Preface

Below is a description of the general conditions a native English teacher will have while teaching at a high school in South Korea.

The descriptions are based on my experience teaching elementary after school programs and camps, 1 full year of teaching at 3 different middle schools (all girls, and co-ed), 1 year at an all girls academic high school, 1 year at a foreign language training center (English immersion camp programs for middle school and high school students, and the 6 month Teach English in English training program for Korean English teachers), nearly 2 years at a national university of education (training future Korean English elementary teachers in a full time English education program, and a second 6 month Teach English in English training program), and my current experiences teaching at an all boys trade high school that then transitioned into an academic school in the middle of the contract.  Add to all of this summer and winter English camps during the entire five years, with varying levels of public school students, university students, and Korean English teacher trainees, and you’ll see that I’ve accumulated quite a bit of time and experience teaching in Korea.

I tend to focus on the issues, problems, and things that native teachers need to be warned about before they begin teaching, and also things that may (or may not) happen throughout the course of one’s contract.  Native teachers do NOT get to choose the level of school (you can request it, but bear in mind that even after being told you’re going teach _ level of school this can change, and I’ve personally seen it happen DURING orientation), its location, or the type (trade vs academic), and in general the quality of the school and co-teachers you find yourself with basically is like winning a lottery.  Some native teachers get fantastic schools with awesome co-teachers, some get mediocre situations that are good and bad, and some get poor to nightmarish schools and co-teachers . . . you truly will not know what you are walking into until you are already in the school and in the thick of it.

With that in mind I have written this post with some new content giving a general description of teaching high school (though a lot of it can be applied to middle school too), and also linked to other things I’ve written in the past that are relevant.

UPDATE:  Apparently several of the links in my orientation guide (the link is below) are not working.  Sorry about that, and I’ll try to fix them tonight or tomorrow when I have the time.

The first section (First Week in Korea — Checklists)  is taken from The Kimchi Icecream Guide for New EFL/ESL Foreign English Teachers/Instructors in South Korea, 2010 Edition – Public Schools, Hogwans, Universities, and Training Center/Institutes.  This is a cumulative blog post that I turned into an online blog format orientation guide.  Check it out.

First Week in Korea — Checklists

After orientation you will likely meet your ‘primary co-teacher.’  This co-teacher will be assigned to you to help you with your general teaching and living conditions in Korea.  This relationship is the most critical one you will have in Korea, and you should try to maintain it in a positive manner to the best of your ability. It is a good idea to print off the checklists below and give a copy to your co-teacher because it may be possible that they’ve never been a co-teacher before, and never been assigned to helping a native English teacher with their teaching and living conditions in Korea.

***Introduction For New Foreign English Teachers To The Korean Public School Environment

***New Foreign English Instructors/Teachers in Korea: Bring pictures with you for an introduction lesson during the first week at your school***

***First Day At School For New Native English Teachers in Korean Public Schools — Checklist***

***New Foreign English Instructors — First Day In Your New Apartment Checklist***

2005 New Foreign English Instructor Arrives at Korean Public School — A look back at my first week in Korea . . . wow, it’s been a long time . . .

Sample Schedule

Each period is fifty minutes long for high schools in Korea (middle school is 45 minutes, and elementary is 40 minutes).  All native teachers, regardless of school level, have 22 classes per week.  That being said schools often struggle to fill your schedule completely and you may end up teaching less than 22.

7:45am – arrive at school, greet other teachers in the office, eat breakfast at my desk

7:50am – teachers go to take attendance and do morning announcements in their homerooms

8:10am – first period

9:10 – second period

10:10 – third period

11:10 – fourth period

12:00 – lunch, go to eat with other teachers in cafeteria

1:00 – fifth period

2:00 – sixth period

3:00 – seventh period

3:50 – clean and lock up classroom, return to desk, do any tasks I need to do to finish up day and/or prep for the next day, go home

NOTE: Other high school teachers begin their 8 hour day at 8:30am and leave at 4:30pm, or 9am and leave at 5pm.

This is my schedule for the spring/summer semester. (The reason I am using elementary grade levels to describe the class grades on the schedule is because that’s how they describe them in Korea–it’s incorrect, but still in common usage.)

NOTE: There’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ schedule in Korea, and your schedule could be radically different.

