On-the-Job: Teaching English Classes in South Korea

My alarm goes off at 8:45, signaling the start of another teaching day. The apartment is already an oven; Seoul’s summers are unbelievably hot and humid . By 9:30, my roommate and I are ready to go.

It’s a short walk to the bus, then a five minute ride to the stop near our school. We arrive just in time to teach our housewives’ class; today’s topic of discussion is a “Dear Abby” on disciplining children.

Our classes finish at 11:30 and we gab for a while over store bought ramen and sodas. At 12:15 I make the ten minute walk to the bus for my tutoring job, and 45 minutes later I arrive at the university. My college student and I discuss some of the humor sections in Reader’s Digest and a short story on Steven Spielberg. At 3:00 I’m on the bus to go back to work.

Traffic is typical Seoul traffic – bumper to bumper – so an hour and fifteen minutes later I’m off the bus and rushing to class. My kids are wild and woolly, as usual, and I’m greeted by a loud chorus of “Teacher, game! Teacher, game!” We finish class with a really loud game of hangman. My second class, 5th and 6th graders, are noisy and inattentive. For many of them, it’s their second hagwan of the day and not their last.

My roommate and I head home around 8. We take a taxi since it only costs W1000 to get to our apartment. One of our Korean coworkers gave us some of her mother’s kimchi and gakdoogi, so we feast on her gifts plus rice for dinner. As we sweat in our fifth floor apartment, we try watching TV, but nothing’s on. We amuse ourselves with a Korean soap opera for a while, but eventually turn to reading or talking on the phone. By 10:30, I’m in bed to rest up for another day of teaching, tutoring, volunteering, and battling the heat.

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