Ageism in teaching: Does it exist?

There is a sensitive issue that I’d like to address in this post and that issue is this: Are there age-limits to teaching overseas and if so, why do they exist?

A few years back I applied to teach at a camp program in Korea. I ended up being told by one camp program that I was too old to work in the camps and that they were looking for teachers in their 20s and 30s. My age at the time: 37.

So the question on the table – does ageism in hiring for overseas positions exist? In a word, yes it does. It’s not fair and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but it does exist.

At this time I want to be clear that ageism in hiring is by no means a uniquely Korean issue. This issue exists in many other countries and I have seen an increasing number of job ads explicitly stating the age limits for hiring. I can recall as a university student, a well-known Japanese program clearly indicating that they do not hire anyone over 35.

I have been asked repeatedly what the age limits are for hiring in Korea. With the private academies, there are no official posted limits for age. However, unofficially some programs place caps on their hiring. This in turn makes it difficult for older teachers to find positions.

It does seem strange, doesn’t it, in a country like Korea where age is often associated with respect and wisdom that a teacher would not be as welcomed when they are older. I heard again and again from students that they preferred younger teachers and that younger teachers had more energy and were more fun. I cannot speak for all teachers but I know that I am a better teacher in my 40s than I ever was in my 20s.

However, the age issue and Korea deserves to be explored a bit more. I am sure this is true of many places in the world, but in Korea one’s age almost perfectly defines what one is supposed to be doing at that stage in their life. It’s like in Korea everyone is given a blueprint for what path their life should take and it rarely deviates from that path (and if it does, watch the reaction that you get). Don’t believe me? Tell me that you are 32 and not married – what do you think the first question you will be asked will be “Why aren’t you married?” By the time you reach your 30s, marriage should be in the rearview mirror, not something that might happen down the road. If you teach university, look at your freshman and see how many of them vary in age. I had a freshman student who was once 4 years older than the other students in the class and was embarrassed by this fact.

The point I am making here is that the way age is viewed in Korea is fairly rigid, especially with regard to expectations. Going back to the issue of teachers and age, students hold certain expectations of older teachers. I’ve heard time and time again that older teachers are “boring”.

There are, of course, other reasons why older teachers are often bypassed in the hiring process besides student expectations. One reason, I believe, that ageism exist in hiring for overseas is that programs believe it keeps costs down. By continually hiring new and relatively inexperienced teachers for overseas, programs are able to keep salaries lower. Teachers with experience would command higher salaries (and rightfully so). While I find the salaries for teaching overseas to be pretty good when you factor in the free housing and low taxes, it goes without saying that hiring teachers with less experience allows programs to keep their salaries from increasing.

The one last question I would ask if what the future holds. Will this hiring trend change? Unfortunately I don’t think it will and that in itself is a real shame. By looking at the age of an applicant and overlooking them, many programs in these countries are overlooking some fantastic teachers that could do great things if given the opportunity.

Once when I felt down sometime after my 40th birthday, a close friend told me “Age is just a number”. It’s a thought that has stuck with me since that day and every day I live and work the way I want to regardless of my age and how society believes I should act.

To older teachers who may experience some frustration in the process I conclude with these words – do not lose heart. There are programs out there that do in fact, hire older teachers and look beyond things like age to hire the best teacher possible for their program.

Hello? Hello? Where you from? Is it really that bad?

Hello? Hello? Where you from? Is it really that bad?

One issue that comes up again and again from teachers that are in Korea is the issue of people coming up to them on the street and wanting to practice their English. For some teachers this is a source of constant frustration. “I’m not a walking dictionary”, one teacher put it to me. However, I’d like to raise the issue of whether or not this is really something to get bent out of shape over.

We all have days when we just want to be left alone. And you are going to stand out in Korea, particularly if you teach in a rural area. If you are going to teach in the countryside, be prepared to stand out. Those teachers in the countryside will know exactly what I mean. Teachers in the bigger cities will be able to be a bit more invisible, but there will still be days when you get attention while walking down the street and for many teachers this extra attention sends them over the top.

One thing that happens with great regularity in Korea, is a group of kids shouting out ‘hello’ or some other English expression. It’s usually the upper elementary and middle school kids that do this and it’s usually accompanied by giggling. Now this is the point where a lot of teachers get angry. On one message board, a teacher mentioned telling these middle school kids to f**k off and gave them the finger.

I’ve seen this very issue debated on message boards with one side arguing that it’s offensive and the other side arguing that they are just trying to practice.

