Say what???

I spent a lot of time in Korea grading mind boggling sentences like the one above. Most of the time they weren’t funny and I was left to find a way to turn them into intelligible statements. But sometimes there were real gems that would make me and the whole teachers’ room explode in laughter.

Disclaimer: I know it isn’t easy learning a second language and I applaud all of my students for trying their best. I laugh at these from a good place not a mean one. I know that I sure as hell have made people laugh quite a bit while traveling and attempting to speak foreign languages. I wonder what incredible things my Spanish teachers from middle school heard me say. I’ve been laughed at around the world for my silly attempts to communicate, and the ridiculous pantomimes that go with it. I don’t take any of this too seriously and I hope you don’t either 🙂

With that said, here is a countdown of my all time favorites: Read more

Perm-uh

I have naturally curly hair and I am very proud of it. It suits me. I am of the belief that people who have naturally curly hair were meant to have it. I always assumed that everyone who looked at me knew that my locks were natural. It never occurred to me that people might think I have a perm, which is exactly what happens in Korea.

Perms (aka perm-uh) are extremely popular here. Toddlers get perms. Yes, I said toddlers. I would never even think of taking a child with straight hair and giving him or her a perm. I didn’t even know kids could get perms. In fact, I didn’t think adults really even got perms anymore because I thought that was a trend that went out of style twenty years ago. I stand corrected. Read more

Top 50 Blogs for those Interested in Teaching Abroad

Wake Up and Dance was named as one of the Top 50 Blogs for those interested in teaching abroad by www.onlinedegrees.org! Exciting! If you or a loved one is thinking about teaching or living abroad, there are some really great blogs to read on their list. Check it out at www.onlinedegrees.org/top-50-blogs-for-those-interested-in-teaching-abroad/ (Wake Up and Dance is named a little less than halfway down the page).

Teaching English Abroad Part 3: Questions to ask before you sign a contract

After you’ve found a potential teaching position, you will be overwhelmed with excitement and ready to pack your bags. Before you sign a contract or buy a plane ticket, make sure you question your future employer about all of the following topics.

The Terms of Your Contract

Make sure you understand everything in your contract before you sign it. Ask about anything you are unsure of. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this step. Find out if it’s okay for you to tutor on the side for extra income, if you have a Christmas vacation, or if there’s a dress code.

Salary

Before you agree to getting paid a certain salary, make sure you have an estimate of how much it is going to cost you to live in that country. Also try to research what the standard salary for a foreign English teacher is in that country or city. Teaching English is a really great thing to do, but things can go downhill fast for you if you aren’t able to pay your bills.

Visa

Find out what kind of visa you will be getting and how you need to get it. Many developing countries will allow you to apply for a work visa from a neighboring country, but sometimes things are a little more complicated. Employers may ask you to work under the table and use tourist visas instead of work visas because they are much easier to obtain.

There are a few downsides to this for you, the teacher. The first is that you will most likely have to leave the country every couple months. If this is the case, make sure that the school is helping you fund these trips or are at least paying you enough so that you aren’t paying out of your savings. Secondly, governments usually frown upon working in their country with a tourist visa. It is unlikely you will get caught doing this, but you have to decide if you want to risk it. I worked two different jobs like this and never had a problem. It did make me a little nervous at first though.

Student-Teacher Ratio

Ask about your average class size. Find out the maximum number of students you potentially could be teaching. Take it from me; trying to control 30 twelve-year olds in a public school in Thailand, where they only understand about four percent of what you’re saying, can be more than exhausting. The smaller the class size, the happier you are going to be at the end of the day.

Also find out if there are going to be any other teachers teaching with you. This can be great if you are trying to control a classroom, but it can also make the actual teaching process more difficult sometimes, especially if that teacher isn’t a foreigner. In that situation they might speak to the students in their native tongue, which can defeat the purpose of even having you there.

