My Kindergarten Job in Korea

When I taught in Korea in 2015, I worked with elementary and middle school students. I figured out almost immediately that middle school was not an age range I enjoyed. So, when I decided to come back last year, I accepted a job teaching kindergarten and elementary.

I work at a private academy (or hagwon), which is different from government-run schools. My working hours are from 9 AM to 6 PM, with 10 days of paid vacation (determined by the school), national holidays off (there are quite a few), health insurance, and a rent-free apartment near school. I am currently the head foreign teacher and make 2,300,000 won/month before taxes. 2,100,000/month is an average starting salary.

My kindergarten classes are between 9:30 AM and 2:30 PM. After that, I teach elementary classes. At my school, I have one homeroom class that I spend the majority of my time with. They are seven years old. I teach them language arts, writing, and project where we do research on a specific topic for two week periods. Additionally, I teach art to my homeroom class as well as the four other kindergarten classes during the week. It completely worked out by accident that I ended up being the art teacher, but I’m really happy about it. It almost feels like I’m using my college degree.

Kindergarteners also get snacks and lunch provided by the school (teachers get lunch, too). It’s usually a well-rounded meal with rice, soup, a protein, and veggies. Most of the time it’s traditional Korean food, but we’ve had things like spaghetti and chicken tenders before, as well. Our cook is freakin’ awesome. I love being able to try different foods at school every day that I might not have been exposed to otherwise.

Fridays are usually special days at school. Sometimes we do cooking classes. Other days, we do field trips (we’ve gone to the whale museum in Ulsan) or have events (we recently did a huge water gun fight). We also have a big birthday party once a month.

After my regular kindergarten classes end, I teach an accelerated reading class to two students twice a week. I also teach two lower level reading classes and a more advanced reading/writing class. For the most part, curriculums and materials are provided. However, I like to supplement with materials I create or find on my own. I’m really grateful that there is a lot of room to do my own thing at work.

This job is so different from the one I held in Korea previously. I am so happy to work here and look forward to coming in every day.

Do you have any questions about teaching in Korea? What’s your job like? Feel free to leave me a comment!

Everybody Likes Stickers

Really. It doesn’t matter if you’re five or twenty-five. If someone gives you a sticker, you’d probably be overjoyed. I know I would be.

Yesterday was the day Tia Teacher brought stickers to class. Minion stickers, to be specific. I figured I would use them as little rewards for giving right answers.

My first class of the day was a class of six beginners. We read a story about running a marathon and then I wrote the past tenseĀ forms of some irregular verbs on the board and had each student tell me the present tense. Some examples I used were brought, caught, thought, and ran. They had so much fun guessing! Then, the stickers came out. Their eyes were filled with such wonder and the sight of the Minions. It was adorable. They stuck them all over their phone cases and notebooks and were so excited to show me.

On the way to my next class, which is probably my favorite, I was walking up the stairs when two of my female students happened to see my sticker book on top of the things I was carrying. They each latched on to one of my arms, pulling, and shouting “MINIONS” in the middle of the stairwell. “TEACHER! TEACHER! WE WANT MINIONS!” I literally had to wriggle out of their clammy grasp and assure them that they would get their Minions during class. Needless to say, everyone was very well-behaved that day. No stickers for naughty children!

The rest of my classes went really well, for the most part. I have one class of middle schoolers at night who just won’t speak. They will read text if I ask, but when it comes to answering questions – silence. I try so hard, but it’s like pulling teeth and I spend my time listening to myself talk (which does get rather boring after a while).

Has anyone else encountered a class of students who simply refuse to speak? What are some techniques you’ve used to get them to participate?