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teaching in Korea

Where it's at

You might think that I am overjoyed with the news that I get to stay at the same school for another year. Definitely considering this will be the first school that accepted me for another year, in my four years living here. But the rush of life has been keeping me distracted. Report cards, test making and teaching the kids has got my mind busy.

Yet, today as I walked home and left the gates of the school I felt a small pinch of realization. I don't have to move or hunt for another job, I will be here again next year. Finally, I felt some form of relief and looked at the pale gray sky with appreciation.

What Happens When Public School isn't the Dream Job

I have been reading the blogger, "What Would Eve Do?" and noticing that she has been having a hard time at her Public School. It reminded me how when I was working at a hagwon (my first job here) I thought that Public Schools were a lot better. I quit that school after 5 months and moved to a Public School. Indeed, many improvements were felt and life was somewhat less stressful. But the fact that I was working in a Korean work environment never transformed.

Today I am addressing the allusion some people might have that Public School jobs are somewhat more magically better than hagwons. However, at PS jobs you definitely get paid on time and have solid vacation.

Maybe Next Week

Today our school held our usual monthly meeting. On the agenda "contract renewals." When I saw this I got excited and thought something along the lines of, "If you put down 'yes' as your response, then you folks got the job" was going to be announced. Instead, they just announced that people need to make up their minds by Nov. 8th and someone will be coming to you around next week to talk about the contract.

October Field Trip: Dream Forest


For the October field trip the kiddos were taken to the Dream Forest. This was a good idea as it was close to the school, but a sort of bad idea because we walked a lot.

Still Waiting

Turns out they won't talk about contract renewals till "sometime" in November. I am hoping that means next week. I had an interview at this school around the third week of November last year, so I am thinking they get things ready by the beginning of the month.

Anyways, I have a strong feeling they will let me renew but of course am still nervous.

In other news, Tom is doing well and has grown a thick winter coat for the cold days ahead. Of course, I will keep him warm inside my house.

My ex dropped off Tom's carrier basket (he borrowed it a few weeks ago) and it was a little hard to see him again. I still feel confused about what happened to us, but nowadays feel it really was for the best.

Drama Festival Wrap Up

It went well and all the kids from every group performed to their best. I didn't hear any homeroom teachers complain about it, which is great. Just one snafu, last week one of my boys got scratched by another without my notice. So mom is upset, which makes the homeroom teacher have to deal with this. That leads to said homeroom teacher coming to me and telling me that I should keep my eyes on everyone all the time. Thanks!

So it is the end of October and I believe I should be hearing about my renewal. With this latest snafu I am hoping my ,"Yes, of course I can" attitude keeps everyone happy. But rumors have it that lots of teachers are planning, for various reasons, to move on from this school. So I think they would like to try and keep as many as they can.  I haven't heard anything yet, as the drama festival is still going on for other grades.

That Time of the Year Again

As a contract teacher there comes a point where you don't know if you will be asked to stay or go for the next year. At my past two public elementary schools I was given the thumbs down on staying at their schools. So this time I really want to be asked to stay.

Their system is a bit different and seems more friendly. Since there are 22 foreign folks working here I guess they need to streamline everything. They sent out a mass-message asking us to respond to a survey by the second-to-last week of this month. I already enthusiastically filled mine out and handed it in. My answer was a definite, "YES." I want to stay at the school and even continue teaching first grade math. 

Joe Teacher

A few weeks back, Joe had an extra day off from his teaching gig at Sindo Elementary. Instead of sleeping in while I schlepped to work, mentally preparing to face the noise of my kindie kids after a luxuriously peaceful four-day weekend, he came into school with me.  I tell him stories about my students frequently, brief vignettes from my day along the lines of: “Albert told me he got three points in Taekwondo class yesterday,” or “You’ve gotta meet Charley. He clung to me all the way down the hall during bathroom break today, dragging his little feet behind me and saying, ‘teachuh, you have-uh foh legs.’”


Results of the Jelly Bean Contest

The kids did pretty well guessing close to the number of jelly beans in each of their jars. As for a class assignment I think it was a lot of fun and helped them make a big connection to the word, "estimate." The fall back was that many students were disappointed they didn't win. I suppose I could have given out the jelly beans evenly to the class and let the winner just feel good. But I sometimes feel that things can't always be "even" for these kids.

A lot of emphasis in Elementary school (especially the younger ones) seems to be that everything has to be the same and fair. I explained the rules before they put in their numbers and so they should have understood. What was good, I think, was that some classes had a group of all the same close numbers. So I let them play rock, scissors, paper to sort it out.

Drama Festival Preparations

The big thing for this semester is that the kidlets will perform a play during a drama festival next month. Because of this we have been singing songs with them for the past two weeks. If you asked me what song was stuck in my head right now, it wouldn't be Kpop. It would be this:


Joy's Jelly Bean Contest

One of the chapter's coming up in the student's book is "Estimation." For this week of estimating fun I decided to have all the classes take part in a Jelly Bean guessing contest. There are eight groups and each one will get to see a jar semi-full with jelly beans and make a guess as to how many.

