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A day in the life of an ESL teacher.

A day in the life of an ESL teacher.

… A hagwon teacher, to be exact.

There are really three types of English teachers in South Korea.  You have the public school teachers who get more job security and significantly more vacation days.  Then there’s the teachers who teach private lessons and make bank but risk getting deported back to their homeland because it’s illegal.  And then you have the ubiquitous hagwon teachers.  These teachers work at after school academies for slightly more money but fewer vacation days.

I am the latter.

My school caters to elementary school students.  These kids have already spent their entire day at public school and then they come to us for 2 additional hours- sometimes more.  Classes are either 2, 3, or 5 days a week.  It’s insane just how much Korean children attend some form of school.  I fully plan on threatening to send my future children to Korea if they misbehave in any way.  That’ll teach ’em.

So what is a typical day like at a Korean hagwon?  Why here, let me show you…

First things first, don a face mask.  Swine flu’s been wreaking havoc on our school and little children tend to spread disease faster than I can say “holy swine flu batman”.   Also, all of the teachers share one large teacher’s lounge where we spend a few hours of our day.  If one gets sick, others will surely follow.

We get to work at around 1 pm.  Our first class starts at 2:30.   It gives us a good hour and a half to get all of our lessons planned and prepared for the day.  It’s also when we usually eat our lunch.  Something about our school makes us hungry all.the.time.  The second I walk through the door I find myself instantly famished.  We also usually teach all day with only 5 minutes in between classes.  We normally take that short time to stuff our faces with cereal or peanut buttered bread.  nom nom nom.

At 2:30 the bell rings (Pachelbel’s Canon, mind you) and I spend the remainder of my day forming young minds like these…

Sweet Emily
Showing off their work.
Jenny giving me her pose

These are just a handful of the classes that I teach.  I can have anywhere from one to ten students in a class.  Oh, and you must meet Jacob.

My biggest class boasting some of my youngest students.

Jacob holds a special place in all of our hearts at Langcon.  He’s notorious for his little tantrums.  Most of them involve throwing his backpack and trying to rip his school books.  Lucky for me, I get to teach the handsome little devil.  Don’t let this picture fool you.  I had to tame him with that cup of valium cereal.  He comes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but he hates, nay- despises Wednesdays.  That’s when we work out of his least favorite book.  I usually spend the majority of the class trying to talk him out of eating it.  Today I told him that he’d have a real hard time trying to find a girlfriend if he kept up with his bad attitude.  His response?  “Teacher is ugly.”  Head meet desk.

At 7:35 the last bell rings and all of us teachers head back to our lounge to unwind and get things in order for the following day.  We end up leaving the school at around 8, sometimes 9.  The day actually flies by, especially with back to back classes.  It’s also nice to work with the co-teachers that I have.  We can usually find the humor in any situation and having them there makes the “work” more enjoyable.

And there you have it.  A day in the life of a hagwon teacher.

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