I’d like to suggest that when teachers feel themselves getting frustrated by the “hello kids”, they keep in mind the following tips:

1) Remember they are just kids: I think this is a key point. Telling kids to f*** off or showing them the finger only makes the teacher look bad. We all have our days where we feel frustrated and have had enough of Korea, but showing it in public like that only makes the situation worse. These are kids and sometimes kids want to get a reaction from you. By giving them one, you are only increasing the likelihood of it happening again. If you feel frustrated or tired and really don’t want to answer, the best solution is to walk away and say nothing.

2) Talk to them: Sometimes that is exactly what these kids don’t want – to have to speak English. In many cases, they shout out one or two English expressions, but they aren’t expecting to actually have to use English. When they ask a question, answer it and give them a question back. If their English is good, they may appreciate a moment of your time and if their English is not good and they cannot answer your question, they may be less likely to shout English at you the next time.

3) Just tell them directly: In some cases, you may simply want to be left alone. In those cases just tell the person, but again, be nice about it. On that subway ride home at the end of the day, it can be annoying to have someone want a conversation when you are trying to read your book. In such a case, simply tell them you’re tired and wish to be alone. (If they don’t understand that, you might be in for a few more questions though). if the person persists, get up and move to another car.

In the years I lived in Korea, the “hello” kids were probably number one source of frustration among teachers. I knew teachers that would completely lose their mind when this happened and I didn’t fully get why.

How about other teachers? Does this frustrate you? How do you handle it?


Effective ways to manage a quiet class

Silent and deadly.

Every teacher has gone through this before, but it can be particularly unnerving for new teachers - you go in the class with what you think is your best lesson and it falls flat. The students just sit there. No one speaks. Maybe at the back of the group one student is coughing. Panic starts to set in as you realize that you have a “speaking” class where no one wants to speak. Bueller? Bueller?

I hear the same questions or comments over and over again. “How can I get them to speak?”, “They just sit there for the whole class.”. If you find yourself faced with one of these silent classes, you might want to keep the following suggestions in mind.

1. Don’t compensate for a quiet class with more teacher talk

That’s the biggest mistake that I have noticed with new teachers. When they are in a class and no one is speaking, suddenly the teacher will begin to do all the talking. Silent classrooms can be unnerving for teachers, but if the teacher begins doing the talking for the students, the students will never see any need to speak for themselves. In fact, in some classes the students would be perfectly fine if the teacher did all the talking, all the time.

When I would observe a teacher’s class and it was a quiet class, I found that the teacher spent a lot of time filling the silence with their own comments. They would answer their own questions. One area where teachers, especially new teachers struggle is with teacher talk. They will talk too much in class and the students won’t say enough (or anything at all).

If you find yourself in the situation where students won’t volunteer answers themselves, you may wish to devise a system whereas students as made to “volunteer”. You can make it a fun system. I have used dice, cards and other things to get students to volunteer answers and it has always had the desired effect. For some classes I bring in multi-sided dice – the more sides the better. I usually use a d20 (for those of you that have never played roll-playing games before that is a 20-sided dice). You can get these dice in any gaming store. I give the students time to practice the material and when it comes time to volunteer, I give each student a die and on the count of three they roll it and the highest roll “volunteers”. This never fails to elicit cheers or a groan from the “volunteer”. Once students get the idea that they may have to volunteer an answer, they take the time to prepare one. I’ve also used cards here – each student takes a card. Most of the cards have a smiling face, one has a skull and crossbones. The student that gets that card again “volunteers”.

The point with the above suggestion is that sometimes you have to look at creative and perhaps humorous ways to get students to volunteer their answers. Once they get comfortable with the idea of volunteering answers, it will become a lot easier for them.

2. Don’t take it personally

I once worked with a teacher who would berate the students if they just sat there. Don’t do it. You aren’t going to inspire or motivate your class by tearing into them. I knew another teacher that was regularly complaining on facebook about their class (again, don’t do it). The silent class happens to every teacher. It doesn’t matter how good of a teacher you are or how long you’ve been teaching. It’s going to happen. The main point is how you deal with it.

Teacher’s invest a lot of time in their lesson plans, so I can see where teachers take it a bit personal where all their effort goes for nothing. However, just like classroom discipline, you have to remember that it’s not personal. These students that are quiet may be quiet for their other teachers as well. Don’t take it personally. In most cases, it is not the lesson content but rather the students themselves who are uncomortable with speaking in the class.

Having said that, if you have a quiet class you may want to take a close look at the materials and ask yourself questions like:

- Is this material appropriate for the level of the students? Too easy? Too hard?

