The QiRanger Adventures

Posts Tagged ‘English

Teaching in Korea: Schools

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One of the questions I get regarding teaching in Korea is about what kind of school programs there are and how to get a good job. This is a multifaceted question, and I’ll try to break it down as easily and simply as possible.

There are two major teaching opportunities in Korea: Public Schools and private academies. While there are other teaching jobs available, the vast majority of individuals coming to Korea to teach English usually find themselves in one of these types of programs. Each has its own pros and cons, which I’ll cover below.

Public schools operate throughout the country and are generally regarded as a safer teaching option. This means there tends to be less issues with payment and contract issues. Most contracts are also during daytime hours and hover around 20 teaching hours per week. In addition, public schools tend to offer more vacation time and an up-front settlement allowance. However, there are some downsides. First, payment tends to be a bit lower than private academies. Second, since schools have long semester breaks, you may be asked to “desk warm” at the school (show up to work and sit for a full day with no work or classes to teach when students are on vacation).

Private academies offer a variety of work schedules ranging from mornings, days, afternoons, evenings, and split shifts. For the most part, you can find a school that teaches class when you want to work, so that you can maximize your free time. For example, I like having my days free, so I work evenings. Second, pay tends to be slightly higher than at public schools. Classroom hours vary, but can be up to 30 teaching hours per week. There can also be several problems at private academies. Some organizations are not above-board and try to cheat their employees by not abiding to the terms of the employment contract (longer hours, no overtime, late salary payment, etc.). This can be seen on several discussion boards. Furthermore, vacation time usually holds fast at two weeks per year. There are fewer problems when working for a large franchise, as they are very brand conscious.

When selecting the kind of job to apply for, really think about what age group you want to work with and what hours you’re willing to put into the classroom. Once you’ve done that, then you can start looking for a job. Probably the best way to get a good job (either at a public school or private academy) is to find someone online that likes where they are teaching and ask them how they got the job. The will usually point you to a recruiter and you can navigate from there. In some cases, you just might be in luck and the school will have an opening just for you.

Written by Steve Miller

September 14, 2010 at 4:45 am

When you get it right…

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How mornings start...

I love teaching… I really do. As we start off the new term, I had a great moment last night. Long-time readers will remember that during the Summer Intensive session, I taught a custom speaking class. It was designed to assist elementary students gain confidence in their public speaking abilities. Two of those students were in my class last night as we began the first lesson in their new level.

Since the material is rather light for Lesson 1, I incorporated a brief lesson on public speaking. I did this for two reasons: 1) Students at this level are asked to prepare longer presentations in class (and I expect more out of them); 2) Twice a year we hold speaking competitions for children at this level and above.

The two students that were in my class were very happy to see that Topic #1 from summer class was the same as the topic I assigned for homework. They not only took time to convince the rest of the class that giving a 2-minute speech was easy, but also asked if they could use the speech they prepared from summer.

I was already proud of them for doing such a great job this summer… but this made me even more so.

Tonight, I teach my first science class. I hope these students are as open to giving presentations as these younger ones. I love science and can’t wait to immerse myself once more into its world.

Written by Steve Miller

September 7, 2010 at 7:03 am

It’s on…

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For the past twelve working days, I’ve been teaching Summer Intensives (like Summer School). While I enjoy teaching, and in fact, got to write my own curriculum this time, what I really didn’t like was how it impacted my days.

Normally, I don’t start work until around 4pm (sure I go in a bit early, but that’s my choice). Having morning classes and then going back in the afternoon, really took its toll on me, since I’m used to taking it easy in the morning and also having time to go into Seoul if needed. Plus, after putting in a few hours in the morning, grabbing a quick bite to eat, and then looking at returning to the office an hour later, really inhibited my language learning time.

Granted, I have not been all that motivated at learning either Korean or Hangeul since Jo’s been here. But that’s changing. I am really motivated to take some extra time out of my day and learn both languages. An emphasis will be placed on Tagalog, since we’ll be returning to the Philippines for Christmas/New Year’s and I really want to be semi-fluent by then. Granted almost everyone in the Philippines speaks English, but I really enjoy learning languages and want to be able to converse with those that might not be comfortable speaking in English. I’m also looking forward to resuming my Rosetta Stone and TTMIK series (I erased my previous account with Rosetta Stone and started from scratch).

