I never saw myself teaching English abroad. However, I always wanted to live and work abroad. After working a marketing job in China, I soon started teaching part-time there and then, in order to move to South Korea to be with my fiancé Jeongsu, I decided to teach English full-time in Korea. Now, I must say it’s a decision I certainly do not regret!
I teach kindergarten kids aged 5/6 in the mornings until early afternoon and elementary kids the rest of the day. The kindergarten kids come to us everyday and I’m their only teacher for 6 classes a day, 5 days a week. As for the elementary children, our school is a private English academy, i.e. Hagwon. I teach 6 different groups of classes from 1st grade to 5th grade on different days of the week for a different amount of classes.
Here’s why I love teaching in South Korea:
More than just an English Teacher
I have come to love each child in my kindergarten class! I love working and playing with them and seeing them grow as little individuals. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to teach them not only English but also educate them about how to be a good person and what’s wrong and right.
My personal anecdote:
One day in our art class, the kids had to create their own flag. I showed them a video of flags of the world and we talked about what kind of symbols and colors there could be on a flag. The art paper provided by the school showed different flags including China, South Korea, Japan, USA, Canada, Brazil and many more. When the children went about doing their work, I walked around and noticed one of my children drew Xs over every Japanese flag on the paper and a heart over every South Korea flag. I was a little shocked and tried my best to explain that every country is good and that no one is better than someone else. I asked them, how they would feel if a kindergarten kid in Japan would do the same and draws Xs over the South Korea flag. In the end, all of my kids started drawing hearts over every flag featured on the paper. A successful class!
Working at a school – no matter if public or private – entails working with Koreans. At my Hagwon, every teacher has a Korean co-teacher who helps in class and who teaches a short class at the end of the kindergarten day.
During my time here, I learned a lot about working with Koreans. It’s important to respect hierarchy and treat your boss with supervisors with respect. In order to overcome the language barrier, it’s useful to give small presents to your Korean co-teacher, such as a coffee in the morning.
Learning how to Raise Children
I work with children Monday through Friday for 10 hours a day. By now, I know what makes them cranky and how to speak to them to get through to them. I feel that teaching small children is one way to prepare myself for when I have children later in the future. I can handle delicate situations when my kids throw fits much better than I used to in the past. On the other hand, working with children is one of the greatest birth control methods in the world… 😉
Work that Matters and Makes a Difference
In teaching, I have found a job that actually give me the feeling of being needed at my job. Working an ordinary office job before, I barely got that feeling. Now, however, I know that it matters if I’m there or not and that I make a difference in the lives of my students.
Understanding Korean Culture
Everybody knows: Children don’t lie – they bluntly say how they feel. This is in most cases rewarding and has a learning effect for me rather than negative. I’ve learned a lot about Korean culture after listening to my students. I’ve read essays about what they would change if they were president. Most of the kids wanted to “abolish” schools and homework and have more time to play. So sad. The thing in Korea is, a lot of children go to after-school academies. Not only to learn English but also to learn piano, teakwondo, violin, swimming, cooking and so on. Some of my elementary grade 4 and 5 kids come home at 10pm every day after attending their different programs.
One of my kindergarteners’ family doesn’t own a TV, God bless her, and her parents do math with the kids for fun.
Learning about the Korean Language
A great benefit of teaching English in Korea, especially to younger children, is that you pick up Korean words and phrases here and there. My Korean co-teacher’s English isn’t the best and she speaks a great amount of Korean with the kids. After hearing the same words every day, I eventually picked them up as well and knew what was up.
When introducing new vocabulary, my kids would say the Korean equivalent sometimes to compare which I can also snap up if it’s easy to remember.
A Decision I Don’t Regret
Coming to South Korea to teach English is a decision I absolutely don’t regret. Even though teaching children entails so much more than just speaking English with them, and they can sometimes be a handful, I honestly enjoy coming into the classroom and watching them grow up to be great little people – A feeling that cannot be replaced by another job.
What do you think?