Teaching in Japan: Part 1

My first week in Japan

by Rachael Hornsby

After months of saving for flights, researching jobs, and attempting pretty unsuccessfully to learn some basic greetings in Japanese, I was eager to get over to Japan and find out for myself what it was like. I packed up all 25kg of my life in my snazzy new Tesco suitcase, said goodbye to all my friends and family, and left my lovely England once again so see what the homeland of sushi and sumo was to have in store for me.

Having caught the travel bug teaching in Thailand for a year, I had decided to set my sights on a new Asian adventure, and since everyone I’d met who’d been to Japan had loved it, and there are such great TEFL opportunities there, it seemed like an ideal place for the next step of my journey. Rather than choosing one of the many jobs I perused online, I decided to play it safe and follow a friend to a job and location I knew she had loved, and took a position teaching kindergarten in Kurume, a small city on the island of Kyushu in South West Japan.

After a long flight from Heathrow, and a short stopover in Seoul, I finally landed on Kyushu in Fukuoka, a city closer to North Korea than it is Tokyo. It was evening when I arrived, so my first sights of the island were just of big city lights on the drive from the airport with my colleague, with my main impressions being ‘why is everyone driving around in tiny white toy cars?’. My hotel on for the first night was pretty much like any other hotel, apart from the shower that only reached as high as my chest (the first of many ‘tall girl Japan problems’), and of course the infamous Japanese toilet, with its innumerous temperature, direction and pressure settings for your post-business ‘shower’- even more impressive than my beloved ‘bum gun’ in Thailand.

After a little tour of the not-too-exciting Wednesday night down town Kurume, my friend took me for my first Japanese meal to a gorgeous little yakitori restaurant. We sat at the bar eating sticks of meat and fresh salmon sashimi (my first ever!), surrounded by a strong aroma of tasty barbecuing and annoying cigarette smoke (it’s still legal to smoke inside here).

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Salmon sashimi, part of my first meal in Japan

I moved into my adorable little apartment the next day, which made me feel yet more like a giant (I get through my door ways with about an inch to spare above my head). The flat has all traditional Japanese sliding doors separating the rooms. The bedroom floor is all tatami (Japanese straw mats fitted together). The furniture is low to the ground, and the bath is deep, almost cube-shaped (my first few bath times were a bit of a floating somersault act!). It was one of the most stereotypically Japanese buildings I’d see yet, and I half felt as if I was moving into museum exhibit of what a period Japanese house should look like! I was also given a little moving in guide, complete with an ‘earthquake preparedness’ check list, which told you about how to get ready for an earthquake- it sounded just like the stuff we were learnt about in geography at school, so felt weirdly unreal, like I’d jumped into a textbook. Little did I actually know how soon this information would actually become relevant!

Other new essentials handed to me by my school included my inkan, which is a little bamboo stamp with my name on the end that I use instead of a signature for all my important documents (they could only fit the Japanese kana for my first name on- レイチェル, ‘Reicheru’), and my company car (woop!). I got off to a slightly awkward start driving. Having never driven an automatic car before, my foot tried to find the clutch and slammed the break down on my first drive, with a truck behind somehow avoiding crashing into us. But luckily Japan drive on the same side of the road as the UK, so after getting to grips with their road rules I was soon buzzing around town with ease down the city’s tiny roads the width of driveways. (Although I still sometimes set off my wipers instead of the indicators, as they’re on are the opposite side to my car at home. Some habits are hard to shake!)

My little automatic car ❤

The timing of the school year in Japan means that new teachers are lucky enough to experience the infamous ‘sakura’ season (the blooming of the cherry trees) almost as soon as they land. In my first week the blossom seemed to suddenly appear everywhere at once, making, for example the carp-filled canal below our building look even more picturesque. The way the blossom it is anticipated and celebrated in this country, helps you really make the most of it and appreciate the beauty. It’s a great example of the stunning nature of Japan that drew me here, and the people’s special relationship with nature that I think we should all try to emulate. As wishy washy as that is, they still know how to celebrate like any country here- with a good helping of friends and alcohol, specifically, in my experience, day drinking their way through cool boxes full of beer and sake under the blossom!