As of today, I’ve completed one lesson in both languages. That sounds more impressive that it really is, since they’re both review for me (I’ve done them many times). What I really appreciated was having Jo by my side correcting every little pronunciation as I was trying my hat at Tagalog. I hope with her expert instruction, I can really wow her mother and sisters.

Question: If you could learn any new language, what would it be?

Teaching in Korea: The Name Game

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Teaching in Korea is a wonderful experience. What makes it special for me is the kids. I find most to be so much fun, I have to continually remind myself that I have to teach them something each lesson. But one thing that still has me confounded, even today, are the rules with names.

Sure most children in my class have English names. Hell, I have one class with four students named James. But there is an unspoken rule that no one ever tells new teachers when they start working in Korea: be careful how you write names on the board.

In the United States, a teacher can use any color write one’s name. Writing a student’s name on the board in blue or black ink is normal in Korea. However, an instructor must avoid using the dreaded red marker.

In Korean culture, among children, writing a name in red represents death. It’s as if you’re writing the name in blood and encouraging death to arrive on the student’s doorstep. I find this really odd, since official documents are all signed in red ink.

When you go to the bank to open an account, transfer money, or take out a loan, the documents are stamped with the name of the person in red ink. My immigration documents are all stamped with the official’s name in red ink that approved the form. All awards and certificates I’ve received in Korea, have the company and the president’s name stamped in red ink.

I don’t understand the disconnect between the childhood superstition and the adult practice of signing documents in red. I’m currently trying to research the issue, since I find it so puzzling, but in the meantime, teachers take note: do not write a student’s name in red!

UPDATE: Within a few hours of posting this video on YouTube, I received a pretty good answer. In times of old, red ink was only used by the King to sign official documents. Hence the use of red ink today on the stamps. When someone died, they wrote their name in red. Both symbolized death. In the first case, that you swear to the deal or oath you’re making with your blood and life. The second to signify that the person had expired. Stamping or sealing a name did not have the same connotation as writing one’s name; therefore, that’s why children react the way that they do.

Written by Steve Miller

July 6, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Borobodur: The Video Experience

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Nestled deep in the Javanese jungle, about an hour away from Jogjakarta is Borobodur, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sight. It was constructed well over 1000 years ago and is still the largest Buddhist temple in the world.

Viewed from above, it’s said to resemble a tantric mandala and Buddhist cosmology. The entire structure was built from over 2,000,000 volcanic stones and pieced together without any type of cement. The structure was built on a mountain and constructed from the top down.

Along the lower levels of the temple, there are over 2,500 reliefs depicting Buddhist teachings and Javanese history. However, only a quarter have been deciphered. Also on the lower levels are over 500 Buddha statues. The hand position varies on each statue dependent on its location. On the upper most level are 72 Buddha statues inside honeycombed stupas.

It’s said that if you can reach through the opening and touch the hand of one Buddha (facing the morning sun) you’ll receive good luck.

Bongamsa: The Mountain Temple

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There are many Buddhist Temples in Korea. Most are open to the public every day of the year, but one is different. This is Bongamsa. It’s a special zen meditation center of the Jogye Order just out side of Mungyeong.

Nestled in the midst of rolling mountains and tall trees, it offers visitors a wondrous driving experience from Seoul to the base of Mt. Huiyangsan. However, if you’re planning on visiting this temple, make sure you arrive on Buddha’s Birthday, as it is the only day of the year it is open to the public.

There are buses available to the Temple, but if you can, I’d recommend driving, since it makes the experience much more enjoyable. The temple was founded in the 9th Century by Jijeungdaesa.

The Lotus Street Festival and Lantern Parade

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The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism organizes an amazing street festival on the street in front of Jogyesa, an amazing temple in Jongno-gu. Over 1000 people put together the festival and roughly 300,000 people attend each year. Following the festival, the streets of Jongno light up with an amazing display of lanterns. It’s a sight not to be missed.


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