Atinart K is a 2010 TEFL Professional Online graduate teaching in Daegu, South Korea with the EPIK program.
When applying to the EPIK program in South Korea, you will most likely end up teaching at an Elementary school. As a result of this, the majority of blogs, articles and resources on the internet will be about Elementary school. You don’t find much about what teaching at a Middle School in South Korea is like. So, without further ado, let’s get into what a typical day at my Middle School is like for me.
First period starts at 9:00 AM, and runs for 45 minutes. I get to school at 8:20 so I can do some quick prep-work and get some coffee in me for the rest of the day. On a normal day, I typically teach 5 classes. Some days, I teach 6. And on the best of days, I teach 3 or less, but those are few and far between unfortunately. I am responsible for planning all of the class material, and for me, the PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production) method is something that I use frequently. I have a co-teacher in every class, and they are great at helping me with translation for the lower-level students, and the occasional disciplining. Disciplining usually doesn’t get much worse than making a student stand up at the back of the class for being disruptive, or sending a student outside when he/she is being extremely bad. To be honest, I don’t have many discipline problems at my school, but I think that it is mainly because this is my 2nd year here, and the students know what I expect of them. I also think that my reward system helps with discipline as well. At the beginning of the semester, I give my students a stamp sheet. They can earn stamps by speaking English, using English, or with good behavior. This works fairly well, although I did have to make them glue it into their textbooks so they wouldn’t lose it. And write their names down. In pen. So they wouldn’t cheat and just share a stamp sheet between 5 people. One of the many lessons I learned during my 1st year!
I teach 1st (7th), 2nd (8th) and 3rd (9th) grade. I have about 35 to 40 students per class, and 22 classes per week. That’s about 750-800 students per week that I see. I try my best, but it’s almost impossible to learn their names when I see so many of them! I am responsible for the Listen and Conversation part of each lesson. We use a textbook, and I supplement the textbook material with my own. Here is what a typical lesson is like for me:
Greet the class, and do a warm-up activity. For example, I sometimes do a 4-corner trivia game, and the students who guess correctly will get a stamp. (10 minutes)
Introduce the topic, and the key phrases. I provide them with examples, and we do some listening and repeating. Students hate this, but it’s important! (10 minutes)
I then try and have a practice activity where students can practice speaking the key phrases. An example activity I recently used is the Telephone game. (10 minutes)
After this sort of activity, I usually have a production activity or game. Students show me that not only can they repeat/speak the key phrases, but also that they know what it means. A great activity for this is having students create role-plays using the key phrases. This will normally only work for advanced classes. For mixed levels, I usually give them pre-made role-plays with fill-in-the-blanks that they then memorize and present to the class. (15 minutes)
This is what the perfect class is like. This is also definitely not normal. The students almost always take too much time doing the practice activity, and we can never get to the production activity. However, I get two weeks to do each lesson, so part two of each lesson is usually when I have them create their role-plays, dialogues, etc.
After classes end, I usually have an hour or so to do some lesson planning. I am also sometimes busy helping my co-teachers review midterm/final exam questions, proofreading student newspaper articles for the Newspaper club, or preparing for my extra Teacher Conversation class. I’d like to say that I am always productive, but usually I just sit down and relax. The productivity works better for me when I’m rushed for some reason. And the best part of my day? It comes at 4:30. I go home! Thanks for reading!
Atinart K is a 2010 TEFL Professional Online graduate teaching in Daegu, South Korea with the EPIK program.
Wow, so this weekend was probably one of the best weekends we've had in Korea so far. We went to Boryeong for their annual mud festival. If you're wondering what a mud festival, it pretty much is exactly what it sounds like. A festival dedicated completely to mud, and getting covered in it! But lets start at the beginning.
We had signed up for this trip 2-3 months ago. We had heard that if there was one festival to not miss in Korea, it would be this one. So we signed up, and after months of waiting, last Friday it was finally time to go. We booked our trip through a tour company called Adventure Korea. I really have to tip my hat to them. The trip was so well-organized, and everything went so smoothly. They got us our motel room, the buses left on time, and it was just a really well-planned event. Jenn and I are definitely going to look to them first anytime we are looking for a tour company. They really were just amazing.
