So I saw a tarot reader and extended my contract from the end of May to the end of August! I wanted to enjoy some more warm weather, save up a bit more (I lack budgetary discretion), improve my Korean and have some more time with my kids. My boss also really wanted me to. Why rush, anyway? I miss home, but it’s not going anywhere.

The Present Future Plan:

  1. Finish my job. Get a good reference letter. Collect my pension.
  2. Relax. Take about 2 weeks off and relax in Korea, and travel somewhere. Destination unknown. Start looking for job listings and free Korean class start times.
  3. Return to Sydney. Move in with my mother. Look for accommodation and apply for jobs immediately. Catch up with friends.
  4. Work. Play. Live, laugh, love.
  5. If I enjoy teaching at my next school too, then think about applying for a Master’s Degree. Weigh up the pros and cons.
  6. ~ Ethereal Void ~

It’s been good here so far. I have regrets, but I do think it’s shown I still have some growing up to do. Things to learn, a new person to grow into. I haven’t made as many close friends as I would have liked. It isn’t easy. But it makes me appreciate my friends at home all the more. I hope once I get back I’ll take things won’t take things for granted as much as I used to.

I think my next post will be to help me keep track of ideas for my reference letter, and scope out the current job requirements and conditions. I’m pretty content at the moment, but not enough for another year. We’ll see.

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At the end of the month I’ll have to decide if I want to extend my contract 3 months, or head home at the beginning of June. Not really considering staying an extra year.

I keep putting off thinking seriously about it, because it’s such a big decision. There are reasons I’d want to stay and reasons to leave.

I want to stay here longer because:
The longer I stay the easier it gets. I settle further into the routine and demands of my job. I could also ask my boss to give me a textbook-based class, so I’d be practicing another style of teaching. All my classes are speaking-focused at the moment. I love my kids, and really care about them. I’m also slowly, slowly meeting more people. Kind and fun people. So I’m curious to see if we could become really close and I could feel a better sense of belonging and companionship here. My Korean is slowly but surely improving, a lot of it by coming across words in everyday life. I remember them a lot easier that way. Like when my landlord was trying to explain there was ‘construction’ going on and I had no idea what he was talking about… But now I’ll never forget ‘construction’, heh.

That said, I’ve already got some great friends back at home. There are some free Korean classes in Sydney, and I could possibly enrol with one of my favorite teachers. I seem to be qualified for some of the TESOL positions that come up in Sydney. I miss the food, and being able to talk to anyone and say exactly what I mean, and understand what they mean. Also, just meet people that I feel like I connect with, regardless of the language. There’s someone in particular that I miss deeply, but I’ve got to be realistic about that I guess.

Aaanyway. Life here is fine. I’m not unhappy. I just feel a bit like I’m fighting an uphill battle. My friendships just don’t compare to the ones I have in Sydney, and what I get out of them. Their frankness and understanding and humor. I used to feel self-conscious at the gym, but doubly so here. I haven’t taken my jacket to the dry cleaner because I’m too nervous, not even sure about what exactly? My place doesn’t really feel like my own. Maybe I’m nit-picking, but I’d like a room/place that really feels like mine. Like my old room did. Not a big factor, but just reflecting on it now.

Hmm so. I think I’m hesitant to move back because I’m scared of the unknown. Scared that there’s maybe something cool I haven’t found here yet, and scared that there’s nothing in the unknown waiting there for me.

Side note, it’s so rewarding when students express how much they like me. Like when some hug me, or give me food, or when they find out I’m their teacher they all yell with wide grins “Yaaaaaaay!”. For phone testing a student today said I’m her favorite teacher, but maybe she was just playing the system, heh. Still. I really like being a positive force in their lives. They’re funny, and cute and relatively hard working. I’ll miss them a lot, and it’s pretty sad to think I will probably never see them again.

I don’t know. I think one year is enough. I knew I was leaving some big things behind when I came here in the first place, so that I could try and move forward. I think I should try do the same thing again.

So yesterday my boss pulled me aside for a meeting, following my extra round of observations. While I’ve improved, it didn’t seem quite enough to satisfy her. She maintained a really serious tone.

Maybe it’s because she was really disappointed with my lack of preparation for our Saturday class. On Friday night. After I’d already stayed back offering an extra 45 minutes of my time – unpaid of course. It was more of a games and fun event than a regular task, and as such there was more organising and decorating to do, as well as moving desks out of the classrooms. There was more work to do than usual, but we weren’t given any extra time to do it. Our schedules are tight. There obviously wasn’t enough time allocated for adequate preparation. I don’t just sit around twiddling my thumbs all day.

