The Importance of Looking Forward

By Whit Altizer

I had the pleasure of teaching American History this semester to Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese students. Like all American history surveys, we studied from the beginning to Reconstruction in a whirlwind.

It had been a while since I really thought about American history and I had never studied it from the perspective of a foreigner. But as a professor of Asian students, I felt like I was looking at American history with fresh eyes. I would fluctuate between proud and embarrassed often within one class period.

My class was particularly intrigued with the history of slavery. They understood that America continues to deal with the sticky residue of slavery. We talked about how people actually still exist that lament the failure of the South to secede, and that black Americans still don’t have as easy of an avenue in life as I had as a white male. Even though it is a reality I have known, I still couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth. “We, as a country, are still dealing with the impacts of slavery.”

My students would nod knowingly. America is a well-known contradiction to them. How can a country that is considered a world leader still struggle to have an intelligent debate and do something about climate change, guns and the usage of hurtful symbols in our history? I know things take time, but damn, isn’t all of this a no-brainer?

Living in Asia has allowed me to see America from afar, and has afforded me conversations and interactions with people from all over the world. We’re all the same wonderful and flawed people. It is universal to hold a grudge or to cling too tightly and take pride in our nation’s history. So many of us obsess over tradition and fear change. There was a time where I bought into all of that too.

But I’ve learned that clinging to the past especially when it stunts our growth is just plain wrong. It shouldn’t be tolerated even if that somehow offends those who subscribe to it. Life should be like driving a car. While it is important to glance behind you, the more important and pertinent stuff is happening in front of you. Observe, adapt, react, and if needed, don’t be afraid to change course.

Get an EPIK job in Korea!

Our partner recruiter, Say Kimchi Recruiting, is now offering public school jobs for spring 2012 through EPIK (English Program in Korea).

These are no doubt the best (and most competitive) jobs in the country, so you have to act fast if you’re interested! EPIK works on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the application period opens Oct. 1!

Learn more about the process below! And if you’re interested, be sure to e-mail us at

Who is Eligible to Teach in Korean Public Schools?
EPIK provides equal opportunities for everyone, it’s basically a matter of timing!

Applicants must have:

  • Completed a bachelors degree or equivalent at an accredited college or university
  • Be a citizen of a country where the primary language is English
  • Be fluent in English
  • Meet the requirements for an E-2 Visa

EPIK offers best employment packages in Asia:

  •  Salary up to 2.7 million won/month (avg. is 2.0-2.2 million Korean won)
  • Over 5 weeks of vacation
  • 1.3 million won entrance and exit allowance for flight
  • Free Furnished Apartment

EPIK 2012 spring hiring schedule:

October 1. Hiring kick-off. Get your applications in NOW! With this, you need two reference letters from bosses, with the official letterhead on it.

November 31. Hiring closed. EPIK will hire 1,200 teachers in total! But the jobs are competitive! Do you have a teaching license? Certificate? TESL/TEFL/CELTA? All this can help!

December 30. EPIK must have all the required documents and the paperwork process is now completed.

February 18. Arrival. One week orientation.

March 1. Start teaching!!

Start preparing NOW…items to start collecting BEFORE applying:

  • 2 reference letters (original inked)
  • Nation-wide criminal record with apostilled authentication (process started).

(For Canadians, notarized by the Korean consulate)
(for Americans, it takes 5 to 12 weeks to get FBI checks!)

  • Bachelor s degree (or official verification letter) with apostilled authentication (process started) 

Required documents for applying

  • Application form (available through Say Kimchi Recruiting)
  • Scanned letters of recommendation (with official letterhead/logo from organization). These must be from former boss or employer.
  • Copy of passport

*if you are applying for Seoul public school positions, additional forms are required. 

EPIK pay scale

LEARN MORE! Or APPLY NOW! Visit or e-mail

Get your pension back

A lot of new teachers in Korea don’t realize that you can actually get back some money at the end of your contract in regard to pension.

This only applies to teachers from North America (Canada and the United States), who have an agreement with Korea.

Here is what you need to do.

Refund Procedure:If you are a national from one of the country’s listed above and have met the requirements, you may be entitled to receive both your and your employer’s NPS contributions. (Conditions do apply so check with the Korean National Pension Scheme website and visit your own Embassy in Seoul’s website).

Documents required when you visit your regional NPS office**:
i)your passport;
ii)your alien registration;
iii)a copy of your bank book (Korean or Canadian bank – but unless the payment is made prior to your departure, you may to give a home bank or ensure that you can access your Korean account after you’ve left the country) and
iv)an airline ticket showing your one-way departure date (e-ticket should be OK).

