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Author Topic: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?  (Read 1965 times)

Offline hangook77

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Which one do you prefer working in? 

Offline tadpole511

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2018, 07:54:05 AM »
I've only ever worked elementary, but I love it for the most part. The youngest ones are just really cute and really enthusiastic. The older ones are developing their own personalities and opinions, so they can be really fun (and funny) to talk to. My coteachers are good about sharing lesson planning and leading (so I'm not the only one planning and leading, but also not just a parrot for the KET), and they're also good about impressing on the students that I am their (the students') teacher too and they had best respect me as such. This makes my life a lot easier. I've never really felt micromanaged per se, but I definitely have noticed that I don't have as much freedom as my middle school teacher friends. At worst, though, it's mildly annoying at times. And teaching stuff like "Do you have a pencil? Yes, I do." and "I'm stronger than you." is kind of boring after a while. This is where I start wishing I had more freedom to go off book and do fun lessons or teach idioms or slang or something.

I imagine I might like teaching higher level middle school, but obviously I've never taught middle school, so I can't say for sure.

Offline b of nc

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2018, 08:05:56 AM »
I've taught at a couple of elementary schools in 2 provinces and 1 English center where I teach kindy to Middle School throughout the course of the year and I much prefer teaching in and with Elementary school.

As Tadpole says the enthusiasm of the little ones, 3-4 grade and even some 2nd graders is hard to beat. I much prefer having to reign students in as opposed to trying to wring life out of a class of Middle School students that just don't give a **** about English. I also feel like a lot of the times you'll see kids in Elementary school maybe 3rd or 4th grade that have great English and can have a conversation and are clearly outliers thanks to wealthy parents or a parents job sending the whole family overseas and when they get to Middle school those kids don't seem to exist as much even though MS is when kids get consolidated into even bigger schools. That's just my experience as someone that lived in rural areas most of my time here.
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Offline HaLo3

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2018, 08:23:48 AM »
I've worked in all three and I think I preferred... high school. Middle was a close second because they have a lot of the same enthusiasm as the primary grades, but aren't as moody as the high schoolers can be. But overall I still like HS.

Offline sojuadventurer

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2018, 09:04:25 AM »
When I first came to Korea with EPIK, I requested to be placed in a high school. Of course, that wasn't really an option at the time and I ended up with an elementary/middle school hybrid in the countryside. I was firmly of the opinion (prior to coming here) that I wouldn't like teaching elementary school, because "I don't like kids." Now, after having been here off and on for a bit.... I've taught everything from Kindergarten to adults, and I actually find that I prefer elementary school (preferably grades 3-6). Middle school and high school kids are beaten down by life and hormones.... they lack any sort of passion for learning most of the time. Adults are actually better than teaching middle/high school, but much more planning goes into a decent adult lesson... which is fine, except adults have lives and sometimes end up bailing at the last minute. Which means you may find yourself planning for a lesson that you may only end up teaching one person; which can be frustrating. Kindergarten kids are adorable, but they also get bored of any one activity after about 10 or 15 minutes.... they're little battery drainers. And grades 1 and 2 have reached a point where they no longer fear authority figures, and they basically become little beast monsters who seem almost not human. Grades 3-6 are where it's at! The kids are enthusiastic, interested, and can be a lot of fun to teach. It's surprising to think how anti-kid I was when I first came here, and how much my preconceived notions about kids have changed.

Online Chinguetti

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2018, 09:27:11 AM »
Middle school. I can be myself with them and still have goofy moments that are also okay. High schoolers tend to be more polite and on task (I know, depends on the school and the class), but they also take themselves more seriously and can be real downers -- sometimes it's because of their heavy workload and the stress, but a lot of the time they're at that stage in their maturity where they feel like they've got a lot to prove, too.

Elementary kids can be super sweet, cute and enthusiastic, but they're also constantly testing and pushing boundaries, and their moods can vary so wildly based on what they ate for breakfast or if they've managed to get enough sleep. I can handle this just fine, but it can, at times, be draining, especially when you're an introvert. Also, the parents for this age group tend to be more insufferable.