- Is this material interesting for the students? Does it relate to their background and what they need to know?

- Is the topic interesting or is it possibly something that the students have already done dozens of times before?

While in most cases, I believe a quiet class is not the result of the materials, in some cases it is. Either the topics don’t interest the students or the material is too hard. In any case, if you have a quiet class, it is a very good idea to take a close look at the materials used for the class and determine if they are appropriate. Change the materials and see what effect that has on the class.

3. Don’t allow one student to speak for the group

What often happens in a quiet class is that the students acknowledge one student as the unofficial leader of the group and then that student proceeds to answer most of the questions. This is usually the student that the other students recognise as having the strongest English. In some classes it may be the student that is the oldest. Age is another area which may affect students. Some students may be uncomfortable sharing their opinions with a student who is much older/younger than them.

At any rate, it is important to note who answers and how often. If you find you are in a class where one student dominates, it might be beneficial to discuss with them after the class, how you’d like to try and get the other students to answer. Be sure to talk with them privately and also be sure to praise them for participating. However, be clear that you want everyone in the class to participate. Some students are happy to be passengers, along for the ride, but they aren’t going to learn much that way.

4. Switch it up

Routine is boring. I’ve taken language classes that followed the exact same pattern everyday for weeks on end, and it was painfully boring. If you do the exact same routine everyday, you are going to find that the students become listless and bored with the class. Their motivation will go down and they are going to speak less.

Good teachers break the routine and keep classes fresh. Play a game. Watch a video. Do a song. Find activities that break students out of the drab routine and get them interested in the class. I’ve seen quiet classes completely transform when playing a game, shouting out answers and laughing. A quick note on activities like this though – they can easily be overused. Games should be used sparingly. If you bring them in every day, you will find it hard to ever do any serious work. Try and get the students to write sentences? Nope. You’ll hear the moans of “ooooh, teacher. Game.” Use them as an incentive for the students. Let them know that if they finish their work and do a good job, they can play a game or watch part of the video.

Remember these tips the next time you are faced with that class that just won’t do anything. I believe with the right attitude and approach any teacher can transform a quiet class into a more active one.

Good luck.



Social media and the pitfalls of teaching

To friend or not to friend, that is the question.

Recently I heard about a teacher who was almost fired from their position for complaining about a class on facebook. Stories like this are becoming a lot more frequent – teachers finding themselves in hot water as a result of something they have posted on a social media site.

This in turn begs the question. Do social media sites, such as facebook or twitter have a role in the English language classroom? Should teachers be embracing these sites and introducing their students to a side of them they may not see in the classroom? Or should teachers see these sites as a private sanctuary, off-limits for students.

Social media, whether you love it or hate it, has a role to play in teaching. I think the dilemma lies in whether the teacher chooses to include it or ignore it. I used to get facebook requests from students all the time and the biggest issue I had when accepting students as “friends” was deciding whether or not it was appropriate to allow them to see that part of my private life.

Initially I used to accept student friend requests without hesitation. As stories started to come in about teachers getting in trouble and in some cases fired, for what they posted, I started to see the dangers of allowing students into this part of my world. After that, I stopped accepting requests from current students, but I was fine with accepting requests from former students.

I’d like to add at this point that I find public displaying of ranting against students and classes to be unprofessional and a poor choice, even if you don’t have any students on your site. I think complaining about a class on a message board or social media site does nothing but make the teacher look unprofessional. And while there may not be students on the site, employers may go there. According to research in North American, 70% of employers check out an applicant’s profile on social media sites. For sure, sometimes teachers feel the need to “let it out” but doing it on a public board will not likely have any positive results. If you ever do feel the need to rant, walk away from the keyboard and go out for a coffee and talk about it with friends. If you say anything inappropriate in your discussion, you’ll get away with it. If it’s printed on a message board, it’s there permanently.

But back to the main question – should teachers “friend” their students? If a student sends a friend request, how should the teacher handle it? I’m going to say that nowadays, it simply isn’t worth it to friend a student. It simply carries the risk that the teacher is going to say or do something inappropriate and it’s going to bit them in the ass (however, there is a compromised solution below). I think when friended by a student, it is best to let them know that you think it may not be appropriate for them to have access to your personal profile.

If you do feel uncomfortable refusing student requests and also believe that social media sites, such as facebook or twitter, have a place in classroom teaching, you could create a new page used only for that class. That would allow the teacher to control what information goes on the page and also create more social interaction among the students. It is likely that students will ask you about facebook and as a teacher, saying no to a request can be a bit awkward. Having a page used only for teaching would allow you to interact with students on the social media site, while still maintaining your position as their teacher.