Your employer will also have to report the termination of the contract to the National Pension Service (NPS) of Korea upon your departure from the country. The NPS will deposit the refund in your bank account after it confirms your departure.

Note: It is also possible to apply for your refund either through an attorney in your home country and on your own, by mail, In both cases, you will have to provide a copy of your passport, a copy of your local bank book, and likely documents proving that you’ve made the payments and that you’re entitled to receive the refund (keep a copy of your alien registration card/number and receive a copy of the necessary documentation from your employer prior to your departure.

Application forms can be found on the National Pension Scheme website:
For Korean Benefits:
For Overseas Remittance:
Korean Pension Benefits:                                                                   
Foreign contributors to the Korean National Pension Scheme may also choose to receive their benefits (if/when eligible) rather than take the lump-sum refund. The benefits can be remitted overseas if they have left Korea. However, those who have taken the lump-sum refund are no longer eligible to claim benefits.

**Addresses and Contact Details for the Seoul and Regional NPS offices can be found on the National Pension Scheme website Click on English – on the English Page look to the right to the map of Korea, click on Go>> and the list of offices will appear. Click on the one you want and all the contact details will appear.

When visiting the NPS office look for the sign that says “Kuk min yeon geum(국민연금)

The Great Escape to West Virginia

I love teaching college. But it is also a great thrill to be able to teach Korean kids once a semester. After spending 2 years teaching some of the smartest and cutest kids in Gwangju, I can’t help but love my 4 weeks teaching Chosun University kids camp. At the end of the four weeks we put on a skit for the parents. After teaching my students the songs “Country Roads” and “Going to the Zoo,” the only logical thing to do was to write a play about the zoo and West Virginia. After brainstorming with my students about what should happen in the play, here is what we came up with. Enjoy.

Day in the Life of a Summer School Teacher

My Classrooms: A Play

Act I
Scene 1

Student- Teacher! Come on!

Whit teacher- Come here!

S- Teacher! Come here!

W.T.- Okay..Do you need help, Yoon Min?

S- (Yoon Min grabs Whit Teachers beard and pulls)- Teacher dirty.

The scene- Eight 8 yr old students in brightly-colored summer clothes.  Some are in their seats, some not. The student next to Yoon Min, the pig-tailed and chubby Ahn Woo, laughs almost to the point of hyperventilating at Yoon Min’s beard-pulling, revealing two missing front teeth. Ahn Woo files the act in her brain to use on the teacher several times over. Behind the teacher Kyu Seok tiptoes toward the board in a secret mission to chalk another unearned point to his teams score.  But the teacher sees all movements and minus’ a point from Team B for the attempt.  Team B groans and makes swiping motions toward Kyu Seok for his failed mission.  Kyu Seok sinks in his seat in shame.  As the teacher continues to help the students with their vocabulary exercise he feels the strange but familiar feeling of tiny fingers being rammed up his rectum.  Team B’s Na Seol has landed a perfect and well-executed “dong chim” sending the foreign teacher nearly a foot into the air. The class erupts with laughter.  The scene repeats itself.

Act II
Scene 2

The scene-The teacher arrives with kimchi stains and stray black marker marks on his pants revealing an active morning with 8 year old students.  He breathes a sigh of relief as he sees the calm and seated students at their desks.  The students range from 18 to 66. Some are shy, most are fluent, all are kind and none will attempt a “dong chim” tonight or comment on the teacher’s beard. But with good Korean humor they will enjoy teasing their teacher.

After a discussion about countries and nationalities.

Student 1- What do you tell people your nationality is if you are from the United States?

Whit teacher-  American.

Student 1- But what about Canada and Mexico? They are in North America, but they are Canadian and Mexican.  Why are you American?

Whit teacher- (Teacher sighs almost wishing he only had to react to a “dong chim” at this point) Well, I am not sure why, but I guess it goes back to a moment in our history.
Student 2- Huh, you should know! (The class laughs)

This my life these hot summer days, but please don’t misinterpret the tone. Teaching children in the morning and adults in the evening, after a semester of teaching only college students, has actually been quite challenging and endlessly entertaining. As most foreign teachers know it pays to be well-prepared for your audience.

Here are some tips I have found useful in keeping the beard-pulling to a minimum.

