Teaching English in South Korea can be a great time or a huge disaster. Good teaching experiences come from good planning. Follow the advice in this article and you’ll have a great English teaching experience in Korea
1. Seoul, Buson, or Beyond
Many English teachers live far away from the bright lights of Seoul or Buson. Some enjoy it. Some hate it. Nearly all, however, have something in common. They simply followed the advice of their recruiters (who needed to place someone out in a rural area). That’s not good planning. How come? Well, primarily because many Westerners have difficulty living far from Buson or Seoul. Other teachers, though, find the cities to be too crowed and busy! The problem for them is that the number of other Western people, Western food, Western-sized clothing, and all other things Western, disappear once in the countryside. Going to the countryside? Check out my article How to learn Korean in 3 Easy Steps. Or try out this cool FREE Korean language course.
Some in Seoul feel that the high concentration of all things Western ruins their “authentic” overseas experience. Think about it for a minute. Do you need to be in a big city where all the comforts of home are available? Or do you want to learn to live, speak and eat with Korean locals who understand little about Western culture? Country and city living can both either be great or horrible, depending on your living preferences. Make your year in Korea a wonderful one—tell your recruiter to find you a job in the specific location you want to be in.
2. Hold Out For the Position You Want
ESL jobs in South Korea aren’t all the same. For example, there are thousands of teaching jobs available in Korean public school. These are good jobs that offer security and a decent wage. Working in a school is typically a 9 to 5 affair. Hagwons, English teaching businesses, are popular too. These jobs typically offer higher salaries and fewer working hours. Watch out, though! Some hagwon owners are less than honest.
In addition to teaching in schools, teachers can often find employment in major multinational corporations. You can teach kindergarten students, adults, and everything in between. Choose carefully. How are you going to react to a classroom full of screaming 5-year-olds? I would be miserable having to deal with a bunch of screaming kids. How about you? What position with you excel in? Children? Businesspeople? Public schools? Private schools? Corporate instruction? Choose a position you don’t enjoy, and you’ll be miserable the entire time you’re in Korea.
3. Learn Before You Teach
Getting a TEFL certification is a smart thing to do. Here’s why. First, the flailing economies of the West are driving thousands of young people to Korea to teach English. If you want a job, you’ll have to keep a competitive edge. Having a TEFL certificate may make the difference between getting the job you want and losing out to someone more qualified.
Second, you’ll gain a lot of very useful knowledge. Sure, your first language is English, but that doesn’t mean you know how to run a classroom. Knowing how to teach never used to be a requirement. Now, though, qualified teachers abound, and you’ll be expected to get results from your students. Also, getting a certification will give the confidence you need to go into your classroom and deliver your lessons like a pro.
Have questions about living and working in Korea? Stop by my blog, The Live in Asia Blog.