And this last point I think bears repeating and is likely the best reason not to allow student on your main profile page – you are their teacher. There is a pretty good chance that you have something on your site that would range anywhere from mildly to wildly inappropriate. Pictures from your last Halloween party, pictures from the last staff party. These show the students a new side of you and suddenly your image as their teacher is tarnished.

I think as English teachers, we want to present ourselves to the students in a sociable light. Teaching is far more than going in with the textbook and simply doing the exercises. The best teachers are those that often have the strongest rapport with their students. Having said that, it is also important for the teacher to keep a safe distance from the students. You are not their friend, you are their teacher. Once you cross that line, you may find yourself in trouble with something or your classroom teaching not as effective. The key lies in having a balance – knowing how much of yourself to introduce while still maintaining your position as the teacher.


Getting a university position in Korea

For this post because I regularly get asked this question and also because it’s around the time when universities will be hiring, I thought it would be helpful to offer some practical suggestions to those who were looking for a coveted university position in Korea.

I taught at a university in Seoul for 13 years. In that time, I worked on the hiring committee for hiring new teachers for five years and got to see a lot of great teachers get turned down. Applying for a university position is a lot more competitive than most academy or public school positions and to be successful in a university application, the teacher needs to be prepared and do their homework. There are a few sites out there which advertise packages on how to get a university position for a small price, but in my opinion, such packages are a waste of money, as with a little effort and common sense, you may be able to get a university position in Korea if you keep the following tips in mind.

Tip #1 – Be in Korea

You are more likely to be hired by a university if you are in Korea. This is because universities prefer to interview candidates face-to-face and have them do a demo-lesson. I have seen teachers get hired for universities without being in Korea (some had online interviews and submitted a demo video), but the majority of teachers were in Korea who got hired for universities. If you are in Korea and thinking of a university position, it pays to look before you head back home for vacation. If you are out of Korea and wish to apply, you could still submit your application and try to arrange interviews online, although I believe that those applicants will be at a disadvantage against the applicants going in person. If you believe you have a strong application, you could arrange to fly to Korea and arrange interviews in person.  I’ve known teachers who have done that and walked away with a great position. Many of them combined their job trip with a vacation later in the region to make the trip more worthwhile.

Tip #2 – Direct contact makes the difference

Probably the least useful way to get a university position is to request one on a job board. Writing a post entitled “looking for a university position” nowadays is unlikely to get much attention from well-established university programs, as they don’t often contact teachers directly nor do they advertise their positions on sites. Many of the best university positions go underadvertised or advertised on their university website and are missed by the majority of teachers.

Pretty much all of the university programs out there have websites and many of them have English websites. The contact information for the English Education and English Language and Literature programs are all listed on the sites, allowing applicants to contact the schools directly. In my recent research on these sites, I found three university positions that I did not see advertised anywhere else. These positions are often filled by applicants who take the time and make the effort to research about them. Waiting for someone to provide you with a position that offers long vacations and short hours is unlikely to happen. If you are serious about a university position, do the research and compile a list of the universities you are interested in and contact them directly.

Tip #3 – It’s who you know

You hear that a long in jobs, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. This is never more true when in comes to university positions. In many cases, the people that find out about the positions or get recommended for them are friends or colleagues of teachers who are already working in that program. Many of the teachers that I saw get hired already knew people working in the university program and as such they were recommended to the department.

You may be saying to yourself at the moment that you have no connections at any of the universities. If that is the case, then there are several things that you can do to work on that situation. First, it may be a good idea to join a professional teaching group and get to know some of the people that go there regularly. Not only will you get some great new ideas to use in your class, but you will also get the chance to meet some teachers working in different programs. Groups such as KoTESOL have meetings and workshops every month and have chapters in different cities, making it easy to attend the meetings. Another approach might be to contact a teacher or two who is currently working at the university and ask them about the program. As mentioned, all of the current staff information is on the website and by contacting them directly, you may get ignored but you may end up with some information about the program that improves your application.

Tip #4 – Put together a kick-ass demo lesson

Yes, I used the phrase “kick-ass” to describe a lesson because this is the one area where most applicants fall flat on their face. Many of the university programs are going to ask applicants to put together a short sample lesson to demonstrate at their interview. Universities do this quite frequently as the competition for these positions is quite tough. When I was on the hiring committee, it was in the demo lesson where I saw some truly excellent teachers get rejected.

