Thursday, 16 March 2017

Best foods to try while teaching in these Asian countries

I'm going to post a bit of light-hearted entry this week, as I'm going to talk about one of my favorite parts of traveling and living in a different country:

If you are like me, food makes a huge impact of your level of happiness. I also know that when traveling to a new country it can be difficult to find something that you like to eat. This is especially true when traveling or living in Asia, where the food is dramatically different than Western food options. When I first arrived in Korea I had no idea about Korean food as I'd never tried any before going there. It honestly took me about 6 months to find out what foods I enjoyed when I lived there. The same can be true about China. Sure I'd had lots of Chinese food in Canada, but the funny thing is Chinese food is a lot different in China than in North America. When you add in the language barrier when visiting many restaurants in Asia, then ordering food gets that much tougher. So here we go, my favorite food in several Asian countries that you must try when you are there:

South Korea
I love Korean food, but like I said earlier, it takes a while to find out what you like when living there. Also because of the food's strong flavors and sometimes pungent smells, it takes a while to get used to the food if you are not familiar with Korean Dishes. Korean food is usually cheap too, which I think makes it taste even better.

1. Gamjatang
My absolute favorite Korean dish. Gamjatang is essentially spicy soup made with pork neck bones hearty chunks of meat, potatoes and a mix of other vegetables. Might sound gross with the neck bones, but trust me it's amazing. Usually it will come in one large pot, that you and your friends enjoy while drinking. Speaking of drinking, Gamjatang is also amazing for curing a hangover.

2. Samgyeopsal and Galbi
If you have had Korean BBQ at home you may be familiar with these two classics. Samgyeopsal is pork belly and Galbi is either pork or beef rib meat. Both are absolutely delicious wrapped in lettuce leaves, with rice, kimchi and ssamjang (soy paste). Perhaps what makes this meal so delicious is the experience of grilling the meat in front of you.

3. Bibimbap (Dolsot)
Talk about a total lunch in a bowl. Bibimbap is mix of rice, veggies, beef, egg, sesame oil and gochujang (hot pepper sauce) in a pipping hot stone bowl. The crunchy rice at the bottom is the best!

I also love Japanese food. If I had to eat the same genre of food everyday for the rest of my life it might be Japanese food. On my recent 2 week business trip to Japan, I ate Japanese food for every meal and wasn't the least bit sick of it at the end of the trip. When I talk about Japanese food, I'm not just talking about sushi either. The food in Japan is very diverse and very delicious.

1. Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki is sometimes referred to as a Japanese style pancake. There are literally thousands of ways this dish can be prepared, but the typical okonomiyaki consists of pancake-like batter, cabbage, veggies and a protein (meat, or seafood) topped with a sweet okonomiyaki sauce and mayo. Usually you will get this cooked up at you table by someone at the restaurant, or you get to make it yourself, which is an amazing experience in itself.

2. Ramen
Oh I know this dish is not good for you, but it's just so good I can't leave it off this list. Ramen is cheap and can be found everywhere. There are two key components to Ramen, the soup base and the noodles. Typically the four soup bases you can get are Shoyu (soy sauce) Shio (Salt) Miso, and Tonkotsu (pork bone). All are delicious, but the traditional salt flavor is my fave.The noodles are usually wheat and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. You can add many different toppings to your ramen. I also like ramen because it's easy to order. Usually you walk up to the ramen machine, put your money in, select the ramen you want (there's usually a picture) and then you get a ticket that you give to the waiter/waitress.

3. Yakitori
Nothing goes better than a few of these scrumptious chicken skewers with a cold beer after a long day of work. You can choose pretty much any part of the chicken for your skewer.

Authentic Chinese food is something that is quite new to me. I spent a week in China last year and was introduced to a wide array of new foods and flavors. Here's my favorite dishes from my limited time in China:

1. Peking Duck
I always wanted to try Peking Duck since I was a child, and this fall I finally got to, and I was not disappointed. Moist duck with crispy savory skin served with Chinese pancakes and hoisin sauce...need I say more.

2. Jiao Zi (Dumplings)
I don't know how they do it, because I've made dumplings at home, but these simple dumplings are amazing and I could eat a hundred of them. Typically inside dumplings are either pork, veggies, seafood or a combination of these items. You can also get them steamed, boiled or fried.

3. Mapo Tofu
Mapo Tofu is a Sichuan dish of soft tofu, ground meat, veggies, ginger, garlic cooked in a spicy, oily, bean base soup. Usually eaten with rice, I quickly fell in love with this food, as I love anything spicy. Apparently Mapo Tofu is different in each area of China, but the ones I had in Shanghai and Hongzhou were terrific.

