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KarynDietrich

Should I Just *come* To Turkey...and *then* Find A Job?

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What are the best schools/chains now? I feel I haven't the right experience for Universities....There don't seem to be many advertised vacancies. I tend to look on TEFL.com, ESLcafe and ESLbase as well just sending out my CV.

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Hi all--

Coming in a bit late here, and there is so much information that I'm afraid I'll miss some things, but I thought I'd make a stab at putting in my 2 cents.

In my experience this year, the most important thing for a native speaker teacher is that he/she has a university degree in English. Apparently this wasn't always the case; I spoke to one administrator at a state university and he said that years ago it was good enough for a person to just be a native speaker, but now they require their native speaking teachers to specifically have a degree in English. I believe (although I could be mistaken) this is now a requirement of YÖK, the governing body of accreditation for universities. That said, if you have a degree in English and some kind of TESOL certificate (CELTA is the one that is preferred here, but TESOL should be ok) you are certainly qualified to teach at universities. I taught at a university here in Izmir and have ties/friends at another 5 universities, which is to say I'm acquainted with a good 60+ people who work at universities, and almost none have master's degrees. Many are straight out of school without experience. Be aware, though, that what you will be signing up for is almost certainly "hazırlık" school, which hobbit described (year of English to students with little or no English that they have to take before they can take classes in their department at the university.)

Getting a job at one of these schools--if you have a degree in English--is, in my experience, very easy. All the universities are screaming for natives, and yet few have the resources to go out and seek them internationally. So when a native speaker seeks them out, they are very eager. (As one administrator gloated when myself and another native applied in the same week via a a contact with a friend:"it's not every day two native speakers looking for work fall in your lap.")

Now the question is: is that what you want?

You think it is, and it could be. But please be aware that teaching at a university in Turkey is, most probably, nothing near what you are probably imagining teaching at a university is like. I taught at a university in the States for 4 years (I have a master's, but overall I don't think having a master's was that important here--the important thing is that my degrees were in English) and so I know what it's like to teach at a university in the States, and yes, that experience was what I thought it would be. I lectured and the students took notes. If there was a bit of talking, I told them to be quiet and they were. I never had to kick anyone out of class--just the thought of doing so would have been shocking. "Classroom management" was a non-issue. There was nothing to "manage"--the students were adults, albeit young ones, and acted appropriately in class. Yes, there was cheating at times, but not widespread. I was treated respectfully, again, with occasional glitches but that's to be expected when you're teaching over 100 students any given semester. I was solely responsible for determining their grades. No one looked over my shoulder. It was low-paying (I was an adjunct after getting my master's) and eventually for that reason I went into private industry, but it remains one of my favorite jobs ever. I'm still in touch with former students from that time.

Flash forward to last year when I taught at a university here. I have left a record of this time in another thread that is under the "personal stories" section here, so I'll keep this short. The experience was nothing less than horrifying. I could never have imagined it could be so bad. I was overworked, teaching 25 hours and then giving exams after teaching a 6 hour day. Exams of one type or another (oral or written) were three times a week--all after the regular work day. I wasn't paid for that. For written exams, I had to correct the exams and then turn over the exam to another teacher for them to correct and I had to look at their exams and re-correct them to make sure they didn't make any errors. This is apparently a common thing in Turkey. In the States, it's unheard of. The administration was a nightmare. The kids were even worse. Two other Americans and I agreed that they were more like 14 or 15 years old in terms of maturity. They were disrespectful. They were rude. They played with their phones constantly. They talked to eachother in Turkish constantly. It was like there wasn't anything you could do to stop them. I wasn't alone in this, otherwise I'd say it was just me and my problem and that I had no classroom management skills. It was from beginning to end a nightmare. One of the top three worst jobs I ever had. There was a time when I was young that I cleaned houses on the side for money. I would literally rather clean a filthy toilet than walk back into one of those classrooms. I barely made it a quarter before I quit. I've never looked back. I lost weight I didn't want to lose. I lost a good 10-20% of my hair in the process, which is now finally starting to grow back. I look a bit like a baby chicken in this regard, with 2-3" hair sprouting all over my head, but I escaped with my sanity and that's what's important.

Basically the state universities have good and mature students, and a few of the very competitive private universities would also be fine, but beware of the "foundation" (private) universities, especially the new ones. They have low standards, like the university where I taught, and low standards = sh*tty students--rude, unmotivated, lazy, etc.

I interviewed at state and private universities, language schools, elementary schools, and high schools. Literally every single place I interviewed I was offered a job. It's exactly like how Hobbit said: I had my pick. I ended up picking a very, very, very selective high school. Girls only. The kids are great: hardworking, nice, pleasant, respectful. The administration is good, I like my coordinator and co-workers. I've been working there part-time since February and have been offered a job there in the fall, which I accepted.

It is true, however, as Hobbit said, that the dress code is strict, i.e. in my case, I have to wear a white "doctor's" coat (!?). No jeans. Slacks are ok. Dresses have to be below the knee. For myself, I can deal with this.

In short, I think you can absolutely '"just come" here and get a job, especially if you have an English degree. I do know natives who have other degrees who are teaching at high schools and universities--if the school is desperate, or if you know someone, they may look the other way. So it's also possible to find jobs at universities or highschools without an English degree. In any case, I totally wouldn't worry about "job openings" and advertisements. I have interviewed at more than a dozen places. Guess how many of them had "openings" that were advertised? Zero. That's right. None of them, not one. I made the contact for one interview when I was sitting in a park feeding cats and a man with a toddler son struck up a conversation with me. I got another via a man I sat next to on an airport shuttle. Two were through different friends-of-friends. Four were through contacts I made while getting my CELTA. Friends of mine have just walked into the places where they wanted to teach, or called or emailed. The jobs are here, believe me, for qualified English teachers (i.e. people with a degree, preferably in English, and with ESL qualifications, preferably CELTA). Just be clear in your own mind what a "good job" is and know that the conditions may be very different than what you might expect.

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Quinn writes "Flash forward to last year when I taught at a university here....The experience was nothing less than horrifying."

I was not an instructor in the English Language Program, a place where I heard similar comments from foreign teachers. Turkish teachers, for some reason, seldom complained about their students. I taught an academic-skills program to first-year (after Prep) university students with a decent grasp of the English language. The academic-skills section was integrated into a complete computer science curriculum using English as the medium of instruction.

When I first started teaching in Turkey, a Turkish colleague warned me not to listen to the negative comments of my other colleagues. She said there was the impression that students were spoiled rich kids who did not care about learning. She said that she did not believe that and that I should go into my new experience with a positive attitude and an open mind. She also told me that foreign teachers, especially Americans, were considered pushovers by Turkish students and that once they became "friends" with these teachers, they no longer had to work. Her advice served me well in that and the following years.

At the start of every new semester, my first year university students showed a general immaturity compared to what I had experienced in classrooms in the States. The majority of them matured rather quickly as soon as they realized that I was not their "momma" nore their father nor their "friend." I was their teacher and demanded respect and I believe I got it. I expected them to dazzle ME with THEIR brillance and told them that I was not there to impress them with my knowledge, but rather that they had to impress my colleagues and me with their understanding of what they learned. I re-arranged my classrooms into a horseshoe or circle for maximum eye contact, I have always hated the "rows and columns" of classrooms. If a room had no moveable seats, I demanded, and got, a classroom change.

In short, I had nearly no discipline problems from my students. Some of my colleagues, in jest and to my face, likened me to a "sergeant-major" in my strict attitude toward my students. My colleagues also told me that my students said they believed I respected and loved them, which I did. I called it my "tough-love" curriculum.

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