* Securing a teaching job in Korea: Things to consider

For those who are considering taking on a teaching adventure in South Korea, here are some key tips to keep in mind while you’re researching where to go in Korea and who to work for. They will help you save time and make a proper-well-informed decision when attempting to secure a placement:

1. All schools are independent: One issue that we have dealt with for years is the generalisation of school chains on the net. It is important to be clear on this point as many have passed up good opportunities due to some misinformation.

– Firstly, most school chains compete for the same market (Wonderland, SLP, Kid’s Club etc..), and as such are really not so different from each other. It is key to note is that all schools within a school chain are individually-owned. They may share the same contract provided from their respective head office, but ultimately the way in which a school is run is determined by the personality and ethics of the owner/director and staff of that individual school.

Each major chain e.g. Kid’s club, Wonderland, SLP, GnB, CDI has 100’s of schools operating under their moniker across the country. School directors apply to make their school part of a chain as it theoretically legitimises their academy in the eyes of the Korean parents. However, they are independent of each other for all intents and purposes (schedule, salary, often even curriculum).

Good recruiters may work with schools from all chains in Korea, however they do discriminate on which schools and directors they work with. They should only work with those who they deem trustworthy and fair (offer a competitive package), and have a solid record in running a proper school. Directors should also be understanding and allow applicants to communicate with a foreign teacher at their school.

2. READ BLOGS.. Take FORUMS with a grain of salt. 

When researching others’ opinions on the internet, it only makes proper sense to try and locate information on that particular school. Again, be sure it is not the name of the chain you are taking into consideration, but the school itself.

Forums generally tend to be a place for people to vent, or share their biased opinions. It is human nature to vent after having a negative experience, and this is indeed the place to do it. What it is not, is a place for people to celebrate the great time they had in Korea. That is for personal blogs.

Many people who are posting their opinions on forums may not be so objective in their statements. With 1000’s of English teachers coming and going each year in Korea, it is only logical to assume that there will be those whose placements did not work out for one of many reasons e.g. cultural difference, personality, work habits, conflict, financial issues, lesser quality schools, lesser quality teachers etc… This is no different from any other job except that the cultural component can play a role as well.

Negative comments on a particular school: After a school has been in business for a few years, they are going to eventually have a teacher that does not work out. Those teachers are undoubtedly going to vent about it online. It is hard not to take it literally of course, but you must keep the same level head when reading these comments. Some may be accurate, but in my experience, most are not, s they are emotionally-fuelled.  Communication with a teacher who actually works there now, working with a good recruiter AND having some faith are all key in making a decision on a school.

In short: most teachers who enjoy a great year or more in Korea won’t express it on forums. So when reading them, be critical and take what you read with a grain of salt; use a holistic approach to gathering information.  Most importantly, be sure to read teacher’s blogs of their experience. This is the usually information you want to know. 

3. Communicate with a foreign teacher there:

Communicate with a foreign teacher at the school and ask them whatever questions you like. This will give you an accurate idea of what it is like to work at this particular school, and can be much more accurate and informative than scrutinising a generic contract passed down from head office (or of an independent school as well, as they are often no different).

Note: it is reasonable protocol to request communication with one teacher via email or possibly telephone, not several.

4. Contracts:

Lastly, all language institutes offer similar conditions, though the wording in their contracts can vary from precise to vague, and although this can be disconcerting, contracts should not be regarded as accurately portraying the day to day operations of a specific school. This is a shortcoming of many school contracts and is something we as recruiters and you as prospective teachers have to work around when considering the quality of a particular placement. Contracts are usually non-modifiable as they are from HQ and that is a policy in order to avoid issues with each teacher having a different clause in their contract for whatever particular reason.

5. Locations:

Most applicants begin their search for a job in either Seoul or Busan. This is generally because they are the two biggest cities; one being the capital and the other being on the Southern coast across from Japan.  They are also the two locations where one can acquire the most information about online.

While these are great locations in their own right, it is important to note that they are also the most competitive areas in which to acquire positions. Basically, there are more applicants and as such schools are generally more discerning on who they hire.

That being said, Korea has so many great locations to live and work that most first-timers are unaware of.  Foreign teachers are enjoying their Korean experience all over the country. Most of  the urban landscape of Korea is quite similar city by city.  In addition, Korea is also a relatively small country and has a great transportation network. As a general rule, those who are somewhat open to locations have a higher rate of success of securing a good position.

6. Things to be wary of:

Two policies that we have in place based on my own experiences as a teacher are the following:

– No new schools: They can be a liability, both financially and in terms of how professionally they are run. As with any business, it takes time to make your business solid and secure. It isn’t worth taking the chance. The exception would be if the director were expanding from an established school.

– More than one foreign teacher per school.: This is a general rule, although we do have 1 or 2 exceptions. Based on my 1st year experience as a teacher in Korea, it can be lonely being the only foreign teacher at your school. Granted if you are in an area with other language schools this may not be an issue. But generally, it is a good rule for us. In addition, as I said, it also gives you a chance to communicate with a foreign teacher there before you accept a position.

7. Who is helping you?

Working with a quality recruiter who seems to have your better interests in mind; one that works to provide you with all the information you require in order to help you feel comfortable and properly informed about the position. In addition, any good recruiter will support you (and their client) for the duration of your contract.

 

So, as a recruitment agency owner with many years of experience in this business, the aforementioned suggestions have been a key part of our consultation process with most of our applicants. They have helped guide them in making rational and wise decisions when considering their teaching placement at private language schools in Korea.

Good luck in your search!

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