Thai food rocks! It's distinct, varied, usually cheap and most importantly delicious. I've been to Thailand a couple times, and the food there is always a highlight of these trips. Picking 3 is tough because there are so many to choose from. Instead of choosing Green, Red, Yellow or Mussaman Curry that everyone knows, I'll try to pick 3 foods maybe most don't know about.

1. Tom Yum Goong
This amazing sweet, sour, salty and spicy lemon grass soup with prawns is a great lunch, no matter how hot it is outside. The mix of all these flavors makes for a soup you can't find anywhere else than Thailand.

2. Pad Kra Prao (also known as Basil Chicken or Basil Beef)
A local favorite street food that can be picked up in most urban areas, Pad Kra Prao is sweet and spicy stir-fried beef or chicken with basil, green beans and other veggies. It usually comes with  jasmine rice topped with a fried egg. It secret to this delicious dish is the holy basil. Unlike, its Italian brother, holy basil has a distinct taste and smell that really make this dish.

3.Pad See Ew
Pad Thai seems to dominate the noodle scene among tourists, but this noodle dish is worth a try. Pad See Ew is comprised of flat noodles cooked with egg, chicken, Chinese broccoli and bok choy in a tasty soy sauce base that almost tastes like they added a little molasses. You can also get this with beef or shrimp or a seafood mixture.

I hope you enjoyed this list. Please tell me about some of your favorites in the comment section below, so I can go try them myself.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Fun Ways to Teach Writing to English Language Learners

Fun Ways to Teach Writing to English Language Learners

Over my time in the ESL / ELL industry, I've heard many teachers complain about teaching their students how to write. To me, this always surprised me as teaching writing was something that I really enjoyed. A lot of people think that it's boring, or hard to evaluate or limited in what you can do with your students. This blog entry will hopefully show that teaching writing doesn't have to be these things. Teaching writing to your students can be fun and a rewarding experience for you and your students.

Think outside the box
A lot of people who teach writing only pay attention to the fundamentals of learning how to write and use traditional writing lessons / activities in class. They start teaching writing in a very systematic process. Sentence structure - paragraph structure - essay structure...with some grammar and punctuation lessons in the middle. Of course, these skills are important, but the process that students learn these skills doesn't have to be so rigid, structured and ultimately boring.There are so many other ways to engage your students in writing. So instead of walking into class and telling your students "Today we are going to learn how to write complex sentences" you could say "Today we are going to...
- write a poem
- write lyrics to a song
- write a story
- write a script for a TV show or movie
- write a blog entry
- write some tweets
- write an email
- write an advertisement for a new product
- write a newspaper article

The list goes on and on, and while you are doing these activities, you can start to teach about the fundamentals of writing. Also, after you have your students engage in these types of activities, don't forget to try to bring their writing to life. Have them read their poetry to the class, out act out their scripts, or create a newspaper with their classmates articles.

Encourage Creativity, not Perfect Spelling and Grammar
Nothing kills creativity and eagerness to write faster than the fear of making mistakes. As teachers, we can really eliminate this fear or increase it by our actions. Some students have so much to say or write about, but are too worried about errors in their writing, and nothing gets accomplished. A teacher's desire to correct every mistake only adds to this anxiety. Instead look for larger patterns of errors that your students are making and address those. The worst thing you can do to your students is hand back an assignment that is covered in red pen marks that are pointing out every error.

Have Students Write about their OWN interests
If you want to get students writing in class than nothing works better than getting them to write about what they are interested in. So many times, teachers use their textbooks to come up with ideas that students should write about and guess what....this is boring to them. Instead you should get them to focus on what they like or on their own lives and have them write about that.

Writing Doesn't Have to Been Done Alone
If you walk into most writing classes you'll see the same thing. Students sitting by themselves quietly doing writing exercises....and probably looking bored or sleepy. Writing does not have to be a solitary activity. Pair or group writing can boost creativity, encourage participating, and give students the opportunity to provide and receive meaningful feedback with classmates. Also, it can be a lot of fun too. Writing stories, plays, TV/movie scripts can be great activities that students can do in groups or pairs.

Try Teaching Multi-Skilled Lessons
Another great way to mix-up your writing lessons, is to teach more than one skill at a time. Of course, reading and writing skills often go together, but you can also teach listening skills and communicative skills at the same time you teach writing.  I used to teach listening and writing together through the use of music in the class all the time. For example,  I would cut up the word lyrics to a song and hand them out to students, they'd first try to put the lyrics in order before hearing the song based on their knowledge of sentence structure, then I'd play the song, and they'd have to put the words in the order they hear. Another great way to practice listening and writing at the same time is through dictations.

