Interview with Robert: A fellow ESL Teacher

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Recently, I had the pleasure to catch-up with an old fellow ESL teacher from Korea. We worked together overseas. Now I am working on setting up websites and he has continued teaching at a high school over here in the good old U.S. of A. I asked him a few questions about what one of his favorite ESL activities was and additionally any advice he might have for people who are teaching ESL right now or who are thinking of making the leap.

Favorite Activity

Jim: Do you have any ideas or some things that work over here?

Robert: I do. Actually I’m thinking of something I did overseas a lot. I taught university students before I started with the public schools and I used it there as well. Mini-debates, I really really enjoyed doing mini-debates. We also called them clash debates. Basically the way they work is you pick a topic the way you would a debate topic. You have two teams of maybe two people or three people and they prepare for a minute and then debate for a minute. One minute one team, one minute another team. They do their introductory debates after that they take a minute to prepare their rebuttals. They debate again, take another minute. Prepare for their closing and then they do a third minute each of debates. So it’s only three minutes each for each team. I’ve done it with higher level students but I’ve also done it with middle level…

Jim: Intermediate?

Robert: Yeah intermediate students as well and um, it’s always been a blast for everyone. Oh I forgot to mention. In the final closing debate…this is the clash, what they do is they read at the same time. The point isn’t to get your arguments across. It’s to be as loud and fast as possible with your closing. With the closing you add more things to it. I’ve had students just re-read their arguments from the prior one. And whoever talks the loudest and the longest wins that round.

Jim: Oh Really?

Robert: It’s so fun! It’s a blast for kids especially, but adults love it as well. …and you can rattle it off in 10 minutes.

Jim: What are some typical topics you’ve used for debate?

Robert: We’ve used some serious ones. I think we have done it on the death penalty, legalizing drugs, cell phones in schools. We’ve done sillier ones like do ghosts exist, would you rather have one leg or three arms…

Jim: I’ve also done ones where we just had “Would-you-rather” games…

Robert: It can make for an interesting debate…

ESL Teacher Interview

Transitioning Back from Teaching Overseas

Robert: We just kind of came over here blind. I did some landscaping work for a while. I did some adjunct teaching for about a year before I met someone who worked in the public schools who kind of guided me through the process. I had been trying for a year on my own. After I met them it was boom, boom, boom, 2 weeks later I had a job. For me it ended up being, “Who do you know?” If you know somebody, it opens up a lot of doors.

Jim: It’s just like over in Korea. I think a lot of university jobs. If anybody is thinking of going overseas if you know somebody working at a university and you have a master’s you can get in…I know a lot of people who got their job because of who they know not really what they know. Now working at institutions it’s a lot easier. Do some homework online.

…if you do want to keep teaching when you come back, just doing it as a part-time thing can help you meet people in the system.

Robert: Being in that adjunct position really helped. One thing that helped was that at some point I decided to get my master’s. My advice is that any master’s degree will help.

Final Advice

Jim: Any final words for anybody?

Robert: Ooh, final words put me on the spot! The advice that I give my colleagues who are thinking of going overseas to teach, I say DO IT! Jump in! It’s hard to let go of whatever things you have going on in the U.S. but the experience is transformative. It’s positive, always positive.

Jim: … It’s definitely something I recommend. We both found families and if you are a husband wife team then that is great to go over too. You can pool your money together and just live off one salary. If you are planning on transitioning make a plan before you come back from overseas. Think about your money and what you are going to do with it, and if you can start making a plan before you come back over.

Thank you for joining us today, Robert.

Robert: Thank you for having me.

Jim: I appreciate it. Zhea, do you want to say goodbye? (Crickets) No, Ella do you want to say goodbye.

Ella: Bye

Jim: and that was our talkative daughters! Thank you for joining us on Teaching English is Fun.

A Big Thank-You to Robert for Joining Us!

Thanks for the ESL InterviewAs you can tell if you are following along there is more to the interview than I wrote down here. Listen to the full podcast for all the great words of wisdom. I tried to pull out some of the most relevant parts to share with you here. Check out the embedded podcast to follow along.

This was really fun. If you want to hear more great interviews like this let me know in the comments down below or email me directly at


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