There are pros and cons to all grades, and I've enjoyed teaching them all, but middle school is definitely the right place for me.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2018, 09:29:47 AM by Chinguetti »

Offline Datasapien

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2018, 09:54:03 AM »
Before coming to Korea, I thought primary school. For my first 5 years in Korea, I thought primary school. Last year I got chucked into a middle school, and now I think middle school.
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Offline Teachingducky

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2018, 11:03:39 AM »
Elementary school all the way~ I've been teaching both elementary and middle for going on 4 years, and I find elementary much more exciting. Elementary kids want to learn if they're playing, which really brightens up my day. It's easier to talk to middle schoolers due to their ability being slightly higher, but they're not always as willing. Teenagers, you know? Elementary kiddos are happy to speak to you! :)

Offline belo horizonte

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2018, 12:57:42 PM »
Taught all public school levels and elementary is easily my favourite. As other people have commented, the students are keener and in the schools I've worked in the staff seem a lot less stressed at the elementary level. From my experience in Korea stressed colleagues usually means they will pass their issues onto you or ask you to prepare things the day before.

Offline Kayos

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2018, 08:19:23 AM »
I've only worked in elementary and middle, so can't comment on high school.

and I like both for different reasons. At elementary, I like teaching grades 3 and 4. They are usually very interested in learning; but it's hard to talk with them outside of class.

For middle school, I like interacting with my students between, and outside, of classes. In class it can hard to get them motivated (so it's hard to tell if you are doing a good job or not). But, their hobbies and interests are usually the same as mine, so it's great to try chat with them a bit.


Offline Challen13

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2018, 09:03:18 AM »
This is my second year here and I've taught at 2 elementary schools and a middle school. I prefer middle.

I found the elementary side of things to be a nice introduction to teaching in Korea in terms of structure and kids being eager to learn. However, I also found it very limiting in terms of creativity ( usually having to stick to the textbook 95% of the time), control (CTs trying to control every little bit of the lessons - subjective I know) and just overall structure of lessons because of that general rigid structure that elementary school has. The students were great though. Always outgoing and trying to speak - albeit with limited vocab.

At my middle school there is that general structure which must be gotten through, but my lessons are my time. I'm allowed to have a different themed lesson if/when I deem fit. I can structure things the way I want to and my CTs are there if I need them and aren't controlling things. Plus the ability to actually get along with and converse more the students is more enjoyable.

Offline bjinglee

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2018, 01:08:18 PM »
I've taught all 3 levels and much prefer high school. That said, it also depends on the group of kids and the school you're in as well. 

Offline hangook77

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2018, 02:03:25 PM »
I'm back at elementary this year.  I did it two years ago.  I did some large schools.  This year I'm at some smaller schools.  Good kids.  Teachers get mad over kids being bad or talking much more quickly, but are very mild compared to middle school which is where most of my working experience is.  I have several years of middle experience and also went back last year. 

It's easier in my ways but much more repetitive it seems and more book oriented.  Two years ago one of my schools had a lot of high level rich kids, so I didn't have to spend the whole lesson on book stuff.  Brought down some of my middle school style and the teachers were chilled.  My other schools then and now are much more about the book.  Atmosphere is very different.  Afternoons can be slow in elementary or peaceful, depending on how you look at it.  Some like the block time and the peace and quiet.  I think I like the action all day and will probably get the education office to send me back to middle second semester.  We'll see. 

Offline yirj17

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2018, 07:21:19 PM »
Haven't taught high school, but I much prefer middle school over elementary.  I was fortunate though and had really well behaved kids.  They were still pretty enthusiastic like my elementary kiddos but more disciplined and less hyperactive.  Even though they were moody sometimes, I generally still preferred that over the seemingly endless energy of elementary students.  I had the same coT for my elementary schools and that certainly affected my experience of elementary...  :undecided:

My middle schools were also always so much more chill (principals and coworkers alike) and the lessons more interesting (especially if I had free classes to focus on something more fun!).  I still keep in touch with my main middle school coT. 

