May 27, 2011

How-to teach in South Korea

Thought I would give a few pointers for people that stumble on my blog looking to move to South Korea and teach English. Remember, this is just my opinion and just one way to do it, there are endless possibilities of ways to teach and live here, do your research and figure out what's best for you!
  • Public School: I work at a public school. The government run organization for South Korea is EPIK (English Programs in Korea) and for specifically Seoul SMOE (Seoul Metropolitian Office of Education). This is who employs me, I am a employee of the South Korea government. (EEK!) This means I work in a public elementary school. I had no control over where in Seoul I would be living, although I did get to give my choices of what kind of school, my first choice was elementary(but some people did not get their first choice, everything here is situational). There are also countless private schools (aka Hagwons) which pay more but you work more hours and have less vacation time but I can't tell you from experience what it is like working for these places, look it up, there are a lot of mixed reveiws. 
  • Contract: My contract is a one year contract (Aug. 2010-Aug.2011) and I teach 22 hours a week (with 18 planning time in my 40hr. work week). I have 21 paid vacation days plus national holidays and sick days. I had to go to orientation when I first arrived here and then they took me to meet my new co-teacher who showed me my school and new apartment, which they provide (I am south of the river so it is nothing special. I have friends who hit the jackpot though.) I also received a flight here and will be reimbursed for my flight back. On top of that you get a bonus for completing your contract and if you resign your contract for another year, you will get more bonuses. You are also given government health insurance (catch up already, USA!) As you can see it is a pretty good deal and there is no where else in the world you can teach English and have it this sweet. 
  • Applying and using a recruiter: Usually you work with a recruiter to find a job here. It makes the process much easier (and it is in NO way simple, you will only get a job here if you really put the work in!) as the Korean government requires a lot of documents to ensure a job. I worked with Korvia and would recommend emailing them, it will make your life a lot easier. You will need a degree, no criminal record, usually a TEFL these days, letters of recommendation, official college transcripts and all this will need to have official stamp from your home country called an apostille, it can be a pain in the ass to get all this together, trust me, it's not as easy as it sounds. 
  • Coteaching: In a public school you will teach with a co teacher. This is not for everyone. Every school is different and I have never met two public school teachers with the same co teaching situation. Some work 50/50 with their co teacher in the classroom. Others do all the work and their co teacher sits in the back and sleeps. Some native English teachers have 10 co teachers. I have one. Your situation will be unique but just remember you are not a normal teacher here, you cannot legally be in a classroom by yourself (unless you teach in a private school, which is a totally different teaching environment.) Your coworkers can make or break the job for some people. Just remember it's only a year of your life, but can you deal with it?
  • Training: Working with a public school you will be required to attend an orientation training either when you first arrive in Korea (like me), or sometime during your contract if you missed that one (I have friends who had to go to one 6 months into their contract). You are pretty much bottle fed how to survive and teach in Korea without ever seeing "real" Korea, knowing what grade you will be teaching or where you will be living. It can be a frustrating but fulfilling week where you will mostly network and meet many of your friends in Korea. Great for someone who has never taught or been in Korea before, yet still tedious and mundane by the 3th day. 
  • Living in Korea: I live in Seoul but there are many opportunities to live in other cities or more rural parts of the country, you just have to do your research and be pretty adventurous. Seoul is a fabulous city with interesting people, tons to do (whether it be volunteering, arts, sports, nightlife, culture) and is very foreigner friendly. I love the hustle and bustle of the city, the subway is very efficient (albeit crowded and annoying some days), and there is always something new to do and new people to meet. The culture is very different from Western culture but you have many comforts from home and it is not as foreign as one may initially think. Itaewon (the foreigner area in Seoul where the US army base is located) is annoying at first but you learn to love the diversity of the food and people there and it can make living abroad an easier transition for first timers. Immersing yourself in a new culture is an exciting and liberating experience and you will learn so much about Korean ways and tons about yourself.   (And if all that didn't convince you, check out this list of 50 reasons why Seoul is the best city in the world. You'll be on the next plane over! )


All in all, It is a really good gig to have even if you just do it for one year and then duck back into normalcy. I enjoy life, live well, love my job and am getting to travel. There are up's and down's to it of course, but such is life, right? It is perfect for recent grads who are not ready for the normal 9-5 and are looking for an adventure. If you have any specific questions I would be more than happy to help as much as I can, leave a comment or email me and I will get back to you :) Good luck starting your new adventure!




The students really make my love my job!!


[These are the opinions of an English teacher in South Korea and in no way reflect the views or position of SMOE or EPIK.)

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