She said I should be more of a team player, but if management isn’t doing their bit then it’s a pretty one-sided team. It’s pretty ridiculous that I’d basically be expected to stay back over an hour to prepare for school in my own time. Unpaid overtime wasn’t in the job description, and wasn’t in the contract.

I feel like a capable teacher. I’m only just able to complete the work they give me in the time I have, let alone extra work.

Taking up the bulk of time are things like grading, phone testing, curriculum development, test printing, Weekend Journal grading and speech contest training. There’s little room for extra preparation on top of that, especially without compromising the quality of my curriculum development. It’s not something I can do quickly, and well.

Anyway. Was pretty upset when my boss said she was very disappointed in me. It was a small consolation to recieve a message from a coworker saying that the kids really love me. It cheered me up. Hopefully I can cheer up and keep getting better.

I should be asleep because I have Korean class in the morning before school, but today feels like a bit of a milestone. I had 2 class observations by the head teacher from main campus. They watched my classes then we talked at the end of the day about them.

My performance was “satisfactory” and it was highlighted that the fact that I haven’t had any experience was taken into consideration. I really think I was in the right place at the right time when it came to getting this job. Anyway, the boss at this campus had previously watched some of my classes and was disappointed. I won’t go into details – but I really think it was the curriculum/materials’ fault, not mine. Regardless, the onus was on me to improve, and I feel like I did pull it out for my two observations today.

I didn’t hear anything like “you should do this instead”. Just “the atmosphere was really nice” is the thing I remember the most. So I’m quite proud of myself for making it through observation unscathed. Even if I were to have received some pointed criticism, I wouldn’t have beat myself up. The purpose of class observations isn’t to pat teachers on the back, its to improve them, and I was more or less tossed in the deep end.

I’m feeling a little inundated with work, there’s a lot to juggle and get done before the summer vacation. But I’ve kept up well enough so far, so I’m not too stressed about it… Yet.

Also my student got 3rd place at an English speech competition. It did take a few hours of my time, and I only helped with some fine details, but still I feel quite proud. They’re really bright and passionate about what they were talking about too. It was really good to see how self motivated and dedicated she was, not to mention talented. Plus I get a small bonus so that’s just the cherry on top.

I’ve gotta book something(s) for when my friend comes to visit for vacation… I keep procrastinating. Fingers crossed not everything’s booked. Fingers and toes.

So I’m long overdue for a new post.

I’ve been teaching for just over a month. 11 more to go. Overall I enjoy my job. I enjoy it far more than my old job at a cinema. This job is tiring, there’s a lot to do, and more pressure. But it’s also interesting, and fun. It’s not as stressful as I thought it would be. I’ve been doing a pretty good job of leaving work problems at work (not that there’s been anything major). Just having the majority of my week cut out is really full on. It’s called full time for a reason. Because of this I’ve sort of been trying to cram my weekends full of things to do, for fear of missing out I guess. I also just want to say ‘yes’ because I think it’ll help me grow. I’ve met a lot of cool people already, and I hope that before two long I can start to develop some really deep and meaningful friendships with both foreigners, Koreans, gay and straight people.

In general I really like my kids. The youngest ones tend to be the most tiring, but that’s not necessarily the case. I have 3 classes who have their own problems, kids fighting, walking around, crying, playing, being too loud and out of control while I’m trying to teach. They’re just kids so I can’t be too hard on them, but I feel especially bad for the quiet hard working students who care about improving their English. I don’t know what to do really but I’m having class observations soon so that should hopefully be more help than a hindrance.

There’s far more admin and not-teaching work than I realised. I generally work 11:30am-8:30pm but only teach 2:30pm-7:30pm. Grading, entering the grades in the system (they take tests every lesson), marking journals for the upper levels, phone testing, curriculum development (editing old PPTs and tests) for every lesson, converting and uploading a short speaking video of each student once a month to the website, helping students practice their scripts for speech contests.

Also teaching isn’t that difficult apart from the classroom management issues I’m having. I’m quite proud of myself for that and a bit relieved. From Day 1 I’ve actually been quite confident. I just took my stuff, started teaching. When I was doing my practicum for my TESOL certificate I remember being so nervous. Maybe it’s because they’re kids, or because I’m unsupervised (CCTV on the boss’ desk though). Anyway I’m proud of myself for having confidence and conviction.

I’m a bit homesick. Missing people. Being vegetarian is hard here, too. Not speaking a lot of the language I get nervous and feel a bit guilty I guess. But I feel lucky overall. My boss is kind, so are my coworkers. We don’t have a lot to talk about but we get lunch together often. My accommodation is comfortable. I shouldn’t take for granted that it’s paid for. It’s location is pretty sweet too.

