Interview With “Mike”, TEFL-er In Korea

“Mike” found his job on Dave’s ESL Café. He was nervous and still finds it hard to advise others on how to avoid scams, but he lucked out and got an alright company. See Korea TEFL Tips for some pointers from “Mike”.

“Mike” provides one-to-one lessons for individual adult students. Learners work for 25 minutes with a local teacher, studying grammar and such, and then 25 minutes with him, generally basing their conversation and pronunciation work around the book, then moving on to freer conversation, which they seem to appreciate and benefit from the most. He also enjoys working with adults and has not only learned about Korea from them but has made friends. “If I were to teach kindergarten or something, I wouldn’t know a fraction of what I have learned from my students here,” he points out.

His schedule, for the first six months, involves working split shifts, for which he’s required to be at the office from: 6:45 to 11 and then again from 17:45 to 22:00. The school-provided flat is 30 minutes by subway… you do the math. I personally used to work until nearly ten p.m., and also realize teachers don’t just leave the classroom and step into bed. My sympathies are with him and he just writes “It’s awful. Awful.”

Luckily only two more months to go! After this, he’ll work either 6:45 – 15:00 or 13:45-22. And the upside is that saving is definitely possible: he has saved $7000 in four months by being careful with money.

Taxis, drinking, and eating out are all expensive, but if you are careful you can definitely save, he reports.

Concerning Seoul, he likes that there is hiking in and around the city. Concerning contracts, he notes that “…even at the legitimate companies, [contracts] will be seen as “flexible” for them and solid for you… If you can just accept that truth about working in Korea and not get mad every time you are required to work extra without any advanced warning, then you’ll have a better time.” Advice that is very worth thinking about wherever you go, though perhaps it does not happen to the same extent everywhere.

Aside from the difficulty of being sure you’ve found a decent company to work for, “Mike” has noticed that students may say everything is fine when they talk with you, and then complain to the management on their way out the door, which can be hard for teachers not used to this lack of directness.

Finally, he reports that those interested in TEFL in Korea should be aware that veggie food is hard to come by, as is, specifically, Mexican food (though that seems to be rather universal, outside Mexico anyway; think of Guy Courchesne laughing at all of us from Mexico City!) Fortunately, for those looking for a fast-food fix, already present in Seoul are Dunkin Donuts, KFC, Pizza Hut, Krispy Kreme, Baskin Robbins, Dominos, Papa John’s, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway.

[See how “Mike” is doing six months later in an update interview.]