Question asked –
I was offered a job at a hagwon in Korea for 30 hours of teaching per week. It’s the first offer I’ve had since I started applying about a month ago. I’ve probably sent 15 applications in total to different ESL recruiters. Given that an average work week in the US is 40 hours, 30 hours seems fair, no?
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The majority of teaching contracts in Korea state 30 hours. This is for two reasons. First, in order to hire a full-time teachers in Korea the hagwon must state a minimum 30 teachings hours in their contracts. Immigration wants to know that the hagwon is hiring a full-time teacher, not a part-time one. Why? Because part-time teachers can’t get an E2 visa in Korea. When you hire a foreigner, you must give them a full-time job with a full time salary and government benefits like pension, severance and health insurance. 30 hours seems to be the magic number hagwons put on their contracts to appease the immigration full time stipulation.
Does this mean you’ll actually be teaching 6 hours per day x 5 days per week (Monday to Friday) for a total of 30 hours? Or… will you be teaching 5 hours per week x 6 days per week (Monday to Saturday). I’d check this out if I were you because working every Saturday will not only burn you out, but you can’t take weekend trips around Korea which kind of defeats the purpose of going in MHO.
Have you even worked an 8 hour shift at a fast food restaurant or in retail where you were on your feet the entire time with maybe a 30 minute break for lunch and a couple of 15 minute coffee breaks? That’s what 6 hours of teaching like feels like in Korea. If you haven’t worked much in the US, then you’ll be in for a rough first month in Korea. Be prepared to be exhausted after a 30 hour week.
Don’t forget that when you’re not teaching 30 hours per week you’ll be asked to mark student assignments, create lessons, write-up student evaluations, and conduct English level tests for students. I’d say for every hour actually teaching you’ll have an additional 10 minutes of extra work (minimum).
Is it 30 actual teaching hours per week? Exactly how long are your classes? Find this out! I taught adults and my contract said 30 hours per week, but I taught 6 50 minute classes with 10 minute breaks between classes. That’s a total of 300 minutes per day 60 minutes per hour = 5 hours per day. I taught Monday to Friday which comes to 25 actual teaching hours per week NOT 30 hours. But I still had to prep a lot coming up with interesting discussion topics and questions for my adult students.
I remember teaching 7 hours per day at my hagwon in downtown Seoul. At the end of the day my feet were blistered because of the cheap, uncomfortable Korean dress shoes I wore, my voice was hoarse from yelling, and I had a headache 2-3 times per week from all the 400 won little cups of caffeine I guzzled between classes from those vending machines. I had to do something to stay energized!
I’ve seen contracts where they define what a teaching hour is. It could be 60 minutes, 50 minutes, or as low as 40 minutes. If you’re teaching only 40 minute classes per day, you could have 9 classes per day x 40 minutes = 360 minutes per day / 60 minutes per hour = 6 hours per day. You really need to find out how long each class is and how many you’ll teach per day to figure out if it’s actually 30 hours per week.
Let’s say you’re teaching 9 40 minute English classes per week to meet your 30 teaching hour weekly quota. This could mean you’ll have a much longer day than someone only teaching 5 60 minute classes. For example, teach 1 40 minute class and then wait 20 minutes to teach the next one. That’a lot of wait time! Korean schools like to start every English class at the top of the hour as not to confuse students, teachers and management. Just like how every company in Korea seems to send their employees to lunch from 12 pm to 1 pm. The entire country goes on lunch for that hour. Hagwons are no different when it comes to starting every activity ON THE HOUR.
Just because your contract says 30 hours, you could be teaching more or less. 30 hours has a nice ring to it, because you’re right it’s much less than a typical US work contract, fits immigration’s full-time employee requirement, and it won’t scare away prospective teachers. What they don’t tell you is that once you start teaching they could hit you up to teach overtime at the standard hourly rate which is monthly pay / monthly total hours. You’ll end up teaching more than the 30 hours per week and won’t get a higher hourly rate for overtime. The overtime concept of time and a half or double time hasn’t caught on in Asia where employers tend to work employees like slaves. Some hagwons are starting to offer over time pay, but it may only be a couple thousand more per hour…
Your teaching contract may say 30 hours per week, but you’ll end up teaching less than that. 6 50 minute classes x 5 days per week is only 25 hours per week. Sure, the actual time spent teaching may be 25 hours, but how many hours will you have to spend at your hagwon each day? Can you go home between classes or will you have to warm a desk?
Oh yeah, the English level testing sales job! Hagwon agents would often summon me from the teachers’ room to evaluate a new student’s English and help with recruiting them into the school. This often took 20 or 30 minutes a few times a week because I had to smile and nod while the agents “sold students” on the programs, while speaking Korean. I couldn’t understand a word. And you won’t get paid for your time “selling” or get a cut of the agents commission either. It’s NOT teaching hours, but it’s STILL work! Keep in mind I was teaching adults. You might not have to do this with kids.
If your contract says you’ll be teaching 30 hours per week, you could be teaching more, you could be teaching less. It really depends. The question to ask yourself is how much do you want to work in Korea? How can you physically and mentally teach? Do you have the stamina to teach more than 30 hours per week if your hagwon asks you to? Are you prepared to teach more than 30 hours per week at the standard rate? Have you ever stood up in a classroom for 6 hours per day talking and moving? These are the questions you have to ask yourself. Most importantly to understand what you’re capable of and the hagwon’s expectations. Remember, that teaching English in Korea is a blue collar job.
Hagwons will want you to teach 30 hours per week, but if you’re teaching in the EPIK program you’ll work 22 hours per week. EPIK sounds a lot better on paper, but don’t forget you’ll be asked to do an additional 18 hours per week of office duties. Reports, testing, lesson plans, and more. That’s 40 hours per week. I’d take the hagwon job over the public school job any day…. Get in, get out, forget about your job when you leave each day.
Yes, teaching is hard, and you’re on your feet and you’re talking. But isn’t it fun! You’re not flipping burgers or trying to sell clothing. You’re facilitating learning. This is inspiring for not only your students but for you – their teacher. For me anyway, it was a much more meaningful job than a McJob back home. Sore feet, losing your voice and headaches are part of the trade! Don’t sweat the 30 hours…