Anyway. There are good things about Seoul, and there are good things about Sydney. I don’t think I’ll want to spend another year here right now though. I want this kind of job, or similar, in Sydney. I probably won’t be able to live 5 minutes walk from work, but who knows.

All things considered, I’m happy with my present, and hopeful for my future.

Tsinghua University

Image credit: Jens Schott Knudsen

Posted: 13/04/15
Last updated: 12/05/15

As noted in my article Getting a University Job in Korea, the minimum criteria almost across the board lately is to have a Master’s and two years experience at university level. There are some accepting without, but by the time I get my Master’s it will be the standard. But how to get this experience?

The most obvious answer I can think of is to teach in a country with a less competitive job market. These markets seem to be parts of Asia and the Middle East.

A few countries stand out to me personally. I’ve started by compiling information and observations about them across some time. I’ll probably start by accumulating job listings I can find across a few weeks.

China

First impressions: A Master’s Degree is not a requirement for most positions. Research into the reputation and lifestyle in the areas of the universities would be really important here. Posts keep saying “only apply if you’re seriously ready to come to China” almost like a warning, as though people bail out fairly frequently, because they can’t handle living in China. For me, I’ll probably want to live in or near a city, and preferably somewhere with a milder climate… I’m not sure that exists though. I would definitely consider moving to China though. Some jobs provide free Chinese lessons, which is great, and I would really appreciate.

Vietnam

I’m having even more difficulty finding positions in Vietnam than in Thailand. But even at RMIT’s campuses the qualifications don’t seem particularly rigorous. I would be very interested in a position at RMIT internationally and would probably jump at the opportunity.

Thailand

The best resource for jobs in Thailand seems to be ajarn/ajarnjobspace, with another resource being gooverseas.com. Try using the search function for “university” on ajarn if positions aren’t showing up in the board, this appeared to bring up contemporary results when I tried it. Some advice can be found at studyinthailand.org. A reasonable article about teaching in Thai universities can be found here, but it’s undated.

Ajarn notes:

There’s an old saying that the best jobs never get advertised and teaching jobs are no different.

Who knows what gems you might unearth by simply enquiring at the school admin office or making a speculative phone call? There’s a school near my house that’s had a ‘teachers wanted’ sign hanging on the school gate for months. They’ve probably never heard of ajarn.com either.

Others

Past job listings

China

Vietnam

Thailand

Others

Why Learn Korean?

This question is really important to me, as I try to justify the time, energy, and expense of Korean language learning. I know I want to improve my Korean, but I think it’s important to be critical of my reasoning, to keep me motivated.

Largely, I think it’s due to my strong desire to actively engage with Korean culture, which overall thus far I’ve immensely enjoyed. I don’t want to be experiencing life in Korea like I’m watching a fish tank. I want to swim around, blow some bubbles, lay eggs on some rocks. It’s been a goal of mine for a long time to learn a second language. I feel like the more I learn the wider my worldview grows.

I also feel like it’s almost the least I can do for having the privilege of living and working a decent job in Korea. I feel like a burden requiring staff to speak English to help me. They couldn’t get away with that here.

Altruism aside, if I do want a successful career teaching English, then learning Korean would surely be valuable at some point. As jobs become more and more competitive in Korea, it would give me a competitive edge. Maybe I could break out of the teaching industry briefly or permanently. If I work out, maybe I could model before I get too old. If I know double the languages surely double the employment opportunities would be open to me anyway. Not that I really think my Korean will reach a professional level, but it’s possible.

If I can easily engage in conversations across a range of different contexts, then I’ll be happy with my one year in Korea. If I can communicate 90% of my ideas and opinions, I’ll be happy. Hopefully I’ll be able to make some jokes. Even if I make mistakes, and can only half-understand dramas without subtitles, then I’ll be satisfied. There’s going to be a lot of new and specific vocabulary though. It’ll take hard work.

How?

I need to commit to learning, and have a routine, including independent study time.

But I don’t have the discipline to do it on my own, so I think committing my Tuesday and Thursday mornings to lessons at Omija Korean would be a valuable investment. Maybe once I get settled and comfortable teaching, I can up it to Monday through Thursday, if I reckon it’s worth the cost. Tuesdays and Thursdays would be 160,000 KRW a month. I think 3 months of studying Korean two days a week, then 7 months of studying 4 days a week would help me gain leaps and bounds. I’ve yet to find any other Korean hagwons or university language programs that could fit around my timetable.

