A Day in the Life: Hagwon ESL Teacher

     So I’ve been working in my new job in Busan for nearly two months now, which means I’m now more or less used to my daily routine, my students, what is expected of me etc. Last year, I wrote a post detailing my average day in my job as a kindergarten teacher in Hong Kong, so I thought I’d do the same again this year, which is very interesting when you compare the two. I knew this job would be fairly different to my last one, but writing it all down like this makes it even more obvious! Although I was teaching last year, my students were 2-3 year olds, so we only did spoken English. This year, I have 5-11 year olds, who actually have to complete textbooks, so I have marking and reports and tests to complete much more regularly. This is probably more similar to the majority of teaching jobs though, so it’s allowing me to see whether it’s something I’d want to do more of in the future (more about that in future posts!). I should also stress that I work in a hagwon, a private school in Korea, so my schedule is likely a bit different to those in the public school (EPIK) programme.

Clipart of teacher supplies, including books, stationary and an apple

8.10am OR 8.45am – Wake up. Ok, there are two times listed here because every day I optimistically try to get up at 8.10 to practice yoga. Since my work day doesn’t start too early, this is entirely feasible, and I’ve managed to do it a few times so far. But more often than not, I hit snooze until the backup alarm goes off at 8.45am, which is when I really have to get up to make it to work on time. I’m trying to get back to the yoga routine though!

9.50am – Arrive at work. I live in an apartment provided by the school, so it’s located pretty close by. I can take the subway, but since it’s only one stop away, I normally walk, which only takes about 15 minutes. The subway is good if I’m running late though!

10.10am – Class. Our first students of the day are the kindergarten classes, which range from 3-6 year olds (though in Korean ages, they are referred to as 4-7). The majority of my classes are the 6 year olds. There are two classes that I’m a co-teacher for, and teach their main ‘Course’ class, but I teach other subjects to both these classes, and some other classes too (reading, writing, math etc). The morning session has three 35 minute periods, with breaks in between, and I normally teach 2 or 3 periods, depending on my schedule for the day. The ‘Course’ classes are every day, but other subjects vary.

12.05pm – Lunch. I have to serve lunch to one of my main classes, alongside the Korean teacher, and we normally eat lunch in the classroom with then, then clean up. Each day the kids have an activity for the rest of lunch break (either the indoor playground or the rooftop park), so I have them 2 days and the Korean teacher has them for 2. I normally serve lunch, then go out on the days I don’t have them, just to have something different to eat. On the fifth day (Thursday) we take them together to the forest nearby, which lasts into the period after lunch too.

1.05pm – Class. The kindergarten students have two more periods of lessons after lunch, and I teach for 1 or 2 of these periods, again depending on my schedule. I see my two main classes every day, sometimes for more than one class, and then there’s a couple of other classes that I have a few times a week for other subjects. I only have to write the reports for my two main classes though, and it’s also them that I supervise at lunch and on field trips etc. The other classes I teach have their own main teacher.

2.30pm – Kindergarten leaves, elementary arrives. There’s a 20 minute or so period here, when the kindergarteners have a snack and I read them a story, before they leave, and the elementary kids (7-11 year olds) start to arrive. These kids are in public schools for the morning, then come to the hagwon for additional English classes afterwards.

2.40pm – Class. My elementary schedule is more straightforward than my kindergarten one, since I teach ‘Course’ to the same classes everyday. No extra subjects, and I see the same kids everyday, and write all their reports when required. There are four teaching periods in this time (40 minutes each, with breaks between), and I teach for three of them. During breaks, I can prepare for classes, do marking, write reports, and whatever else I need to do, or go outside and do whatever.

5.35pm – Finish work OR class. This is when most of the classes are over and all the students go home. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, this is my finish time and I can go home too. However, the schedule is different on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, when we have two more teaching periods. These are our oldest students (11-12 years) and there’s only a few of them, far less than the rest of the day. I only teach one of these classes, and see that class twice a week – so actually, on Wednesdays I don’t teach after 5.35pm, but still have to stay.

6.55pm – Finish work. This is my finish time on the three days that we have the extra classes.

6.00pm OR 7.15pm – Home. This is approximately the time I get home when I finish work, depending on my plans. Sometimes I get shopping or run errands on the way home. Most evenings I just chill out, make dinner, do any laundry etc, then write the blog, watch TV, Skype with people – whatever! Occasionally I’ll make plans to meet somewhere for dinner or drinks, but I typically leave that for the weekends. Usually I’m going to sleep around midnight. Repeat all of this Monday – Friday, but luckily this year I have a full 2 day weekend! No more Saturday mornings!

     There are variations to this schedule, when we have school events and such. Once a month, the third period on a Friday morning is given over to the kindergarten birthday party, which isn’t that exciting really. We also take the kindergarteners on a field trip once a month, somewhere in or around Busan, which normally lasts until after lunch, then they don’t have regular classes for the last periods. I’m sure there will be other events throughout the year, but that’s all I’ve experienced so far!

     I believe other hagwons don’t have things like that though, especially if they only teach elementary, middle and high school, as the public schools do those sorts of events for the students, and they only go to hagwons for extra classes. Mine has them because we are a kindergarten, and those students only come to us; we don’t take the elementary students anywhere! Every school will be different though, this post is just to give a general idea of what a hagwon schedule might be like.