When putting together your demo lesson, you need to understand first and foremost that it is NOT a complete lesson, nor should you treat it as one. Most demo lessons are much shorter than the average class length, many being 20-30 minutes, so if an applicants spends the entire time talking and setting up an activity (with the students doing no talking at all), your lesson will not have succeeded.

If you are asked to prepare a demo lesson, be sure to ask the hiring committee the following questions if you are not clear:

* How long is the demo lesson?

* What should the focus for the demo lesson be? (Usually the focus should be on what the program teaches)?

* How many students will be in the demo lesson?

* What is the level of the students?

Asking these questions may make the difference between having a successful demo lesson and a terrible one. I have seen teachers come in woefully unprepared to do a demo lesson or prepare a lesson that was miles above the ability of the students. If you get to the interview/demo lesson stage, I think the demo lesson will be one of the key factors in determining if you get hired or not. Some teachers look at the demo lesson as if it were a formality. It’s not. It’s a key stage in the hiring process and having a successful demo lesson greatly increases the likelihood of being selected.

Tip #5 – Your academic qualifications are important (but not as much as you might think)

Don’t get me wrong here. Academic qualifications matter. Most university programs in Korea nowadays are requesting a Masters degree. However, I have seen where they will take an application without one, if they have a strong background and I have seen Bachelor’s degree taken over Master’s degree applicants when it came to the demo lesson stage. I think the point to take here is that if you have a strong application but are short in one or two areas, it may be worth your while to apply for the position anyway.

The other point to make here is that your academic qualifications may get you the interview/demo lesson, but they won’t be enough to get you the job. I have seen more than a few academics, put together some awful demo lessons because they were more comfortable researching than teaching.

If you are interested in applying for a university position, it pays to keep in mind the tips mentioned above. If you have any other practical suggestions to offer those seeking a university position in Korea, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Discipline in the Korean classroom


Discipline in the Korean classroom



My name is John Morgan and I taught English for 13 years at Hanyang University in Seoul. I currently work as a recruiter hiring teachers for school positions in Korea. I loved living and teaching in Korea and I hope through these blog posts to offer some advice to new teachers on working and living in Korea so that they may get the most out of their experience.

If you are an inexperienced teacher or you are just a bit of a wimp like me, one area that you may have difficulty with is classroom control and maintaining discipline in the classroom. Many teachers come to Korea completely unprepared for what they see in the classroom (examples below). The image that you might have of Asian students sitting quietly in rows is a notion that you might like to get out your head before arriving in Korea because in my experience that isn”t likely to happen. You are going to encounter unruly classes.


My first day teaching in Korea would have to go down as one of the worst teaching days I have ever had. As I entered the classroom there were 12 grade 1 students running around screaming and wrestling on the carpet. I spent the first 20 minutes of a 40 minute class trying (and failing miserably) to get the students to sit on the carpet. Kids kept getting up and wandering around the room. But the worst was when I was first introduced to the “Dungjjim”. I had turned to write something on the whiteboard and had just starting writing when I felt a sharp pain in my bottom. For those that do not know, a “Dungjjim” is when someone comes up behind you and sticks their finger in your buttocks. Yes, you read that correctly. Needless to say I quickly learned that teaching kids was a lot like avoiding a tidal wave – never turn your back on them.


I spent the first few months of my teaching career in Korea struggling with classroom control and how to get the kids to do what I want. I”m not afraid to admit that discipline and classroom control are not my strong points when it comes to teaching as these never came up during my teacher training. No one had ever mentioned what to do if a student keep hiding under the table. This really ended up affecting the classroom teaching, as you might imagine, because I was spending a big chunk of the class trying to control the students (and failing at it) instead of teaching them.


Before exploring some suggestions of how to handle these situations, it might be worthwhile to mention why classes seem to be like this. There are several explanations I think. The first explanation is that these kids do a lot of school hours and they simply don”t have enough time to be kids. They are shuttled around to extra programs after their school and they don”t have enough time to goof off as kids tend to do. As such, they see the English classes as a bit of an opportunity to horse around. The second explanation is that the students view their foreign teachers much differently than their Korean counterparts and as such are less intimidated by them. The last reason is that in some cases teachers are not supported in trying to maintain class control by their school. On one occasion when I attempted to remove a student that was unruly, which is putting it mildly since he was running around the room with everyone else”s textbooks that he grabbed and ran away, he was put back in the class again. When I tried to remove him again, he was sent back in. Students could not be removed from the class because I was told that would anger the parents. So removing students for a “time out” was not an option. I had to find other options to keep classes under control.