Anyways, we left Saturday on the buses at 7:30 in the morning. Pretty early, but Boryeong is 3 hours away from Daegu. We went with two of our friends, and also met up with a lot of our other friends once we got there. Before we got to the festival, Adventure Korea had set up a little event for all of its participants. We got to check out these mud flats about 10 minutes away by bus from the main festival area. We got there, they gave us army fatigues and black shirts, and had 4 different events for us. There was mud soccer, mud boot camp, mud wrestling, and mud pyramids. We didn't get enough time to do the mud pyramid, but we did everything else, and it was really fun. For mud boot camp, we had this really buff Korean dude yelling at us to do push ups in the mud, roll around in the mud, and crawl in the mud. Halfway through the whole thing, it started raining, and it felt great! It was about 85 degrees out, and the rain provided a much needed cool down. And what makes mud even better anyways? Rain of course!
After our little field trip, we got cleaned up and piled back on the bus. The bus then took us to our motel, and we checked in. After that, we went exploring! Our hotel was right next to the beach and there was a boardwalk right by our rooms. Along the boardwalk there were many restaurants, all selling really good looking seafood and really good Korean bbq. After lunch, we kept walking toward the main festival area. At the festival, there is the beach, the boardwalk and then the mud park. We had to pay to get into the mud park, but I'd say that it was well worth it. Inside the mud park there were mud slides, mud wrestling, mud prisons (go inside and they splash mud on you), mud tug of war, mud obstacle courses, mud races, mud everything! The only annoying parts were the lines, but the wait was never too long. Outside of the mud park, there was mud painting (with different colored muds) and a bunch of food, souvenir, and mud cosmetic tents. After we spent a good amount of time in the mud park, we went to clean ourselves off. We walked out of the mud park, and into the ocean. Water felt great, and we were clean in no time.
After meeting up with a friend for dinner, and waiting forever for our food, we left the restaurant at around 10 or so. We decided to go get some snacks, desserts, and drinks and go relax on the beach. The beach was huge, and they were prepared for all of the people, so there were huge floodlights everywhere that illuminated the beach for everyone. On our way to meet up with some more friends, we walked past a K-Pop concert. So we watched that for a bit and then kept heading toward our friends. Then we got distracted again; a firework show had just started! Eventually, we made our way onto the beach, relaxed, talked, and had a good time. Around 2:30, we called it a night and headed back to the motel. The beach and boardwalk area were still packed full of tourists and people, but we were exhausted.
Next day was a lot more of the same. We woke up, hit the mud park up, and went to the beach. It was warmer on Sunday so we stayed in the ocean a little while longer. Then at 3:50, we headed back to our tour bus and left Boryeong. It was a wonderful weekend, and something that I will never, ever forget. I'm going to join in with the rest of the foreigners here and tell everyone this, if there is one festival that you have to go to in Korea, make it the Boryeong Mud Festival!!!
Sara A is a 2010 TEFL Chicago graduate who taught in South Korea with the EPIK program.
Looking for a job in Korea can be a little daunting. There is a lot of paper work, the uncertainty of weather to choose a public school or a private school, and of course deciding where in Korea to live.
In an attempt to answer a few questions about where to teach I thought I'd start with Public schools versus Private schools and talk a little about location.
First, what I know about Private schools. Hogwons!
Hogwons are privately owned English language schools. Students come after their normal school day is over, so start times are rarely before noon, but can go as late as 10:00 P.M. You get 10 paid vacation days a year, plus public holidays. Of course you can't choose your vacation days and they automatically take 2-4 in the winter and 2-3 in the summer for school holidays. Keep in mind, every Hogwon works a little differently, and you should always make sure you read your contract and have contact with the current teacher at the Hogwon. I have heard horror stories, so be careful, ask a lot of questions.
Now, for Public school jobs.
You work a “normal” work day, 9:00 am to 5:00pm or some variant of a nine hour work day. It's normally a regular school but of course there are the exceptions. There are some immersion schools which you can teach other subjects too. The vacation time is much more desirable, you get about 6 weeks of vacation time, taken in the summer and winter months. (This is said to change soon so make sure again you read your contract.) You also have to "desk warm", which is when there aren't any students in the school but you have to be. These schools are usually safer to take, as far as working conditions because they are publicly run schools.
Of course both options are good ones, just depends on you and if you’re an early riser or a night owl. The pay is about the same, some times you can get more at a public school because they will pay you based on experience where as Hogwons tend you pay the base norm.
It's also very important to think about where in Korea you want to work. There are schools all over the country, small towns, big cities and everywhere in between.
The small towns are great if you want to save money. You most likely will be the only English speaker not only in your school but for miles, so you might be able to pick up some privates and make a little extra money. Also, the apartments tend to be much bigger.
