How to Teach in Korea
I've had an amazing first year in Korea, so much that I've decided to sign up for a second. Lots of people have asked me how to start the ball rolling with teaching in Korea, and getting over here is as easy as A B C, almost...
If you studied teaching at university, you're a qualified teacher and have plenty of experience then you're good to go.
If, like me, you did another course (I studied English with Media and Cultural studies) then you need to top that up with a TEFL course.
Most of the recruitment agencies requested a TEFL course that was over 100 hours. I did it with Cactus TEFL as they had an offer on so I did the 120 hour course. I noticed before I left that there were lots of offers on Groupon for cheaper courses.
It's a good idea to start getting all of your paperwork together as soon as you decide to make the move. It takes a long time and will make your application more appealing to employers.
-An updated CV
-A photo to include in your online applications
-Reference letters from your employees
-Your degree certificate and colour photocopies. A photocopy must be notarised. Take the certificate and the photocopy to a solicitors and ask them to do this for you. £2.00 + £5.00.
-A transcript of your degree. Your uni can easily get it to you if you don't have a copy.
- A Criminal Record Check. You only need a basic check. Put a note on your application for this to be notarised as this will save you alot of time and money. £25
-4x Passport Photos £6.00
-Self Medical Check
-Photocopies of your passport £1.00
The most confusing thing for us was getting our documents notarised with an Apostille stamp. This is required to prove that foreign documents are legitimate, as different countries do not recognise the same certificates and qualifications, so they use the stamp to check that you are being honest.
There are two ways to apply for jobs, one is through the EPIK scheme, and the second searching privately.
Positive points of coming through EPIK seem to be:
A big base of new recruits who are all in the same boat as you. You'll go through initiation with them and will probably make a few firm friends to stick to through the first hard months.
Pretty standard holidays and pay.
Positive points of coming privately:
You can pick your working conditions if you are fussy about something in particular. Hours, location, age of students, pay etc.
I didn't come through EPIK, so I don't know much about it, but check out the website here.
To find your own job, it's a matter of scanning Korean job forums, the two I found the most handy were Dave's ESL Cafe and Koreabridge.
The posts are usually by recruiters and will give you a simple rundown of the jobs that are available.
Things to look for in the job specs:
-Paid Holiday 10-18 days is normal
-Class size and age
-If Air Fare is included
-If medical insurance and pension are included
Then it's as simple as sending off your CV and photo to the recruitment agency or school.At this stage it's in their hands, they will usually get in contact with you to arrange an interview. Chase the recruiter if they don't get back to you within a couple of days.
Always check your emails regularly. Because of the time difference, their hours are a little upside down to the UK. I would get requests at 11pm my time requesting an interview at 7am the next day. I regularly was woken by strange and awkward phone calls early in the morning. Usually head teachers wanting to conduct an interview that I hadn't agreed to because I hadn't picked up the email.
Interviews are almost always carried out over the phone or Skype, usually early in the morning due to the time difference. You will normally be talking to the headteacher, or a current English teacher at the school.
Remember a major selling point will be your voice and your English, so speak clearly and simply.
Questions the interview questions could be as basic as Why teaching? Why Korea? to things that are a little more in depth regarding discipline, drinking and life outside of the school.
If your interview went well, you should be sent a contract within a day or two.Read it carefully.
It should tell you:
- start and end dates of your contract
- wage and pay day. A decent wage ranges from 2.0 million upwards.
- your entrance and exit allowance the school will give you to pay for air fare.
- expected duties and when/if you will be paid over time for any of them. Will you have to do Summer/Winter camp or weekends? Will you be paid extra?
- resignation details
- renewal details if you decide to stay for another year
- work hours and how they will be split, and if you will be paid overtime for anything extra you do. Public school hours are generally 8:30-4:30, private school varies but can start mid morning and go on until 10pm.
- housing details
- settlement allowance. The bonus you will get for honouring your contract.
- medical insurance
- pension plan
- holidays. Generally you get 10-18 days holiday. The pay tends to be higher if you get less days. Do you get to choose when you have them or are they stipulated?
I found this post to be really good when I was looking through the contract, and sent the recruiter back with a long list of questions.
If you decide to accept the job, you then need to send your apostilled documents, photos. copies of your passport, medical check and signed contract to the school or recruiter by courier, this will cost roughly £50. They will then apply for a visa number for you. Once you have the visa number, it's time to visit the Korean consulate in London.
Always call before you go to the consulate, Natasha and I had a nightmare, they are closed on Korean national holidays and they are open very restricted hours. Passport, fee (this is about £80 from what I can remember), photo and korean visa application form. This application takes about a week and you can either go and pick it up, or have it posted to your house. Inside will be a shiny Korean visa, ready for you to go. That's when it's time to book your flight and get out of there, we got our visa on the Monday, and flew out on the Wednesday.
Everyone's experiences are different. Tasha and I were incredibly lucky, and found work at a public school that is privately funded, therefore we have the same sort of conditions as EPIK.
We work 5 days a week, from 8:30 to 4:30. We teach a maximum of 5 40 minute classes a day. By 2pm we have finished our normal classes.
Between 2-4:30 we either have one after school class, which we are paid extra for, or use the time to plan lessons/desk warm.
Generally you teach classes of 30 students with the help of a Korean teacher, it differs from school to school how much responsibility you have for planning and delivering the class.
At our school I teach 18 classes a week to just 10 students each class, and I do it on my own. Then I teach 6 classes a week of 30 students with the help of another Korean teacher.
You have to expect the unexpected. As the foreign teacher you are a bit of a novelty and they like you to show your face at public events and take part in sporting events, usually with very little prior notice. I think the worst for me was being told I had to attend a meeting, only then being made to go on stage to say hello to an auditorium full of parents.
There are lots of national holidays in Korea, which you will be allowed to have off if you work for a public school, rather than a Hagwon (private school).
Be prepared to swoon over the cute kids. I've seen even the stoniest, anti-child hearts melt after hearing a confused r pronounced in the place of an l. They're undeniably rovery.