Class Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
1  (8:10-9:00) Grade 1 Miss B Grade 1 Miss B Grade 2 Mr. G
2  (9:10-10:00) Grade 2 Mr. G Grade 1 Miss B Grade 1 Mr. D
3  (10:10-11:00) Grade 1 Mrs. A Grade 1 Mr. D Grade 1 Mr. D
4  (11:10-12:00) Grade 2 Mr. F Grade 1 Miss B Grade 1 Mr. D Grade 2 Mr. F
Lunch (12:00-1:00)
5  (1:00-1:50) 2Grade 2 Mr. G Grade 1 Mrs. A
6  (2:00-2:50) Grade 2 Mr. G Grade 2 Mr. F Grade 2 Mr. F Grade 2 Mr. G
7  (3:00-3:50) Grade 1 Mrs. A Grade 1 Mrs. A Grade 2 Mr. G
After school program 118:30-19:30 Jason + Mr. D Jason + Mr. D
After school program 219:40-20:40 Mr. D Mr. D
Total classes =3 +1 Total classes =5 Total classes =3+1 Total classes =5 Total classes =6



When your schedule is being made try to make the suggestion that your co-teacher does not schedule you for more than 5 classes on one day.  Sometimes co-teachers will just plug your name and class into any blank slot on the school class schedule without giving any thought whatsoever to how exhausting it can be to teach 6 classes, or even 7 which is insane!  Each native teacher has to decide for themselves how much they’ll speak up about saying there’s a problem with the schedule they’re given, but if you’re going to say something say it when it’s being made–don’t try to say something later, or take a ‘let’s wait and see how it goes approach’ cause the odds of it being changed later because you suddenly realized that 6 classes in one day is too much for you are practically nil–no, they’re nil, period.

Also, if you’re going to agree to teaching after school program classes you should consider how many classes that adds up to including your regular contract classes.  I actually made the above schedule table with the times and titles so that I could point out to my co-teacher that she should add up how many classes I teach each day INCLUDING the after school program classes.  Doing this helped me avoid being given a regular class schedule that failed to consider that on Mondays and Wednesdays I was also doing after school teaching.

You’ll also probably want to read this post below so that if you’re new to Korea you won’t freak out when your schedule gets changed 10 times over the course of two weeks at the start of a semester.

EFL/ESL Native Teacher Schedules in Korean Public Schools — Day 9 of the semester and I still don’t have a ‘permanent’ class schedule…nice.

And if you want to know what your first day might be like here’s a blow by blow account of the first day of the second semester at my school.  Some native teachers start their contracts in the MIDDLE of the school year (in Korea it starts in March), and others begin in March.  The first week to two weeks of a new school year are generally chaotic, especially if you compare them to back home (which you shouldn’t) . . . so be prepared for ANYTHING to happen.

Foreign/Native English teacher first day of spring/summer semester back at school — a detailed account

Canceled Classes and Native Teachers

Expect that your classes can and will be canceled without anyone speaking to you about it beforehand, and without anyone letting your know about it too.  That being said it’s pretty much on the native teacher to ask every morning if any changes have been made to the schedule for that day until you get a sense of whether or not your co-teacher will tell you about the changes as soon as they find them out.  Bear in mind that some of the time a co-teacher may or may not be told about changes to the schedule, and that getting angry about this might be jumping the gun and making bad assumptions about why your co-teacher didn’t tell you.  Also, Korean English teachers sometimes tend to fail to think about other grades and class schedules–they only focus on their own and don’t consider other grade levels; native teachers, however, usually teach more than one grade level and this becomes problematic when Korean teachers from different grades fail to communicate with each other, or to tell your primary co-teacher about changes that have been made that only effect one grade level of classes.

It’s definitely a good idea to get names, numbers, and email addresses from all the co-teachers you will be working with.  This way you can also text them if you don’t know what is going on, and don’t have to rely solely on your primary co-teacher.

Classrooms

Some native teachers are assigned a classroom that they use exclusively (often called “English Zones”), and others have to visit each class’ room.  Some teachers have white boards and others will have chalk boards.  Some will have working computers with a big screen TV or power point projector and screen and others will only have a chalk board.

Some classrooms will have fixed seating around tables, others will be ‘old school’ and have ranks of desks filling up the entire room.

