English teaching in Korea

Did you ever think about teaching in South Korea? These days, it’s so popular, I can imagine there is a surplus of teachers and that competition for good positions is dropping.

Back in 2016, I was interviewed by the company EPIK, with a view to teaching in 2017. When I failed to be chosen, I looked at other companies before getting a job with Pagoda. Whilst I was disappointed I couldn’t place with EPIK, who seem to have the best reputation for English teaching, I think I did well to work with Pagoda. The class sizes were really nice, and I got on well with the majority of my students. By that I mean I struck up some really good relationships and got to know them outside the classroom too.

Whilst I did find living in South Korea difficult, none of it was caused by Pagoda. When they decided not to renew my contract, I was disappointed. Looking back, I probably didn’t give it as much effort as I could have. I was lucky to have laid-back students and a light schedule. Many people might look at English teaching as the kind of job anyone can do, it’s the teachers who work the hardest and have the most professional attitude that are kept back every year.

I enjoyed my time in Korea. I probably wouldn’t work again as an English teacher unless I had the freedom to choose my students and a choice of material. There are too many good teachers in South Korea, and it is my understanding that recruiters have a bias towards teachers who are female and under thirty.

My verdict: a good job for those prepared to really put the effort in. In a hagwon you’ll be with professionals who will have a work ethic that will put you to shame. Get used to criticism. Some of it will be harsh and unfair. I was told that the students all loved the outgoing teacher and that I should try to teach like her. It wasn’t the best advice and made me doubt my own abilities. Koreans don’t always speak openly and may act as though everything is fine whilst they criticise you to the hagwon manager. I sometimes regret choosing South Korea over Japan, but that was the choice I made.

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