To let everyone know this is my take on the bad and good side of teaching English in Korea.
The things I’ve learned the past year of teaching students in Korea. I have had experience teaching from kindergarten to middle school kids and this is my input about my experiences both good and bad.
Teaching kindergarten is a challenging teaching job in the sense that you are responsible for the students you teach and most times the curriculum is insanely fast. Where I worked we did a letter a day and weekly vocabulary words to teach at ages 4 to 5. Kindergarten kids are very hyper, less likely to listen, and get tired quickly.
Be expected to never really have a break time even during lunch time. Do not take a job in a kindergarten if you think it will be an easy job because chances are it’s not what you’d expect.
Teaching elementary kids is bearable but still challenging because students aren’t matured and chances are they will fool around in classes. It’s important to make your concerns early on and make sure that your employer knows that a student in your class is always messing around.
If you do not say anything and allow it to drag on, other students will not learn productively and you will have a far bigger issue ahead if they aren’t learning. It’s cruel but you have to pick out the weeds in your garden so to speak if they continue to cause a muck. Mentioning to your employer to their parents early on is important that you won’t tolerate their behavior in class. Make sure to have short games or breaks in between sessions most likely they aren’t interested in reading/writing for 30 minutes straight.
Middle School is probably the easiest and hardest group of students to teach. The good thing about middle school students is that they are used to lecture and sitting in their seats. The bad thing about teaching middle school students is that their curriculum in school is reading, grammar and writing intensive. There is little opportunity for these students to improve their speech and pronunciation because of Korea’s education system.
You will find that students are all different levels of English meaning there are students who can speak well or barely speaks in sentences/answer to responses. There are students that read well and students that won’t know vocabulary well. There are students that are good at listening to English conversations and there are students that get a headache as soon as they hear a conversation in English. There are students that can write multiple paragraphs and students that barely know how to write a paragraph about introduction.
Please do realize that most English hagwons don’t have a standard level of teaching English and this is the leading reason why when students enter middle school you will see the differences.
Make sure to not lecture for to long and try to engage your students with each other as much as possible.
The Overall Good:
-Korean kids are actually quite fun loving and curious just like any kid.
-Korea kids are hardworking students.
-Korean kids can be polite and reserved.
-Korean kids have lots of interests.
-Teaching Korean kids can be a rewarding opportunity.
The Overall Bad:
-There are students nowadays who don’t respect teachers and an example is a good friend of mine who happens to be an older Korean American teacher man. In the hagwon he taught in Daegu in particular the students there were awfully degrading with words like ‘If you know English so well why are you teaching at this run down hagwon?’.
-Understand if you teach English to students they will not get what your saying more than half the time and you can give them headaches from too much talking.
-Korean kids are notorious exaggerators/ liars and most times their parents buy into their tales.
-Korean kids are spoiled because more and more people are only raising one child.
-Korean kids have been known to use English swear words in and after class because they don’t know any better. I had a student who thought that ‘F**k You’ was an actual English greeting like hello and said it with the middle finger gesture frequently.
-Korean kids of different English levels are often thrown into the same classroom.
-Korean kids get stressed out so don’t mess with them at times. Korean kids can be brats to each other and tease fellow classmates so when they get stressed they would complain to their parents. Then their parents verbally insult the hagwon and teachers for not addressing the behavior.
-You will find that either management or parents make teaching a miserable time for teachers and students. Parents have high hopes for their children and consider raising their child like a future retirement breadwinner. Koreans need to realize that if they only raise one child, they should think about how in the world is your child supposed to support 2 parents and then raise a family of his own unless he becomes a doctor. Chances are your kid is not going to be a doctor so for your own sake save/invest your hard earned money instead.
I might sound more negative then positive but believe me when I say I love kids and I wish the best of luck to all of them. If hagwons/parents were more understandable I would have had a much better time teaching. Teaching in Korea now is stressful because parents demand results in a short amount of time and want to know quickly if they are getting their money’s worth.
The economy is uncertain in Korea and attaining higher education is a national obsession. What I can say is that with patience, time, and effort Korean children can learn English properly. But I question how serious the students are when they don’t comprehend their lives ahead.
So as a teacher you must best prepare them for life’s challenges.