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Blossom at a park on my drive to school

At the Hanami (the picnic held under the cherry blossom trees) I had my first experience of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. This is done at different events throughout the year in Japan, and put simply it is someone serving you a cup of tea, but it involves a precise process carried out by professionally trained tea ‘makers’ (no idea what the term is for that!). Ours took a quarter of an hour or so, and I could write a whole blog post on all the elaborate steps, but basically we knelt beside a lady in a kimono who was preparing the tea with a little traditional stove, were given a sort of swan-shaped sweet to prepare out palette, and after its long preparation, were each served a bowl of bitter green matcha tea, before watching whilst everything was methodically cleaned and put away. (I have since found out there are many different ‘schools’ of tea, with their own unique ceremonies, and this is just one specific style). The whole thing was so slow and delicate it made you feel quite peaceful, giving a nice contrast to the noise and energy of the party, but afterwards I still had a bit too much sake (not wanting to be rude and turn down drinks from my new acquaintances of course!) and ended up cycling home along a slightly wonky line…

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My first week here was crammed with many more episodes, including starting my job at school, taking a trip to a stunning nearby temple town, and trying my first 100 yen sushi. And my first month here was even more eventful when the island was rocked by its strongest earthquake in on record…

The Korean Hogwan

Before embarking on a career as an ESL teacher in South Korea, you will have to make one decision: EPIK or Hogwan?

A Hogwan is the name of a private academy in South Korea. Thousands of Hogwans are located throughout the country and offer all types of learning! From piano lessons to English conversation classes, from soccer academies to conversational Japanese. They cater to all ages, even from as young as one years old.

Every year thousands of companies hire native English speakers to work in these education centers. Working hours can vary from job to job, but can start from as early as 6am and finish as late as 1am. (Recent laws have made this less likely).


It is important to note that every Hogwan is different and they should not be mistaken for a Korea public school (EPIK).

It is recommended to use a recruiter when applying for jobs at a Hogwan because at least if something goes wrong you have a second point of contact.  But be warned – you should never ever pay a recruiter for this service.

Below is a brief list of the benefits and negatives of a typical Hogwan:

Pros

Salary

Generally, Hogwans pay well. A starting salary normally varies between 2.1 and 2.3 million Korean Won, depending on qualifications and experience.

Free Accommodation

The majority of Hogwans also provide free accommodation and free school meals, which cut your costs each month and allow you to save more of your money.

Severance Pay

The completion of a one year contract normally means the employer will give the employee severance pay, which is equal to a full month’s salary.

Flights

Almost every Hogwan will provide you with a free one-way flight to Korea. Many also offer a return ticket upon completion of the contract, but unfortunately, this is becoming less common over time.

Paid Vacation

By Korean law, Hogwans are obligated to provide their employees with 2 weeks paid vacation a year. Most allow one week off in July (summer vacation) and one in December (winter vacation).

Unfortunately, like with everything, there are also some negatives to working in Hagwon…

Cons

Parents

The students’ parents have too much involvement in most Hogwans. They can be very generous with gifts on special occasions, but equally as critical and moany every other day of the year. Ultimately they are paying a lot of money for their kids to attend school, so as annoying as it is, I can see why they hold so much power.

Closure

Many potential teachers fear that the school they are applying to will close down. This is not common, but unfortunately not a rare thing to happen either. Hogwans are ultimately businesses, so when they are not profitable or the owner has had enough, they can be closed down just as easily as your local corner shop. In most circumstances though, the Hogwans are bought out by investors who keep the current teachers employed.

Money First

As I just mentioned, Hogwans are businesses and money comes first. Sometimes the decisions by management and staff are not made in the best interest of the children or the teachers, but due to a financial means.

