Teaching in Korea and My New Found Hatred for Teenagers.

8 Aug

It seems ridiculous that we’ve now been teaching in Korea for 8 weeks and we’ve barely even alluded to it in any of our posts. It is, after all, our primary reason for being here and what we spend the majority of time doing. Our goal, you see,  is to teach here for a year and save up enough money to travel around the world. It seems like a colossal dream when I see it in black and white but still, it’s definitely achievable. When I’m spending, talking about spending or even thinking about talking about spending Lawson is quick to remind me of this.

So what’s it like teaching a language without knowing your language? How well behaved are the students? What kinds of things do you teach? What are your boss and co-workers like? How much vacation do you get?

First of all, I will say it is nothing like teaching in the UK. I have never taught in the UK, (or anywhere else for that matter, I have never taught anywhere ever in the professional sense previous to this) , but I know enough about it to state with confidence that it is very different. I don’t need to do lessons plans, I don’t need a qualification in teaching, I don’t even need teaching experience. All I needed was to be a native English speaker and have a degree certificate. So with all this in mind you can see that this is by far easier than a state working teacher in England.  On the other hand, the vacation time is unfortunately much less than in the UK. We have 5 days in the summer, 5 days in the winter and the occasional bank holiday for vacation.

It is important to point out at this point that I don’t work in a public school. I work in a Hagwon, a private tuition business that solely teaches English. The students come to us when they are finished at public school. It would be simpler to say I work in a private school but then you’d more than likely assume it was somehow posh. I can assure you it is NOT posh. It’s Hagwon not Hogworts. It’s half the floor of a 6 storey building. There’s a few other teaching companies in the same building, (In Korea they are everywhere).

Education is paramount in Korea so any parent with a spare bit of cash sends their child to do extra classes of some sort. If you ask the children what their parents do for a living you get jobs like “Kinder Garden Teacher”,”Secretary”, “Engineer”. One of the my students parents work in the fruit and veg shop on the first floor, so you can see that they don’t have particularly flash jobs. It’s just that education is much higher on their priority list than say a flat screen television, for example. (Give me a flat screen TV any day, but then I don’t have any kids).

This emphasis on education also seems that it affects the behaviour of the students. They are incredibly competitive. Whether they are 6 years old or 16 years old, it’s just that the older children are more subtle about it. That’s not to say they all sit silently hanging off your every word, oh how I wish that was true! The noise that echoes in my mind long after teaching a class is the shouts of “Teacher! Teacher! I try! I try!” They’re relentless. The younger children are high energy but enthusiastic. They’re probably the most fun lessons.

The Middle school students (The 15-16 year olds) are a different kettle of fish.  I have had varying degrees of success with this age group. One group I have are really good. They’re English is of such a level that you can have a reasonable and interesting conversation with them. However, another class of all girls are quite troublesome. They rarely listen and spend the majority of the class gossiping in Korean. I recently gave them a lecture on they’re test scores and they’ve since calmed down but only a little.

The most dreaded classes for me, and I think for most other teachers I’ve spoken to, is the 12-14 year old age range. Okay, so puberty has well and truly kicked in by this age and they’re are little sh**s as a result. I’m afraid, there isn’t a better word than that. They are just plain obnoxious and disrespectful. I’m annoyed at myself for caring but at the end of the day when I have one of those awful classes it really does get you down. Every single mono-syllabic English word that you painstakingly drag from their mouths is a minor victory, it has to be because they speak English with such sheer reluctance.

Unfortunately, I must drag myself away from the laptop as I have a lesson, quite an inconvenience. Actually, it is probably for the best as I had gone into overdrive ranting about teenagers and yet it isn’t that long ago that I was one. Hey ho, off to work I go. Lawson might have something to offer on the topic of teaching shortly and he really does hate his students…


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