Category: EPIK

The Differentness of Things: Korea Round 2

About a week ago, a friend from home asked me whether or not Korea was treating me better this time around. I didn’t give a particularly good answer, but I did promise to blog about it when I’d had some time to think.

While it’s difficult to determine offhand whether it’s worse or better, I have found that there are some key differences between how my life is now, compared to how it was here before.

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I’m a new teacher! Help!

… Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now…

Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it
Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past
From the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts
And recycling it for more than it’s worth.”
(Everybody’s Free To Wear) Sunscreen

Before I even begin writing this, let me preface it with the following:

  • I don’t have any teaching qualification other than a not-worth-the-paper-it’s-printed-on TESOL certificate.
  • I’ve never taught any children younger than 8th grade level – and the 8th graders I taught were gifted students.
  • My teaching experience is a combination of university lecturing and high school teaching.
  • My high school teaching experience is partly EFL teaching, partly not. It’s more WTF than anything else.

Before I ever got into teaching, I was terrified of it. I was terrified that I would be one of those shitty, bitter teachers who got into the profession because What the fuck do you do you with a degree in English if you don’t want to teach?

Continue reading “I’m a new teacher! Help!”

From the Frying Pan to the Fire: My experiences going from the public school system to a hagwon

This is another guest post. Patti has been teaching in Korea for the last seven years, and has a wide variety of experiences. I asked her to write this post because I knew she previously taught public school, and now taught at a hagwon, and did not seem to hate her hagwon.

She has, however, delivered a lot more than I could ever have asked for. Her experiences cover a wide range of teaching positions in Korea, over various levels. My most heartfelt thanks to Patti for sharing these experiences with me, and thus with all of you.

Public School Experience

1. A Typical High School

When I first applied to teach in Incheon, I requested an elementary or middle school, because I had been told by Korean friends back home that working in a high school would be a living hell, as high school students usually don’t want to listen to their teachers, but want to focus solely on their college entrance exams. It makes education more about the grades, and less about actual learning. I find this attitude permeates all levels of Korean education.

As fate would have it, I applied through the Incheon Metropolitan Office of Education (IMOE) directly and was placed in a high school, located in a low-income area in Incheon.

Continue reading “From the Frying Pan to the Fire: My experiences going from the public school system to a hagwon”

Joining the Dark Side: How and Why I’m moving from an EPIK day job to the late shift at a hagwon

This is a guest post written by a friend of mine. Leigh* and I met when we both arrived in Korea, and she currently teaches in a middle school in Daegu. We were in the same intake and attended the  same orientation. Like me, she is also a South African (hence the mention of postal strikes back home.) I asked her to write this post about how she got her hagwon job, and why she’s so excited about it, and why she’s sure she hasn’t landed in hagwon hell like my friend Will did. Pictures inserted by me)


The Why…

Continue reading “Joining the Dark Side: How and Why I’m moving from an EPIK day job to the late shift at a hagwon”

Escaping Hagwon Horror and The Ordeals of Moving to a Public School: Will’s Story

OR: I talk to some teachers about their hagwon experiences

Before coming to Korea:

Will* wanted to come to teach in Korea, but he’d had a hard time getting into the public school system. As certain of the benefits of EFL positions in Korea exist in both public schools and hagwons (refunded airfare, a furnished apartment, good salary) or unconnected to the schools (great public transport system, low cost of living, high speed internet, etc.), he applied for a lot of hagwon jobs (some hagwons recruit on their own, and others through recruiters), and eventually found a job in the city of Incheon.

When I met Will:

Continue reading “Escaping Hagwon Horror and The Ordeals of Moving to a Public School: Will’s Story”

Do a TEFL course or not bother?

In a previous post, I mentioned that my TESOL certification is not worth the paper it’s printed on, and that in class experience has been infinitely more valuable in teaching me how to be a teacher.

But would I tell anyone to ‘not bother’ with a TEFL course (or an equivalent)?

Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

I’ve seen this argument come up a few times in various places over the last few weeks, mostly in the Facebook teaching groups I joined when I was promoting the pre-conference survey Russ and I did. And then, there it was again on ELTjam.


A lot of ELT people feel really strongly that anyone doing an online teaching course with no practical component is insulting the industry and every professional in it. Not to mention doing the students a huge disservice.

I have the Trinity TESOL and an MA in ELT – self funded. Whenever anyone asks me what course I recommend they do, I always ask them where they want to go and teach. And, maybe, how long they plan to stay in teaching. (My personal advice being make sure you have a get-out after two years because you can only grow old, poor and pensionless in ELT).

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