For the Kids
1. Turn everything into a game. Foreign teachers have to make the classroom fun for young students. It is super effective in getting them to practice English in a fun and carefree environment. Often, out of desperation for fun and a restless class, I make up games on the spot with whatever resources I am using. Try to think like a kid. Remember those days where all you had was a pencil and an eraser, but in your mind they were a fighter jet and an aircraft carrier? Go with it. It also helps to google “ESL Games” before class. There are endless supplies of games.

2. Check out Mes-English. My on-line Bible these days is Mes-English. It is a free site with flashcards, worksheets, coloring sheets, songs and many other resources that you could use over several class periods.  There are few important words that this site doesn’t cover.  For example, I have a theme everyday and print out a set of flashcards that relate to that theme. The first hour we learn the flashcards and learn how to spell each word. The second hour we play games with the flashcards.  Either I call out a word and they rush to be the first team to tape it to the board, or I have them race to put the cards in a specific order. It’s simple and the kids love it.

3. Institute a point system. Korean children absolutely love competition. The prize doesn’t matter so much as the winning. Threatening to take a point away can get your students in their seat in a flash. A point given almost always results in high-fives and cheers. I am serious, they LOVE it. You can giveth or taketh away points depending on your rules, they will follow.

For the Adults
1. Debate. This depends on their level, but my upper-level students seem to enjoy this exercise. For homework, they are to prepare themselves for an informal debate on a topic such as, “Love is more important than money.” These topics sometimes just elicit opinions, but as the students get more comfortable with each other they are starting to actually disagree openly with each other. Not only is it good for them but I have found it very fascinating as an observer.

2. Call on your students. Some people may debate this point, but I have found that calling on your students randomly applies just enough pressure on them to be prepared. I feel that my students come prepared to be called on because they don’t know when it might be their turn.

3. Give homework and have free talk time. One student actually told me that she like the pressure of homework (either written or preparing for a speech or debate) and then having a casual conversation at the beginning or end of class. One friend recommended discussing the latest entertainment news if the class is predominantly women.

Coming to Korea? New changes to the E2 visa process

Interested in coming to Korea?

There are some new changes taking place as soon as Sept. 1, so make sure to take notice of the new rules.

Here are the changes:

As of Sept. 1, 2010:

  •  All university degrees must be sent to Korea with an apostille. ( A copy of the original degree with an apostille is also OK.
  • Transcripts are no longer needed.

As of Jan. 1, 2011:

Read more about the required documents for obtaining employment in Korea at:

Teaching at a Korean University

It’s good to be a college professor. I can’t complain at all.

It has been an interesting transition from elementary school to university.  In some ways it feels like I am teaching bigger versions of my elementary students, but then I realize how much easier I have it. So far in the college setting I haven’t lost my temper, my voice or my mind. The students are largely respectful and are more apt to listen than not.

My campus is bustling with activity.  Soccer clubs practicing endlessly, students walking in groups to class, taxis zooming through campus, Jason Mraz playing on the intercom system(seriously) that can be heard all over campus. It is full of life.

Most university students are extremely friendly, often saying hello, occasionally bowing.  My students try hard in class and seem to be having fun being out of the academic hell that is high school.

So work is good, in case you were wondering.  How can it not be when K-Pop and Jason Mraz are the soundtrack to your work life?

Teach Abroad in Korea

Almost three years ago my wife and I started this blog. We had just recently signed and sent our contracts. Nervous and very apprehensive, we thought to ourselves “what are we doing?!?!?” Korea seemed like a safety country, only an option if nothing else worked out. We wanted the big named countries like Japan or Thailand, but in the end we had to settle for Korea.

I reluctantly told our landlord we were moving out, reluctantly sold my car and reluctantly donated old clothes to Goodwill.  I cringed whenever news involving North and South Korea popped up on the New York Times webpage and even had to agree with some people who thought our going to Korea was “crazy.”

But we couldn’t have been more wrong about the Land of the Morning Calm.  A beautiful country, wonderful people and unique experiences met us everyday we walked out of our villa in Gwangju.  I cannot express to you the pleasure we found in our day-to-day existence in Korea. Life in Korea is good, it’s safe and it is always an adventure.  I would urge anyone considering Korea to look no further.  If you want to teach abroad, teach in Korea.

My wife even took her passion for Korea one step further by recruiting foreigners to teach there. Just today she got some jobs that look very good and that start March 1st. Below you will find the information sheet she wrote up about these jobs.  Read and if you are interested in an amazing experience.  APPLY NOW!!! There is really no time to waste!

What is it? To work for GEPIK (Gyeonggido English Program in Korea) is to teach in a public elementary, middle or high school in Gyeonggi Province. Since 2003, GEPIK has provided English teachers to all public schools in the province. Currently there are more than 1,000 foreigners in the GEPIK program, but the the company is looking to double its numbers this year. Meaning lots of others just like you!