Some will have modern and new air conditioning and heating, and others will have WW II-era water heaters and fans.  Most schools, I think, have air conditioners now, but then the other challenge is dealing with getting permission to turn on the air conditioner during the summer if the principal doesn’t think it should be on, or in winter getting the heater turned on for the same reason.  In my first year I actually taught winter camps with my winter coat and gloves on (students were also dressed in full winter kit) until on day 3 I decided to take all my students into the teachers office where there was heat and teach them there until my co-teacher listened to reason and went to the principal to say that heat had to be turned on in my classroom.  As for air conditioning, well, I ended up buying a fan at one school I taught at and putting it on my desk pointing in my direction when the principal would refuse to turn on the air conditioning.  You just have to adapt and make do in some situations.  That being said, don’t be afraid to take your co-teacher and make an impromptu visit to the vice-principal or principal’s office to ‘beg’ aka ask politely for the heat/air conditioning to be turned on.

Some classrooms will have a steady and regular supply of things like chalk or color markers, scissors, glue, paper, and other ‘basic’ teaching supplies–but many won’t.  Especially, all boys schools because there’s a gender bias in the system here that sees activities, games, and crafts as a ‘waste of time’ due to the hyper-obsession with tests and prepping for tests.  Ask your co-teacher about the English department budget and what you might be able to do with it if the money hasn’t already been spent (if you arrive in August it will likely already be allocated).

Basically, there are no generalizable conditions for classrooms and supplies and you just have to make do with what your particular situation provides–or doesn’t provide.

Lesson Prep

Some schools order their native teachers to use the textbook curriculum and others tell them to make their own speaking/conversation lessons (which you can from scratch, or take from a book you find and buy, or online ESL/EFL lessons you find).  There is no real fixed policy (although some Korean English teachers will try to tell you that there is–but in practice it’s whatever the school wants regardless of any policy) in regards to using the textbook or not using it.  I personally think the textbook materials have no educational value in terms of teaching speaking/conversation and that unless you’re fluent in Korean and can lecture (as opposed to teach) using a translation-grammar based teaching method similar to what most Korean English teachers do in the classroom . . . I’d suggest that trying to teach using the textbook materials is a big exercise in stress and frustration.  A typical unit usually lacks any kind of a clear language learning goal; it will have vocabulary lists that are bizarre combinations of disconnected situations and topics all bound into one ‘unit’; the cultural background information is generally Korean culture which makes no sense because the Korean cultural norms should not be used when speaking in English, and oh yeah this happens on the tests too . . . and the list goes on.

Korean English teachers in general do not have the training, skills, or experience in designing communicative and task-based lesson materials, games, and activities, so asking them to help you design lessons generally meets with failure.  Also, too many Korean English teachers do not, unfortunately, have the English language skills to design lessons quickly and efficiently so when asking them to check the language content of a lesson, or asking them to actively help you produce an original lesson, you will run into many different forms of resistance and reluctance because a loss of face will occur every time they don’t know something or say something that is incorrect.

In general just accept the fact that you’ll be making your lessons alone.  If you get lucky and have a few Korean English co-teachers who are highly motivated and talented teachers and who also have good English language skills then go for it–but don’t expect it.

Co-teaching

The vast majority, in my experience,  of native English teachers all complain about their co-teachers standing in the back of the classroom when they begin teaching at their schools.  This is generally due to a fear of losing face in front of their students if they make a mistake, or can’t understand something you say in English . . . and another reason I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is that when a really good co-teacher speaks in fluent English to their native teacher in front of the class or explains something in English to the class the students generally all react with a big shock and make several comments that may or may not be positive about the Korean English teacher’s speaking abilities in English.  A lot of Korean English teachers, for reasons I’m still trying to puzzle through, can teach English in English but deliberately refuse to do so because of various reasons–the biggest one being a loss of face in front of the students if they make a mistake.  Add to the mix that there is no formal co-teaching training system and you begin to see why co-teaching has some ‘issues.’

Older male co-teachers, I’m sorry, generally tend to have intermediate or lower level English language skills, are not very flexible about how to teach a class/lesson, do not participate in lesson planning, and believe their primary role in the classroom with a native teacher is that of supervisor-observer.  This brings up issues of social rank in Korean culture, and all I’m going to say here is that if you’re younger and unmarried you’re the junior rank, and the senior rank runs the show most of the time.  There are, of course exceptions to this rule, but I think it’s fairly safe to say this is a widely experienced description.