With that in mind, I worked at it and I would suggest the following for improving your classroom control.


1. Never get angry


Most important rule. If you find yourself getting angry with a student, step back. Never get angry should be your guiding principle. It helps to know that when students are being unruly and are out of control in the classroom, it”s not personal and you should not take it as such. These kids aren”t misbehaving because of you, they would try the same for other teachers. Also, in many cases, an angry reaction is what the students are looking for – they find it amusing that they can get under the skin of their teacher.


I tell every teacher I work with, if you ever find yourself getting angry remember that it is not personal. If necessary excuse yourself for 30 seconds and collect yourself.


2. Find a motivational plan for your students


Sometimes the simplest things worked. For me, I made a weekly chart of all of the students in the class and how they were progressing during that week. Students were rewarded with stars for finishing their work and behaving in class. Stars were taken away when students misbehaved or didn”t do their homework. At the end of the week, students were allowed to pick something from my treasure chest, a small container that I had that was full of small toys and stickers that I picked up at my neighborhood stationary store. This plan by far was the most successful idea I had. Students got really upset at the end of the week if other students received a prize for their work and they didn”t. It sometimes resulted in a few tears, but in the following weeks students remembered about receiving this prize at the end of the week.


Another teacher that I worked with made fun certificates on their computer for the students and adorned them with stickers. Certificates that said things like “Great job” or “Terrific work this week”.


Also, set some weekly goals for your students and reward them for meeting their goals. Sometimes a “reward” could be something simple like a sticker or a “good job” certificate. I am a big advocate of goal setting with students as I feel that when students have a clear goal in mind and something to work towards, they are much more likely to stay on task.


I have been told by some teachers that these kinds of plans don”t work for them, but in my experience these ideas really helped with my problems with classroom management. Students starting behaving better as they knew there was a reward for their positive behavior (and consequences for their negative behavior).


3. Share ideas with your fellow teachers


If you have an idea that works with your classes to control them better, share it with other teachers. I”ve worked with some teachers who were great about sharing ideas, but I also worked with teachers who refused to ever share any ideas with other teachers. One of your co-workers may have a great suggestion for how to effectively control the class and you shouldn”t feel afraid to ask. I would ask teachers ”Do you have any suggestions as to how I can control the students better?” “How do you handle it when students                                  ?” Classroom teaching is much more effective when teachers collaborate and share ideas.


You may also find it helpful to read up on some books on classroom control before going to Korea. There are a lot of books out there covering this topic and in my opinion, it is a great idea to read up on this before you begin teaching. Because chances are classroom discipline and control are issues that come up, likely very early, in your teaching career in Korea.


4. Every teacher deals with this


Related to the first point about not getting angry (which I think bears repeating) is the idea that when students are behaving badly, it is not something that you have done. I have seen far too many teachers take it personally when students won”t do as they ask and they shouldn”t because these kids are going to try the same behaviors with any teacher. Once you accept this thought, you can move on from feeling frustrated and angry about the lack of control and focus your energy on working on a solution. Because building on the first point (Never get angry), you are going to find it next-to-impossible to find ways to control your class if you are angry. You need to be in control of yourself and your own emotions if you want to gain control of the class.


If you are a bit of a classroom wimp, like me, discipline and control will be areas of difficulty in your teaching. I struggled with this for the first few months I was in Korea and as such my classroom teaching was not very effective. A lot of hours were lost simply trying to keep the class under control. If experience has taught me anything, it is that classes need to be under control and on task to be effective. If you find yourself spending more time trying to control the class than teaching them anything, the students are simply not going to learn.



Have a great tip for classroom management that works? Share it in the comments section and help out your fellow teachers.

Top 5 ways to improve your application for teaching overseas in Korea


Top 5 ways to improve your application for teaching overseas in Korea



My name is John Morgan and I taught English for 13 years at Hanyang University in Seoul. I currently work as a recruiter hiring teachers for school positions in Korea. I loved living and teaching in Korea and I hope through these blog posts to offer some advice to new teachers about working and living in Korea so that they may get the most out of their experience.


You may be currently applying for positions to teach overseas with mixed results. Maybe you have been submitting your application for quite a while without getting the responses you expected. As a recruiter I see hundreds of resumes a month and I have seen some fantastic teachers completely sabotage their application by doing some things that really hurt their application. If you keep in mind a few simple tips when applying, you may end up receiving a lot more offers (and better ones too).

