Tuesday, 23 February 2016 04:43

How to Ace an Open Door ESL Class: The 5 P's!

An 'Open Door' lesson is an opportunity for your children’s parents to view a regular class which showcases what the children have learned highlighting the standard class structure.  'Open Door' classes are usually rated by the parents and can have a dramatic effect for your pay and review if done incorrectly or could potentially showcase incorrect material, causing the parents to question if their children are learning enough in your class. 'Open Door' Classes in China are usually held mid-term or more usually at the last class of the course. This is the big chance for Chinese parents to see their kids in action and what they have learnt in your English classes. A strong and fluid Open Door class can really push up re-sign rates in your classes, making you look super cool and possibly get you re-sign bonuses if you have that in your teaching contract.
What are the Five P’s to ensure a perfect Open Door lesson?
1. Preparation – Lessons need to be setup to make use of all the time in your class appropriately. For example, including book work in your Open Door lesson is frowned upon because it doesn’t showcase what the children have learned and isn’t very interactive for the parents to see their children learning or using the English Language. Your Open Door class will be silent and weird, so avoid using the book too much or even at all. Give your students the opportunity to speak with you, each other and their parents in English.
2. Practice – To ensure the children show how much their English has improved in your English course, co-teachers and you should prepare students of the Open Door lesson during the classes leading up to the final Open Door class. This will allow your class to be given more time to practice the material, know what they are doing and give that really polished good impression to parents. It is imperative to avoid highlighting weaker students at the start of the Open Door class.  If you have taken over the class at the end of the term and don’t really know who your weaker or stronger ESL students are, then ask your Chinese co-teacher or the colleague you’ve just taken the class off of. They will know. If all your weaker students go first, parents may think that most of the students aren’t learning the material and maybe you aren’t a good teacher yourself. Start off with one or two stronger students and get off to a belting start! The parents will be impressed and you will look good.

Lastly, practice makes perfect.  As understanding of the material increases, it will be displayed more naturally. Practice any language activity or game you want to use in the weeks leading up to the Open Door class. Very importantly, go through your Open Door lesson plan with your co-teacher if you have one in the class. Be on the same page together and both know what to do at all times.
3. Patience – Although you have setup material and have identified the stronger/weaker students, patience is needed during the Open Door lesson because all students must participate equally. Parent(s) with the weaker students may be aware their child struggles, but will be delighted when their child tries and that you have spoken to their child just as much as the stronger ones. Be prepared to help weaker students and finish off sentences with them if they are struggling with everyone watching. Care for your Chinese students always. Sometimes, as a teacher, it is challenging to have the child say the wrong thing but feedback provided has indicated that parents appreciated their child was provided ample time to succeed and participate.  
4. Parent Involvement – A sure-fire way to make parents happy during class is to have them participate in the class. For example, during a lesson naming body parts, have the parents stand next to their child and say, “Leg to Leg” (gesturing the child to put their leg next to the parents’ leg).Personally, I enjoy this part of the class because it shifts the focus to the parents and could get the parents laughing if the activity is fun.  In addition, having parents speaking English is the best part because it allows them to learn and get involved in their children’s education.  This is especially true if they have been busy at work and haven’t had the opportunity to do so. However, I believe the key is to provide them the opportunity to participate but do not require that they do so. If they refuse, don’t insist because they may feel that their English ability inadequate and are hesitant to be embarrassed. Every teacher needs to be aware of varying abilities before picking random parents in the class. Importantly, make yourself available to speak to parents after the class. They will have questions for you as you would have for your own children’s teachers back in the west. Respect and understand this and make yourself available. If that means missing your coffee in the office before your next class, then so be it. Help your school always and be there for kids and parents.
5. Put on a smile – Regardless if the class has the best and brightest students or the occasional lazy and unmotivated, smiling is the best picture in class. If you are smiling it shows everyone that you are excited and enjoying your job.  Your body language speaks more than verbal communication, especially when being focused upon by parents who may not have significant English knowledge, but can tell whether you are having a good time. SMILE no matter what and always make light of a bad answer.At all costs, have a good time while ensuring your students are as well.
I hope these steps make your ESL Open Door a success!  Learning the 5 P’s helped ease my mind and tension. Good luck with your future lessons and teaching and feel free to contact me anytime.
by Dominick “Venice” Inzerillo

Venice was in marketing for ten years before he became an English teacher. He taught in the US for two years, before moving to China to teach English in 2014. He invites you to add him on WeChat and you can do that by scanning the QR code above.
I received a job aplication from a teacher looking to teach in China a few months ago. Like all new TEFL graduates, she was keen, eager to start speaking to schools and recruiters and find her first teaching job.

