Day to day life in Korea is fairly routine in a public school. I typically arrive at school around 8:20 and check my lesson materials for the day. Classes start at 9 and consist of 40-minute lessons with 10-minute breaks in-between. I generally teach all my classes before the lunch period at 12:10, but many times the schedule changes due to various school events. After lunch, I usually have a couple free class periods to prepare lesson materials or take a break. School ends for students at 2:30. Because of my 18 class schedule, I usually teach an after school class around 3. Some days it is a teacher’s English conversation class and others it is a class for lower level students. After teaching these classes, I have free time to continue lesson planning until the day is over at 4:30. Many times, I finish lesson planning early and have time to study Korean.
The lessons themselves involve co-teaching with a Korean teacher. Generally, I will plan and teach the lesson, and the Korean co-teacher will assist with lower level students and classroom management. Lesson planning is usually done a week in advance. I message my teacher on the school messaging program and arrange a time to discuss the lesson. I usually come to the meeting with rough plans and the Korean teacher offers suggestions and improvements. These lessons are written in a standard format issued by the school and are submitted every two weeks.
Outside of school, the English teachers have regular dinners and meetings. I am fortunate to have co-teachers that enjoy meeting up outside of school and having dinner or doing other fun activities. I find having co-teachers is beneficial to adjusting to life in Korea. They are able to assist with everyday activities such as setting up bank accounts and phone plans.
During school breaks there are several things to expect in a public school: camps and vacation! Camps are extra English classes run by the school during school break times. They are usually about 3-4 days in length and consist of non-textbook based lessons. Often public school teachers will teach camps at other schools during this time. The schools pay for the visiting teacher’s transportation and worksheets they produce for the camp. In general, a teacher can expect around 120,000 Korean Won for each additional camp. After camps, there are usually several weeks open to take vacation time. In my contract, vacation consists of 8 days in the summer and 10 days in the winter. This does not include national holidays, so often the vacation period can be extended by national holidays.
Overall, I really enjoy teaching in a public school and would recommend it to others considering teaching abroad in Korea. I enjoy the schedule and find the workload manageable. Outside of school I have rarely had to do work. In addition, I think having a co-teacher is very helpful. There have been many situations where a Korean co-teacher was essential when explaining complex topics, and I have improved my teaching by following the advice from my co-teachers. Lastly, I appreciate the vacation provided when working for a public school. It is nice that there is sufficient time provided for teachers to take holiday. Usually my school is helpful and will tell me in advance about camp dates so I can plan my vacation accordingly.
This is just a glimpse into my daily life as a public school teacher in Daegu. It is just one account so it isn’t necessarily representative of all public school teachers in Korea. However, I have spoken with many other EPIK teachers with similar stories, so I feel it is a good general representation of what to expect.
By Reanna Nelson, Art major, College of St. Benedict, Class of 2013