Saturday, December 30, 2006

I initially characterized the process of finding a teaching job as a "sorting through" process and not as a "search". I was wrong.

Yes, I have sorted through positions that want me to take Saturdays and Sundays as vacation days, that don't want to pay into the national pension fund and that want to charge me double taxes. Delete, delete, delete.

The decent position is proving elusive (hopefully only for the time being) and requires active searching. I obsessively check Korea forums and job listings, refreshing pages every half hour in the hopes that a *perfect* job will have been posted. OK, so I'm not actually waiting or looking for the perfect job (oxymoron anyone?) but I would like to find one that complies with the law!

Thursday, December 21, 2006


My father hung up on a recruiter from Korea. He exclaimed, "I thought he was asking for money!" Luckily the man called right back.

I spoke with 4 people in one evening about one job. The recruiter called to inform me that the school director would call in a few minutes for an interview. Then the recruiter's assistant called to ask if I was ready. Then a teacher called to apologize that the director was sick and couldn't talk to me. Then another teacher called to actually interview me. I declined this job offer when I found out that I would have to wipe bottoms, sing nursery rhymes and do crafts. I don't do crafts!

The next evening I spoke with a nice Korean American about teaching philosophies and my experience learning languages. The job sounded great and I was excited to have found a good position with so little searching. How naive! It turns out that this "new" school was really the latest version of a failed school that didn't pay its teachers.

When I first thought about teaching in Korea I assumed I'd go to Seoul. I like big cities- lots of variety, etc etc. The largest city I've lived in was Berlin- with a population of approximately 3 million. Going from a not crowded 3 million to a very crowded 11+million may be more of a leap than I originally assumed.

The main reason I've started to reassess my commitment to living in a city is that I've found a very decent job in Gyeryong, a town of about 40,000 that's right next to the Kyeryongsan National Park. I spoke with the teacher I'd be replacing, a friendly New Zealander who's moving to Daejeon (1.4 mil pop., half hour away) to be with his girlfriend. He was positive about the position and spoke highly of the town. Even if I don't accept this particular job, it still raises the question of priorities: do I find the right place and then look for a job or identify the job first and then evaluate whether I can deal with the location?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Job Search: Finding an ESL job in South Korea

The "search" isn't much to speak of actually. I posted my resume on a popular ESL recruiting site a few days ago and have gotten at least 20 emails from either directors offering me positions or recruiters telling me that they'll find me a great job.

Recruiters are paid a finder's fee by the English schools and are therefore quite eager to make a prospective teacher happy. Directors would obviously like to avoid paying the recruiters and try to approach teachers directly. I've been told that my odds of finding a decent position get better when I work with as many people as I can. I'm working with a few recruiters and have responded to schools with positions that interest me. Basically, this is a sifting process and there are a lot of questionable schools that need to be sifted out! There is the ever present possibility of getting screwed over: not getting paid, having to teach extra classes without being paid overtime, being fired indiscriminately, etc.

You might wonder how I can distinguish the bad from the good, considering I don't have any experience teaching in Korea. I've been spending lots of time reading over the forums on Dave's ESL Cafe, my most important resource about teaching in Korea. Teachers and other community members dispel advice, answer each other's questions and even review contracts for illegal and unfavorable terms. Based on the information given from other teachers, I have a general idea of what to expect in terms of salary, vacation and working hours and what to suspect in terms of shady business practices. But more importantly, I know I can rely on experienced teachers who are looking out for my interests and who can steer me away from bad contracts and bad schools.

Finding a good position seems to involve a bit of luck and a lot of diligence. We'll see where that gets me!