Hey everybody! It’s lauragrace back with your second edition of Teacher Talk- your inside scoop on teaching English in Korea. If you haven’t read my Introduction post yet, be sure to do that before continuing on with this post, and then come right back!
For this second post, you’ll get a detailed list of seven unique things you will most likely experience when teaching in rural, or small town Korea. I hope this list provides you with some new information on teaching in Korea or maybe even brings back some relatable moments to those who have taught in Korea.
1. Beautiful natural landscape
Being a peninsula and over 75% mountainous, Korea has no shortage of beautiful scenery. Rural Korea is no exception- and perhaps the most authentic place to witness this beauty. In my case, I got to experience the gorgeous natural landscape of Aphae Island, one of the many Shinan islands (1004 to be exact!)
2. Multiple Schools
If you are teaching in a small city, town, or island, chances are you will have multiple schools. They simply don’t have enough classes or students at one school to fill your teaching schedule. In my case, I taught at three schools, one at each level: Middle School from Monday to Wednesday, High School on Thursday, and Elementary school on Friday. Personally, I loved the variety it added to my week, and you’d be surprised how much material can be adapted for different age groups.
3. Small class sizes
Since there were three Elementary schools on the island I taught on, the classes sizes were fairly small; ranging from four to 12 students. This is extremely rare in a public school setting. Small classes really allow you to connect and bond with the students on a deeper level, and are definitely easier in terms of classroom management.
4. ….and big class sizes
Yes, yes. I know this sounds contradictory based on the point above, however chances are you may experience both small class sizes and large class sizes. Since there was only one middle school on the island, class sizes started to become much larger at this level. My largest class ever was 38 students in my first year, and 32 students the second year. Bigger classes are definitely more challenging in terms of classroom management, but can be extremely beneficial for group work and team games.
5. Agriculture (Everywhere)
Most often the main industries in rural Korea are agricultural, such as farming or fishing. Whether it’s on the bus or walking to school, you will often be reminded of this fact. From bus aisles filled with buckets of live octopus, Korean red chilli peppers laying out dry, or picking lettuce from your school garden- rural Korea has an endless supply of interesting sights that you would not experience while living in the city.
6. Lack of actual bus stops or signage
Do you see a bus stop? Me neither. When I was first shown by my co-teacher that this was the bus stop, I was a little perplexed. “Will the bus see me? Where do I stand….exactly?” Despite anything denoting it as a bus stop, somehow, everyone knows it’s a bus stop. This is not a sole occurrence- this is the case for the majority of bus stops on the island as well. Instead of physical bus stops, they use landmarks. Interesting, right?
7. Warmth of students
I was constantly reminded from my coworkers how lucky we were to work on the island with these students. For reasons I am unsure of (perhaps the increased competitiveness/stress in bigger cities), apparently students in rural Korea are known as being very kind and warm. Although I cannot truly compare since I never taught in a big city, I can attest to the kindness of students in rural Korea a thousand times over.
Teaching in rural Korea is unique and memorable to say the least, and definitely exceeds what I am able to fit into a seven point blog post. With that being said, for next month’s post- expect a collection of personal anecdotes from fellow English teachers describing their experience teaching in rural Korea, and why you should consider it too.
Thanks for reading! See you next post :)
-Laura, Teacher Talk