Korea Teaching FAQ

There is a lot of information out there about TEFL, recruitment agencies and what teaching in Korea is like.
As a result, please find the information that is relevant to my journey but which I think can help you with yours. 

TEFL Certification

Where can one get an online TEFL Certification?
I would recommend that you shop around and talk to people who have done TEFL to find the best option for you. Some companies offer better deals than others and others provide more comprehensive training. Also, not all companies that provide TEFL training are the best to apply to for a job. I studied with i-to-i.

Regardless of who you choose to do your course with you should do a minimum of 120 hours and make sure you include some in-class instructor led training. Generally, you will get the chance to teach a portion of the class which is very important especially if you have never taught before. 

In fact, according to the Footprints website:

“Future applicants considering employment with EPIK in August 2013 or after should be aware that the 100% online TEFL courses will no longer be given equal consideration compared to those with an in-class component. Anyone considering applying to EPIK for next summer or after and who is planning to take a TEFL/TESL/TESOL course should be looking to take a course with at least 20 in-class hours as part of the course."

Footprints (see below) also provide TEFL certification training.

My thoughts on using i-to-i to complete my TEFL Certification
I studied with i-to-i and I really enjoyed their online certification and in-class training.
I did a combined 120 hour course which was extremely comprehensive and explained lots of grammar points in a detailed fashion.. I took some electives too (Young Learners, One-to-One etc) that have proved really helpful. The instructor led training was really interesting and very important to see different styles of teaching in action. As well, the instructor will give you lots of advice on your style and ways to improve it. 

Contacting i-to-i
Phone: (UK number): 0870429 4227
Email for Jobs
Email for Courses
Website

Recruitment Agencies

What is a reputable recuiting agency.  

I applied with Footprints Recruiting as did my brother before me. I thought that they were very helpful and I had a good experience with them. They are based in Vancouver so sometimes there was a little delay in replying to questions because of the timezone factor.  Please, note i-to-i also place teachers in South Korea. I went through Footprints as my brother had recommended them and I knew that they were one of the most experienced recruiters for South Korea. 

My thoughts on using a recruiter (Footprints) to secure a position overseas.

I had an excellent experience with Footprints. They helped me frequently as I had some problems with providing two references as I had only worked at one company in the last 5.5 years prior to applying to work in Korea. They also made sure that I got criminal checks from both Ireland and America to cover all bases. I recommend using a recruiter because they will get on you if you've forgotten a step or if something isn't 100% perfect, which can lower your chances for acceptance.

Contacting Footprints
You can contact Footprints Recruiting via the following methods. Just click on each word below to direct you the correct link. 

Website

Facebook

Twitter

General Information

Is it better to teach in a public school or a 학원 ( hagwon - private school)?

I can't answer this question definitively as this is definitely based on personal choice and experience. I am based in two public schools in a new administrative region of Korea. For me, the best choice is the public schools due to some of the benefits. However, I do believe that the salary is comparative between public and private and they both provide accommodation for you. Having said that, you are more likely to hear of hagwon horror stories over public school ones (that is not to say that you won't hear terrible ones about Public schools because you will!).

The Footprints website gives a lot of good information about the benefits of both so I would suggest reviewing their information.

Again, this is not a question I can answer definitively. I am having a wonderful experience and I can only hope that others coming to Korea experience the same.

Will I like it in Korea?

Do I think it is worthwhile to come here? Definitely but you need to do so with your eyes wide open. For example if you want to teach but are not sure if it is something that is really for you, I would suggest getting your TEFL Qualification and trying out teaching in Korea for a year.

If you want to travel around Asia, Korea is a great place to base yourself from and you can get some pretty decent tickets.

If you want to experience a different culture but not be too overwhelmed by the differences, Korea may be for you. Korea is very western in a lot of ways and there are a lot of things living here that embrace a western culture and so make transition easier (abundance of coffee shops, internet cafe's called PC bangs, etc)

However, with all this said, I think that for people just out of college or who have been unemployed for a while and who have a GENUINE interest in teaching even for just a little bit, that this is a good option. You are paid a decent wage, you don't pay accommodation and generally (if you are wise) your bills are quite low too. I think it is a good transition job and especially for new graduates a fairly nice way to maneuver from student life to adult life.

Ultimately, it is your decision. I can't decide for you. I have had friends who are having a fairly rotten time. However, they enjoy the benefits of staying in Korea which include, but are certainly not limited to, travel and money. I have other friends who have loved everything about their experience that they have stayed many moons with no sight on when they will return.

I heard being a teacher in Korea is really easy. Is this true?

Yes and no. Some aspects are easy but others are extremely difficult. I hadn't taught before coming to Korea but I had coached and trained new employees in my old job. Additionally, I had worked in a day-care for about a year right before I went to college so not only did I know that I liked some aspects of teaching I had also worked with little kids and I knew that I liked working with them.

A lot will depend on your school and what they need as well as whether or not you work from a text book. My friends at 학원's usually have a way busier load than I do (they teach all day so lesson planning is in their free time). I can give you more information on what it's like to work in a public school. I will ask my friends' for some details about working at학원 that will help you. work from text books for my regular curriculum classes currently but when I teach afterschool, I teach from a variety of English storybooks and have several different lessons built around each story in addition to creating individual lessons. I also teach from a new book that the office of education in my area published for my other school's afterschool classes. Some classes are completely prepared by me without reference to a book. For example classes on numbers, shapes, colours, etc. It is hard work and I am spending a lot more time lesson planning than I did last year.

So a lot of things depend on whether or not teaching in Korea is easy. You also have to factor in the human element: your attitude and personality, your co-teachers' personalities and attitudes, your students' attitudes and personalities. Add to this the fact that you are teaching a second language that not everyone will want to learn and you will realise that whilst there are easy aspects to teaching here there are many difficult ones as well.

What should I do if I am homesick?
Well, everyone gets homesick. I get homesick and I am able to deal with it. I have small bouts once in a while: watching Poirot might send me into tears because the last time I saw it I watched it with my family; hearing a song will make me bawl and reach for the phone. These are all normal things but they are momentary and pass. Then there are times where you feel as if your are suffocating by being here, where you feel like you can't breathe because you are so lonely and homesick and all you want is your OWN bed and your Mam telling you that you'll be ok. This too will pass but it takes a lot more work. I had a big homesickness bout just before Christmas. I called my siblings and they talked with me, bolstered me up and kept me going. It took a few days to shake off the horrid feeling but I talked it out with my friends and family. That's my best advice - talk it out and then make your choice. There is no shame in realising you actually aren't ready to live abroad. Sometimes you need to have that little adventure somewhere else to realise your big adventure is actually right back where you were before. 

If you can deal with your homesickeness but still feel a little lost and lonely, it's a good idea to contact some other expats from your own country. I'm lucky that since I've arrived I've had friends and family here from Ireland. I didn't see them often but when I needed them they were around. Also, now, there is another Irish girl in my town who I am friends with.  If you don't have that option (and you are Irish), please consider contacting the IAK  - The Irish Association of Korea

What are some useful websites for TEFL teachers?
There are so many! Seriously! However, I always have small repertoire that I constantly use and recommend. 

Bogglesworldesl.com
Waygook.org
Esl-kids.com
Kizclub.com
mes-english.com
discoveryeducation.com/puzzlemaker