Life as an English teacher in a public school is great. The work hours are very convenient. Public schools have resources to improve teaching performance. The kids are motivated to learn. Public schools have more holidays than hagwons. There are numerous opportunities to learn Korean, and to immerse oneself in Korean culture. My personal experience as a public school teacher has been personally and professionally enriching.
The typical public school work schedule is from 8:30am to 4:30pm from Monday to Friday. Of the 40 hours teachers spend at school 22 hours is spent in class. The other 18 hours are spent doing lesson prep, eating lunch, and taking breaks with co-workers. Summer vacation is from early July to Early August, and winter vacation is from late December to early March with two weeks of school in February. There are “English camps” Spread throughout summer and winter vacations so, depending on the school your vacation times vary.
Teaching in a public school is very challenging. Public school is particularly challenging you don’t have much experience. Each school assigns classes for a guest teacher. Each guest English teacher has a native Korean English teacher (a co-teacher) to help with classroom management. Having a co-teacher is very helpful! A guest English teacher’s relationship with his/her co-teacher is VERY important. Depending on the school there might only be one or two teachers who can speak and understand English. Foreign English teachers depend on their co-teachers for everything from guiding professional development to setting up bank accounts to filling out school paperwork. I am happy to say my co-teachers have been wonderful people, and have helped me thrive.
The kids at my school are really the same as anywhere else in the world. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, their own personalities. The biggest difference I have noticed about kids here compared to kids back home (the Midwest) is the support that they receive. Most Korean parents place a lot of importance on doing well in school. My kids rarely miss school, and they always eat breakfast. There is nothing like having a great lesson with a class full of kids who have energy, and are ready to learn.
Teaching in Korea offers many unique opportunities to teach, and also to experience Korean culture. Every guest English teacher who works in a public school is the only foreigner in the whole school. Guest English teachers have to negotiate a language barrier between themselves and most of their co-workers. It is difficult at first, but it is also a great motivator to learn Korean. Korean is a difficult language, but it’s very rewarding to learn and use new phrases. English teachers who learn some Korean have a much better time with their co-workers than those who don’t.
Public school is a great option for people who like working regular 9-5 hours. Public school is a great option for people who want to want to become a better teacher with the help of motivated kids and native Korean teachers. And most important of all, Public school is a great option for people who want to learn Korean and be immersed in local culture. I’m very happy I chose to become a teacher in a public school in Korea. The experience has been priceless.
By Alexander Carstens, Anthropololgy major, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, Class of 2012