A worksheet will accompany this activity and the winner will receive the jar of beans to take home.

Chuseok Love…

with the kiddies.

For my readers at home: Chuseok is a three-day Korean holiday that traditionally celebrates the autumn harvest. For us waygooks, it means a four-day weekend. (Asa!) For Koreans, it means returning to their hometowns, paying respect to their ancestors, and sharing a feast.  Many also wear traditional clothes called hanbok.

So at school on Friday, we held a Hanbok Fashion Show so the kids could show off their gear…

It was a pretty big deal.

Monica, Louis, and Jeff--I start each morning with them, grateful that coffee was invented.


Last Few Days of Camp Finally

There are just three more days of camp and thank goodness! Although, tiring and often mind-boggling strange, the camp has been going pretty well. I have learned what the low-levels need and how better to pace myself for them. They take time to process the English and I try to give it to them in a slow yet understandable manner. But mostly they want to learn through games, crafts and activities. I guess that is true for all first-graders.

Camp, as mentioned earlier, wasn't planned very well even though the planning committee did do hard work. I want to step up for winter camp and plan some new stuff for them, but am trying to lay-low so not to seem like a pushy person.

Where Have I Been? (Part 1)

First off–hello everyone!

I’m back on the blog after an unintended month-long hiatus.  I wish I could say I’ve been away somewhere exotic or tropical or both, but the truth is I’ve been working–teaching my kindies, doing freelance marketing, and wrapping up the end of my three-month stint teaching university on the side, which took up more hours of my life than I care to count. The uni experience has given me a lot to process–about Korea and how things operate here, about writing and how to teach it, about what drives me.  So, I’ve decided to write a few separate posts to describe this recent chapter–the first is here for you below, with a to-be-continued…

Also–you’re probably noticing the Coco Busan site looks different–I’ve switched over to a new theme. In the mood for change these days…gotta keep things fresh!  Hope you like:)


First Semester is OVER!

My gosh did it go so fast! I am really pleased that this semester has come to an end. Of course, kind of not looking forward to three weeks of camp with the same group of kids. But, in essence the toils and trials of everyday work will not come to me again till September.

Things I've Learned:
First graders do require a lot of energy, but you don't have to put on a show all the time. They like games and things for them to do that can keep their minds and hands busy. Teaching at a private elementary school has a lot of benefits when compared to my previous job. I have enjoyed the lack of coteaching and love being in control of my own classroom. However, I have not escaped the Korean workplace and still encounter many snafus related to this. I've learned that patience is the key and one can be strict with the students but not take it emotionally. 

Safety tips for foreigners living in S. Korea

Recently, I have learned of a fellow foreigner here teaching English who became a victim of assault. In a country where safety is a noted luxury (especially comparing to my home country), it inspired me to make a safety tips video. I made a video because well, let’s face it, not many people READ a lot anymore. :(  Here is a link to this video if you want to check it out.

Take care, I hope all your Korean experiences are wonderful!


Signing in to work by digital fingerprinting. Good or Bad?

The end of the semester is drawing near and like a narrow tunnel many tasks are piling on. There are final tests to be made and scores of report cards to fill out. In the midst of this we were pulled away from our desks to register our fingers.

The school installed a new system of checking in it's employers. Before, we would just sign our names in a little book, and be on our way. We didn't do much to check out, except change our shoes and give a friendly wave goodbye.

The Rain Pours

I am okay with rainy weather. I would rather be soaked to the bone in a downpour than freezing my butt off in sleety-icy rain.

But the rain brings one to notice that it is definitely summer and the months are trucking along. Already my first semester at job #4, in Korea, is nearly over. I have learned so much about myself and what it is like to really be a teacher. Also, I am really proud of my accomplishments at the job.

In life, things seem to putter along quite nicely as well. Although, JH and I still find ourselves at odds with how to spend our weekend time together. There are also a lot of personal developments between us but I don't want to share it yet.

A week vacation is on the horizon, followed by three weeks of camp and then two more weeks of vacation. I am looking forward to a slow down in work life.

June Fieldtrip: Bugs and Lizards Oh My!

If you have ever wondered whether Seoul children get out there and play in the dirt or pick at bugs, well look no further. For our school took the first grade to a grand bug adventure up near Namyangju. The kids hopped off the bus all sleepy eyed and were walked into a forested area where they dropped off their bags.

Open Class Approaches

On Thursday I have four open classes, which means it is going on all day. The parent's will be within breathing distance from me, all the while observing and evaluating. Or maybe they will just be mesmerized by my kick-ass presentation!

Who knows?

All I know is that last week I stressed out about it and this week I am trying to hold on to some confidence. My plans use some good material and activities, but the bookwork is what I am concerned with.