Free Korean classes are also definitely worth checking out. These include the ones at Hangul Kongbubang, which may be Saturdays 4-5:30PM if Semester 2 is the same as Semester 1. The Yeongdeungpo Global Village Center and Ichon Global Village Center look closest to me, and it seems like they run Korean classes, I just can’t find any contact email addresses or information in English. Seorae Global Village Center isn’t much further, either.

Beyond this, hopefully I can make some Korean speaking friends who I would practice with. If not, then a language exchange partner with whom I can have maybe designated activities or chats where we speak only English and only Korean. Maybe we could each keep a journal, and when we meet we can edit each other’s journals and practice our fluency by reading them after. Talk to Me in Korean and Go! Billy Korean are pretty good free online resources (even if Billy is a bit irritating).

Women's High School
Posted: 28/04/15
Last edited: 01/05/15

Even though I’ve yet to even start my hagwon (cram school) job, I’ve been thinking a lot about my plans for afterwards. While a university level job may be possible after one year in a hagwon (albeit unlikely), and sounds great at first thought, right now I can see a lot of merit in taking my ‘career progression’ slowly and more considered. I’m considering applying through EPIK and working a year in a public school.

Why another year, and why a public school?

Experience

The experience gained from the different teaching context would be really useful for if I complete a Master’s in TESOL. Lesson planning, co-teaching, teaching mixed-ability classes are three experiences I can think of off the top of my head.

Master’s

I would be eligible for the TESOL Master’s course at USYD, which requires 2 years full time teaching experience. UNSW asks for a graduate qualification in education as prerequisite, but I think with a Certificate IV in TESOL and two years experience they would strongly consider my application. The University of Melbourne only asks for a CELTA equivalent, which my Cert IV should constitute, but I think it would still be a good idea to have more work and life experience before committing to tertiary study. Macquarie University only requires an undergraduate degree, however is nowhere to be seen in the QS university rankings. Later down the track, these tips should prove really helpful.

Melbourne and USYD rank the highest across global education and linguistics rankings, and Melbourne was one of the top 10 for employer recognition, as well as being higher-ranked generally. I’m strongly leaning towards Melbourne for those reasons, as well as the lifestyle. It would be great to get to know Melbourne even half as well as I know Sydney.

Korean

Learning Korean would be much easier if I stay longer. I’m going to try and take class(es) while over there this time, but even after a year I’m not confident I’ll be at a level where I can confidently engage in conversations about topics more than everyday things. If I apply through EPIK there’s a chance I could be placed in an area with far fewer foreigners than in Seoul, which may be a blessing. I’m currently most interested in studying twice a week at Omija Korean in Itaewon.

Ethics

I can imagine feeling very under qualified teaching at a university level so early, and I think it would be a mild abuse of privilege to sell myself in a job interview as though I was their best candidate. Further, though aware of it before, I’m thinking more critically of the role of hagwons, and how they give the richer an advantage over the poorer, so working in a public school would put this equity issue aside. Further, most hagwons are run as businesses, and seem to ask teachers to fly through content and exaggerate to parents about their children’s progress, and I wouldn’t have this issue in a public school.

The 5-year plan

Roughly, my timeline would go like this:

June 2015-June 2016 teach at English hagwon in Seoul

June-July 2016 travel Korea (a bit more), and Japan (hopefully a lot)

July-August 2016 visit family and friends in Sydney

August 2016-August 2017 work in a public school

August 2017-June 2018/February 2018-November 2018 study Master’s in TESOL

February 2019-December 2020 teach at a university in Korea, or an English academy in Sydney

The cons

Despite it sounding great great overall, I’m worried about being away from family and friends for so long, essentially two years. Secondly, I’m concerned about maintaining a stable and meaningful relationship. I’m already leaving one behind as I leave for my first job, but then moving away to another city after a year in Seoul, then coming back to Sydney for 1-1.5 years for my Master’s, then going back to Korea for 1-2 years of university level teaching, then coming back yet again and teaching academic English here… Then I’m 27 left with a history of fragmented relationships, if any at all.

Moreover, EPIK is currently going through major budget cutbacks. Scroozle’s Sanctuary goes so far as to say: “Pro tip: if you’re thinking about coming to Korea to teach at a public school, don’t”. Contradicting this on Dave’s ESL Forum, Schwa notes: “I think I can still recommend EPIK as a great gap year (or 2) experience or EFL stepping stone, but longtermers are understandably getting frustrated with it. TESOL is what you yourself make of it, not something served up on an easy platter.”