The bigger cities however will have more foreigners, which means more foreigner bars, restaurants, and places to spend money. The apartments can range in size but if your coming alone and are in a big(ish) city, don't be surprised if your apartment is rather small.
In my case, I knew that I didn't want to live in a small town, I am way to extroverted, but at the same time not a bid city, I wanted to learn a lot about Korean culture. I am not usually an early riser, so a hogwon in a biggish city was what I was looking for and I couldn't be happier.
The best advise I could give, is to not feel like you have to take the first job that comes your way. There are plenty of jobs here in Korea, so be a little picky. If you prefer a public school in a big city, go for it. If you want a school in a small town, wait for it. Your year here will be much more enjoyable if you are in a good school and in a location that you enjoy.
I hope this helps all those who are looking into coming to Korea. It's been an amazing experience and one that I will take with me forever. Happy job hunting and good luck!!
Party in my mouth: It's Ddeobukki! One of the many dishes I've tried so far.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of enjoying some raw tuna:
It was accompanied by some soju, the distilled beverage of Korea, in the atmosphere of a dark sushi bar. It was a little sweet and reminded me of sake. Sorry Korea, I can't help but compare some of your food to Japan. I couldn't stop eating the literally melting in your mouth taste of the ocean that was tuna. The sushi chef came over and brought some fish eyes as well. Not in fish eye shape but more in little pieces. They were crispy and tasted like what a fried fish scale would taste like. It wasn't my favorite dish but I had to try it. The Korean teachers I went out with were friends with the chef so we also got some delectable pieces of tuna. Only three small pieces--one for each of us. I'm never eating a tuna fish sandwich again. Okay. That's a lie but this tuna was pretty amazing.
The weekend before that I was introduced to samgyeopsal:
There's nothing like grilling your own food on a cold fall night, inside a restaurant. I love this do it yourself style of food. This cooking of pork over a hot grill would never fly in America. Too many liability issues. I think Anthony Bourdain said this once about fried squid balls in Japan and it's true. Everyone should grill in the middle of fall or winter. It's a good way to stay warm. I am seriously thinking of building a table with a built-in samgyeopsal grill for the dining room when I get home.
Another important dish to be tried in Korea is the red and hot Ddeokbukki (pronounced Toppooki). The one I tried had fried eggs and rice pasta but other ingredients are popular. The sauce is hot and made of red pepper paste making it an appetizing bright red color. Originally the dish was royal court cuisine but after the Korean war (1950-53) it evolved into a cheap street dish to alleviate hunger during the shortage of rice in this period. At that time it was made with simple flour pasta and was affordable so it became a popular snack. Now it is made with many different ingredients and one of my favorite Korean dishes so far.
When beginning this South Korean TEFL adventure, I applied and was selected to EPIK (English Program in Korea). Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances I was denied the August start date. I wanted to go abroad by September so I applied to private schools through a recruiter. Metropolitan areas were my top choices, but when my recruiter found me a job that was 12 to 7 I was sold! The town is in a developing area just outside of Gimhae and about an hour and half from the beach. I did not know what to expect in a small town; but later realized that living here and visiting the bigger cities was a great choice for me. It does not have the city nightlife, but I have made some amazing friends! It’s quiet. And there are plenty of restaurants and cafes. Living in a small city enabled me to have an authentic Korean experience. I have made good friends with locals, learned to read Hangul (as many places do not have any English speakers or menus), and truly embraced being in Korea. After visiting the bigger cities, which felt similar to America, I became grateful for my small community. I see people I know while running or reading in a café. When I do not visit a place for a week or so I get questions such as, “Long time no see. Where have you been?” Phrases, like things, make Korea seem like home.
My job is an after school program teacher in a public Elementary school. After school programs are directed towards students whose parents want them to learn English, but do not want to pay private school prices. After school programs usually offer English conversation with a foreign teacher two or three days a week; in my first 6 months I was in one school five days a week, only a five minute walk from my apartment. Unfortunately, the school could not afford to offer conversation classes five days a week, so my Director placed me in an additional school for two of those days. Commuting is thirty minutes by bus to a nearby city. I have one co-teacher at each school who usually translates materials that the students do not understand, or handles disciplinary problems.
Classes usually range from 7 to 17 students, grades 1 through 6. Levels vary; phonics, beginning speaking, and advance speaking. Books are provided, and are used throughout a 3 month period. It has been a lot of fun to see my first class of Phonics advance to the beginning speaking level. I am proud of them and the vocabulary they have learned! Many books teach robotic phrases such as, “I’m fine thank you, and you?” I’ve expanded their vocabulary to say, “Teacher, today I am very excellent. And fantastic. And very great!”