1. Submit an appropriate photo

Note the key word there – appropriate. There seems to be a belief among some applicants that when recruiters or schools ask applicants to submit a photo that any photo on their hard drive will do. Not so. Try and imagine what an employer might be thinking when they see an applicant”s photo and the applicant is clearly intoxicated. Or they are at the beach. I somehow doubt that any applicant would attend a job interview after a night of clubbing or in their European-cut speedos, but I do receive these kinds of photos with a fair degree of regularity (yes, I actually did once receive a photo of a teacher in their speedos). Submitted photos of a teacher in a bar, holding a drink or clearly drunk are actually quite common. And very damaging to your application.


If you believe that a photo is indeed worth a thousand words, then the photo you submit for an application should reflect that. If you are spending hundreds of dollars on preparing to teach overseas, and it will cost that by the time you get all your documents and belongings together, then the last thing you should be doing is submitting a photo which presents you in an unprofessional way. In short, the photo that you submit for your application should be the exact same image that you would want to present in a job interview. When submitting your photo ask yourself these questions “Does this photo represent me in a positive way?” “Is this the image that I would show in a job interview?”


I am occasionally told by an applicant “Sorry, I don”t have a better photo” when they submit a photo that is not appropriate. My suggestion would be not to be sorry, but to take the time to have a better, more professional photo taken. It will show schools that you take the process seriously and it will open up more positions for you.


As a rule, the following photos would be considered inappropriate:

- any shots taken in a bar, holding a drink, or any photos where you are intoxicated

- group shots

- recreational shots where you are hiking or at the beach

- photos where you turn the camera on yourself and lean into the picture


Appropriate photos would consist of:

- a head and shoulders shot of you (the person applying) and no one else

- if you do use a group shot, it could be acceptable to include one with students, although the head and shoulders photo is best

- photos where you are smiling and friendly are best


2. Submit a professional resume


I”ve been called a Grammar Nazi sometimes for pointing out the mistakes on a teacher”s resume, but I would like to mention that these resumes are for English teaching positions. I think a sloppy or unprofessional resume tells a lot about an applicant and what kind of teacher they would be. Like a professional photo, a well-made resume will open more doors for you.


If you are unsure of how to prepare a resume, there are numerous sites out there which offer good resume samples and temples. There are also professional resume writing services, which cost a bit more but also usually result in getting better job offers.


When preparing your resume to teach in Korea, you need to take into consideration the things a Korean school would want to see. The most important things would be teaching experience, of course, but other important experiences are camps or any experience working with youth. Don”t bury this experience at the bottom of your resume. I”ve seen a lot of resumes where they bury the really important information at the bottom of the page (like teaching or camp experience) and put unrelated experience (like sales or fast-food) at the top. Employers are busy people and they rarely read the whole resume unless something grabs their attention.


When preparing your resume for Korea, take the following into consideration:

- Put any experience you have with youth on your resume and make sure it is prominently displayed (don”t bury it)

- Be sure to put details about what you did at each position. Often I see resumes that simply list the names and dates of the places worked without any mention of what the teacher did there.

- Be wary of things like font choice, colour choose and other “creative: choices. Best to keep it simple. Resumes with a lot of font choices or colour schemes seem to turn off employers.

- Include a cover letter with your resume and in your letter include why you want to teach in Korea and why you would be a great teacher. Don’t just repeat what is in your resume. Your cover letter is a great chance to sell yourself.

- Most important: Do NOT under any circumstances put your salary expectations on your resume or cover letter.


If you find yourself submitting the same resume over and over again with no results, or not the results you want, try something different with your resume. Have someone look at it and make suggestions for improving it. The definition of insanity would be to do the same action again and again and expect a different result. If what you are doing does not seem to be working, take another look at it (or better yet have someone else look at it) and try something different.


I”d like to offer another practical tip for you out there that post your resumes on public forums. Email, people, email. Don”t post your phone number on a public forum unless you want to be bombarded with phone calls at all times of the day. I would never post a phone number on a public forum and would only give it out selectively after screening some of the responses you get to your resume through email.


One other resume tip that I”d like to add for applicants is to NOT send off your resume in a mass email to a long list of schools/agencies
that you have found online. Schools and agencies generally hate that and it shows that the teacher is not serious about applying. When a teacher submits a resume in a mass email, to me it says the teacher does not care what kind of program they work in. I think sending fewer applications which are specifically targeted to the school programs you want will get you much better results.