Before accepting a job at a Hogwan in Korea it is important to weigh both the pros and the cons. Do your research on that Hogwan and try to contact current teachers if possible!

Check out the A-Z Guide to Teaching English in South Korea:

TEFL TIPS #4 – Verb of the Day

Verbs are the skeleton of any language. Most ESL learners know the basics:. ‘eat,’ ‘go’, ‘play‘ etc., but expanding this list is vital to those working towards achieving a higher level of both spoken and written English.

verb of the day

In my classroom, I introduced a method I call ‘verb of the day’. It’s pretty simple but effective.

Every day I spend a few minutes introducing a new verb and ask my students to use that verb in a sentence. In a few weeks, my students progress from using standard verbs: ‘I eat‘ ‘I go’ & ‘I like‘ to the more advanced: ‘I climbed’, ‘I jump’, ‘I travelled‘.

The more creative you are at introducing the verb (you could use a song, dance and games), naturally the more the class will learn. For the smaller kids, acting out the words can be very effective.

A list of verbs I use to teach in kindergartens – elementary school are as followings:

– stretch
– push
– pull
– visit
– bend
– think
– cry
– rush
– throw
– move
-chase
– bite

The older or more advanced the students the further you can go:

– quit
– shake
– whisper
– scare

I find these Verb Flashcards from Amazon super helpful in my online and brick and mortar classroom:

Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Every year hundreds of people fly to the “Land of Smiles” to teach English. The list of benefits this choice offers is so large that instead of focusing on them, I have compiled a list of reasons it may not be the best option for everyone. You may want to reconsider if…

You Want to Make A Lot of Money

If you’re reading this, then you probably already know the teaching salary in Thailand isn’t the best. In comparison to the cost of living, you can live very well—but when it comes to making those international bank transfers every month, it can be a bit painful. That said, jobs at international schools tend to offer more money and there is no shortage of private tutoring opportunities throughout the country. Many teachers, myself included, survive from their tutoring money and transfer their salaries home each month. You can save, but it definitely takes commitment.

You Want to Party 24/7

The Full Moon Party, Khaosan Road – YES, Thailand is a fun place to party. Alcohol is cheap and there is never a shortage of events to attend. However, if this is your primary reason for visiting Thailand, I think backpacking or a holiday would be a better option. Don’t get me wrong, over the course of my 18 months there I had an endless amount of raging weekends all over the country, but the focus during the week should be the job.

You Aren’t Willing to Embrace a New Culture

This is similar to the previous. Many people assume life in Thailand is like the travel brochures and the backpacking blogs. Of course, it can be, but the reality is that the majority of schools are positioned away from the ‘tourist hot spots’ of the country and in my opinion allow for a more authentic cultural experience. I think it’s important to note that in many locations you could be the only English speaker for miles and find it impossible to buy those branded goods you love so much back home. Personally, I see this one as a positive, a chance to challenge myself and grow—but many are not prepared for the cultural shift and start to feel isolated.

You Don’t Like Kids/Want to Teach

The heading of this may make you think ‘OBVIOUSLY DUR’ but unfortunately there are a few too many teachers in Thailand who not only hate teaching but dislike children. I understand a lot of people choose to teach in Thailand to see the country or for a gap year etc., but I think a little interest in teaching and not a dislike of the age group you’re going to teach should be a minimal requirement. You’re going to be in the classroom the majority of the week—taking a job you don’t care about just so you can party and see the sites will only make the kids miserable and the workweek seem like a chore. Care about what you do.

You Don’t Like Spicy Food

Ok, this one is a bit of a joke. Of course, you don’t need to like spicy food to teach in Thailand, but be warned – it’s everywhere. The words ‘mai pet’ (Thai for not spicy) can save your life!

