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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.