I'm sure you remember what it was like? You've worked hard (harder than you probably thought you'd have to, right?) on your TEFL course, completed all of your assignments and learned more grammar structures than you knew existed. Now you've got your teaching certificate in hand and are now looking at the many teaching job adverts online.

So this girl gets in touch about finding a teaching job in China...(that's a great start straight away!), and so we ask her three very simple questions:

1. What ages do you most want to teach? 
2. Do you have an location preferences?
3. When are you looking to start?

By asking these three questions down, we can whittle down from a very large number of teaching vacancies to a very small number of relevant choices for her to consider. So, question 1, teaching kids. Great! Question 2....somewhere in the south of China with cleaner air. No problem. Question 3...a year from now. Fantas...wait, did you just say 12 months from now??

When is the best time to apply for teaching jobs in China?

There are two main types of teaching jobs in China. These are with English training schools, which teach students English in the evenings or weekends, and Monday to Friday jobs such as at primary schools, high schools, universities or internation departments.

Now here is the thing; no school in China will be interested in speaking to you one year in advance. Most won't be interested in speaking to you even six months in advance; it's just far too far ahead of time to be applying.

Why is applying for a teaching job in China six months ahead of time too long?

Schools won't really want to speak to you six months ahead of time ever. The girl who applied to us was super efficient and highly organised. Her idea was to beat the crowd, get interviewed for a job early and to get something concrete lined up. There is nothing wrong with that and it is very commendable. However the fact is that this works for her, but it doesn't work for schools in China. 

The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly the number of teachers who get cold-feet about coming to teach in China is way more than you would imagine. It's a big, bold step moving to another country and things in life come up which make us have to change our plans. In 50% of cases where a school interviewed a teacher six months ahead of time, then they'd either pull out or emails between both parties would dry up. In short, a waste of everyone's time. Schools just an't afford to do this.

The schools have no idea of their recruitment needs so far in advance

The second, and most important, reason why schools in China don't want to look too early for teachers is because they don't yet know their recruitment needs so far ahead of time. English teachers in China sign rolling one-year contracts. Let's say a school has a team of 5 foreign teachers. Maybe two of these teachers signed a contract with the school during spring, one in the summer and the other two in the autumn. The school is a stable school and usually just needs five teachers. How can the school know if they need a replacement 6-12 months ahead of time? Ideally, the teachers they have will want to stay on (this is always the preferred choice for schools - the parents like and trust the teachers, they don't have to train new staff and go through the titanic hassle of applying for visas for new teachers). They will only need to find a replacement once a teacher confirms that they won't be staying and will be looking for a new job or returning home. 

Additionally, student numbers at the school may rise or fall throughout the year, making needing more or less teachers way later in the year a lottery...an expensive lottery. Schools just cannot speak to teachers for jobs a year down the line.

The same thing applies with public schools in China. Contracts are usally for eleven months to cover two academic semesters. Public schools will also not be able to think about hiring new staff until they know that some of their current staff will be 100% crtain of leaving. Then, very begrudgingly, they'll start the arduous process of finding ew teachers. Again, this is the very last thing they'll want to do.

Applying for teaching jobs six months (or even more time than that) is pretty much a waste of your own time as the response you will get back will be negligible. The very optimum time to apply for teaching jobs in China is 12 weeks.

Why is 12 weeks ahead the very best time to be looking for jobs in China?

Appying for teaching jobs in China 12 weeks prior to wanting to start is the very best time to do so because around that time schools will be asking their teachers if they will be staying on or not as they need to plan. The best organised schools will start looking for their new teachers three months ahead of time (never earlier, they simply can't), and so by looking then you'll be lining yourself up with the most-organised schools - never a bad thing at all. 

Additionally, the work visa process can take anything from 5-8 weeks, which gives you 4-6 weeks of being able to speak with schools and interview for teaching jobs in good time, unhurried and well-organised. All of the schools you see have vacanices will all be live vacancies, keen to interview you.

12 weeks is also the best time to speak to public schools in China

Let's say you want a university job in China with semesters starting in September and March each year. 12 weeks ahead of time is asl othe best time to appy for these jobs too. Again, the public schools need to know if their current teachers will be staying or not before looking for replacements. Before each semester begins, there is usually a two month break where the staff are home on holidays and so can't interview and doing all the admin work needed to hire you. 

