Friday, 29 June 2012

Working at Sullivan Language Institute

Ok, so I've been a little slack on the blog updates recently but I have a good excuse. It's Friday evening and I've just completed my 2nd solo week working as an English teacher for Sullivan - so let me tell you what the working life is like so far - being the new boy.

Sullivan is an English Hagwon, it's a school that parents send their kids to after their normal day at school for extra tuition in English. There are all kinds of Hagwon's from language – dance; and it's not uncommon for a child to finish their school day and still have 3- 4 Hagwon classes to go to.

My working day starts at 14:10 and I clock out at 21:10 Monday - Friday. I've got 11 classes in total. 4 basic classes which are the young ones and the rest are intermediate and middle school. My students age ranges from about 7 years of age to 15 - Korean age - which is 1 or 2 years older than western age depending on when in the year they were born - I still don't get it.

Monday is pretty full on, I arrive at 14:10, first class is 14:45 and continue to have 5 more back to back classes with 5 minutes between. Lunch is a 10 minute break between 3rd and 4th class. For food we order from a menu for the week and it's delivered to our office. Friday is McDonald's Friday - Ah Yeah.

Tuesday - Thursday I'm lucky enough to have the 3rd period free to regroup and get started on the next day’s prep. Also these are the days I'll order something a little more substantial from the food menu as I have more time to eat. Friday my time table is the same as Monday however with one difference - Friday is Wee Sing day! (The book spells it wee) so for my 1st two basic classes we sing nursery rhymes while I dance around like a prat - at the moment we're learning 'The Train' song and I've been getting them to all dance like Andy Kaufman - my sister will be pleased.

Teaching here is great fun and is nothing like schools back home, the younger kids are so excitable and eager to learn - competing to be top of the class, the older ones are pretty universal - becoming teenagers sees them grunting in defiance just as we all once did.

It is a full on day’s work, and sickness isn't really accepted. There are no cover teachers and you can't be seen to be doing nothing. Korean culture is a - very - hard working one. Some of our co-teachers are working 7 days a week.

We only get 10 days holiday throughout the year and we can’t take that in one block, we can’t even choose the days we do take. We get the national holidays off and that’s pretty much it apart from the odd optional day where if you do decide to work you get time and a half. 

At the end of July we'll have a 4 day weekend so we'll be making the most of it and will be going somewhere nice. Although you don't get the holidays as you would back home, it’s easy enough to travel around Korea at the weekends and there’s plenty to see.

I would also like to say just how good Sullivan Language Institute is, obviously when deciding to do something like this it can be a bit daunting and there are horror stories of people getting screwed over, people doing the midnight run etc, you can find a list of blacklisted schools online - I'll add a links page when I get the chance - but it's still somewhat of a risk.

Sullivan, however, has been great. They have looked after both me and Sophie so well, on arrival at the airport I was met by a guy who bought my bus ticket and put me on the right bus to Jeonju, after a 4 hour bus ride Mr Lee and Sun were waiting for me and drove me to my apartment.

They took me to the bank in the next few days to get my bank account set up and also got my alien card sorted. It was my birthday in the first week and I was surprised with a cake in the office and a present from Sun and Mr Lee. All the staff are lovely and very helpful, I don't feel awkward asking for help at all.

I would say for some advice if you do decide to do this, always ask for help if you’re unsure, I know it's often said but in this environment it's a must. It's so fast paced that you’re going to miss things to start with, but everyone else has been there before and knows what it’s like.

At my school there are 3 foreign teachers including me and 8 maybe 9 Koreans, upstairs is another school, EG which is part of Sullivan, I think, it's owned by the same people anyway and I teach one class up there myself. There are a further 4 maybe 5 foreign teachers that work up here, I'm not entirely sure. EG kids are generally the advanced kids, the ones who can actually hold a full conversation with you. Again I will add a links page with info on Sullivan. 

It's also a good sign that most of the foreign teachers that are here have stayed on for a 2nd or 3rd year. Right now there is a change over, with me and others arriving, old staff are heading home or elsewhere on their travels. There is a very strong community here amongst the westerners which is great but also if you want you can head out and not see a single westerner all day. I am loving living in Jeonju, Before moving here I'd never heard of it, but after visiting a few of the larger cities with more westerners around I actually wouldn't want to live anywhere else. 

We really have landed on our feet here and would recommend Jeonju to anyone.

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