On My Own

Today was my first day teaching classes on my own. Kind of crazy since I received no actual training and have no prior experience. I was given a class schedule as well as a list of which books to use for each class. That was pretty much it. I guess this is the way of the hagwon.

The previous teacher did write me a detailed list of each class, told me a bit about the students, and what he usually did for lesson planning. That was really nice of him, although some direction from the management would have been nice. As soon as I sat down at my desk, the head teacher plopped a stack of journals in front of me without so much as a word. The assumption was to grade them, which I did.

Today, I had seven classes and one one hour tutoring session with two students. I’ll have the same schedule again on Thursday. The books are relatively self-explanatory. For my first classes, I also brought some post cards which had pictures of the Jersey Shore to show the kids. I asked them to introduce themselves and tell me something they like to do during the summer. Then, I introduced myself, told them that I love going to the beach, and passed around the post cards. I then told them a little about the Jersey Shore. They really seemed to like the pictures.

I had one class of elementary students that I really, really enjoyed. They were eager to talk, but didn’t get rowdy. They also listened to me. I had them work in pairs and do dialogues. Before I left, one little girl shouted “teacher! teacher!” I turned and she said “this is for you” and handed me a rice bun from her snack bag. It was quite possibly the most adorable thing I’ve ever experienced and it melted my heart. The rice bun was also delicious!

I only had one class that was difficult to deal with. There were four students and two didn’t have the book, so I had to make photo copies. One boy who sat in the front threw my post cards at the other students as well as the board eraser. He refused to listen and participate during the lesson. It was really frustrating.

I finally got home and I’m absolutely exhausted. Bed soon!

Have you ever worked at or are currently working at a hagwon? Share your experiences with me!

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One Day

In less than 24 hours, I will boarding a plane in Newark, flying to San Francisco, hanging out a bit, and then flying to Incheon. From there, I will take the KTX train to Ulsan to begin my new journey as an English teacher.

I can’t believe how quickly the summer has flown by. Working, packing, seeing friends and family.

I am nervous. The only experience I have working with children is from doing a few educational art programs at my museum. I loved doing that, though, and I think it has helped to prepare me for this new endeavor.

I am excited. I never thought that my first apartment would be halfway around the world. I am going to be all alone in a country where I don’t even speak the language. I have been practicing a few words and phrases, but I know it will be completely overwhelming as soon as I step off the plane.

It’s kind of funny where life takes you. One day, you’re working two part time jobs in New Jersey. The next, you’re about to embark on an incredible journey that will absolutely be a life-changing experience.

I’m going to miss everyone here so much. However, I am rather looking forward to making new friends abroad. Definitely bringing some Jersey with me, though.

Ulsan, here I come. USA, see you in a year!

Budgeting?

Hi guys!

I would really like to make a monthly budget for myself while I’m abroad. I’ve done a bit of research about how much some teachers in South Korea spend on certain things, but a lot of information on the web seems relatively outdated. So, I was wondering if anyone on here would be willing to share how much they spend on the following per month:

1. Utilities

2. Health insurance

3. Cell phone

4. Groceries

5. Savings/misc.

Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated and I feel like it could be a very good resource for others interested in teaching in Korea. Thanks in advance!

A Hefty Price Tag

Just for fun, I decided to sit down and tally up all the money I’ve spent so far during this process. And I really wish I hadn’t.

One of my main reasons for going abroad to teach is being able to save money to help pay off my loans at home. I know I’m not going to be making six figures, but for the most part, everyone I’ve spoken to seems to say that people can save a lot while teaching in Korea. I’m frugal and I believe that. However, part of me is scared shitless that I won’t be able to cover costs.

I went to a private Catholic University. Even with government grants and a pretty decent scholarship, I still have about $120,000 in student loans I need to pay off. Disgusting.

I also work two part-time jobs. Another reason I’ve decided to go to Korea is that even though I graduated two years ago, I haven’t been able to find anything full time in my field. The market sucks right now, I know. I just work so hard and feel like I’m not making any headway at all. One of my checks goes directly into the bank to cover expenses. I literally do not even see it. As for my other check, I don’t keep more than $100 to last me two weeks – that’s including gas to get to and from work, food, and recreation. The rest goes straight into the bank.

I really hope this next year provides some respite for my poor wallet. As well as adequate experience to help me get a job in my field when I return to the States (which happens to be art history/museum education).

So, the following is a list of everything I’ve spent so far to get me to Korea, and I’m not even in the country yet:

TEFL certificate – $559.98

Background check – $25

Fingerprints – $3

State apostille for background check (because I had no idea I needed to send it to Washington, D.C.)- $40

Federal apostille for background check – $8

State apostille for diploma – $40

Sending documents USPS for EPIK (which I later withdrew from) – $10

Having documents sent back from EPIK recruiter – $22

FedEx-ing documents to private school I signed with – $53

Visa fee – $85

Vaccinations – $293

Total – $1,138.98

*cough*

Apologies for the rant. I really just needed to get that off my chest.

Thinking About Teaching Materials

Lately, I’ve been thinking about things I’d like to bring with me as teaching aids. The school I’m going to be teaching at has its own set of textbooks and curriculum, but when I spoke to the other American teacher there he did say that there would be room for spicing up lesson plans/activities/whatnot.

So, I spent my afternoon in Staples the other day ogling stickers and flash cards and posters. Things are so much nicer now than when I was in elementary school! I really just wanted to buy armfuls of stuff, but there is only going to be so much room in my suitcase.

Here are my questions: What materials did you bring with you to teach abroad, if any? What do you wish you hadn’t brought? Talk about what was most fun/effective for students.

Questions to Ask Before Signing a Contract

Have another article here which talks about a bunch of questions you should ask your potential employer before signing any contract with a foreign English school.

Just thought it would be a useful resource for some of you!

Has anyone had any difficulty while negotiating a contract? Did asking any of these questions help you?

On the Bright Side…

I have officially completed my TEFL certificate! That’s 140 hours (professional), plus an additional 10 hours for one-on-one teaching.

The in-classroom part of the course was held in New York City, near Wall Street. There was a group of about 8 students, myself included, from all over the country: Nebraska, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio. It was so great to see so many different people with the same goal assembled in one place.

Our teacher, Teresa Jacobs from i-to-i, was PHENOMENAL. She really embodied everything a TEFL teacher is supposed to be: enthusiastic, engaging, knowledgeable, helpful. The classes were long, 9 hours/day on both Saturday and Sunday, but it was totally worth it.

We did lots of lessons and drills and had opportunities to teach the class lessons we came up with ourselves. I feel like I acquired a lot of helpful information over the weekend and I met some really fantastic people, too!

It would be great to meet up with them if we’re all in Korea at the same time.