By applying 12 weeks in advance for public school jobs in China, you are again putting yourself in the shop window at exactly the right time. You'll get more resume views and attract more interest from the university, high school, etc. 

Why is applying through RAY English Recruitment a smart choice?

We are a British-run company based in China. We have a good mix of high ethical standards and professional teacher support mixed with good China know-how. We know the HR departments of the schools and will make sure that your application lands on the right desk and will take priority.

Importantly, we'll make sure that you feel well-looked after at all times and any questions you have will be answered quickly and fully. You are in very good hands with us and you'll be cared for from the moment you apply to when you actually land in China to teach and beyond. 

Head over to our jobs page to see what we have for you.

Published in Articles about China
When first coming to China as an English teacher, or indeed returning back to China for another year, many TEFL teachers may just consider clothing and a few other things when packing their suitcases. But there are many cool things which TEFL teachers coming to China can also pack into their suitcases which are absolutely brilliant for teaching English. Below are some items which perhaps you didn’t think of bringing from your home country for your classes that ESL students will love!

#1. Menus
Menus from western countries can be used to introduce cultural differences with food and diet, while also giving students an indication of the cost of living in your home country compared to living costs in China. Students could practice ordering from the menu in a ‘restaurant’ with a partner acting as the waiter. Higher-level students could practice complaining to staff, for example about dietary requirements not being met or poor service.
#2. Newspapers and magazines
It gives students a wonderful confidence boost to know that they can understand ‘authentic English’ from the real world. I’ve used British tabloids and broadsheet newspapers covering the same news to highlight differences in formal and informal English. Students particularly enjoy reading over-the-top ‘Agony Aunt’ letters and then writing their own reply before reading what the magazine columnist came up with. Advertisement language and techniques could be analysed - there’s endless activities within the pages of the same newspaper or magazine. 
#3. Tourist brochures and leaflets
To help my students prepare for the writing section of an upcoming exam I used real brochures for a historic activity centre in my hometown. They revised the features of an effective leaflet by critiquing this leaflet in pairs. Students then wrote a tactful letter to the designer outlining their opinions regarding the current design and any revisions that should be made. My students loved it! Another possible activity would be getting students to write a persuasive letter begging your parents to take them somewhere e.g. Disneyland. I recommend laminating the leaflets so they can be used again and again in classes.
#4. Photos of your family, hometown or special occasions
When teaching students in China about traditional festivals or special occasions like weddings, it would be great to show them photos of yourself or family getting married. Photos can be used as a topic lead-in to gain interest. I have awful pictures of myself going through my ‘rocker’ phase as a teenager that I plan to use in lessons about fashion! Photos like these are also great for physical description practice. Only show as much as you are willing to, but I think this is a great way for your students to get to know you and to build a relationship with them. When doing a Cultural Studies class about housing in the West, I showed my students a photograph of my family home. Students then discussed differences between homes in China and Western countries.
#5. Snacks from your country
I stock up on Irish chocolate or sweets which are excellent rewards at the end of a semester or can be used as prizes during school activities. Aim to give something unavailable in the country you are teaching in - I used Tatyo crisps with my Chinese students. They’d never even tried Cheese and Onion flavoured crisps before!
#6.  Children’s books in English
I find that very few language learners have the attention span, dedication or vocabulary range to read a whole novel in a foreign language. It is a daunting task; I waited years before reading my first novel in Mandarin Chinese.  In China, students are busy literally from morning until night with packed study schedules- they rarely have time for recreational reading. For these reasons I recommend children’s books to even my young teenage students. These books are short and easier to finish and although simple, often contain lots of new vocabulary for Chinese language learners. I like to use the Horrid Henry series by Francesca Simon- I loved reading them to my young cousin even as an adult. This is a way to increase your students’ confidence in their reading abilities slowly. They can progress from these books to longer articles or short stories for their own age group before tackling novels. This doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money- I pick up books very cheaply in second-hand stores or charity shops whenever I go back to Ireland.
#7. Forms
You can pick up job application forms, university applications or bank forms easily. It’s great to give ESL students real-life practice of filling in information like their contact details and address. Applications can be used in mock interviews in pairs where one student is the interviewer. Check your local bank or university’s website- many have PDF application forms you can print out and use.
#8. Maps
You can get free maps of cities from tourist offices. Students can practice giving directions and reading a map in English, as well as see the kind of street names we have in the west and features within the city. 
#9. Apartment listings
This is particularly useful for students who plan to go abroad for further study. Many Chinese students are now going abroad following IELTS study to do degree and post-graduate programs in English speaking countries. Finding an apartment could be something they need to do. They can practice talking about housing and using vocabulary around finding an apartment. I take these directly from western renting sites.