This list is basically a compilation of the various complaints I would hear from fellow teachers around the country. Maybe if people knew what they were getting themselves in for before going, there would be a lot less critical and negative stuff written about teaching in Thailand online. Do your research, and try to find a place that is not only suited to your interests and strengths, but also consider your weaknesses.

Covid-19 & Teaching English Abroad

The coronavirus is crippling industries around the world. 

One may argue that no other industry has been hit harder than the travel industry.  Numerous countries have closed their borders and many flight paths have been cancelled globally.

As this is a teaching and travelling website, I’m going to quickly address how this modern day nightmare is affecting ESL teachers in Asia and Europe. 

English teachers in Europe are currently experiencing what teachers in China, Korea and Vietnam have been going through since February.  School closures have resulted in little to no pay, lack of job security and mass worry.   Hundreds of ESL teachers have already left their positions to either return to their home countries or travel to less infected areas.

Unfortunately, I think many private education centers and schools may not survive this uncertain period.   Many countries have not even begun to close schools yet and many in countries like China, are still undecided on when schools can re-open again.  All businesses and teachers are being hit hard. 

The next few months are uncertain, but regardless of the coronavirus timeline, I think it will impact the ESL industry in 2 stages.

The 2 Stages of ESL Teaching During the Coronavirus

Stage 1 – Online Demand

This is happening right now. A great deal of ESL teachers in Asia  have switched to online learning.  Either they are teaching for one of the many online ESL platforms out there or teaching their existing students via a portal organized by their school.

Stage 2 – Recruitment Boom

Fingers crossed that this all ends sooner rather than later, and when it does, be prepared from an in surge of emails from recruiters.    The coronavirus is going to leave a huge hole in the ESL market in Asia, and I suspect Europe too.    When the situation calms down, I think thousands of schools and learning centers will be without teachers.  This will lead to a growth in job opportunities. Keep yourselves informed.  However, when this may be, is anyone’s guess? 

My advice – To those who want to teach abroad in the future, use this time to do your online TEFL and build up some practice hours online.  To the existing ESL teachers, if you have not already, switch to online teaching (if possible) and keep your eye on facebook groups, davesesl café etc to update yourself on what countries are doing in regards to hiring teachers. 

Most importantly – stay safe, wash your hands, listen to government recommendations and take care of each other.

How do you think covid-19 will impact the world of TEFL?

What are you experiences?

Visa Guide: Korea

Getting Your Work Visa in Korea

South Korea has one of the most complex and time-consuming Visa processes of all the countries I’ve been to. The amount of paperwork involved is intense and unlike most countries, you really need to begin the process of collecting documents long before you’ve actually secured a job. Further, while most countries process these applications at their foreign consulates, your documents will actually need to be sent to Korea before you can proceed. Let’s start with the basics—here’s what you’ll need to collect:

  • Three sealed copies of your University transcripts
  • Notarized copies of your degrees
  • Two copies of an FBI Criminal Background Check—depending on where you live, this can be quite a hassle. In order to obtain the correct check, you need to supply them with fingerprint cards. Getting your fingerprints taken in the past meant walking into any police station, but these days finding one that still does it (or even better—does it for free) can be hard to do. For the process on ordering or to print out fingerprint cards, go to https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks/identity-history-summary-checks . This one has to be timed correctly as well—these checks often take up to 3 months to get back to you and they need to be less than 6 months old to be valid.
  • Signed Health Statement—this will likely be provided by your school or recruiter.
  • Resume with at least 2 letters of recommendation
  • Copy of your Passport Information page
  • 5 Passport-sized Photos
  • A signed copy of your new school contract.

So far this seems pretty standard, right? Well, here’s where it gets complicated. You’ll now need to take your notarized degree copies & FBI Check and have them apostilled. For those of you who are completely unfamiliar with this process, welcome to the club. It’s a needlessly complicated and expensive way to basically notarize the notary—double-confirm that the document is real. In the US, each state has a designated office that can issue apostilles, each with their own fee ranging from $0 – $35 per document. You’ll need to send your degrees to the office of the state they were notarized in. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to send them to the state they were issued in instead—make sure you clarify this with your recruiter or school before sending your documents.