Older female co-teachers are, in my opinion, better to teach with than male co-teachers.  For example, their English language skills are almost always better.  I think another difference might be that between female native teachers and Korean female English teachers there can sometimes be a much more verbally stressful interaction dynamic due to the senior – junior social rank culture issues that come up between older and younger teachers.  I’ve heard a fair number of female native teachers say that their older female co-teacher rips a part their lesson plans, and insists on making small meaningless changes, or big changes that have no education/teaching method-based reason . . . simply as a display of their power and rank.  Again, I’m not saying all older female co-teachers are like this but I’ve heard too many stories to not put out this general issue.  All that being said, female Korean co-teachers in general are better to co-teach with than the men (sorry guys).

Younger (under 35 in general, under 30 is best) male and female Korean English co-teachers generally have the best English language skills, the best understanding of communicative and task-based teaching methods, and the best (although limited) understanding of western English culture and education methods.  They are the most open minded, and in my experience they are the best co-teachers to teach and work with–period.  I have co-taught with some older co-teachers and had positive experiences, but in terms of the ratio of good to bad experiences older generally falls into the bad grouping.

The biggest thing to focus on is the co-teaching relationship because if that is poor nothing else matters–literally.  Do not put education/teaching as the first priority in your interactions with co-teachers whether it’s in the classroom or out of it, but rather focus on the maintenance of a positive relationship and things will generally work out.  The bugger is that for native teachers who are passionate about teaching and take pride in being professional and doing a good job (according to western cultural definitions of “professionalism” and “good teaching” which are very problematic to use in Korea because in my experience they are radically different concepts here) they generally struggle with the choice between quality of teaching and learning versus maintaining a quality relationship with the co-teacher—finding a way to balance both of these is like juggling chainsaws blindfolded, believe me.

Regardless of age, gender, and any other factor I think attitude may be the most critical–and that goes for both the native teacher and the Korean teacher.  If both parties WANT to get along, and WANT to co-teach well together then I think everything else can be worked out.

Testing

The majority of native teachers are not given testing points for their classes.  It’s that simple.  If it’s possible ask your teachers and school if you can have 10% of the final grade assigned to the content of your classes, but again don’t expect to be allowed to make your own tests.

One of the primary reasons for this is that Korean schools don’t test the same way as western schools do.  “English tests” in Korean schools often have the instructions in Korean language, and are generally multiple choice . . . that’s it.  The native teacher cannot write questions with instructions in Korean, and also we are generally accused of making questions ‘too hard’–meaning we make questions that require active processing and application of the language learner’s knowledge whereas the Korean tests test rote memorization of the ‘one’ true answer, and grammar and translation knowledge and skills.

If you do find yourself in a school that asks you to do speaking tests there are a huge range of issues you have to consider in your test design and the kind of rubric you use.  I’m still working on finishing up a massive blog post about speaking tests in Korean high schools but for now you can read the little posts I’ve written.

EFL/ESL Speaking Tests – My favorite responses from high school boys during speaking tests

EFL/ESL Speaking Tests in a Korean Boys Public High School: Trials and tribulations of test #2

False-beginners and low level students in a Korean all boys high school — How do you help them get ready for a speaking test?

Co-teacher/Native teacher mis-communications: Korean Public School Testing System — Each semester has a final grade?

Thoughts on designing speaking tests and their relationship to native teacher respect and authority in Korean public schools

The relationship between the power of tests, corporal punishment as the primary classroom behavior management system, and respect for a native English teacher in Korean public schools….

Paper Work and Administrative Tasks

If you aren’t testing then the only paper work you have is keeping copies of your lessons and handouts for submission to your co-teacher.

You may at times be asked to edit things but other than that there are usually no other duties.  Keep in mind one reason for this is that native teachers are technically “assistant teachers” (it says this in your contract).  For those native teachers asked to edit documents you may want to read this post below.

Don’t ask me to edit something in English and then ignore the editing notes . . .

Extra Duties

Some native teachers are asked to be judges at competitions for essay writing and speeches.  Sometimes you get paid extra, and other times it’s included as a part of your salary.  The only thing that co-teachers look for from the native teacher is to rank the students and give scores.  They do not want anything else–just who the winner is and perhaps second and third place.  I tend to think of competitions in school as needing to have some kind of, oh, let’s say EDUCATIONAL aspect to them and I try to inject an element of learning.  After competitions are done I usually ask if I can offer some suggestions for future competitions that the students might do and how they might perform better.  I point out in general what was done well, and give tips for overcoming typical problems that most students had during their performances.

