Frequently Asked Questions
Korean middle school is equivalent to the American 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. They are called 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. Korean high school corresponds to 10th, 11th, and 12th grade in America. These are also called 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. Classes tend to be large, around 40 students, and typically separated by gender. Some schools are mixed, though boys will likely study in one part of the school building and girls in the other. Students normally wear uniforms and have strict regulations regarding their hair length, jewelry, make-up, and so forth.
Students are often shy about speaking English in class and afraid of making mistakes. Stimulating conversation requires encouragement, goal-oriented group work, and confidence building activities. High school students are often quite dedicated to passing the university entrance exams and fail to see a link between English as a living language and English as an exam subject. In some of the rural schools, students see little need for English. Classes are of mixed level, so you may have students who have previously lived in an English-speaking country studying alongside students of an extremely low English comprehension level.
Discipline, oddly enough, can be a problem for both foreign teachers and Korean teachers. It helps to keep students busy, and the novelty of a native English speaker will help. Let your Korean co-teacher take the lead in enforcing discipline. Sometimes physical punishment is used; leave that also to the Korean teachers.
Students usually enjoy having a native English speaker. They like looking at photos and hearing about your life, family, and hobbies.
All TTGs are assigned to one or more co-teachers. The working pattern varies greatly. In some cases, the TTG will teach alone. Some classes may be taught together, or the Korean co-teacher may teach the grammar and translate vocabulary. You are expected to provide "real" English conversation, listening games, and activities that will stimulate the students to use English.
Some co-teachers have not had much opportunity to speak English and may be shy. The co-teacher will be your ally and native support in most cases. They can help you adapt to Korean society and understand the school's schedule and expectations. Ask questions!
Your contract calls for 22 hours of teaching per week. You are expected to stay at school for the entire working day, and you can use your out of class time to prepare lessons for the next day. If you teach beyond 22 hours, you will be paid overtime.
TTGs normally get paid on the 17th of each month by direct deposit into a bank account. The Korean Won (written KRW, W, or ₩) is a sound currency, and has recently been rising against the dollar.
Unless you live extravagantly, you will be able to live well and save some money. You can convert Korean money to American dollars and send it to the United States freely.
Teachers in Korea are enrolled in the national Korean health insurance program (NHI). Half of the cost will be deducted from your salary (around $40) and the other half is paid by the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education.
You are also required to pay into Korea's pension plan, but you can have the money refunded at the end of your contract.
The contract stipulates 14 vacation days, excluding Saturday and Sunday. These vacation days have to be used when school is not in session. Korean holidays are not counted as vacation days.
The main holidays are Chuseok, similar to Thanksgiving, in the autumn, and the lunar New Year, usually in February. These holidays follow a lunar calendar, so they move around.
During school breaks, you may be required to teach classes in special sessions, however, schools vary in the programs they offer during school breaks. You can discuss this with the co-teacher and principal of your school.
In general, the calendar will be:
- Spring semester: March 1 — Middle of July
- Summer break: Middle of July — Middle of August
- Winter semester: Middle of August — Late December
- Winter break: Late December — Middle of February - March 1.
Most apartments are modern and well-equipped. Your school must find you an apartment with basic furniture, a washing machine (though probably not a dryer), a television, and a rice cooker. There are English-language channels on television in Korea.
Take some money with you for the first few days. You will receive a settling-in allowance on arrival of 300,000 KRW to help you buy things for your apartment. Don't buy money in the United States. Wait until you arrive in South Korea because the rate is better.
Korea is a safe country. Normal precautions apply to going out at night alone - stay in well-lighted places and be alert. However, there is no particular need to worry.
You do not need any vaccinations before going to Korea. The water is drinkable, though bottled water is available everywhere.
It is a good idea to have one suit or dress for formal occasions. School dress is generally conservative.
Men should wear button-down shirts and nice pants. Wearing a collared shirt with a tie is good way to start out and show respect.
Women should avoid low-cut or overly tight clothes but nice pants are fine.
Earrings and piercings on men are not acceptable in Korean schools. The schools are fairly conservative, and it is a good idea for you to be so as well.