a how-to guide....kinda
I've been asked by many a friend, or friend of a friend, or random person that someone kinda knows about teaching in Korea. I'm always happy to give answers to any questions, but for someone who has never been here or taught abroad, there are usually just too many. So usually I write e-mails full of as much information as I can think of....but I usually end up forgetting lots of stuff. I've written a lot of these e-mails, so now it's time to put it down in blog form. What follows is as much as I can offer about teaching in Korea.
There are a few options of teaching in Korea, but I'll just simplify it and put them into two categories: after-school hagwons (privately
run businesses) and public school. I've done both, and there are pros and cons for both, as you can imagine.
The similarities between both are:
- your airfare and apartment are paid for by the school
- your school sponsors your E-2 visa
- you will receive a month's pay extra after finishing your contract
as a severance bonus
- if your school is on the level, you will be paying into the national pension fund and they will match it...at the end of your time in Korea, you get all of that money back!
With a hagwon:
- you will usually be working with other foreign teachers, which is often helpful when you're first starting out
- you can usually get more money
- your class size is usually a lot smaller, and you get to know the kids a bit more
- these kids can usually speak at least a little bit of English so it's easier to communicate
- some hagwons can be disreputable: hagwons sometimes don't pay on time, fire teachers with no legal grounds, or sometimes close up
altogether leaving you stranded....among other issues
- you'll be working a bit more than at public school...often teaching 6 hours (sometimes in a row, with no break)
- vacation is usually 1-2 weeks per year...yes, per YEAR
- they hire year-round
With public school:
- you are most likely to be working as the only foreign teacher in the school...this can be daunting, or a nice break depending on your
point of view (I personally didn't mind it)
- you will get paid a bit less, although if you get yourself an online TEFL certificate of more than 100 hours you can start off a bit higher....also, if you live in a rural area, they will give you a bit more money
- your class size is anywhere from 20 to 40...and depending on the size of the school, you will see every student in the school 1-3 times
- don't expect much from the kids in the way of English...some of them will speak it, but the kids are separated by grade level, not
- you will always get paid on time, and you never need to worry about your contract ending early. Korea is experiencing budget cuts right
now, however, so it's not guaranteed that you'd be able to re-sign for another year.
- there is tons of free time...you'll have to be there for 8 hours a day, but you'll get around 3 of that to yourself
- you'll be teaching a winter "camp" and summer "camp", during which you will be the only teacher and will have a lot more freedom in the way of what you teach
- if you work at an elementary school, you will have a set curriculum that you will follow...middle and high schools do not have a curriculum
- 4 weeks paid vacation. That's the big pull for public school.
- the hiring season is usually for September or March
As far as recruiting companies' reliability....it's a total crapshoot. You can get really lucky and hit the jackpot...or the recruiter can be a
jerk and lie to you about lots of things. If you want public school, I recommend Korvia.com. They were wonderful to me. As far as hagwon
recruiters go...it's hard to tell. I just recently quit a job because it wasn't at all what I thought it was going to be. That's just the
way it is in Korea...