Other Foreigners at the School

Ask how many other foreigners teach at the school. I know teaching abroad isn’t necessarily about meeting other foreigners, but about immersing yourself in the culture of one specific place on the globe. But here is the other side to the story, if you don’t have a support system, then you might crack. I lived for five months without much access to other foreigners and it was extremely hard on me emotionally. The locals in the area will be lovely, but being able to bond over the little things, like constantly being stared at, with another foreigner is key. You don’t need to teach at a school with a ton of foreigners, but a few will make your quality of life a little better.

Contact a Foreigner Teaching at that School

Before you agree to sign a contract, contact another foreigner at that school. Ask your interviewer for an email address of another foreigner teaching there. This is a good way to find out exactly what you are getting yourself into. Ideally you could get two email addresses, but some schools might find this offensive. Tell your contact that you are so excited to go teach there, but just want to make sure you are choosing the right school.

Ask them what their experience has been like, if they get along with their fellow teachers, and what a standard day or week is like for them. This is also a good time to ask questions about the city you will be living in. A great question to ask is whether or not the school pays you on time. Also ask how many people have left before their contract was up and what the circumstances were. This is a great way to find out whether or not other people like it there without directly asking.

You can also ask if there is anything you might not be able to buy or find in the country you are teaching in. The answer to this question will help you when you are packing. I will cover some of these key items in my next post.

This post was originally written for www.diwyy.com.

Teaching English Abroad Part 2: The Search

The search for a job teaching English abroad can be done in several ways. It mostly depends on the country where you are interested in teaching. Developed countries will have more requirements for being hired and will usually have more visa requirements as well. Whereas developing countries typically do not have as much red tape and make the search a little bit easier.

The Internet is going to be your key to finding a job abroad. If you Google the phrase: “teach English abroad” you will get six million results back, so I suggest making your internet search a little more specific. If you can determine a few cities you think you would enjoy being stationed in, then it will make your search a bit easier. At the same time though, you need to be flexible. If you have your heart set on one city, it might take you a while to find a job, or you could be disappointed when you only find listings in other cities.

If you are interested in teaching in a developing country, I usually suggest packing your bags, buying a plane ticket and just showing up in your country of interest. This sounds incredibly scary and risky, but is worth it for a few reasons. The first time I left the country to work abroad, it sounded like it would be a great fit, but I quickly found out upon arrival that the city I was going to be living in was not ideal for me. Throughout my stay in Thailand, I was constantly offered teaching positions everywhere I went. I realized that I could have just wandered the country until I found a suitable location, and then accepted one of the many jobs offered to me.

If this is an option you might actually consider, then you need to be a very proactive person. Sometimes being offered a job is as easy as mentioning that you are an English teacher to the right person, but if you are avidly looking for a job, you might need to be a little more aggressive than that. Tell everyone you meet abroad that you are an English teacher looking to settle down in that area. Most people you will meet know at least one other English teacher or school, and this can lead to important connections. Schools can’t hire you if they don’t know you are out there looking for a job. Make sure you let people know you are interested. Networking is your best friend in this type of search, not the Internet.

Things can be much more complicated if you are looking to teach in a more developed country. For example, South Korea requires that you send them your diploma, a background check, and transcripts from your university. Not only do they need all of these items, but they also need you to be in your home country during the application process. So it would be a poor idea to show up in South Korea and hope to get a job.

If you are leaning towards teaching in a developed country or don’t want to show up in a developing country looking for work, then your next question is “How do I find a job on the internet?” Before you start googling, let me warn you that many of the ‘jobs’ you will find listed are not in fact jobs. Many times they will ask you to pay them to come teach English.

Volunteering is wonderful and I am sure that there are pay-to-volunteer programs available that put a lot of the money you pay towards helping the organization you work with, but unfortunately there are many that don’t. Sometimes the organizations that will set you up with a teaching position if you pay a couple thousand bucks are just scamming you. For one of my previous jobs I worked with volunteers who came through a rather large name in the pay to volunteer business, and I can say without a doubt that almost all of the money went directly into their pockets and did not reach our organization. So if you choose the pay-to-volunteer route, make sure your money is going where you want it to.

Remember what I said in my previous post as well, TEFL and TESOL certification is not completely necessary to teach abroad. Before you spend the money on it, make sure you absolutely need it.