Your background check will need to be apostilled at the federal level, so you’ll need this form (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/183033.pdf ) and will send your documents to the Department of State.

For those not in the US, apostilles may be obtained from:

Okay, so now you’ve spent a few hundred bucks and wasted hours waiting for the mail to arrive, but you’ve finally collected all your papers. Now, you’ll need to send them to your school or recruiter in Korea. They’ll then file for your visa issuance number and send the required documents back to you. Now, you’ll need to collect the documents you’ll need at the consulate:

  • Passport
  • E2 Visa Application form (obtainable from the consulate or online)
  • Consulate’s Checklist (obtainable from the consulate or online)
  • Passport Photo
  • One set of sealed university transcripts
  • Visa Issuance Number

The final step in the process, after your documents have been reviewed, is an interview with the consulate which can be scheduled via telephone, although most require you to appear in person for the actual appointment. They’ll mostly just ask about your employment, your housing, your long-term plan, and your medical record/vaccinations—all pretty basic.

You then need to wait for your passport to arrive with your newly minted Korean Work Visa, and once it arrives you’ll be on your way!

-Ashley

TEFL TIPS #8 – PLAYDOUGH

In order to inspire creative thinking and maintain active engagement in the classroom, teachers need to sustain a dynamic environment. One great way to get kids involved is to involve more tactile activities and there are so many fun ways to include playdough in an ESL classroom! Not just for kids, either—even my adult learners have enjoyed some of the more challenging activities and welcome the break from books & paper. Below are some of my favorite activities:

Younger Learners:

Letters & Numbers: Definitely the most simple activity, having your smallest students practice their letters and numbers in clay is a fun way to help them focus on the shapes while also benefiting their developing motor skills. Offering them free time to create whatever they want afterward is also a great reward and as their skills grow you can challenge them to first spell out what they want to make afterward.

Footprints & Textures: For this activity, you’ll need small toy animals or hard, textured items like brushes, legos, & coins. Spread the playdough out on the table and make impressions while one or all students close their eyes, then have them try to guess what made the marks. This is great with toy dinosaurs or other plastic animals that can make different footprints and gives the opportunity to practice phrases like “I think”, “I see”, and “Is it…?”. Afterward, let the kids experiment with making their own impressions and see what pictures and stories they can create.

Intermediate to Adult:

Storytelling: In this activity, allow the students roughly 5-10 minutes to create anything they want, then have them present it to the class by telling a story about it. For those with lower speaking skills, ask questions (What is it? What is its name? Where does it live? What does it do?). It is a great way to maintain students’ attention as well, as they always seem interested to see what their classmates were able to create.

Pictionary: In this version of the game, a student randomly draws an English word or simple sentence and must create it out of playdough for their classmates to guess. This can be done in teams (with two students sculpting for their teams at the same time and the first team to guess wins the point) or individually (where a point will be awarded to both the guesser and sculptor if someone gets it right). However, this is best done in small classes—in larger classes being able to see what is being made quickly becomes a struggle.

This is just one of many ways to get students away from their books and into a more colorful lesson!

– Ashley

How to Tell Your Folks You’re Moving Abroad

So you’re about to embark on your journey as a TEFL teacher: you’ve secured a cool job, found some cheap flights, made a checklist for your rucksack, and figured out your visa situation. Congratulations! Now all that’s left is the trickiest part: telling your parents without them totally freaking out.

To be blunt, this is a conversation you need to be well-prepared for. Being prepared will give you confidence in what you’re going to say, which honestly is the key to the whole thing.

First off, remember that you’re telling them, not asking. You’re an adult making an adult decision. Opening with, “I’m thinking of moving to Cambodia. What do you think?” is going to seem like you’re seeking approval as you’re unsure of your decision, and sounding anything less than confident will fail to put their minds at ease.