Where is it? Gyeonggi Province, in the northern part of South Korea located in the area immediately surrounding Seoul.

The benefits

  • Salary of up to 2.3 million won/month
  • Free & furnished housing
  • Roundtrip flights
  • Renewal bonus of 2.0 million won in case you stay a 2nd year
  • 10 days of ESL training and orientation
  • Signing bonus of 300,000 won when you arrive in Korea
  • Medical insurance and pension, 50% of which is covered by GEPIK
  • 20 days of paid vacation plus public holidays
  • Higher salaries for teachers who choose to work in more rural locations

The responsibilities
GEPIK teachers are required to conduct beginner to intermediate English classes at an assigned Gyeonggi Province school with a Korean “co-teacher” as a team. GEPIK English teachers are required to teach 22 classes (varying from 40 – 50 minutes) per week. There are other various extra curricular programs that teachers will run, including an English Day Camp, English Speech contest and English classes for fellow Korean teachers.

GEPIK Placement Locations

You don’t always have a choice in where you are placed with applying for a GEPIK job. The more flexibility an applicant has with regards to application, the better chance they have of securing a job. Placements are located in cities and rural areas across Gyeonggi Province. We’ve included a list of most GEPIK locations below.

  • Suwon (capital)
  • Ansan
  • Anyang
  • Bucheon
  • Dongducheon
  • Gimpo
  • Goyang’
  • Gwangju(the little town, NOT the big city in Jeolla)
  • Gwangmyeong
  • Icheon
  • Namyangju
  • Paju
  • Uijeongbu
  • Yongin

The Say Kimchi Recruiting Community in Korea

Say Kimchi Recruiting does more than connect with you a job. Once you arrive, we also make sure you are connected to the local community through our monthly newsletter, community events, and connections with our other teachers already in Korea. If you ever have a problem, we’re there to help. We’ve taught in Korea, we’re there now, and we’re there to help.

Still interested?  Still reading?  Go to and apply now!!

Deadline January 15th!! Apply online at Mark on application that you are applying for GEPIK job.

ESL tips for teachers

So it’s almost Monday and you’re staring at scarily blank lessons plans for the week. Here are a few ideas to energize your class, add a little color to your lesson plans, and get your students speaking more English than you (and they) even thought they knew.

As an elementary school English teacher in Korea, I could not have lived without MES English, a one-stop shop for all your ESL needs. Not only do they have the best materials on the web, but they’re free. (Like what you see? They always take donations to keep their site running.)
On this site you can find fun animated flash cards for every possible topic you can teach, everything from adjectives to weather and everything between. After you print your flashcards out, you can also print along some corresponding worksheets that offer fill-in-the-blanks, crossword puzzles, word-finds (a.k.a. classroom gold), and more. And, most importantly (according to my elementary students), they have bingo cards for every set of vocabulary words. Check it out at

Boggles World ESL (Lanternfish)
Lanternfish, also known as Boggles World ESL, is also a heavy-hitter when it comes to free down-loadable ESL materials. This site not only offers elementary school exercises but also some wonderful adult learning material like shopping, banking, and other basic role plays. They offer some great business English and travel English worksheets perfect for adults looking to learn some basic English very quickly. Check it out here:

Enchanted Learning
This is a great site for those ESL teachers out there teaching a few immersion classes in science. As an immersion teacher, I often used these worksheets to go along with the elementary school students’ McGraw Hill science books. They were perfect. The site also has some good basic alphabet exercises for young learners. To get full access to the site, membership cost $20 and is worth every penny if this is something that fits your curriculum. Learn more about it here:


This is one of my favorite tools as a teacher for my more advanced elementary students. The site offers short animated educational videos starring Tim, a boy, and Moby, his beloved robot. Videos are broken into categories such as math, English, science, arts, and more. Membership, which allows full access, is expensive and my school wouldn’t pay for it. But you can do a 5-day free trial, so plan ahead and know which videos you want to use before you start your trial.

Dave’s ESL Idea Cookbook
Great for students of any age, this cookbook of ideas is a wealth of information supplied by ESL teachers around the world. You know it works because it’s for ESL teachers by ESL teachers. The list contains hundreds and hundreds of games to try out in your classroom. They are great for icebreakers, the last 10 minutes of class, or during those pesky “open classes” when the parents come for the day and want to hear their kids speak English. Get some ideas to spice up your classroom here.