Hi, my name is Giselle and I recently became a teacher at ChungDahm Learning's Daechi branch in Gangnam, Seoul this past November. Last week in part 1 of my blog series I wrote about my first days in Korea and going through ChungDahm's training week. Today, in part 2 of my blog series I will focus on moving into my officetel and transitioning to life as a full-time teacher. I hope through this blog series that it will help those interested in teaching in Korea get a better idea of the transition period one must go through to get adjusted to their new home and job abroad.
I moved into my officetel the day after final evaluations. I was pleased, really pleased, with how my living situation turned out. Location is everything and I am in a prime location. I am a seven minute walk from my workplace, a seven minute walk from a Lotte Super, a seven minute walk from a very large Diaso, a seven minute walk from two bus stops, and a seven minute walk from a delicious, cheap Korean food restaurant. If you couldn’t tell, 7 has become my new favorite number! There is a downside though, my building is on top of a hill. A little exercise never hurt anyone, right? Seoul has many hills, but one gets used to it quickly.
Also, I am fortunate to have a large officetel. I am truly fortunate, because compared to the typical officetel, I have a lot of room and storage space. Anyway, all officetels have a refrigerator, stove, bed and washing machine. The essentials are always provided. Also, sometimes the previous teacher is generous and leaves behind a handful of helpful items to start off, but don’t count on it.
I spent the first two days in my officetel making many trips to Daiso to buy cleaning supplies, silverware, plates, cups, pots and pans. I think you get the idea. The initial investment one makes in an effort to make their officetel into a true home is always worth it. Daiso has a lot of cute things and there is nothing over 5,000 won there. I also had to make a few trips to Lotte Super.
My effort paid off in the end, for by the end of that week I had a really good start on making myself comfortable in my new home. It wouldn’t be until the following weekend that I would make the trip to an E-Mart (basically the Korean version of Walmart) to buy bigger items, such as a rice cooker and iron for my clothes.
As for my first week of work, I showed up to work an hour early the first day to be shown around and given instructions on branch rules. My co-workers really helped me understand what I had to prepare before and after all my classes. It was a lot of information, but I was just excited to have my own desk in the teacher’s office. It made everything feel official. The training, simulations and shadowing truly prepared me for those first days of teaching. It can seem intimidating, but just fake it until you make it.
My work days consist of arriving at 1pm and getting settled in. Then, I grade my students online speaking and listening homework. Next, I grade chunk quizzes and writing notebooks. Once everything is graded and inputted into the grading system, I print out all material necessary for the day. I utilize all the extra time I have to run through the slides I will have to go over with my classes. Depending on the day, classes begin at 2:30 or 3:30. I eat snacks between all my classes to keep me going. The last class, again depending on the day, ends at 7:40 or 8:30 and I usually leave around 9pm each day with the other teachers.
The first week is the hardest, but it is really what you make out of it. Try your best to learn how your branch functions. Ask a lot of questions to your co-workers. My best student management advice is that it is easier to start off strict and then become more lenient than the other way around. Moreover, show the students you care. Teaching is a rewarding job.