3 Years and Counting!
Before moving to Korea, I really had no idea what my daily schedule would look like. Of course your schedule will depend on your unique school, but most elementary school hagwons operate similarly. So, if you are curious about what a day in the life of a hagwon teacher teacher looks like, this blog post is for you!
When I first arrived in Korea in at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I only expected to stay for one year. I met so many hagwon teachers, most of whom had been living in Korea for several years. I would tell them I only planned to stay for one year, and their response was always the same: “That’s what you say now, but just wait…”
I didn’t believe them.
Here I am two years later, just about to renew my contract for a third year. They were right.
After School Hours
I work from 12pm – 8pm, Monday through Friday, since hagwons are after school programs. This schedule is great because I have enough time to be productive in the morning and finish work early enough meet friends afterward. I think it’s really important to carve out a part of the day dedicated to yourself. If not, you’re just living to work and can’t fully enjoy the experience of living in Korea!
The first part of my morning ritual is a combination of journaling, reading, and meditation. This quiet time sets the tone for my whole day. I’ve filled several journals with my experiences, and know I’ll reflect on how much my experience here shaped me as a person. I’m fortunate enough that my gym is right next door, so morning workouts are easy. It’s also convenient to complete all the errands I need to do during the day.
Arriving at Work
Every morning my coworkers and I arrive at noon. (Although usually we bump into each other at the neighboring cafes while picking up our morning Americanos). The first hour is dedicated to class preparation. We grade students’ online speaking homework, review lesson material for the day, and make any necessary printouts. Working at April English means I don’t have to do much lesson planning myself. I simply review the classes online and always feel prepared.
Our lunch break is from 1pm-2pm. I usually go home for since I live within walking distance, but sometimes we visit a nearby restaurant. We return at 2pm, and the teaching day officially begins at 2:40pm! Students sometimes arrive early, so those 40 minutes can be used for extra prep. Or you can just relax and engage with students. (Though quite honestly, they often prefer watching English television on Netflix before class!) Before classes start, I always try to spend a quick minute alone in the break room. I remind myself of the influence I have on my students’ lives. Each day is an opportunity to make a huge impact, so I always make an effort to be the very best version of myself as a hagwon teacher..
The class schedule is broken up into 6 blocks of time. There are six, 40-minute classes with a 5 minute break in between. We have a few breaks throughout the week to to finish all of our grading, and just to reset. Working with kids all day is incredibly rewarding, but it can also be challenging at times since they are so high energy! Here’s a great read of what classes are like in Korea vs. America.
Time to Unwind!
The teaching day ends at 7:05pm. We use the last hour to submit grades and tie up any loose ends. Getting accustomed to the April English curriculum can be a bit overwhelming at first, but once you get used to it weeks go by quickly! Now when the last bell rings at 7:05pm, I almost always find myself wondering where the day went. After classes end, I go home for dinner. I do some meal prep at the beginning of the week. But, admittedly, I often resort to using delivery services since it’s so affordable, accessible, and fast here! Sometimes I’ll have dinner with friends or coworkers after work, and it’s really common to have some beers to unwind and relax after a long day. The life of a hagwon instructor ain’t so bad!
Alexandra Skouras is from Pennsylvania, USA, and has been living in South Korea since April 2021. She studied Biology and Spanish during college but decided to embrace her love of travel and cultural diversity through teaching English in other countries. After spending one year teaching in Madrid, Spain, she decided to move to South Korea, and since then has been teaching Chungdahm April in Sejong. Her favorite part about teaching is connecting with students and seeing how much growth they can achieve in just a short period of time. Alexandra describes her Korean life as the perfect mix of comfortable and exciting, and is passionate about encouraging other people to take the leap of faith and try something new.