by Gillian Bryan

Gillian Bryan

Gillian Bryan completed her bachelor degree in Commerce and Chinese Studies in University College Dublin, Ireland. During this time she completed an exchange programme in both Peking University and Renmin University in Beijing. Gillian is currently living in Jiangyin city, where she works as a General English teacher. She dreams of one day opening her own café.
Sunday, 24 January 2016 10:02

ESL: Thinking Outside the Box

My TEFL/TESL teaching years were the most rewarding in my life; probably not so much in terms of cash but invaluable when it came to creating connections and most importantly, the job satisfaction coming from the visible, measurable results: when having a decent conversation in English after a few months of intense but fun learning, which started at the ABCs.
As someone who has spent over ten years Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)*, I have made observations that are hardly surprising: turns out, adults love playing just as much as children do! In my own experience, no more than two percent of my students ever questioned my slightly unconventional methods of learning, which incorporated English langauge puzzles, charades, contemporary music hits and so on. Occasionally, there would be a serious guy asking why we were wasting our time matching wordswith pictures, but later he would get down on all fours on the carpet, make a story with the group - and forget about the traditional ideas of learning (which calls for pain and suffering along the way!).
ESL - the dangerous misconception
There is a huge, dangerous misconception about language games in the classroom, music and all visual media as sources of entertainment and nothing more**. On top of this, young TESL learners are presumed distracted and unwilling to learn. Connect those two, and you have the solution: if your students are lacking in interest or motivation, the reason is most likely boredom. The traditional textbook-workbook-pen-chalk-blackboard concept may be still good, but it most definitely is only a small part of the arsenal a TEFL teacher can use in an attempt to make teaching English a success.
It's a proven psychological fact that we retain much more when we are interested in the subject of learning. Our memory is very selective this way. Events and experiences that have impressed us or moved us deeply are engraved in our memory years and decades later, while we all have boring subject exams we have passed and completely forgotten about within weeks. Take a sports fan who knows every detail about his favorite team or player, plus stats and goal situations, championships, positions on the field, etc. I could never try to remember that, since sports are not even remotely interesting to me. But ask me about my favorite musicians, and I will tell you every album, every landmark in their lives - believe it or not, I know every word of every song of my favorite band from the time I was growing up (it's too embarrasing to mention but I like them to this day), and I have won contests and prizes because of my useless trivia knowledge, based on pure interest in the subject.
Thinking outside the box in the ESL classroom
Dear teachers out there, please do not be afraid to venture out of the book, lesson plan, subject matter - or whatever else you have planned for your day or session. There has never been a better time to incorporate fun into TEFL learning, and resources have never been more abundant. Take those clips off the internet, use them to prove a point ("I don't know nothin' about no stolen paintings!", from a movie, took care of "using double negative", and made us all laugh, because this example is even triple!) - then go ahead with theplanned practice. You'll be amazed at the results. Ask your ESL students about their interests and bring class materials that would not only engage them, but make them look forward to that class. Preparation is minimal, and you can use the props multiple times. Silliness and fun can be the surprising allies on your way to achieving excellence in teaching English.
*In most countries out of North America, English comes as a third, maybe even fourth foreign language
by Dana Vlahova
Dana is an experienced former TEFL teacher and a busy ELT articles writer. She is the author of the book "Don't Worry, Be Happy - or How to Learn English while Enjoying Yourself" (1992)
Sunday, 24 January 2016 06:36

Starting Out as a TEFL Teacher


   by Peter Whitfield 
Starting out for the very first time as a TEFL teacher can be very daunting indeed. Not only signing up to do a TEFL course, and all the difficulty involved in the coursework and teaching on the TEFL course, but the uncertainty of finding a job at the other end and where in the world you might end up!