You may also be asked to participate in making listening test recordings for tests and exams.  Again, this may or may not be for extra pay, but if it’s outside the 8 hour work day you’ll likely be paid.  If you do agree to do this let me strongly recommend that you ask to see a copy of the test script at least a day before the recording session because they are often full of grammar errors and they may even include Konglish expressions or situations where the way the English is used is utterly divorced from the English cultural norms and taboos.  Editing the script BEFORE you are sitting in the recording studio will save you a lot of problems in the session.

Another ‘duty’ you should say yes to is attending teacher dinner parties that are after hours.  Again, relationships are fundamental to surviving and thriving at work and while teaching.  Attending also shows you are a part of the group, and this is important too for your general reputation within the group and school.  You can say no, of course, but bear in mind that the more often you say no to attending dinners and social outings that Korean teachers go to as a group will make it harder for you to be seen as a member of the group–which is a huge influencing factor on how one is treated in Korea: if you are not seen as  a member of the group you will likely not be treated as well as you could be.

Camps

Pretty much everything you need to know you can find in the links below from writings I made a while ago in an orientation manual for new native teachers.

***English Camps in South Korea – A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers***

And this link is a good read because it will give you a good warning about how lesson plans and schedules often have to be thrown out due to the realities of the camp once you begin teaching (which in all likelihood will NOT be the same as what you were told while planning).

Winter English Camp in South Korea: Camp #2, Day 1 — Lesson prep in Korea is the Achilles Heel of EFL teaching

***New Foreign English Teachers in Korean Public Schools–Summer and Winter Camps Checklist***

English Winter Camps in Korea–What to do when your co-teacher tells you to design 20 lessons for a camp and submit them tomorrow–F*#@!!!

After School Program Classes

Pretty much everything you need to know is in this blog post I wrote a while ago for an orientation manual for new native teachers.

***Extra English Conversation Classes: Setting them up; Mixed levels; Getting paid; class size limits and levels of students in the class

Summer Vacation and Winter Vacation

Expect that you’ll be teaching day camps with as little as two classes a day up to four (remember that you are expected to teach 22 classes per week to earn your salary–if there are no camps or classes set up for you, then that’s the school’s problem not yours.  If you’re asked to come in and ‘desk-warm’ don’t complain, you’re still getting paid to do whatever you want to do.  If you’re motivated you can make all your lessons for the coming semester, if not, well as long as you’re in the school it’s your choice.

The summer break period is usually a lot shorter than the winter, and the new SMOE contracts (if memory serves correctly) say that your school can postpone your vacation time to the winter break if a scheduled camp conflicts with your requested vacation time, or for that matter your vacation period.

General Job Description

I left this until the end of this post because frankly it’s nearly impossible to give a good description that can be generalized across the country to all high schools and native teachers’ situations.

“What is my job description?”  This is something I heard many newbies asking about when I attended SMOE’s orientation for Seoul public school teachers in August of 2009.  I thought it was kind of sad and amusing at the same time because none of the orientation presenters really wanted to give a definitive answer, and in their defense there are very good reasons for this.

The contract describes the following under “Duties and Responsibilities,”

Article 3

Employee shall be expected to perform and fulfill the following responsibilities.

1.   Conducting English classes in joint co-operation with Korean homeroom or English language teachers.

2.  Preparing teaching materials and activities for English language education.

3.   Assisting with the development of teaching materials related to English language education.

4.  Conducting English conversation classes during English Camp in summer and winter breaks.

5.  Assisting with activities related to English language education and other extracurricular activities within the school, the District Office of Education and/or the _____ Office of Education (Judging English speaking competition, voice recording listening tests, English camp, etc.)

6.  Performing other duties as designated by Employer.

Article 4

Employee shall carry out the duties set forth in the foregoing Article 3 pursuant to and under specific instruction and supervision of the head person of the designated work place.

While some of the above language is specific, items 2, 3, 5, and 6 are pretty vague, and Article 4 pretty much gives the school the power to ask you to do anything they want–though the few schools that try to abuse this too much often find out all too clearly how different native teachers are from Korean teachers in terms of how much abuse is tolerated.  Luckily, gross abuse of Article 4 doesn’t appear to happen very often.

