Friday, June 26, 2009

Processes of all sorts

I called the Korean Consulate in Seattle today. The menu was in Korean and for some reason I continued to stay on the line hoping for some English. Finally there was "For English, press 7". That was a relief. Until the lady who answered in Korean that is...but then she introduced herself in English. How exhausting answering the phone in both languages every time it rings!

We have to do a personal interview at the Consulate with a Consul. Since we are a fair distance away from them, they said we could send them DVDs of ourselves. Awkward. So, while a road trip to Seattle would be a blast, it would be expensive. So now we are directors of our own ten minute films. This should be interesting.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Relief and Confidence

Hello Hello!

Among a disastrous situation at my current job, I have found solace in the fact that it is temporary and that bigger and way better things are on the horizon!

We received a contract from the St. Louis school and upon initial review we were a little confused by it. After much discussion amongst ourselves, and with anybody else who was willing to read it, we came up with a list of questions. We sent the questions to the school as well as Dan at Teach ESL Korea (he has been our guide through this process). We had thirteen questions and we felt confident that our questions were fair and easy to understand. Shortly after, Dan emailed us and said that it was the most thorough set of questions he has seen and that we may "scare off the school"!! I was startled by the thought of that. So I immediately felt bad about asking so many questions, but then I realized that I needed them answered before I would dedicate myself to such an extreme lifestyle change.

So, after sulking over it for a bit, thinking we totally messed up, Barry sent an email. It was in response to our questions and I was terrified to open it, thinking it would say "sorry, we have offered the job to other applicants"....but this was not the case! Instead, it was a full response to each of our questions, answered better than I could have hoped for. No loose ends, no diluted statements, just straight answers. So, needless to say, I'm more than confident in this situation and I have posted the Q & A below. There are also some interesting links included for those who are interested.

Hi all,
Hopefully these answers will help Corinne and Alexandra! I havewritten the answers under the questions to hopefully keep things clear.

> 1. In your logo on the top left corner, why is international spelled without> an "a?"
A long time ago when the logo was designed, the second 'a' was missed,and now that everything has been set up using this logo, and there isa certain symmetry to the text, adding an extra letter will mess thisup!

> 2. When will we know our exact date of departure/arrival to Korea.
We will be able to arrange this after all the documents are processed.
During the interview process I told Alexandra that the school likesnew teachers to come over a few days before starting their first fullday. A provisional first full working date would be Monday November2nd. Ideally you would arrive in Korea on the previous Thursday,observe the school on the Friday, have the weekend to relax and startwork on Monday morning.Therefore, a provisional arrival date would be Thursday the 29th ofOctober. Your departure date depends on how long it will take you tofly from your closest international airport to Seoul.
If the visa process takes longer than normal, for whatever reason,these dates me be postponed. We won't be able to make a final decisionuntil all the documents have been processed.

> 3. How much will the resident tax be ( the income tax was mentioned)?
This is included in the income tax.

> 4. How close will the apartments be to the school?
As I said in the email with the apartment pictures, the school doesnot know what is going to happen regarding the acquisition of a newapartment at the end of October, so I don't know how far from theschool any new apartments will be. Currently, the apartments are a 15minute walk from the school and any new apartments will be the same or closer.

> 5. Do you know an average cost of utilities per month?
How long is a piece of string?!!!The cost of utilities is very dependent on the type of person you areand the season. In summer, the electricity bill is more because youwill probably use your AC unit. In winter, the gas bill is morebecause the under floor heating and water heater are gas powered. The more you use, the more expensive it is. However, they are probablymuch cheaper than what you would pay in The U.S.A.
A general consensus from other teachers is that an electricity billshould be about 10,000 won, while a gas bill should be about 35,000.You would also have a cell phone bill, dependent on how much you use it, and possibly internet, which could be 30,000 to 50,000 dependingon the service.

> 6. How much is our monthly premium for medical insurance, what does it> cover, and who is the provider?
The health insurance is a national scheme, and the best source ofinformation is the website
The total health insurance contribution is 5.08% of your monthlysalary, we pay 2.54% and the school pays the 2.54%.