Writing Games and Contests
A quick Google search will lead you to literally thousands of quality writing games and contests you can do in your class. Using games in your class can increase motivation, eliminate writing anxieties, encourage spontaneous use of the language, help to build a cooperative learning environment and they are student centered.

As you can hopefully see from this blog entry, teaching or learning how to write in English does not have to be boring or difficult for your students to get into. There are so many ways to have your students learn writing skills, while having fun or using the language in a meaningful way. I'd love to hear your feedback on this entry and also some of your ideas about teaching writing.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Travel and Make Money: A Gap Year Teaching Abroad by Anje Rautenbach

I came across this helpful article the other day, so I thought I would share it with my blog audience. In it Anje summarizing the jobs that are available in some of the most popular places to go teach English and also supplies some general information on the requirements to go teach abroad.

I also like this article because Anje does a good job presenting the benefits of going abroad and discredits some of the outdated stereotypes about the people that do choose to teach English in a foreign country.

If you're thinking or planning to go teach English abroad for a year or longer, I highly recommend reading this article.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Teaching English in Thailand - What you need to know

I love Thailand. Although I haven't had the chance to teach English there yet, I was lucky enough to visit this beautiful country a couple times when I lived in Korea. With it's rich culture, friendly people, amazing food and breathtaking scenery, it's no wonder why this country is such an attractive place to live and teach. In this blog, I'll want to discuss somethings you need to know if you want to teach there. Much of this info comes from my friends who taught there and passed on their experiences with me, and my own research, as a couple years ago I had seriously considering going there to teach.

To teach in Thailand, you must have completed a university degree, and although not necessary for all jobs, a TEFL or TESL certificate or diploma is highly recommended (For reasons why you should take a TEFL program read this entry). Past teaching experience is not necessary as well, but very beneficial if you have it. If you want to teach at a university in Thailand, a Master's degree is required.

To teach in Thailand legally you will also need to get a Non-Immigrant Visa "B". If you have arranged your teaching job in Thailand before you go, hopefully your future employer will be able to help you with this, and the process is not too difficult. You can also enter Thailand on a tourist visa, find a job there, and make a "Visa Run" to a neighboring country to get your work permit. From my friends' experience, getting a work permit on your own can be a real struggle as you'll need to fill out a ton of paperwork and you need to have a lot of personal documents to complete this process.

Finding a Job
If you are looking for a job before you head to Thailand you may want to check out these sites:

If you are planning to find a job when you arrive in Thailand, you can of course check out these sites, the local English newspapers or one of these Facebook sites which regularly post job opportunities

Teaching in Thailand
If you want to work in Thailand for a period of 6 month or more, public schools, universities, and private language schools are your best bet. You can expect to work 5 days a week in Thailand for approximately 20 to 30 hours per week. Most of the teaching jobs will involve teaching children, although there are some jobs that involve teaching adults.

Lesson planning will really depend on the school you work at. Some schools will have set curriculi and textbooks, while in other schools what you teach will be completely up to you. You should ask about planning before accepting any job.

There are many opportunities to do some private tutoring in Thailand, so if you wish to work more to save money, you can do this by tutoring in your own time.

Salaries and the Cost of Living in Thailand
The average salary starts around 30,000 Thai Baht per month (about $1,000 USD), which in Thailand is enough, especially for people teaching in rural areas. If you are planning to go to Thailand to save money or pay off loans, you may want to consider another country to teach English. As the cost of living in most places is inexpensive, teachers can live comfortably, despite the lower salary. Accommodations will cost around a third of your salary, and food and entertainment come at a very reasonable price. While you may not earn enough money to travel around Asia while you are teaching, there is so much to see in Thailand, there is no reason to go anywhere else.

Where Should You Teach
There isn't one answer to this question that will satisfy everyone, as it really depends on the person. Here are the places that I have heard are the best and why:

Bangkok - Big, busy city with always something going on. Great food, lots of shopping and entertainment, and many other foreigners. 

Chang Mai - More rural area than Bangkok. Amazing scenery and nature. Tons of culture and also great food. 

Phuket and the Islands - PARADISE. I love the Islands in Thailand. Amazing beaches, outdoor activities, and a fun nightlife. Not as many jobs though as the other two locations

Thai Culture
Thai people are friendly, warm-hearted and fun loving people. I only had great experiences with the people in Thailand and I've heard the same story from many friends. The culture is still heavily influenced by Buddhism, which can be seen in the importance of hierarchy or respect. There are a never-ending amount of Buddhist temples and ceremonies to visit during your time in Thailand. One thing to get used to in Thailand, if you're coming from a Western country, is "Thai Time." Things are not exactly punctual in Thailand, as most people like to take their time and enjoy life. Learning the language is definitely not an easy task, but knowing some Thai will definitely make your experience much better.