Really, I just want Thursday to pass so that I can move on with my life and find out if I fit the bill or not.

May School Field Trip

For our school's May field trip the kiddos took a bus ride up to Pocheon to visit the Africa Cultural Center. Who would of guessed there was a little slice of that great continent here in Korea?

Like the previous field trip we were swept around from place to place, but this time the kids got to take part in several activities.

The first activity involved making a wooden-beaded necklace, which was pretty simple to do but also a lot of fun.

FBI Criminal Background Check Blunders

Living abroad is not easy for anyone.  [Side note: I am sure that living in the US as a foreigner is even worse if you are not fluent in English, given the general distain for non-English speakers and the general lack of willingness to help others- likely for fear falling victim to a crime.] For me, the great times FAR outweigh the bad times so I chose a life of foreign living. However, there are moments in time when everyone (who lives abroad) wants to give rude hand gestures to their host country and call it quits. Prolonged moments are labeled as culture shock. No matter how long you have been in a country, it IS possible to experience culture shock. But, that is not what this blog is about (really) so let’s move on to the subject at hand: FBI Criminal Background Checks.


Sink or Swim?

I could let the current sweep me away or I could let the mountain defeat me and give up. Or I could strap on some flippers or put on some serious hiking gear and get to the top. This is the metaphor I am using today because it relates to the realization I came to about my job.

Stress has been building up and sleep has been deteriorating, and it is not the kind of life I want to have. Usually, what one does is blame outside factors and never really look in the mirror. This time I have decided to look at myself and see what I can do to improve my life.

You might be asking what has been so stressful? Mostly I have been worrying about what the homeroom teachers think of me and with open class coming I started to doubt myself. I also knew there were issues with our department that I wanted to fight for, but felt defeated because in Korean society the loudmouth-aggressive person is usually left behind.

Question from a reader: Jeonju vs. Tongyeong?

A reader writes us:

Hi Chris,

I’ve just seen your website and was wondering if you might be able to help me! I am going to be moving to South Korea to teach English very soon and am trying to make a decision about where it is best for me to go… as you seem to have traveled quite a bit I hoped you might be able to help me out a little. I have many many questions and if you could find the time to answer one or all of them I’d be very grateful!


Open Class Coming and other Work Stuff

As you can see spring has been good to me with fun trips to places here and there. The warm weather has helped calm my mood and ease my mind when it comes to work rambles. The job is puttering on like a well greased machine, with a few hiccups here and there.

But a big bump in the road is coming up, and that would be open class. It's not my first time with this kind of job-related aspect, but I definitely feel like this one will be more serious. For one the people who will be observing me are the parents, and since they pay for their kids education I can only guess their gaze will be mighty. The open class is not till next month, but I am already in the thick of planning it. We are given the liberty to do whatever we want, even can break away from our regularly scheduled plan. However, I am planning on sticking with the schedule but making sure there are interactive activities involved.

Looking Up

Yesterday was Sports Day for my school, and it was my duty to keep watch of one class of children. There I was, out on the field standing behind the long line of children as they did their salute to the Korean flag. The parent's were in the bleachers looking down at their children and us. As I stood there I couldn't help but look up at the Korean flag and the big blue sky behind it, and wonder just how I got here. Thinking, how did I get to this point in my life where I was standing on Korean soil, participating in a National celebration with these people, certainly gave me a profound feeling.

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

If you're not a friend of mine on Facebook (and why aren't you!?) you may not be aware that I today decided not to pursue a new position here in Korea once my current one ends in a few weeks time. My love for Korea certainly hasn't diminished and it will be hard to leave behind the good friends - both old and new - that I have on this tiny little peninsula.

 


Reflections: First Few Months in Korea

If it weren't for my recent three month stay back home I would be celebrating my three year anniversary in Korea this month. Despite that I have to wait three more months to truly celebrate, I have already been doing the trips down memory lane in my head. 

Two Months Have Passed

Two months have passed at the new job and it feels good. Except, the children are still acting out now and then. Well, I know this will never really change. I think I am just starting to get a little burnt out.

No really, things are in a routine these days and I am starting to see that teaching first graders math isn't too hard.

Anyways, next week promises a couple of vacation days. Where will I go?

Job Satisfaction

Maybe it is because I didn't have six classes as usual today or that spring is here. I am sure there is a reason but whatever it is I feel really satisfied with my job in Korea, right now. It's the fourth job and I suppose after many trials and errors I have come to a point where I like my work. I wasn't trained to be a teacher but I feel I have learned and survived through enough that I am capable of the job.

I guess it could be that the kids are transitioning out of their kindy-selves and into first graders. Really, though I feel like this job suits me and I am starting to enjoy being in a room full of feisty children. One thing though that has really helped is that I don't do any coteaching anymore. I don't have to worry about coordinating things with someone who doesn't understand me and won't take the time to try.

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