I had so many questions before moving to Korea, one of the most important ones was "what's a typical day teaching at iGarten like?" It's hard to feel prepared moving your whole life overseas, but having a glimpse into a day as a teacher helps! Here is a typical day at my school - iGarten in Centum City, Busan (near Haeundae).
First thing every morning we have a meeting at 8:30, it's usually a very short meeting to check that all the teachers have arrived and to discuss anything special that may be happening that day. After the morning meeting we have about an hour until class starts. Class starts at 9:45 with the first students arriving at 9:25. (See below the front desk and lobby where we have our morning meeting.)
Some weeks teachers have to ride the buses to pick up our students from their apartments. If we ride the buses that week we'll leave after the morning meeting. If we're not scheduled to help pick the kids up we can use that time in the morning to grab a coffee and prep for the day/week.
(See below a picture of my classroom!)
Once the students arrive, they unpack their backpacks and we do "circle time." This is when we discuss how they're feeling, what the weather is like, how their weekend was, and if there are any special events that day. Circle time helps set the mood for the day and gets the kids excited for the week if there is a party or field trip planned.
Each day we have six 35-minute classes with our kindergarten homeroom students. These classes are mostly focused on english grammar, writing, speaking, and reading. The classes are immersion classes meaning that we never speak Korean and we ask the students to try to only speak English during class time. We also have outsourced classes every week - classes such as music and P.E. that are taught by other teachers.
(See below a picture of the library where the music classes are taught.)
Each month we have a schedule of books to teach the students and a very structured curriculum to follow. Some books are more difficult and require the full 35 minute class, other books are easy for the students to complete and with extra class time we can play games, do crafts, and review. (See below pictures of the sinks where students wash hands and brush teeth, and the hallway where other classrooms are.)
Classes for the kindergarten students are from 9:45am - 2:55pm everyday. We have 5 minute breaks between classes and two 10-minute snack breaks. At the end of the day we have a 20 minute reading class, and then help the students pack up and get ready to go home!
Each day we have a 45 minute lunch break where we are free to leave and get lunch, or stay and eat the school's lunch. We also can take a 15 minute break in the afternoon to grab a coffee or a snack after the kindergarten classes are finished.
(See below a picture of the playground where kids play after lunch and at the end of the day.)
In the afternoon, after the kindergarten classes are finished, elementary students come to our school for more advanced English classes. We have two elementary classes that are 40 minutes each, between 3:10 and 4:40. Some days we teach until 4:40, other days we finish teaching at 2:55 when the kindergarten students leave.
At the end of the day, and during outsourced classes, most teachers spend their time grading books and preparing for the next day. Each day we turn in a plan explaining what we will do in our classes the next day. Once a week we make a weekly plan where we detail our classes for a next week and what our goals are for our students.
During our free time before 5:30 we sometimes have meetings or discuss our plans for the next day/week with our Korean co-teachers. Once a month we write evaluations for all our students so the parents know their progress.
Other than our normal classes, every month we have a birthday party for all the kids who are celebrating birthdays that month. There's lots of cake, snacks, and presents - it's something the kids really look forward too! Each month we have a field trip or a fun day planned where the kids get to have fun, play games, and celebrate the holidays!
(See below a picture of our front doors where we greet the kids and say goodbye to them each day.)
A basic day at iGarten is very busy but filled with laughter and joy because of our students. Both the students and the teachers have many things to do and in Korean working culture there are very high expectations both of teachers and students. There's always something to do or plan for and it's very rare that we are bored or desk warming!
I hope a glimpse into a day as an iGarten teacher helps whoever is reading this feel more prepared and confident before moving to Korea!
Monica Russo graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelors in Psychology and is from St. Louis, Missouri. After spending a couple years in social work she decided to move abroad to learn more about other cultures and to challenge herself to live outside her comfort zone. Moving abroad hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been worth it and Monica loves living in Busan, South Korea. She loves new experiences, hiking, exploring other cities and helping others any way that she can. Her philosophy with her students is work hard, play hard!