Is teaching with EPIK in South Korea really teaching?



Update: Bookmark and visit the new online location for this blog

Well alright… I guess I can no longer prolong this post ( or I’ve forced myself to get around to writing it rather)

The time has come for yet another intake for EPIK, Spring addition and mainly this post is more geared to those of you who are applying who have already taught, who have advanced degrees in teaching, have done the CELTA, and/or have 3+ years of teaching experience somewhere in the world OR who may want to begin a career in teaching and using EPIK to get your foot in the door… I’ve got news… ummm… yea, you won’t find it here.

Don’t get me wrong, this is an amazing opportunity, it DOES still count on your resume as a year of teaching, you will walk away with some beneficial techniques (mainly for discipline and non-verbal communication) that you can use in the future, but as far as spending REAL time on lesson planning, innovating new ways to teach grammar (which will NEVER happen – I’ll explain why later), developing yourself as a teaching professional, and being able to add in depth lessons and the like to your arsenal of teaching magic… well just keep reading.

#1. You wont EVER teach Grammar! – EPIK doesn’t hire waygooks for that. They hire us for the cultural exposure for the kids and for them to come to your class “to play games. They have English 2 other times in the week in the other classroom”

#2. You see AT LEAST 120 Korean speaking kids in one day – There’s NO room for you to give the individual attention to lower-level students like real teachers in a small focused setting often do; there’s NO way to accurately assess your 4-5 classes a day and give the proper assignments for each to really help them advance in their English proficiency. Why? Because they come to your class “to play games”

#3. Odds are your co-teacher lesson plans by bookmarking the textbook in chronological order – I’ll tell you, after the CELTA I’m ready to tackle a lesson plan like nobody’s business, like adding the materials to it and everything! I don’t think my co-teachers could find me a template in the whole school if they wanted to. It’s just not the culture. My first experience was my main co-teacher coming around the table, showing me the textbook (on a Friday) and saying, “Mia, for Monday ummm we will do page this and that… ummm. speaking and listening. Can you do the warm up?”

#4. The only lesson planning template you may see will be on the application you filled out to get here – Enough Said.

#5. For my CELTA people, you’ll probably realize why you trained to teach adults – Don’t get me wrong, some days the kids are a joy and can be on their best behavior however, MOST days they aren’t. And having around 30 of them all at one time is the reason I go home tired every day. Not saying adults are better, but there’s a different level of discipline you will need with them. They SHOULD already know how to conduct themselves and usually non-Americans are far better acting (before you really get to know them) so you can spend time actually engaging with them and learning from them as well as teaching your students. Also too, the textbooks in Korea are less than decent. The cd’s and dialogues are really boring which also helps to push the kids to totally check out of what’s going on.

#6. The word that I frequently read when people speak of after school classes is “babysitting” – See #4. You won’t be conducting any MAJOR lessons so at times the job can feel like a form of babysitting. And I’ve worked at a daycare… trust me… I know what that looks like.

#7. It can’t be teaching when school dinners reign supreme over actual school – Korean principals, VP’s, Teachers, Head-teachers and everyone else goes hard in the paint when it comes to socializing in Korea. There’s been a blog dedicated to only the pictures of drunken Koreans (usually always men) laid out in the street, literally left for dead and just because you have a high-ranking job means nothing! When I first got here I was very hesitant on drinking around my principal and fellow teachers but then I was QUICKLY informed that drinking was a part of the culture and actually NOT drinking was frowned upon. No L7’s allowed here~

#8. “They have practice” – Practice for Sports Day, Performance Day, Get up and Dance day all take precedence over ANY and I mean ANY thing you may have going on. You could be giving the most important test of your students’ lives (or so you may think) and find out 10 mins before or 10 mins after the class has started that your kids are in music practicing violins for I can play violin day. It’s a major contradiction of the school is so important philosophy here when students will miss class in a flash for something that can show the school and kids off to their parents.

#9. The best time to start EPIK is in the Spring – You show up in the middle of the school year and you have to just pick up where the previous teacher left off. It’s definitely been a brow-raising experience because I can’t go backwards and teach the fundamentals of what they should already know because we HAVE to follow the book, and in the 5th grade textbook, learning nouns, verbs and greetings have “already been covered”

Word of advice: Don’t come here taking your “teaching experience” too seriously. They will make note of it but then it wont matter in 2 weeks. If you let it upset you, then I have no advice for you really. LOL I say if it comes to that, consider this a year for a break and possibly recharging. Spend your deskwarming coming up with techniques that you can use for sometime in the future.

Disclaimer: All scenarios are different. And I’m not saying all EPIK’ers who come to Korea have these experiences, however, this is a compilation of what I’ve read, heard, and have seen to be true.

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1 Comment

  1. I have the same issues coming from a celta and 4 years teaching EFL background. Basically I just deskwarm a lot and make one activity per day as I seem to be ‘fun’ activity teacher only. I might even be considering studying for a long distance masters as I don’t think any teaching job will be this easy or consist of so much desk time! But saying that there are other epik teachers who have been placed in high level richer schools who seem to do a lot more than is expected of me. I wish epik didn’t place randomly and actually thought of maybe putting those with experience/qualifications in a high level school/high expectation school. That’d make more sense!


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