I have had previous experience of Korea, teaching in private schools, but this year was my first year teaching in a public school and I wasn't disappointed. Any worries I had about making new friends were quickly dispelled as the orientation period quickly got underway upon arrival. All of the teachers introduced themselves and after two weeks of training and advice, before our teaching posts actually started, strong bonds and friendships were already forged. During the orientation period there was a gradual introduction towards the food, culture and traditions of Korea. I already found the food delicious, and was used to some of the cultural differences that can be experienced, but it was fun to see the newbies reactions to all that was going on. Generally, this was one of the great strengths of the program, immediately you could form a network of friends, some new to Korea and some with prior experience and everyone helped each other. The staff in Canada and Korea are very helpful, and they did as much as they could to make us all feel right at home, and avoid any major culture shocks, which is all too possible in a land very different from our own.
I had suggested to Canadian Connection that I would be a bit more comfortable with older students and they duly obliged by setting me up in an all boys high school. Let me make at least one thing perfectly clear to anyone who reads this review, I love teaching the students here. I am now ten months into my contract and I have developed a real rapport with them. This doesn't mean to say that teaching here is easy; in fact, one of the really rewarding things is that it is challenging. The student’s level is probably not what I expected it to be when I arrived, and I had up to 40, sleep deprived 16-18 year old boys in every class. Motivating them was not a simple matter. The school, however, gave me a free reign to use any ideas I had at my disposal to encourage them to participate and learn English. Planning an interesting lesson and good behavioral management were essential, as the students could have easily made my life very difficult indeed.
In my case, with previous experience of Korea and my general personality, the very hands-off approach of my school suited me very well. It may not have been everybody's cup of tea, though, as there was a general lack of support by the school and I was quite often left in the dark about upcoming events. Although all my co-workers at the school were very friendly, not much interest was taken in my role at the school and I was left to just get on with it. I thrived with this independence, however, and they really did appreciate that I didn't ask for too much help from them.
The schools supplies and equipment were perfectly adequate, and they pretty much had whatever I needed for the lessons. Each classroom was equipped with a computer linked to a widescreen television and the internet, which I used for PowerPoint presentations, videos, and music in my lessons. The only thing that frustrated me was that because of their lack of input and support they often forgot to tell me when computers or TVs in certain rooms were not working or if the internet was offline and this ruined a few classes every now and then.
Working in the school was such a wonderful way of experiencing the culture. Co-workers and students were always genuinely interested in me and wanted to show me their culture. Being at the school gave me plenty of opportunities to interact with Korean people, and experience a side of Korea that a tourist never could. The staff at the school were so friendly and willing to talk to me and make me feel part of the school, despite not really having a clue what was going on in my classes. All they knew was that the students enjoyed my classes, and that was good enough for them.
Korea, generally is a great place to teach English. It is a modern, convenient, and a rich nation very much like where we have all come from, so it is possible to relax and feel at home and have most of the usual creature comforts. It is also one of the safest places I have ever traveled to and I have not once felt uncomfortable or threatened. In fact quite the opposite, as often Koreans can feel a little threatened by Western foreigners and can be a little stand-offish sometimes as a result. There is a genuine and rather large cultural difference between us, though, and the behaviors and practices that result from this can sometimes be amusing, strange, and maybe even a little frustrating, but they are never dull. Living here in Korea has been a life changing experience for me and has truly broadened my horizons in life. I plan to spend one more year teaching in the same school in Korea by extending my contract and then to train to teach science when I go back home to England in August 2013. Teaching in Korea has really given me the confidence and drive to be a teacher in my own country. I feel proud of what I have achieved on this program so far and there is more to come.
I would whole-heartedly recommend this program to anyone, especially those that have recently left university, as it is real life experience. And in the current economic climate, where jobs are hard to come by, this is an excellent way to earn good money whilst travelling and learning all about a culture very different to our own. I think it gives a fantastically different perspective on life, living in Korea, without being overly uncomfortable or harsh regarding the standard of living. Any time spent living and working in Korea will be time well spent.