Maybe you have a concrete plan of where you'd like to teach, but what will the school be like? Will I have enough money to get by at the start? Will I regret becoming a TEFL teacher in another country?
The 5 Steps of TEFL
Looking back, I've decided that there are about five steps to TEFL;

1) Deciding you want to.
2) Taking a course.
3) Actually completing the course.
4) Getting a job.
5) Going.
Step 1 is the easy part, from then on it's gets a lot harder.
Anyone reading this will know that searching TEFL will bring up a multitude of sites offering you a varying array of courses, intern-ships and jobs. Choosing who to trust, who is best and what's best for you is likely to be your biggest challenge.
In my own experience I've found that having a degree is a big plus. Many places do require a degree as a Visa requirement, but it's not essential in all places.
Step 2 - Taking a TEFL Course and knowing the differences between a CELTA, TESOL and TEFL Certificates.

There are differences in the type and cost of the courses you can choose from. The one you choose will depend on your budget, the time you have to do a teaching course and how seriously you want to get trained and come across to employers. To choose between these can simply depend on where you want to teach. You can find out more about TEFL course differences here.

Most English speaking countries require a Celta (or equivalent) as a minimum, the same is true for most European countries and Japan.
I myself have a 150 hour combined course and I am on the verge of taking up my first paid position in Jakarta, Indonesia. My friends on the same course currently reside in Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and China, so it's plain to see it is possible to find work without the top Celta or TESOL qualification.
Step 3 - Completing Your TEFL Course
Once you've decided on your TEFL course, you must complete it. Which is probably will not be as easy as you would have thought. Many people enter the process with the attitude of “I speak English, therefore I can teach it.” This is far from the case and at times you will find yourself; as you once were in the back of a French classroom with the stuff of schoolboy nightmares - “verb conjugation and past participles” wondering why you've subjected yourself to this torment.
All I can say to you is, persevere and don't be too downhearted, because I can guarantee you won't be alone. In this instance I can really recommend a combined course, because I really found the classroom based learning more productive than many of the online modules.
Step 4 - Finding Your ESL Job
Finally you must find a teaching job
To help in your job search I suggest; a complete rewrite of your CV highlighting all your the reasons why you'd make a fantastic teacher,  attaching a professional photo of yourself,  something always asked for from Asian countries and finally, downloading Skype for your Skype interview if you don't already have it, because how else are they going to interview you?
Come Armed with Questions
Moving onto the interview process, remember this is as much you testing them. You should be armed with questions for your TEFL interview not only for your own information, but also to show them that your taking the process seriously, but that your organised and interested in it as well.
Some ideas for questions would be - “How many students to a classroom”, “what age (and skill) ranges will there be” and even “what are the facilities like” these really are essential questions to help you decide if this move is right for you.
Once you've decided on your job, then you've got to book those flights and get out there, which is exactly where I am now. So wish me luck and keep your eyes peeled for how I get on – fingers crossed!
By Peter Whitfield

Peter wrote this as a brand new teacher   just moving out to Jakarta in 2011. He is now an IELTS teacher and free-lance writer still living in the Jakarta area.

Peter welcomes ELT teachers to contact him and you can contact him through Linkedin here.
The four o'clock bell rings and the stampede begins. A nine-year-old's backpack narrowly misses demolishing the carefully constructed tower of course books in my arms. The TEFL industry has become so competitive that many language schools are now bringing the classroom to the client. A lot of teaching jobs involve off-site teaching in state schools, businesses or people's homes. So what should you know before you start?

Check your contract carefully before signing. If you're expected to leave your academy for some classes, this should be reflected in your pay rate or your travel costs should be reimbursed.

Get to Your Off-Site Location Early

Arrive early on your first day. No matter how easy it looks on the map, the reality can be very different. If you're using public transport, investigate how many different ways there are of getting there in case of train or bus strikes in the future.
Find out what teaching equipment is available at your off-site location. Do they have whiteboards or blackboards? Is there a projector or computer available? Do children take their English books home or are they kept at the school?

Introduce yourself and maintain a friendly relationship with receptionists, personal assistants and other teachers. It's important to have off-site contacts who can help you out whether it's with some extra photocopies or phoning a sick child's parents.

Vary the Activities to Keep Motivation High

Be aware that many off-site students may not be attending your classes willing. They may also be tired if you are teaching them during their lunch break or after a full day at school. You're in their territory now and off-site children are often not as well-behaved as those that attend your language school. Vary the learning activities to increase the motivation of those who have been sent to you by parents or employers.

