The not so positive things about teaching in Korea

I got a comment on my blog today about a post I did on Paju and teaching in Paju.  The person wrote that “it was the most positive thing I’ve read so far”. Hearing this makes me happy that my experiences are encouraging other, but it also got me to thinking that I should do a blog about the “not so positive” things about teaching in Korea.

I don’t want this to be negative, just things that you should think about.  Because when you come to Korea, it’s not all sunshine and roses, especially at the beginning, so you should think about these things first.

1. You are just “the foreign teacher” to your school;  Many people think that when they get here, they’re going to be a big deal in their school.  In some cases maybe this is true but in most cases it’s not.  Many schools, especially the hagwons only hire foreign teachers because it’s more impressive to the parents.  An English education by a native speaker is seen as better than if taught by a Korean.  And remember, if your school is established enough chances are that you are just one in a whole line of “foreign teachers” that they’ve been through.

2. We do things differently here; Schools in Korea do things differently to schools back home.  The education system is different.  How the schools treat their teachers is different.  The students are different.  So instead of getting frustrated and angry that things here are not the same as at home, just remember, it’s different.

3. You will never understand what the other teachers are saying, even if you know they are talking about you;  You will go to meetings that are in Korean, go on teacher outings where everyone speaks Korea, listen to a parent complain about something to you…..in Korean.  Even now I don’t understand what the teachers are saying.  It’s just the way it is.  Personally, I usually think it’s a great thing because then I don’t have to worry about giving my opinion or defending myself and my teaching.

4. Parents think their child is the only child you teach; This is technically the same as point 2.  The parents are different.  At my school, we just had a mother, complain to a home room teacher for 11/2 hours about everything.  And I mean everything, like a bit of dirt on the teachers apron and that her child’s chair wasn’t the prettiest and how, even though the mother was complaining, the teachers shouldn’t treat her child differently.  Yes, they are the types of parents in Korea. It’s also worth mentioning here that some parents almost expect you to parent their children for them.  So develop a thick skin and the ability to let things in one ear and out the other.

5. Learn to hate the word “why” and love the word “maybe”; As I said, we do things differently here, so when your co teacher tells you to do something that makes no sense whatsoever, always best to learn to smile and nod instead of saying why.  Because we’re never going to change their way of doing things so just play along with their mad notions and ideas. Otherwise, we are at risk of becoming the “why” parrot.   Also, as I mentioned before, Koreans love the word “maybe”.  You should know that by “maybe” they mostly mean definitely yes.  So maybe you should learn to embrace and love that word.

6. Get used to surprises; You must learn to love surprises, they come at you everyday.  “Surprise, you have no classes until 2pm and yes it is only 9.30am so you can just sit at you’re desk and look foreign”. “Surprise! Today is photo day! Oh you didn’t know?”  Surprise! No one came to school today…..nobody called you? Eh no!” Surprise, surprise, surprise!!!!!!

So folks a few things here to think about. Add more if you can think of some!

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