One thing you must consider before going to Thailand, is that it is still a developing nation. The majority of people are not wealthy, so you should expect to see a lot of poverty there. It is very important to be considerate of this and try not to stand out because of your wealth.

Although, in recent years there has been much political unrest and protest in Thailand, it is still a relatively safe country for foreigners to teach in. That being said, it is important that you use your common sense and perhaps do some research about "what to do" and "what not to do" in Thailand before you go.

The Weather
Thailand’s climate is subtropical throughout most of the country, leading to year-round hot and humid conditions.  During the hottest months of the year, temperatures regularly top 40° C (105° F). Even during the cooler “winter” season you can expect daily highs to be around 30° C  (86° F). If you do not like hot weather, Thailand is not the country for you. The rainy season can be from May to October, depending on where you live. During this time you can expect periods of heavy rain and thunderstorms, which are nice because it cools down during these times. It usually does not rain for long periods, as many days go from Sunny to heavy rains, back to Sunny in a period of a couple hours.

Alright, so those are just a few of the main things you should consider before teaching in Thailand. Like I said earlier, I love Thailand and would encourage anyone to go teach there. I also realize that Thailand is not for everyone, so do you research before you go.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

What to bring to your teaching job abroad

Of course there are many variables that will affect what you need to bring when teaching abroad (i.e. weather, culture, length of time you'll be gone, etc) but in this entry I want to tell you about some essentials that you should bring with you, no matter where you go. My reason for this entry: I was at the airport the other day picking up some teachers from Japan, and I was shocked by the amount of stuff they brought with them(and they were only coming to Canada for 4 weeks). You'll be thankful for this list after you get off your 12 hour flight and have to take public transit to get to your new home.

Things to bring

Unlocked Cell Phone - When you move to a new country you'll have to get a new SIM card to use that phone abroad

Medicine - If you have specific medicine that you need while abroad, bring it with you. There is no guarantee that you will be able to get it where you are going

Work Clothes - Good to ask about the dress code at your new school before you go

Versatile Clothes - You can't bring you whole wardrobe with you, so you gotta think of clothing that can be worn with many outfits

Adapter Plug - You'll probably want to contact home as soon as you get where you're going. This might be difficult if you can't plug in your laptop or charge your phone

Shoes That Fit - Even people with normal sized feet (like myself with size 9.5 shoes) have a difficult time finding shoes abroad. If you have large feet, don't assume you can get replacements where you are going

Comfort Foods - Don't go overboard with this one, as trying new food is one of the best parts of being somewhere new, but a few comfort food items will go a long way when you just want something from home. Also spices are a good idea, as they take up very little space

Photocopies of your important documents - Trust me, this is something you are going to want to have if you misplace your passport or visa while abroad. Have a list of important contact info as well.

Deodorant - If you're going to Asia especially, as you may not be able to find it there or if you do it will be expensive

Teaching Resources (In digital form) - Try to digitize all your worksheets, lesson plans, etc before you go

US Dollars - Even if you are not from the US, I always find its good to have an emergency supply of US dollars, because you can exchange it anywhere. Also make sure you have some of the local currency with you as well

A phrasebook (or download a phrasebook app on your phone)

Things NOT to Bring

Too Many Toiletries - No matter where you are going you can usually buy most bulky toiletries like soap, shampoos, conditioners, contact solution, shaving cream, etc

Books - Unless you have some go-to teaching resources that you absolutely need, you should avoid bringing books. The best idea would be to bring an e-reader and download books when you need them

Household Goods - Blankets, Pots, Pans, hairdryers, etc. These items just take up valuable space and can be purchased at local markets/stores.

More than 3 Pairs of Shoes - You'll need a work pair, and everyday pair, and maybe something to exercise/hike in

Expensive Jewelry - Depending on where you are going to teach, expensive jewelry can make you a target to criminals.

Too Much Cash - Visa & Mastercard can be used everywhere these day, and also you can usually find global bank machines in most cities that will allow you to withdraw cash from your bank machine

A couple of other pieces of advice about packing: Pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on luggage just in case your luggage doesn't arrive when you do. Lastly, and perhaps the most important things that you need to bring are an open mind and positive attitude. These two items are key to successfully teaching abroad and dealing with the inevitable inconveniences that you will encounter.