Teaching in Korea has taught me a lot about being able to think quickly and relax in the classroom. For example, books are usually ordered a week or two before the next session begins. But, if the co-teacher is unable to place the order or the order is backed up then we have to wait. The books usually come in the middle of the week at the start of class. Being a first time teacher, I did not know what to expect. I am glad I took the TEFL course to prepare me for planning lessons. How would I ever plan a lesson three minutes before class? I have learned: 1. Always have games planned, educational games such as “color game” (say the color and have the students find something of that color) or “touch game” (write 10 vocabulary words on the board and have two students race to touch the word you say) are so easy and the kids love them! 2. Make the greeting a little bit longer, even though the kids may not understand the questions; play charades when asking, “What did you do yesterday?” 3. Do the best I can with the book. 4. It will be ok. Just relax and have fun!
Life in Korea is full of the unexpected. Whenever someone asks me, “what’s new?” I think where do I begin? Tell of my yoga teacher bringing in rice cakes and strawberries to have with tea before class? Grocery shopping at the markets while speaking entirely in Korean? Asking for a massage and getting a facial? Sharing a Saturday of playing in the park with the kids at the orphanage? Or explaining my homesickness for America, but the sadness I have for leaving a place I have made my home?
Yoga in Korea. Every day the teacher has tea before class. She barely speaks English, but has the sweetest demeanor and tries so hard to communicate. She has become my Korean “mother.” One day she brought in rice cakes and strawberries to enjoy with our tea. Another time it was figs. Yet another was sweet potatoes and apples. Each day is a surprise. I began to pick up on words and what they meant. Left. Right. Thigh. Chest. Eyes. Relax. Arm. Leg. Foot…the list goes on. My yoga class, five days a week, has helped shape this teaching experience. It offered an escape from the rough days in the classroom and provided a place to go and listen to others speak vibrantly in their own language. Some of my closest friends have become those who cannot speak my language and it is so refreshing!
Grocery shopping at the markets. Fresh fruit for prices unheard of back home, but the sweet goodness of this rarity is worth the price. Splurge on these things abroad. It is worth it, especially if you crave a taste of home. Learn simple phrases such as, “How much is this?” “I would like this, please.” Learn the numbers. Learn to say thank you. Little moments of surprised looks from the market stands are treasured. It brightens people’s day knowing you took the time to speak their language.
Playing at Bangjuwon. Every other Saturday a couple friends and I go to a neighboring city to volunteer at an orphanage. Kids who do not have the extra income to spend on fancy things or video games, different than the kids I teach every day. These kids are down to earth and just want someone to love them. Being able to spend time with these kids has impacted me in more ways than one. It was so special to share Children’s Day, to be in the audience of an Orchestra concert, and play outside on an average Saturday. Looks of pure joy each time we saw them was amazing!
Being abroad is more than just teaching in a classroom; embrace yourself in local shops and develop a type of routine. Creating a home abroad is important to experiencing the country and culture. Try to find things you enjoy doing, it will put a new twist on something familiar. For example, I love to run, so I found a race to train for. I had to ask a Korean to translate the website and transfer the money. Now I can say I have run a half marathon along the beach in Korea! I also enjoy getting massages back in the states. Every day I passed this small massage place. One day I ventured in and pointed to my shoulders and said in Korean, “massage, please?” She took me to the room and the next thing I knew, I was face up getting a facial! She put on cooling creams and lotion, a mask for 20 minutes, sat me up, and pounded on my shoulders for 10 minutes, and was done. It was nice; definitely not what I was expecting, but it made for a good story!
Losing it. Completely losing it. Talked to a dear friend from back home whom I miss so much and lost it. Sitting at a coffee shop wondering how am I ever going to leave this place and lost it. Listening to soothing music and laughing along with the conversation at tea before yoga and lost it. A favorite student transferred to a hagwon today without warning, except for a phone call last week saying it was a possibility...no more "Korean" good-byes or high- fives and lost it. Sipping tea at a French Cafe typing along to soft jazz that I soon realize is a Christmas mix with contemporary songs...and lost it. Overwhelmed in the goodness and reality I know. How can I leave this life I've made here already? Time went too fast. This life I’ve created here in Korea will be one remembered for a lifetime.
Explore festivals. Go to the beach. Climb a mountain. Take public transportation and take walks. Go down back ally-ways. Find hidden shops and eateries. Enjoy being in another country. Your experience is what you make of it.