Happy New Year!! I know it is a little late, but it’s the thought that counts :) I hope you all had an amazing Christmas and New Year celebration and good luck to anyone with New Year’s Resolutions!
So, I have been thinking a lot about what content would be beneficial to any readers who happen to come across my blog posts. I think one important topic I have yet to talk about is the act of choosing your school and essentially how your life will play out for the year. Without further ado here are some tips to help you choose your school that I wish I would have known before accepting any offers.
Now, I know this process can be overwhelming. I know for me once I applied to the CIEE program the waiting was the worst part. When you are waiting to hear back about job interviews and then after those job offers… a week can feel like a month. It can be hard and discouraging the longer you go without hearing from a school. For me, I waited about three weeks (which was cutting it close to my departure time) before I received a job offer after my interviews were completed. It felt like torture, but I was reassured by the CIEE team that this was normal and there was still time even though it felt like time had run out.
So, tip number 1 is to just be patient… A school will come around eventually. It may not be for the semester you want, but a job will be there for you no matter what.
Now, personally for me, I accepted the first job offer that came through because I was scared about being rejected by the others and not receiving another offer. So, don’t get me wrong… I enjoy my school mostly, but there are some things that I wish I knew before accepting the offer and things that I would look for in a new school now that I have been working for almost five months.
In a new job, I would try to find one that only teaches one age group. Right now, I teach kindergarten to middle school students and it can be stressful at times with all the lesson planning, material making, testing, etc. This also ties in to the amount of hours you would work a day. As of right now, I work 9:40 am- 6:40 pm. Some of my teacher friends simply work 2 pm- 8pm and we make the same amount of money. I will say it is more difficult to get these jobs because they are in high demand from teachers, but if you are lucky enough to find one I would recommend it. It definitely just gives you more time to explore Korea as a whole and enjoy your days.
Try to make sure you are not the only foreign teacher. At my school there are three of us, but at some schools there is only one foreign teacher and it can be both alienating and stressful. A lot more responsibility falls on you as the only one, so unless you have teaching experience or are used to working alone then I would suggest asking this question in your interview.
Other questions to ask in your interview would be things like:
1) Am I a homeroom teacher or a moving teacher? Essentially do you teach one class all day or teach multiple classes throughout the day.
2) Do I have to eat lunch with the students? Or do you have your lunch hour to yourself?
3) Do I have bus duty at the end of the day?
4) What does a day in a foreign teacher’s life look like at this school? It is important to know what is expected of you before you accept any offers.
5) Will I be teaching other subjects in English or just English? At my school, I simply teach English vocabulary, grammar, and structures. However, some teachers are expected to teach their students about Art, Science, Social Studies, History, etc. in English. So if you are not comfortable with that then I would definitely make sure to ask for clarification.
I recommend making a list of things you would like to know about the school before your interview so you do not forget anything. Write down all of the schools answers so in the future when it comes time to make your decision it will be easier to compare the pros and cons of each school. Now back to the tips:
6) Make sure to ask about your vacation… Some schools will give you a whole week off in winter and summer whereas others will only give you three days. Just as a heads up, if you work in a Hagwon (private school) the most vacation you are likely to get in a year will be two weeks or 6 days outside of Korean holidays like Lunar New Year and Chuseok.
7) Ask about communication in the workplace… Korean workplace etiquette and culture is very different from at least that of the U.S.A. There is bound to be a lot of miscommunication due to the language barrier. Make sure you try to stay on top of things by constantly asking about vacation time, the school schedule, and any deadlines. Also, make sure there is someone in the workplace who can speak English well or learn Korean before applying. In my workplace some communication has been hard since the principal does not speak English. Some things can get lost in translation, which can lead to future issues.
Overall, just be thorough in your job search. I know this is an exciting experience and you may just want to arrive as soon as possible, but do not be afraid to take your time in fear that the jobs will disappear. If they do, there will always be another one waiting. Be picky and do your own research by asking other English teachers about their experiences and searching up reputations of the schools who reach out. Good Luck!!