To help you mobilize for this inevitable discussion, here’s a cheat-sheet of likely responses and how to prepare to answer them:

“It’s too dangerous!”

It’s true that many places you’ll go will lack the safety associated with your hometown—every town in every country has its own inherent risks. However, it is important to realize that millions of people spend every day of their entire lives in these countries. Let them know you’re well-equipped to handle any problems that may pop up. Know what areas are safe, what the local laws are, and what resources you have available. Explain you’ll be registering with your closest embassy, clarify whether or not you’ll need travel insurance, and assure them you know how to contact both local and overseas emergency services.

“But you don’t speak _________.”

While the language barrier is of course a valid concern, this also gives you the opportunity to stress that you’re up for the challenge of totally immersing yourself in a new culture, including the language itself. One of the best ways to learn a new language is by moving to an area where you’ll be forced to use it for even the simplest interactions. Acknowledge that you know it will be difficult at first, but that you intend take the opportunity to learn as much as you possibly can.

“How will we know if you’re okay? What if you get sick/hurt/etc.?”

This one is definitely easier to answer these days than in the past, as modern technology has made communication so much easier. E-mail, Skype, International phone plans—keeping in touch is easy so long as you put in the effort and accommodate the time differences. Even those living off-grid can usually get to an internet café once a month or so. Try to know ahead of time what your most likely means of communication will be, and set up a schedule to call home once you’re settled. Check to see if your recruiter or agency has a system in place. Many request your parents’ information so they can contact them if they need to and some even call just to let them know your plane landed safely.

“When are you going to come home and get a real job?”

Even after teaching TEFL for years, this question will still pop up and will sting a bit each time. For those using TEFL as a means to a gap year or semester abroad, it’s easy to answer the first half and dodge the second. For those looking to teach long-term, it becomes a bit more complicated. Because TEFL teaching is often associated with volunteers & backpackers, many don’t think of it as serious work. Be assured, working as an English teacher IS a real job that takes as much dedication, energy, and hard work as any other, if not more. If you do have long-term goals in the TEFL world, let them know; if not, fall back on the spiel about how great it looks on a resume and how it can be a stepping stone to those “real jobs” you’ve heard so much about.

Lastly, be prepared for the fact that this conversation may not go well; your decision may not ever be fully understood by your family. Keep in mind that even if they disagree with your decision it is likely out of concern—they’re your parents and they only want you to be safe, happy, & successful.

-Ashley

EPIK

This post is the second part to – http://tefltravelling.com/2016/01/26/the-korean-hogwan/

EPIK (English Program in Korea) is a program set up to help students learn English throughout the country. EPIK has been in existence since 1995 and has been used by thousands of teachers and students. Run by the Korean government, it is operated in public schools located all over Korea, catering to both elementary and high school.

EPIK should not be mistaken for the Korean private school system: The Hogwan.

Many ESL teachers choose to teach with EPIK for wide varieties of reasons that are briefly listed below:

Pros

Housing

All EPIK program jobs come with free housing; however, utilities are not included. Accommodation is usually standard but fine for its purpose.

Free Flights

EPIK provide an entrance allowance for teachers to purchase airfare to Korea (this is reimbursed during your first month). Upon competition of the contract, EPIK will also provide an allowance for teachers to purchase a flight to leave the country.

Paid Vacation

EPIK allow teachers 18 days paid vacation in addition to the 13 – 15 national Korean holidays. Vacation days can be used during the summer and winter breaks.

Regular Hours

In my personal opinion, one of the main differences between an EPIK and a Hogwan are the working hours. All EPIK schools run between 8/9.30 – 4/5.30, 22 hours of which is teaching time. Hogwans can start and finish at a wide variety of times and teaching hours drastically change between each one.