> 7. How much is the monthly pension contribution?
The pension contribution is 9% of your monthly salary, the school pays4.5%, we pay 4.5%,

> 8. If it is possible, we would like a copy of the "Code of Conduct for> Teachers."
Of course - it is attached!!

> 9. We were wondering if this is a copy of the translated Korean version of> the contract and will we be required to sign a Korean version upon arrival?
Nope, the English contract is the final and legally binding version.

> 10. Could we possibly get a list of the current textbooks being used to> teach English, so as to become familiar with the content beforehand.
There are a lot of different books being used in the school at themoment, and some books are only used periodically depending on thelevels of classes. The books listed below are for the most commonlyused books, and series that you would probably be using if you took the job.

LA: McGraw/Hill Treasures series, levels 1 to 3
Science: Scholastic Science, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill (New and oldseries) levels 1-3, Top Readers, Scott Foresmann Series 1-3
Conversation: Super Tots 1a-3b, Super Kids 1-4, Let's Go 1-6, Time forKids 1-4,
Reading: Boost Reading 1-3, Reading Juice 1-3, Bricks Reading 1-3.Chant and Read: Jack and Jill series 1-1 to 1-8
Writing: Writing Starter levels 1-2, My Writing Starter levels 1-2,Boost Writing levels 1-3. Sentences to Paragraphs levels 1-3, I CanWrite English levels 1-3
Math: Foresmann/Wesley Red and Green
Phonics: Modern Curriculum Press levels A and K. Happy House Phonics levels 1-4

> 11. How long has the school been open?
Michelle, the current boss took over from her sister in law a fewyears back. So, under its current management, about 4 years. Theschool started in January 2002.

> 12. Do you have any brochures or a website about the school we could look at> and share with our families?
Unfortunately the only brochure/website is the school's Korean website,

> 13. Is there a way to contact the current native teacher?
There is no problem contacting any of the other native English speakers at the school.
If you are on facebook I can direct you to the pictures posted by teachers of field trips, birthday parties and school events.
Hopefully this gives you enough information. If you need anythingclarified or if you have more questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

Best wishes,

Saturday, June 13, 2009

This is it.

A few significant things have happened in the last week. Last Tuesday I had a phone interview with Barry from the St. Louis school in Taegu, South Korea (It is sometimes spelled as Daegu). He called me at 9:20pm Tuesday my time, which was 1:20 pm Wednesday for him. He asked me several questions regarding my resume, experience with children, my views on discipline, how I handle stress and what my thoughts were on culture shock. While it was a very formal interview, I was still at home sitting on my bed, so it was kind of weird.

There were a few questions that I felt like I stumbled though, searching for the perfect words. The hardest one was "Do you think a teacher ever knows more about a child than the parent does?" This is a loaded question. I don't have any formal teaching experience, so I had no idea how to answer. My final response was some combination of "a teacher sees a child in a focused environment so they may know more about their strengths and weaknesses"...I figured I was done after that.

After the formal questions were over with, I asked Barry a few questions which he had plenty of answers to. It ended and he said he would be in touch, but I was feeling like they weren't going to be interested in me without any teaching experience. I went over some of the questions with Corinne and she reassured me that I probably did well, I was still doubtful. So we talked about the next steps, like if one of us was offered the job or if neither of us were. We had decided that we would be willing to work at different schools as long as we were in the same city.

Well, it turns out that all of our "worst-case-scenario" planning wasn't necessary. Today, we received emails offering the positions to us in Taegu with contracts attached. I could hardly believe it. So, the next step is to review the contract, ask questions, and see if there are any changes we would like to make. Hopefully, we can accept the contract by the end of the week. Once that is signed, the process really shifts gears and a whole slew of new paperwork and documentation will have to be worked through. So this is it. The first and also a sort of last step in my little plan to see the world and turn everything I know upside down. Hooray!!