This is all contingent on whether or not I enjoy teaching anyway. I may not even last my first 12 months. But here’s hoping, because if I don’t want to, or can’t teach, then I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m not without hope, but at this stage, I’m definitely without ideas. Maybe my photography will pick up.

Regardless, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Ewha Womans University
Posted: 13/04/15

Last updated: 06/05/15

For my first post I wanted to write about gaining a Professor/Assistant Professor English teaching position at a Korean University. It’s unfinished, but I couldn’t wait to publish my first post, weirdly, so it should become more polished across the next few weeks as I learn more and become more accustomed to the WordPress format. At the time of writing, I’m still in Sydney anxiously awaiting my visa approval for my first teaching job, at a hagwon in Dongjak-gu, Seoul. If I enjoy this year and can imagine myself teaching as a career, then I’m really hoping to get my Master’s and aim for a university position in the future. This isn’t meant to be a ‘how-to’, but more of a ‘how-to-probably’ kind of guide. I’m writing this based on my analysis of job listings, advice I’ve read elsewhere, as well as inferences based on what I would look for if I were recruiting. Even if some things may seem obvious, I think it’s important to try and consider as many factors as possible, to try and differentiate yourself as being above and beyond basic requirements.

Master’s Degree or higher

The most important criterion in getting a university position would be that you hold a master’s degree, ideally (but apparently, not necessarily) in TESOL, or a related field such as linguistics, English or education. Every job posting I’ve seen has asked for this. I’ve seen a posting by Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (Fig. 4) that preferences Master’s in Education (TESOL) over a Master’s in Arts.

Teaching experience

Generally speaking, the more the better, however minimum requirements seem to vary. Some job listings aren’t explicit about experience being necessary, and welcome any applicant with a Master’s (Fig. 1). Others ask for experience at “accredited institutions” (Fig. 4). Meanwhile, Kyungnam University, Changwon, requests “a minimum of two years experience at the university level or three years experience at the middle/high school level”, and that “experience in private academies will not be counted” (Fig. 3). Kyungpook National University asks for more than 3 years EFL experience with adults, preferably in Korea (Fig. 2). Increasingly, 2 years at university level is becoming the standard requirement, so it’s likely to be the minimum by the time I get my Master’s.

Other

Another asset occasionally listed is research experience— seems to constitute published journal articles. Some advice for publication can be found here.

Finding a job

TEFL Tips.com guest contributor Jackie asked members of the ‘Foreign Professors and University English Teachers in South Korea’ Facebook group about how they received their positions, to which they responded:

ESL Cafe Job Board: 36% Through a friend: 34% Through a job site besides ESL Cafe: 14% Networking: 7% Dropping application off at a university or applying through the university website: 7%

Fortunately, about a third of jobs go through Dave’s ESL Cafe Job Board. About another third go through friends or networking. Alternate job sites include: Profs AbroadChronicle of Higher EducationTESOL.orgKOTESOLCraigslistJobseekr, and Koreajobfinder.

Links

‘University Jobs in Korea’ at Jackie Bolen’s YouTube Channel (2015) — A web miniseries by the ubiquitous Jackie Bolen

‘Foot >>> Door for Korean unis: What’s attractive?’, ‘MA and 2 years research, stop taking university jobs’, ‘University positions without Uni experience’— Recent discussions at Dave’s ESL Cafe (2015)

‘The Best TEFL Jobs in South Korea’ at Tefl-Tips.com (2015) — An up-to-date and comprehensive guide

‘Very Boring Post Unless You’re a Foreigner Looking For a College Teaching Gig’ at Wet Tumblrments (2013) — Reinforces MA and 2 years University experience becoming standard, recommends being in-country for interviews

‘A University Job’ at waegukin.com (2014) — Probably one of the best, and most recent, articles I’ve come across lately about this topic

‘EPISODE SLICE #45: Expat Kerri Dishes on Landing University Teaching Jobs in Korea’— Expat Kerri, speaking on Atlas Sliced, reminds us that you don’t need a Master’s to get a university job (2013)

‘Getting a university job in Korea’ at Overseas Exile (2011) — Provides clarification about differences between jobs, and different visas

‘How to get a University ESL Teaching Job in Korea’ at jackieb99’s HubPage — Gives some good interview tips

‘The #1 Job Search Method That Gets You Hired’ and ‘University Job Guide for English Teachers at Profs Abroad — Offer a detailed strategy, and advice for university job hunting

Past job listings

An archive of recent job listings is provided below to get a clearer idea of the qualifications and experience requested by various institutes, as well as some of the different kinds of positions that are out there. It’s important to remember that often jobs are only listed fairly briefly, so it’s important to continue checking online every week if you’re hoping to find something.