3. Get your documents together before you apply


Yes, you read that right – start getting your visa documents together before you apply. The visa process for Korea, to put it mildly, can be a frustrating process. It certainly is a far cry from when I first came to Korea in late 1996. When I first came to Korea it took about 2 days to get my documents together and mail them off. All that was required at that time was a set of transcripts, a photocopy of my degree and a signed contract. When applicants are submitted to schools, one of the first questions the directors ask about is their documents. ”Do they have their documents?” “When did they order them?” Schools surprisingly don”t hire that far in advance so the window for hiring is often 3 or 4 months before the position opens up. Teachers that submit their applications to schools have a much better chance of being selected if they are well-prepared with their visa documents. Schools view this that the applicant is more prepared and that their hiring process will go much smoother. From a recruiter”s perspective, it is much easier to work with someone who has all their documents.


I occasionally get responses from teachers where they state that they want to be hired and then start the document process because it is a long and expensive process, but in my opinion, that makes your application weaker. Having all of your documents prepared shows a school that you are serious and committed to coming to Korea and also gives you a bit more leverage in choosing positions. A lot of schools find themselves needing a teacher at the last minute because something happened during the visa process (things often happen – a criminal check takes longer than expected, a criminal check is rejected or many other possibilities). As such, having your documents prepared may put you in the position where you can get a much better position that opens up at the last minute and needs a teacher. I know a teacher that was hired for a university position and got the position because he had his documents prepared and the position needed a last-minute hire. Had he not had his documents prepared, he would not have gotten this position.


4. Do your research and choose carefully


Fifteen years ago would be what I would refer to as the days of “cowboy recruiting”, the wild west days of recruiting before numerous websites starting popping up and detailing some of the stories about schools and recruiters. Nowadays a simple google search will tell you all that you need to know about a program. When it comes to applying, my suggestion would be to start small and gradually build up the number of places that you apply to. Target the programs that you want to apply for and focus exclusively on those programs. Same as working with recruiters – target a few that you feel comfortable with and start working with them.


In doing your research, there are questions that you can ask to both schools and recruiters that may help you feel comfortable with them:



- How long have you been recruiting?

- What programs do you recruit for?

- Are you a licensed recruiter?

- How many teachers have you placed in Korea?



- How long has the school been open?

- How many teachers currently work there?

- What is the student enrollment at the school?

- How long have the teachers worked there?

- Can I speak to teachers at the school?


As a general tip, it is always recommended to speak to teachers at the school. This usually happens when you are considering taking the job, so after you interview, if you are interested in the position, you should request to talk to a current teacher. If possible try and talk to them at home as it will be a little uncomfortable for them to answer questions directly if they are in the office or within earshot of their director. If a school won”t allow you to talk to a current teacher, that may be a red flag about the position. Personally, I would never accept a position without talking to another teacher and being able to ask them my questions first.


As a rule, you should never feel pressured into taking a position as if it is the only position that will ever be available to you. Take your time and take the position you want and you”ll be much happier. If someone pushes you too hard to take a position, I would recommend walking away.


5. Get TEFL certified


This is particularly important if you don”t have a lot (or any) classroom experience as it allows you to put a teaching-related credential on your application. Applicants that are certified tend to get hired more quickly and with better starting salaries. In addition, having a TEFL certification gives you a bit more information about teaching and will make your experience a bit more enjoyable. I would generally recommend doing a longer (100+ hour) certification over the short ones, as these tend to carry stronger weight with employers.


However, there are a ton of TEFL programs out there which range from excellent to complete garbage. While some of these programs have strong international recognition, some of these programs are not recognized at all. The last thing you want to do is lay down the money for a TEFL certification program only to find out that it is not recognized anywhere. I know of at least a couple of online TEFL programs that are run out of homes and likely wouldn”t be recognized by many schools. When choosing a program, don”t base your decision simply on cost. Choosing the cheapest program may save you a few bucks but if the program is not recognized, your money will have been wasted.


When choosing a TEFL program, be sure to ask them:

- Is this certificate internationally recognized?

- What is the background of the instructors and their qualifications?

- What modules will we study in this certification program?


As mentioned, there are a ton of TEFL programs out there, many promising the same thing. Do you research on TEFL programs and choose carefully.


Applying to teach overseas can be a long and complicated process (and a very frustrating one at time too), but if you keep in mind some of the above tips, I can all but guarantee that your application process will be a more successful one. Any other tips or suggestions for applying to Korea? Share them in the comments section.

In addition, I have found a useful site for helping teachers prepare to go overseas here:

In particular the article on resume tips, as well as the article on getting started in teaching will be useful for new teachers. I also liked the article on Avoiding teacher burnout (a common issue with teachers). Anyway, I highly recommend checking out for some good information on teaching and preparing to teach abroad.