Sifting through the results that your search engine will turn up is definitely a process. Idealist.org is a great website for the global job search. This website allows you to search by country, language, categories, job type, etc. If you are interested in teaching English in South Korea I recommend going to Dave’s ESL Cafe and checking out the listings there. I wish I had a list of websites for prospective teachers for every country, but I don’t. If you know of a great website for teaching abroad in any country, please comment below. Let’s compile a list of helpful websites for prospective English teachers!

This post was written for www.diwyy.com.

Teaching English Abroad: Getting Started

My favorite way to travel is to stay in one place for an extended period of time so I can fully immerse myself in the country I am visiting. If you don’t have a large sum of money saved up, then the only way to really travel this way is by getting a job in the country you are interested in. Lucky for us native English speakers, English teachers are in demand in many exciting parts of the world.

There are several things you must have before you are ready to teach abroad. Most organizations and people looking for English teachers want a person with a university diploma. Most of the time it doesn’t matter what you major was, they just want to know that you went to school and got a degree. Your chances of getting a competitive job are usually greater if you received a degree in education or English, but it’s typically not a requirement.

The most debated question is whether or not you need TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification to be hired. I really hate wasting money and so I’ve debated whether or not I need to invest in this certification over and over again. The first time I was looking for teaching jobs, I was bombarded by advertisements attempting to persuade me to invest in their certification program. I quickly found out that I could get hired just by being a native speaker and by having a degree from an American university.

While looking for a job in South Korea this summer, I was told by a recruiter that the job market is very competitive right now and that my chances were significantly better if I completed an online certification course. The online courses run about $200 or more and the classroom courses can run a lot more than that. One of my travel buddies told me that the online courses are pretty much worthless, and for the most part, employers know that. I chose not to take the course and I still got some really great job offers. So in my opinion, the certification programs are fine if you have time and money to spend, but if you don’t, you will still be able to find a good job without it.

When applying for English teaching jobs, it is important to put every single teaching experience on your resume. I used to teach figure skating to children and adults, and although that has nothing to do with teaching English, it still shows that I am capable of explaining concepts to a class and keeping a group of children under control. Think of every single teaching or tutoring experience you’ve had and share them with your prospective school.

Since you’ve decided you are ready for a job teaching abroad you most likely have a region already in mind. If you don’t, start making a list of your top picks for countries or cities you’d like to work in. It is perfectly okay to choose a region based on wanting to travel around it. When I went to Thailand to teach English, I chose it because I knew I wanted to be in Southeast Asia and it was central to all of the other countries I wanted to visit. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized that I wanted to learn about Thai language and Thai cooking.

The next part of the search is to determine whether you are a city person or whether you could handle living in the countryside. This might be a tough question for some of you. I used to think that I could be happy anywhere. Turns out that that’s not true for me. I now know that I need a good group of fellow foreigner friends around to keep my spirits up. At the same time though, I don’t like to live in areas that are flooded with foreigners because these areas are very touristy and the native culture tends to get lost. So I like to live in large cities because you can find almost anything you need there, whether it be other foreigners or native culture. Large cities also tend to be good jumping off points for other adventures. I know people who have been perfectly content living and teaching in the boonies, I just have figured out over time that I am not one of them.

Once you’ve figured out all of those important details, you then need to start looking for employment. This requires a lot of searching and patience. I will talk about the process of looking for a teaching job in my next post.

This post was written for www.diwyy.com.

Scout Camp at Namphong National Park

Last week I went to Scout Camp with the fifth and sixth grade at Nonthun School. All of the teachers involved with the fifth and sixth grade went, along with teachers and administrators who wanted an excuse to ditch school for two days. The camp was at Namphong National Park next to Ubolrat Dam. We had had nice weather all week until the day we went to Scout Camp and the temperature shot up. Children were fainting during the opening ceremony and I was surprised they didn’t have any casualties during their two hour hiking adventure. I hiked with them for the first hour but then got a terrible headache, which I thought was due to dehydration, but turned out to be a sinus headache because I came down with a sore throat and runny nose later that night.

dscn4776

The hike was hot, but fun. They had different obstacles for the kids, like climbing up the side of the hill with a rope and going through a small rock cave where they smack you in the face with baby powder. When you are sweating profusely, having baby powder poured all over you is not desirable…at all. (Baby powder is a topic I will have to cover next. It is an obsession out here. People wear so much it makes their skin look ghostly. I’ve been told they do this purely because they like the smell of it, why has someone not invented baby powder scented perfume out here yet?)