The different English programs around Korea for public school teaching jobs probably have ‘official’ job descriptions with a little more detail (not sure about that) for native teachers but the odds are a BILLION to ONE that your principal, vice-principal, and co-teachers have been told what the job description is for a native teacher, oops “assistant-teacher,” and even if they did know all too often whatever the principal/vice-principal/co-teacher wants is the ‘policy of the moment’–or it’ll be painted that way to try and convince you to say yes to whatever is being asked of you.  Add to this that all too often the principal/vice-principal/co-teacher haven’t read your contract and don’t know what is in it and you begin to see why there is so much confusion as to what your role is as a teacher, oops, ASSISTANT-TEACHER, in the school.

Native teacher contracts in Korea have no real power for the most part, and are generally only enforced when it benefits the school.  You can try quoting article 2, and sub-clause 4 which says bla bla bla to try and convince your school to not make you do something/to do something they’re supposed to be doing but all too often all they hear is bla bla bla because in the general scheme of things native teachers do not have much power to influence decisions and events relating to their working and living conditions.  I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t or can’t use the contract to point out why something needs to be done or shouldn’t be done–but it often is a very difficult situation and newbies coming to Korea often think that the contract is like Korean kryptonite –and it’s NOT.

Anyways, here’s a general list of things that I believe cover the ‘job description’ of a native teacher in a Korean public high school.

NOTE: I’m sure there are some things I’ve missed, and some items that will not apply to your particular school and teaching situation.

1.  Show up on time and be ready to teach.

2.  a)  Make interesting and fun lesson plans that engage students and help them learn English.

or, b) Take parts of the textbook units (probably the ‘speaking pages’ which are usually ignored by the Korean teachers) and transform them into fun and interesting speaking/conversation lessons.

3.  Be the lead co-teacher in the classroom in spite of the title “assistant-teacher.”  Expect that you’ll be doing most of the teaching in the classroom, and if you want your co-teacher to help you with something expect that you will have to ask in a very explicit manner.

4.  Maintain good relationships with all teachers in the school, and especially with the vice-principal and principal.

5.  Generally say yes to any and all requests (though newbies should know that it’s okay to say no, but before saying no take some time to consider the ‘costs’ and ‘penalties’ of saying no to a ‘senior’ (a Korean who has a higher social rank than you do)).

6.  Attend teacher dinners and other social events after hours (again, be aware you can turn down invitations but also be aware that if you say no once all too often that turns into never being asked again because the Korean who asked lost face because you rejected their offer).

7.  Prepare lessons for summer and winter camps and teach at them.

8.  Edit documents in English for tests and other purposes when asked.

9.  Korean English teacher ‘conversation classes’–some native teachers are asked to teach this kind of class once or twice a week.  Attendance is often good at the start, but most of the time dwindles and even possibly ends up with no one coming because they’re all ‘too busy.’

10.  Korean Non-English teacher classes–usually a group of teachers in the school who want to learn English.  The bugger is that it’s often made up of a wide range of English language learners from beginner to advanced.

11.  Evaluation class for the native teacher–this is changing and I’m not sure what the ‘rules’ are if there are even any.  Expect that you might be told, with very little warning or prep time, that you have to do an evaluation class.  Also expect that there will likely not be a translated copy of the evaluation form and that you’re co-teachers will look surprised that you want to see one.  In addition to that expect that the evaluation form will be the one used for Korean English teachers who teach alone and that it will focus on the lecture teaching style that uses translation-grammar based methods that most if not all native teachers do not use.  You will probably be asked to put your lesson plan into the lesson template that Korean English teachers use too.

Something else that just occurred to me is that it’s a bizarre teaching evaluation situation for the native co-teacher to be the ONLY one evaluated at this time.   If the Korean co-teacher is not being evaluated as a part of the co-teaching then it creates a potential problem in that the motivation levels can be very different.  The Korean co-teacher has nothing to lose if the native teacher gets a poor score whereas the evaluation can be used as one of the reasons why your school may not want to re-sign you for another contract.  All this being said, I think that if a school doesn’t want to renew a native teacher that it more than likely has VERY little to do with the native teacher’s teaching and a lot to do with the relationships the native teacher has with the co-teachers–if  you’ve been fighting and having problems all year the likelihood is that you won’t be asked to stay for another contract.  Quality of teaching is a possible reason, but you have to be doing a REALLY REALLY bad job if that’s the primary reason they don’t renew your contract . . . and even if you are actually doing a poor job in the classroom I think more often than not if you have good relationships with your co-teachers they’ll be willing to overlook that ‘little’ detail and you’ll be asked to renew.

