Getting the hang of teaching took a decently long time. I’m in my fourth month, and I’m still not sure I’ve got the whole thing down yet.
I teach at what’s called a Hagwon, which is an after school academy that students attend in order to better improve on a certain skill – in this case, English conversation and test taking. Parents are obsessive on making sure their student receives good scores on TOEFL (test of English as a foreign language) examinations, as these scores often determine other important factors in a Korean’s life, so our hagwon is pretty busy. I teach about 80 students in a week, and 8 classes in total. Each class is three hours long, with five minute breaks (minimally enforced to the second by the Korean management) at each hour, so it can be a long day.
Coming in about an hour early, I review the material that I’ll be teaching that day. With my company, it’s the same format day in and day out, just different topics. This makes it easy to fly by the seat of my pants, and requires very little classroom preparatory time. Still, Korean management looks down on you if you arrive later than an hour before class, despite not getting paid for it.
It’s tough to maintain the enthusiasm for six straight hours of standing, speaking, and encouraging students to be there. It’s especially tough when you see the students themselves. These kids have already been at school for the morning and afternoon, and are now spending their evenings with you. The younger ones still have enthusiasm, but older kids are often completely drained of energy by the time your class starts – so getting them interested in the material, let alone getting them to want to speak english is a real challenge.
Eventually though, I got the hang of it. I found ways to motivate my students (at least as much as I can) and preparing for classes, which used to take a while, is now a breeze. While the days are long, they could be longer, and I’m lucky to have a job that affords me the opportunity to maintain my expatriate lifestyle.
For more info on teaching in South Korea – check out one my other posts here.