Follow off-site regulations and standards. While it may be acceptable to wear jeans while you're   making monster masks with five-year-olds at the local primary school, the dress code will hardly be the same at an insurance company. In business environments, you may need to sign in and display an ID card at all times. In schools, you may need to collect young children from a special part of the school and ensure that they are safely picked up by their parents at the end of the class.

Teaching Mixed-Levels

Be aware that off-site classes often contain mixed levels and abilities. This is usually because of small numbers or for cost-saving reasons.  While it can be frustrating for you as the teacher, there is not a lot you can do about it except bring extra, more challenging material for advanced students who finish tasks quickly. You will need to be especially sensitive if you are teaching people who work together as they may feel self-conscious about making mistakes in front of their colleagues or superiors.

Most of all, plan flexibly and accept that classes will probably not start on time, especially if the room you are using is occupied before or if you have to collect a group of infants and shepherd them upstairs. You may also have to finish five or ten minutes early with a children's class to allow time for tidying up. When teaching in businesses, be prepared for mobile phone interruptions and falling attendance around project deadlines.

Teaching off-site is certainly more challenging than on-site but it will test your organisational skills, your adaptability and your creativity.

By Linda Alley

Linda is an experienced ESL teacher and TEFL writer from New Zealand. You can check out more of her great writing in her blog here.
Monday, 11 January 2016 22:59

Giving English Names to Your Students

Giving English names to your students

Giving English Names to Your Students

I have settled into my routine at the kindergarten and the training centre, I’m learning many things about very young learners and young learners; their attention span is very short, they love repetition, they have an extremely high tolerance for it, but they often forget what they have been taught over the weekend!
Chinese Teaching Assistant for ESL Classes

I have an ESL teaching assistant with me in the classroom, which helps, because I find it difficult to discipline, as my Mandarin level is not that high at the moment, although saying that, I have a colleague who seems to be able to discipline them in very creative ways with very little Mandarin. The children go a little bit wild when the TA’s back is turned, it can sometimes be fun, especially if they think it is a licence to run towards me and hug me.  Because of the Qingming holiday (tomb sweeping), we all had to work at the kindergarten on Sunday to make up for the days lost, I still find that hard to get my head around!

Giving Out English Names to Young Learners

Last week I was given a list of around twenty or twenty five Chinese children’s names and asked to give them all an English name, this time it was not such a big deal to do that because at least I could go home and think about it. It is not unusual to be faced with 25 four year-olds and be asked by the kindergarten teacher to give them all English names on the spot, which I have had to do a few times now.

Creative Ideas for Young Learners

The books we are using are called Wonderland and we spend one month on each unit, so I have to come up with some creative ideas to keep the children engaged, we often spend a whole week just practicing a dialogue of two lines, it is clear from teaching the children that are at different stages of development, so their level of understanding in English varies, some look completely lost, where others are picking it up so quickly, it often makes me wonder if teaching English at such a young age is always beneficial.

Anyway, I am sure I will have more thoughts on that at a later stage.

Yolande M Deane is Young Learner specialist living and working in Harbin, in the north-east of China. She loves working with children and is an active ESL and China blogger. You can check out her blog here.
Monday, 11 January 2016 21:23

I Lost My Voice Teaching

I Lost My Voice Teaching!

I came down with a second virus a couple of weeks ago, the first one gave me laryngitis, and just as I was recovering, I was hit with another one. I was not aware that teaching kindergarten could take such a toll on the voice, all that chanting and singing had my voice down to a whisper. I know you may be wondering why I did not take the day off, but as I said before, the Mondays off are sacred to us foreign teachers here, and there was no way I was going to give that up for being sick one day in the week!

They would have made me work the Monday. Anyway, I surfed the net for some voice exercises, which seem to be supporting my voice, It made me realise that nobody really considers the fact that as ESL teachers, we use our voices constantly, it needs looking after.

Forgetful Teaching Assistants

I have teaching assistants at the kindergarten, which veers from being a help to a hindrance, we rely on them to bring the materials such as the posters, music and flashcards etc. However, I have to be prepared for them to forget something at least twice a week, or expect the music speaker to stop working because they have forgotten to charge it the night before. Luckily, I have invested in my own mini speaker and downloaded the songs we use onto a flash drive, which I insert into the speaker. It was a recent lifesaver last week, I unexpectedly had to teach six of the classes on my own, and singing a song at the end is often a nice three minute filler, so I was grateful for that little machine.