12.  End of the year evaluations–your co-teachers, and I think students too, fill out evaluation forms at the end of the year.  I have yet to teach at a public school where my primary co-teacher tells me about this when I arrive at the school at the beginning of the year, which is when you’d think this should happen because then you have SOME idea of what  you’ll be evaluated on, or see a properly translated copy of these forms let alone be given a copy of the forms . . . there are a few vague questions about quality of teaching, but from what I remember a co-teacher translating roughly for me a great deal of the evaluation has more to do with your personality and how well you maintained your relationships with your co-teachers throughout the year.  If you are hoping to be re-signed for another contract bear this in mind during the course of the year if and when you run into issues/problems/disagreements with your co-teachers.

This is a blog post I wrote back in 2007 that may also be of interest to people thinking about coming to Korea to teach.

A Foreign English Teacher’s Reflections On 3 Years of Teaching in a Korean Public School English Program

I’m running out of steam with writing this post but if you’ve made it this far here are some pros and cons for teaching in a Korean high school.

Pros of teaching in a Korean public high school

– job security is definitely a lot better than in a hogwan

– while the contract says 22 classes a week there are several days throughout the year where classes are canceled and you get paid to ‘desk warm’

– the salary is considerably more than any retail job you might have been doing back home

– if school and co-teachers are good then it can be a wonderful job

– vacation is just enough to get some time off and rest, but not too much that you spend too much money traveling

– apartment is included with contract

– 8am to 4pm, 8:30am to 4:30pm, or 9-5pm is a good schedule for people who like to work during the ‘regular’ work day

– no Saturdays (unlike hogwan jobs)

– if you plan to become a professionally licensed teacher back home you can experience a lot of the challenges you’ll face, and if you overcome them in Korea doing so back home should be easy

– learning about Korean language and culture through relationships with co-teachers

– if not asked to use the textbook YOU choose and develop your own lessons and curriculum

And more . . . I’ll leave it to readers to add more in the comments section, and I’ll add more as I think of them.

Cons of teaching in a Korean public high school

– co-teaching can be a very demoralizing and horrible experience for native teachers

– school principals and vice-principals can be very demanding and inflexible

– getting help dealing with unprofessional behaviors and misconduct on the part of other teachers in the school can be nearly impossible

– the contract is only there as a general guide, is usually not read by the school faculty who need to read it, and generally is only enforced when it’s in the school’s favor

– large class sizes can be very difficult to control/manage

– large class sizes with mixed levels of students can be very difficult to teach

– sometimes co-teachers do not come to classes thereby abandoning the native teacher

– English language skills and teaching abilities of co-teachers can be poor (specifically within the context of communicative teaching methods), and this effects the co-teaching

– native teachers generally plan lessons alone

– native teachers generally have to prepare teaching materials and the classroom alone

– native teacher class contents are generally not tested, and this undermines their authority and the value of the classes in students’ minds, and also sometimes the co-teachers too

– some/many Korean English teachers tend to stand in the back of the room and not co-teach for various reasons

And more . . . I’ll leave it to readers to add more in the comments section, and I’ll add more as I think of them.

Basically, if you’re thinking about coming to Korea to teach in a public school you need to do your research.  Look at blogs (though be very careful as some can be excessively negative/toxic and will give you the wrong ideas represented as universal fact and experiences of native teachers), look at news stories and articles, and think about what you need and want in a teaching job.  Make a list of those things and then ask yourself if you think living and teaching in Korea is for you.

One other thing: living and teaching in Korea is not for everyone, and you need to have a clear idea of when it’s time to leave based on your own personal situation.  You may want to take a look at a recent post I wrote, How do you know when it’s time to leave Korea? — Julianne and Jason are going to China, WOO!

Keep in mind, though, that living and teaching in Korea is also an experience in personal growth, and erasing limits and boundaries in order to create new ones that will ultimately make you a stronger and more mature person.  The trick is knowing when the experience is within the range of acceptable stress and change, and when it’s not a serious personal reflection needs to take place about whether or not living and teaching in Korea is for you.

Good luck!
J

Advertisements