No Parent Involvement

Another HUGE benefit of EPIK over the Hogwan system is the lack of parental involvement. In many Hogwans parents basically run the show, which is not how a place of education should be run. In most cases, EPIK schools are run by professionals and people with experience.

Bonus

After a year at EPIK you will most likely be offered the chance to re-sign your contract, for which you will be given a re-signing bonus. It is also worth mentioning that for each year you stay at an EPIK school your salary will increase.

Training

Being an EPIK teacher requires you to participate in an EPIK training program.  This can be great for those with little experience or those looking to create a social circle within Korea.

Cons

VISA Process

The VISA process to work in Korea normally takes time and can be quite costly. In addition to the usual documents required for the E2 visa, EPIK candidates also need to provide 2 letters of reference.

Application Intake

A job at a Hogwan can be found all year round but this is not the case at EPIK. February and August are EPIKS two main recruitment periods; they need to have teachers in the country before the semester starts so they can complete the EPIK training programs.

Located Anywhere

You can be placed anywhere. EPIK places teachers not only anywhere in Seoul, but anywhere in the country. However, couples that apply together will stay together.

Training

EPIK training can also be a con because you can fail it.  Also, you won’t necessarily find out your location until after training and they are sorting you onto buses.

It is clear that the pros of working at an EPIK school dramatically outweigh the cons. Many argue that there is simply no contest between the Hogwan and EPIK.

Whether you chose to work for a Hogwan or use EPIK, it is always recommended that you use a good recruiter with a great reputation.

-Liam

TEFL TIPS #6 – Increase your cash: Start Tutoring

So you’ve taken the leap and decided to teach abroad: you found a great job, set up your apartment, and found the means to keep yourself fed, washed, and comfortable. Like many TEFL teachers you’ll discover rent, food, and utilities always run a bit higher than you expected and you’re itching for some spending cash. If you truly enjoy teaching, private tutoring can be a fantastic way to supplement your income while gaining experience with a wider range of ages and ability levels. Tutoring jobs are generally easy to secure—a flyer on a telephone pole is often enough to get a few students, while in some areas you may be approached randomly on the street just for being a foreigner. However, it is essential to realize teaching and tutoring are very different things, so before you start filling up your schedule, keep in mind:

 Know the Purpose

Those seeking out tutors each have unique reasons and goals. Make sure you thoroughly understand what each student is looking for. A middle-aged family man planning to relocate abroad doesn’t need to know the difference between past progressive and past perfect tenses, nor will a high school student studying for college entrance exams be all that concerned with how to order food in a restaurant.

Take Advantage of the Flexibility 

Your first tutoring job will no doubt be challenging—a one-on-one session with no coursebook, no lesson plans, and no classroom is a daunting scenario. Your first session with a new student can certainly be used to get a better handle on their current ability level, but be prepared to provide your students with some sort of practice material or key phrases/vocabulary to practice. Don’t be afraid to assign homework or give short quizzes—they’re paying you to both support and challenge them. Use the freedom from structure to challenge yourself as well by testing your creativity—develop new activities or generate original material you can use in the future.

Know What You’re Worth

One of the most awkward things TEFL teachers need to learn to do is set their tutoring fee—having some idea of what to charge is important to know before you get caught off guard by the question. In countries like Korea where English education is a huge industry and cost of living is high, tutoring fees generally start around 40,000 Won / hour (roughly $33), while in countries like Cambodia where cost of living is lower and English is already widely spoken, one can expect to make only about $10 / hour. In other countries it can vary greatly from city to city and grade to grade—and payment doesn’t necessarily need to be in cash. In more rural areas I’ve been paid in honey, oranges, kale, and whiskey. One generous woman even paid me with a live chicken intended for dinner—I’d like to believe she’s still living a full life clucking around in the hills of Thailand.

Tutoring may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely an easy way to make ends meet in a pinch or gain some spending money for those long weekends.

-Ashley