At night we had a four hour camp fire. It went on FOREVER. It just wouldn’t end. At first I thought it was fun, but then it just dragged on and on and on. While the kids were doing skits and singing, the male teachers managed to get plastered. The Assistant Director, who was in charge of leading the camp fire, got so drunk that an hour into the festivities had to be removed and replaced with a teacher who hadn’t been drinking. It was a disgusting sight. The worst part was that they were drinking at breakfast when I woke up in the morning. I could barely understand when whiskey and beer were consumed at tailgating parties at 6 in the morning at university, but at Scout Camp? seriously???? There were kids around! What is wrong with these people?? The worst part was that they were going to drive themselves (not the kids) home! What a wonderful example we set for the children. Here is a video of the lighting of the camp fire. I was a little worried towards the end…sparks were flying pretty far.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPPyco55KAI]

The kids surprised me in how self sufficient they were. I think that if all of the adults disappeared from Thailand the kids would be able to carry on just fine. The meals they made outside their tents looked much more delicious than what the teachers ended up with. American kids could learn a lot from these kids about survival. I was very impressed.

dscn4800

I chose to sleep outside in a tent that a teacher at my other school lent me because of my previous experience with sharing rooms with teachers. The snores that comes out of these women sounds like t-rex with a sinus infection. It’s terrifying and does not make for a good nights sleep.

One of the teachers favorite things to do, that I rarely take advantage of, is the ability to have the kids do whatever it is you desire for you. The teachers use the kids for everything. I want oranges; go get a kilo. I need water. Wash these dishes. Pick the lice out of my hair. Pluck my gray hairs. So when I looked at my tent, I chose to hand it to the closest student. I promise you I don’t use the children like my personal servants, but in this instance I figured that the student and his friends would do it much faster than me and I’m sure I saved myself from being laughed at.

dscn4755
My tent and my students.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BmzItqe6zI] [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRX7fiFw7Ww]
dscn4763
Only the sword is real.

dscn4761

dscn4793

dscn4792

Bugs and Bonding

Here is what has being going on since my last post…

There is a tea house that is run by some of the people associated with the organization that I work for and they bought a toaster oven for me to bake in! I made my first batch of cookies last week and they turned out pretty good! I decided to make shortbread cookies with some fresh minced ginger in it. They were a success and tomorrow I plan on experimenting a little bit more. The cookies are not being sold because the tea house runs solely on the 20 Baht donation suggested on the menu.This place is full of surprises, I never would have guessed that I would be baking cookies in a toaster oven in Thailand.

Another piece of food related news…I tried some bugs at the silk fair! They were fried and didn’t really taste like much other the vinegar seasoning they lightly coated them with. Definitely something I wouldn’t have a problem eating again.

dscn4146
These bugs were a little too intimidating for me to try at the time...next time for sure though!
Some bugs I tried at the silk fair.
The bugs I tried at the silk fair.

I just got back from a work retreat. We were only gone for one night and went to these awesome huts/cabins just over an hour away from Khon Kaen. The setting was absolutely stunning and the food was delicious. The highlight of the trip was the swim I went for in the Chi River. I didn’t have a swimsuit so I wore one of the sarongs that the teachers use to dry off with when they get out of the shower. The four youngsters (Liz, Soryor, Maha, and myself) were the only ones who wanted to take a dip. It was the perfect temperature outside, the water wasn’t cold, and there was no current so it was ideal swimming conditions.

The Thai teachers were terrified when Liz and I started to swim to the other bank, but we couldn’t resist. Our meetings are always long and I can only talk about feelings and sit and eat for so long before I feel like I need to go run around, so the swim was exactly what I needed. I actually swam pretty well in the sarong, but that was only because it was scrunched around my waist while Liz and I were swimming across the river. Luckily the water was so mucky that it didn’t matter.