Flashcards and Chants

Because we are foreign teachers we are often thought of as teachers who just make things fun for the children, as I am a qualified EFL teacher I actually believe I am there to teach the children something, so I often make little flashcards of the dialogues or chants they have been learning, and I often get surprised looks for the TAs, a look of astonishment that I actually want to ‘teach”. Anyway, I push on, and hope that the children get something out of it.

by Yolande Deane

Yolande M Deane is Young Learner expert, currently living and teaching in Harbin, in the north-east of China. She loves working with children and is an active ESL and China blogger. You can check out her blog here.
Monday, 11 January 2016 21:05

Traveller's Syndrome: Reverse Culture Shock

Reverse Culture Shock

Traveller's Syndrome: Reverse Culture Shock.

Ask any traveller what the worst part of travelling is and many, if not most of them will tell you: “coming home.” After all the adventures, excitement and new horizons, the thought of returning to a normal everyday life, can be pretty uninspiring.

Sure, you've missed your friends, family and pets, but going back to normality can be in itself a type of culture shock.

What is Reverse Culture Shock?

First, I don't actually agree with the official name given to this condition, because I believe there is much more to it than simply a Culture Shock in your native country, I myself call it Traveller's Syndrome, because I think it's much more universal and the condition only really applies to travellers.

Reverse Culture Shock applies to anyone who has lived or travelled in one or more different countries for an extended period of time. It typically applies where people have been in a country which has vastly different culture and speaks a different native language, additionally the more time you've spent in the country and grown accustomed to it's culture, the worse the feeling will be.
It is quite simply the shock of returning to normality, whatever that may be.

Reverse Culture Shock - a serious condition

Reverse Culture Shock has many symptoms; boredom, reverse homesickness, loneliness, disorientation, depression, helplessness, a yearning for more travel or simply the want to be anywhere but where you are and an increased irritation with your own country and culture.

Reverse Culture Shock can be a very serious condition, with many travellers seriously struggling to reacclimatise to their native surroundings, in some cases the effects can be irreversible.

I myself have seriously struggled with it in the past. Upon returning from Eastern Europe, I came back to my family and friends and expected them to want to hear all about my tales and experiences. My family listened to them, but were never really interested and my friends couldn't have cared less and in some cases, were very jealous of what I had done. This made me feel extremely isolated and alienated. The feeling became worse, as the novelty of being back home wore off. I tried to settle back into my Masters course, but I began to feel extremely bored and lethargic.

On one extremely bad day, while I struggled to complete some part of my thesis, I realised I had spent about an hour not reading a book as I had intended, but actually reminiscing about my time in Eastern Europe and subconsciously planning my next trip. However, my next trip would not be for at least another two years. It was exactly at this point that I marched to my supervisor and told him I quit, signed the papers and left. I had realised the rather painful truth, that I was homesick at home.

Missing the Mundane Things

From the research I have done on this matter, using internet blogs, talking to travellers and also my own experiences, I have come to a slight conclusion. It's not actually the big things that travellers really miss while they are stuck back at home, but actually the more mundane times of life, which while they are being completed in a different country are more exciting and exotic.

I quite like the example of public transport in Indonesia. Indonesian Public Transport is an experience in itself, crowded angkots and the death traps that are bajais, combined with a completely unmaintained road network make almost all journeys, no matter how great or small extremely interesting and never dull. Imagine being used to such trips everyday and returning to the pristine roads and relatively non-crowded buses and trains of the UK. All of a sudden a typically exciting and invigorating event has become dull and boring, it can be a hard pill to swallow.

Getting Used to the 'Norm'

Of course, the condition doesn't just materialize in emotions or boredom, in some instances it can be a serious struggle of adaptation. After constantly living in a country which drives on the different side of the road to your native land, returning to the “norm” can take time and means careful consideration must taken every time you cross the road. To add to this, coming back to a more technologically advanced country can bring in itself new challenges, as you attempt to get used to things which have changed since you were gone and all the new gadgets, which are “supposed” to make your life easier.

Coping with Reverse Culture Shock

The question is of course, how do you cure or cope with Reverse Culture Shock? Well, I'm afraid I can't really answer that.

During the time between the ending of my Masters course and the flight to Jakarta (six months), I still had to deal with the effects of RCS. One thing which I felt really helped me during this time, was attempting to make friends who were of the same nature as myself. There are numerous hospitality websites out there, which bring travellers to your doorstep and vice versa, utilizing these websites allowed me to talk about my experiences, make new friends and get some new ideas. These hospitality websites really can be like travelling without leaving home.

