jobs. An alternative is to look for relevant hashtags  there's also a twitjobsearch page worth checking out.
 Am I missing any? What programs do you find great for EFL teachers with more experience?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Formal non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy, essential skills and language learning in Canada

I have had this written for a while and kept forgetting to post it. A while back I snagged a copy of this research by Sarah Elaine Eaton, Ph.D. and found it an interesting read.

First off some background on the author Dr. Eaton's PhD is from the University of Calgary in Educational Leadership and a Master of Arts in Spanish. Now we all know my ears perk up when I can identify with someone and with her I identify with the Spanish! She has about 12 years of experience teaching Spanish to adults and young adults. She also gave a workshop in Mexico called “Bilingual Education: Sharing ideas, understanding context: Experiences from Alberta.” Given all that (and some more I skipped over) I was looking forward to reading what her study had found.

Right off the back she explains that this is not an exhaustive study. Rather, this is a study that highlights specific examples for the simple purpose of understanding literacy and language learning.

1 All learning is useful
2 learning happens everywhere
3 Interdisciplinary

First she briefly reviews the different types of learning (KVARK) as well as the different contexts in which learning occurs (formal, non-formal, and informal).

Assuming that literacy is the first step for more advanced language acquisition Dr. Eaton chooses to start there. First she delves into the topic of what is literacy?
adopting the system the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada uses.

Since literacy is defined Dr. Eaton goes on to gives specific examples of acquiring literacy through the different contexts and how they differ from one another as well as looking at it specifically concerning foreign language literacy.

I wouldn´t say the results were surprising, but it was nice to have my beliefs reinforced through reading.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Basic Steps of Teaching any lexis

A big part of the CELTA was a focus on working from Meaning. So the first thing to do when teaching (well OK the FIRST thing to do is grab the students attention) but then whenever going over new vocabulary words there's a road-map of sorts that they give you. I have found it super helpful, so maybe others will find it a nice review. This works with ANY level you are teaching.

Meaning- Tell a story, show pictures, use a song, use smells, bring in realia, bring in movie clips do anything you can to SHOW the meaning of the words you are going to work on (this works best if the words are all grouped somehow). With preschoolers maybe this means you are showing a video of Arthur the aardvark at school. With older students you are asking them about their weekend and hinting at all of the theme of your lesson.

Pre-Teaching Lexis- The words you have selected to teach should be words that you don't think they know, but give them some credit. Start the draw and tell but don't tell them what each thing is, have them guess. "Struggle" with a word and see if they can guess what it is. Play hang man. Scramble the word. Play password. Etc.

Text-  Finally introduce them to the text where they will see the words used. This can be a reading, or audio. They may want to circle the vocab words and see if it matches what they think it means. They can also listen to the story to make sure it makes sense.

Language Focus- Ask some concept check questions to see if they understand the questions. Have them do chants if they are younger or choruses if they are older and need the pronunciation help. If they have a word journal now is a good time to have them add to it.

Controlled Practice- This is when they have a gap fill or word to definition match, TPR, following of directionsfix mistakes, answer specific questions (adding details), some simple pair games (more complicated ones are free practice), Songs

Free Practice- This is a LOT more fun. Have them draw the picture, make an rhyme,
make them  practice sentences and pictures,  answer open questions etc.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Commonly Mixed Up Words

So in the TOEFL class we go over commonly mixed up words such as Lay vs Lie, Sensitive and Sensible etc. I just came accross Grammar Cat and I LOVE it! In addition to Lay vs Lie

there's also Your vs You're
and Who vs Whom
If you are in need of an appropriate grammar comic (that doesn't use the F word) you may want to check out Grammar Cat

If you areinterested in other grammar comics, check out the post here.
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