All ready to swim!
All ready to swim!
Our simming dock on the Chi River.
Our simming dock on the Chi River.
As many of you know I am terrible at remembering to take pictures. I usually hand my camera to someone else or get the pictures from someone else. I only got one good shot of the view on my camera so I will post more pictures of where we stayed later.
As many of you know, I am terrible at remembering to take pictures. I usually hand my camera to someone else or get the pictures from somebody later. I only got one good shot of the view on my camera so I will post more pictures of where we stayed in the near future.
Liz and I swimming.
Liz and me

Loy Krathong and Prasat Pueai Noi

Loy Krathong:

Loy Krathong is a holiday celebrated on November 12th here in Thailand. You are probably asking yourselves why I am posting about this so late, and I have no good excuses. I don’t know why it has taken me three weeks to write about it. The holiday was explained to me as being an opportunity to ask Mother Nature for forgiveness for all of the bad things we do to her, primarily for all of the bad things we put into the water systems. Everyone makes krathongs (little rafts) out of slices of banana tree trunks, banana leaves, and flowers. Candles and incense are placed in the center along with some money and possibly some fingernail clippings if you so desire. As you release your krathong into the river (or lake if you don’t have a river) you are supposed to say a prayer for forgiveness and I think you get to make a wish, at least that’s what I was told.

The irony of the holiday seemed to be completely lost on almost every single participant. Loy Krathong is a big festival here and is much like a county fair. There are games, tons of food, and many many shops. The amount of trash that piled up by the end of the night was horrifying. Nobody seemed to notice that on the same night we ask for forgiveness for all of the bad things we do to the environment we were also destroying it. Not to mention the obvious fact that while we ask for forgiveness for polluting the water we are putting yet another piece of litter into the water.

My float was made out of a banana tree that one of the girls who taught me to make my krathong cut down from her neighbors yard. So not only were we littering in the lake, we were also killing and stealing trees. At least our krathongs were made out of biodegradable material though. Some people make their krathongs out of styrofoam, which makes me wince to think about. Of all things to ask for forgiveness with, they choose styrofoam?!? An environmentalists worst nightmare!

Other than that, Loy Krathong was very fun. I tried a corn and coconut waffle which was surprisingly good and had a great time making my krathong. Here are some pictures of the krathong building party we had. I kept asking myself what would Martha do if she were given some pins, banana leaves, and flowers…here are the results.

My krathong building teachers.
My krathong building teachers.
The Krathong I made. I used banana leaves, orchids, lotus flowers, roses, and some other white flower.
The Krathong I made. I used banana leaves, orchids, lotus flowers, roses, and some other white flower.
All of the krathongs we made. Mine is in the back to the right.
All of the krathongs we made. Mine is in the back to the right.

Prasat Pueai Noi:

A week ago I went on a field trip with two of my sixth grade classes to Prasat Pueai Noi, which is about an hour outside of the city. I was told that we were going to “a temple…kind of,” so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It turned out to be the ruins of an old castle which was the largest Khmer sanctuary in the Northeast of Thailand, at least according to the sign at the Prasat, it seemed a little small to be deemed the largest though. It was used as a Hindu temple, which is only obviously evident by the remaining carvings of Vishnu on some of the beams.

I’m not sure the description I would give of our field trip bus would really do it justice, so here is a little video of it. I was kind of excited at first because I thought I would get to ride in the back (in the cage) with the kids, but I am really glad I didn’t because on the way back to school two kids hurled everywhere. I was very thankful for being smushed in the front with the other two teachers and the driver after that.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqSRFd8Y-zo]
Prasat Pueai Noi
Prasat Pueai Noi
Some of my students.
Some of my students.

Prasat Pueai Noi 2

dscn4113

dscn4125

The boys love to pose for pictures.

That’s it for today!

P.S. Regarding the political situation here, don’t worry! I am so far away from Bangkok it hasn’t changed my daily life at all. Thanks for all of your thoughts though, and Jet I will totally take you up on your offer if I start to feel like things are getting bad. Thank you so much!