Monthly Archives: April 2008

Two new pages

The students and teachers at my school are busy preparing for mid-term exams, so I’ve been left to twiddle my thumbs. The end result is two new pages on this website! Talk about time well spent.

The first new page is Resources. Here I’ve included links to websites that have helpful content for lesson plans and materials, as well as some powerpoints and other materials that I’ve used in my own lessons. My focus has been on links and materials relevant to teaching at public schools in Korea, but I’ll be adding additional resources as the year goes along.

The second new page is Qualifications. This covers the kind of qualifications you can get to teach in Korea, and whether you really need one. There are also links to some language schools in South Africa that offer TEFL certification courses. This list of schools is far from comprehensive. Instead I’ve included schools that I’ve either dealt with personally, or have heard about from friends.

As always, comments are welcome, as well as recommendations for content.




Recruiter scams

This week I came across another story about a South African getting a bit screwed over by SA-based recruiters. Unfortunately, this is far from being an isolated incident. I have heard about this far too often, and almost fell for it myself.

It usually goes something like this: A South African, keen to explore the world, decides to head to Korea. He (or she, though I’ll stick to “he” here for convenience) starts doing some research and hears all the horror stories about Korean-based recruiters, or is totally unsure about how to get started on what is quite a complicated process for the uninitiated. So he hears about some South African-based recruiters and decides that using someone from home is much better than trying a company from the other side of the planet.

It all starts well. Documents are organised and sent, and everything seems to be going just fine. Though our hero soon hears that there is an admin fee for this service. Depending on the company he works through, this could be anything from R4,000 to R8,000. Well, this seems reasonable, considering the amount of money our hero will be making, and he doesn’t have to pay this up front. So he agrees, and everything is fantastic, until he gets to Korea and starts chatting to other foreigners about how they got here. Then realisation hits.

“So, how much did you pay your recruiter?” asks our hero, after a couple of beers.

“What? Pay a recruiter? Why would I do that?” says his fellow native speaker.

“Phngfg?” replies our hero, while trying not choke on his beer. “You mean you didn’t have to pay a recruiter to get you a job?”

His fellow native speaker slowly puts down his beer. He looks our hero with sympathetic eyes, and in soft voice says, “No. I’m afraid not. I think you might have been screwed over, mate.”

*This dialogue has been dramatised. Names have been changed to protect the individuals involved. No beer was injured in the making of this dramatisation.

The fact is that you do NOT have to pay a recruiter to get you a job in Korea. The SA-based recruiters that do charge a fee justify this by saying that they represent the teacher, and not the schools, and thus do not take any money from the schools. I don’t believe this for a minute. All the other recruiters get a hefty fee from the schools for finding teachers, and this is way easier than trying to convince teachers to pay for this service. My feeling is that the SA-based recruiters are double dipping. And they certainly don’t make their fees clear in their initial dealings with teachers. My experience with one of these companies was very frustrating in trying to find out how much the fee was, and why they were charging it. This was until I found a much more efficient Korean recruiter, who DID NOT CHARGE ME A CENT.

So the moral of the story is simple. Don’t pay any recruiters to find you a job in Korea. No matter what they tell you, you don’t need to! You can get as good, and often better, service and advice from other recruiters who don’t charge anything. Or better yet, you can get jobs at public schools DIRECTLY through the government education departments.

If you want to read more, take a look at my Recruiters page.

Phoning home and watching Macgyver

I’m really enjoying the cheap access to fast internet here in Korea. After a bit of hassle to get it organised, we now pay R300 a month for unlimited access to the internet, at speeds up to 100Mbps. Woohoo! The best I ever got back home was maybe 1Mbps, and my bandwidth was capped at 1GB per month. I downloaded more than that this morning!

Not only do I get to watch old episodes of MacGyver, which is gloriously cheesy and full of terrible yet enjoyable acting, but it is also really easy to keep contact with all my family and friends back in sunny SA. Email is the usual culprit, with blogs and Facebook a close second. I have also started making extensive use of Skype. I have managed to speak to all my family, on cellphones and landlines, in SA and the UK, and I’ve still yet to finish the 10 Euros worth of Skype airtime that I bought.

A couple of people have told me that they use phonecards here to call home, but Skype seems to me to be way cheaper. I pay local call rates to phone anyone back home, and I can recharge my airtime while I’m chatting. Sure beats finding a public phone somewhere, and sitting in the cold and wet trying to hold a decent conversation!

Dodging all the dough

My department head is convinced that I’m only interested in making money. No matter what I tell him, he keeps on trying to get me to do extra work, and his motivation is always “but you can make lots of money”. Fair enough. That’s generally a good motivation for a lot of people. But if I wanted to make loads of cash by working ALL THE TIME I would have studied something else. BA graduates tend to find other forms of motivation. If I wanted to work all the time and make lots of money (or debt) I would have studied a degree with better employment prospects. I would also be splattered face down at the bottom of some tall building by now. But that’s another story.

Over the past week my department head has tried to make me work an extra ten hours over weekends (five hours on Saturday and another five on Sunday). This would have meant that my income would have increased by 1.2 million won a month (or about R9600). Not bad, but I’m not sure it would have been worth giving up my weekends. It is pretty strange to be in a position to turn down this kind of EXTRA income, which is more than I was earning in total back in SA. But I think it is important to come to Korea for something more than just to work and make money. The main reason I turned this down was so that I would have time to travel to all those places in Korea that I want to see. Otherwise this teaching gig becomes just another job. Go to work, go home, sleep, go to work, go home, sleep…. I have had enough of this over the past few years.

So I said a big loud NO to the extra work. Not only do I get to enjoy some of this country, but I also put a nice big hole in a lot of Koreans’ perceptions that foreigners here are only in it for the money. But I have to admit it’s still pretty tricky dodging all the offers!