Teaching Kimchi (TK): Hi, Rex. How are you?
Rex K.: I’ve been better – my hagwon is currently under its summer intensive schedule so I’ve been inundated with classes.
TK: Oh, where and what is it that you teach?
RK: I work at a hagwon located in Poi-dong (near Yangjae) called International School Academy (ISA). ISA is catered for international students who are planning to matriculate into colleges abroad, primarily the US. I am currently teaching algebra, geometry, biology, chemistry, and physics.
TK: Interesting. Can you tell me some background information about yourself?
RK: Sure. I am a 22 year old gyopo. I was born in Texas, lived in Colorado, graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) with a biochemistry major, and came to Korea six months ago to teach.
TK: So I’m assuming you’re on a F4 visa? How do you like teaching in Korea?
RK: Yes, I am on a F4 visa. To your second question, that’s a complicated matter. I am having an internal conflict at the moment. You see, contrary to how most teachers think and act in Korea, teaching isn’t your regular 9-5 job. It’s not about leaving work as soon as you’re done; it’s not just about teaching what is written in the textbooks; it’s not only about having students use correct grammar. Teaching is much more than that. Educators should be opening the eyes of students, showing them the rest of the world. Instructors should be crafting students into human beings. Teachers should be encouraging students to gain knowledge, not information. The issue is that most people (students and teachers alike) treat learning in a frivolous manner (I believe society forces us to lack motivation and passion, but that’s another topic). I’ve seen this especially with businessmen who are required to speak a certain level of English. They treat the classroom atmosphere with such levity that it is impossible to teach them. I do realize this is a generalization and that each situation differs with who is being taught. I want to be able to motivate students to learn, not regurgitate information (something Koreans seem to have mastered).
TK: Well, I wasn’t expecting that. You mentioned that you’ve taught English to businessmen, can you elaborate?
RK: I used to work at YBM in Jongno-3-ga. There I taught English to manifold students – from businessmen looking for that promotion to college students who believe that English is a burden. Though YBM provided a professional milieu, their textbooks require much improvement. You’d think based on the myriad students YBM enrolls, their curriculum would be a paradigm, but it seems as if YBM wants to hold back their clientele so they re-enroll and pay the ridiculous price for a class.
TK: I sense a bit of hostility. Did something happen?
RK: Nothing at all. The reason I may seem bitter is I actually befriended one of my students. After looking over the teaching materials from his past, I could not measure his improvement because it seems as if he did not improve at all. I can recognize that he is partially at fault, but from the textbooks that he showed me, it seems as the content was exact with a different label printed in the front.
TK: Let’s change gears. Where did you find your jobs?
RK: There is a glut of job openings for English teachers. Most people already know the big names. The websites that have attract the most attention are Dave’s ESL Café (www.eslcafe.com) and Work ‘N Play ( www.worknplay.co.kr). I do recommend teachers to browse through other websites such as www.okokokok.com, www.englishspectrum.com, www.hiteacher.com , and www.koreajoblink.co.kr.
TK: So how is the rest of Korean experience?
RK: Well, I’ve been here a number of times in the past, but the previous trips have always been for a personal hiatus. This time I’m here to work. Overall, this experience gave me perspective, augmented to my occupation experiences, and allowed me to mature (to a certain degree) so I guess the experience has been going well. Honestly though, I thought I’d enjoy myself much more than I actually am.
TK: Is there anything you can suggest to others that would improve their experience?
RK: If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, do something else (as cliche this sounds, it should be common sense – put your happiness first). I realize many English teachers are chained by their contracts (and E2 visas), but if you have one of the understanding bosses that are willing to supply you with a letter of release, find another job if you think it’ll ameliorate your stay in Korea. I have a proclivity to change jobs often. I fear commitment so I have a difficult time signing contracts (I do not even have a signed contract with where I’m working at now). So far, this has been keeping me relatively happy.
TK: What’s your worst experience you’ve had in Korea?
RK: Well, one of my “friends” ripped 800,000 Won out of my wallet, but I don’t contact him anymore (I don’t really want to re-type/re-live what happened). Other than this, I haven’t really had any bad experiences. One thing I absolutely detest is traveling in Korea. It takes too long to get anywhere because of the traffic and congestion. But I guess that’s all major cities.
TK: Well, thanks for your time and good luck with everything.