Travel is the Cure

Hospitality websites may help put off or reduce the feelings gained by reverse culture shock, but it will never make it go away. There is only one real cure for it, which is to travel.

Like most travellers a few months after returning home,  I have often found myself stuck between the insatiable urge to travel and the lack of money to do so. I truly thank my lucky stars for stumbling upon TEFL, because I found a way to work and live in a foreign country. It has opened so many countries to me, which I may never have been able to visit due to a lack of money.

Take the TEFL Route

If you have a love of travel, new countries and cultures, I truly believe that TEFL is the best way to solve the age old problem of travel vs money. I can't promise you'll ever be able to fully readjust to your native country, but you'll certainly find a way of putting the issue off to a later date.
By Peter Whitfield

Peter is a born traveller having spent time in Brazil, Latvia, Germany, Spain and Zambia. He hiked 800km through the Pyrenees (carrying all of his own supplies) and conducted scientific research in Brazilian rainforests. He is currently teaching English in Indonesia. Peter welcomes connecting with all new people and you can check out his profile and get in touch with him here or on Twitter - @PeterWhitfield2.
Published in Articles about China
Monday, 11 January 2016 19:25

Preparing for your TEFL Skype Interview

Preparing for your TEFL skype interview

Preparing for your TEFL Skype interview

Well then, you have slogged out your guts and completed your TEFL course (hardest four weeks ever, right?), have applied for English teaching jobs you've found online, sent off your documents and now have been offered an interview for a teaching job. Exciting stuff! But also a little bit scary! How should you prepare for your TEFL Skype interview and what should you be mindful of?

Firstly, we need to consider what is it that schools are looking to find out about you in your Skype interview and how can you adequately prepare so that you come across well and you get the job offer you are looking for?

So let’s look at what the average school is looking for and this will help you to get your mind focused on your Skype interview for teaching jobs a little better and how to ace your interview!

What are English schools looking for in an average Skype interview?

Having managed English schools myself in China for more than five years and having interviewed many teachers for TEFL positions using Skype, the first thing I need to say is that schools are generally not looking to test you on grammar skills or trying to trip you up on your theoretical knowledge. It is not in an English school’s interest to freak you out and try to make you fail. English schools in China, or in any country, have enough trouble getting the required numbers of TEFL teachers as it is. Schools should be friendly, approachable and hoping you’ll tick all the boxes and really want to come to their school.

Your interviewer knows that you have qualified as a TEFL teacher and that you have the basic knowledge as an English teacher. So instead they will be focusing on getting a feel for what you might be like to actually work with for a year and have on the team.

Are you really keen on teaching English or are you mainly looking for a way to subsidise your travel and see the world? Are you likely to get on with the students in the school? Will you mix well with the other teachers? What is your classroom style? You will not find schools purposely trying to trip you up or testing your theoretical knowledge, so don’t worry. Concentrate on being yourself and coming across positively and being the ideal choice to teach the type of students the school has which is interviewing you.

Preparing yourself for the Skype interview

The most important ways you can prepare beforehand for a Skype interview for a TEFL job is to focus on the two following aspects:
a) Find out online as much as possible about the school or company you are looking to join. This could include:

- How the school/company started
- The type of curriculum the school follows
- Does the school/company have other locations?
- Are they looking to expand further in the next few years?
- Does the school run extra-curricular events such as Halloween parties, Christmas parties, field trips, etc?
- Job descriptions for ESL teachers at the school
- Places of interest in the city (hey, you aren’t spending 24 hours a day in the school and knowing something about the city will show the interviewer that you are really interested in the job and the surrounding area)
b) Find out the type and ages of the students in the school and then research good approaches to teaching this age group. This could include:

- Reading articles about ELT for this student target group
- Some common problems these groups have and solutions
- Popular websites for worksheets, games and activities
- YouTube videos
- Classroom management articles and videos

Spend time preparing

Spending an hour or two online to find more about the above will pay dividends in your TEFL Skype interview. You will come across to the interview as keen, knowledgeable and interested in landing the teaching gig. Be friendly, smile, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the school, too. The Skype interview is a great chance for you to learn more about the job.

Finally, look smart, as you may be doing it with the video on, and get online at least ten minutes before your interview is to take place in case there are connection issues between yourselves.

Follow the above and you’ll blow the other candidates out of the water and land your English teaching job!

Good luck!

by Stuart Allen
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