Offline gagevt

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2018, 07:56:30 AM »
The answer to this question will usually vary greatly depending on, your students' levels/discipline, your coteachers' (or in my case for the past couple years homeroom teachers') ability and cooperation, but not always!

Personally I started at a middle school ranked in the bottom 3 for student behavior in a decent sized city (around 500k). And I loved it for the most part. I was very new to teaching at the time, so using the book pretty strictly was fine for me and preferred for my coteachers. Looking back, I'd much rather have the freedom I do currently at my elementary schools. The students' levels varied widely, but I really enjoyed being able to talk with them outside of class and playing soccer with the boys at lunch and the girls' team after school sometimes. However there weren't as many extra fun trips or days I was included in besides sports day and the school festival.

My experience in elementary is that of teaching really cute and enthusiastic kids, using my own methods and materials (recently), with the full support of their homeroom teachers who I teach with. It's not as easy to chat with them outside of class, because their levels are a bit lower compared to their middle school counter-parts, but that hasn't stopped them from trying. Of course our interests differ more than the middle school kids, but we still find some similarities. I also get included in more field trips and special events in elementary school, many more. Energy is higher with elementary as others have said, and I've gotten better at controlling them, so it's less of a problem than it used to be. I also have close to complete freedom in my elementary school classes, based on past performance and rarely touch the book. I do use the topics however.

Like I said earlier it will vary greatly depending on a number of factors, but I prefer elementary. Would I mind trying to teach middle again? Not at all. I'd be a bit nervous, but I'd give it a shot.
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Offline Dave Stepz

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #15 on: March 15, 2018, 09:11:33 AM »
Also, I think a lot can depend on how long you are thinking of sticking around.  If you get a good school in your first year and fancy staying then it can be very rewarding that you can see the students grow from year to year.  Also depending on how well you can control them.  I taught at an elementary and middle in the same tiny village for seven years.  So all my elementary students graduated to the middle, so I taught most of them for six years.  They were my favourite classes as we knew each very well and what we expected of each other. 

When I first came I had two middle (seven years) and two elementary schools (four years) in the middle of nowhere.  Four years together and then it was just the middles for three years.  The elementary schools allowed me free reign for everything, but not without challenges.  One being the 6th grade teacher disappeared for smoking time, leaving me his badly behaved class, I battled for a couple of months and got control.  Then I taught them all in middle school too and they were great.  Really enjoyed it.

Then with the total cut of middle schools in my city I got put in two elementary schools and it was hell.  It was like I didn't exist.  My main elementary co-teacher had no idea, about English, in relation to students, control or how to make the classes interesting, but wanted no help from me.  The other elementary co-teacher just told me to sit at the back and don't do anything.  It was like I was invisible. I think elementary teachers teach little kids and so sometimes find it hard to not treat others like they're little kids too.  Middle school teachers less so. I escaped and went to the girls' middle and also had classes at the boys' middle for a year.  Now, I'm in high school and have been for three years and love it. 

High school all the way.  I'm not taking a step back now.  The other high school teachers are brill and they're not poking around as they're as busy as me so they have no time.  I have genuine affection for all my students and some of their English speaking, ideas and personalities are brilliant.  It is really tough for them, and speaking English or having a different kind of class can be a release for them.  Middle school is next and I could conceivably teach for a while in middle as I did, because you can have discussions with students outside of class and they are starting to grow up.  The elementary environment and the lack of conversation, lack of doing anything too hard in class, and the pointlessness of having you there (TBH) is a one year or two year thing at the most. 

Offline Periwinkle

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #16 on: March 15, 2018, 10:34:10 AM »
I have taught at all levels and my preference is High School with Middle running a close second. 

First year middle school students are lovely.

I think it depends more on personal circumstances- (co-teachers' style, geographic location, school type, your own personality type, etc.) than anything else. 

Elementary kids require more physical energy than any other level and there is no time for conversation with them because they are either on field trips or simply want your time for play. Haha 

High School students can sometimes be moody or tired, but it is easier to establish rapport and have meaningful conversations with them, you can generally lead your own classes, allowing for more creativity and they are more independent/self-disciplined.  High schoolers ask intriguing questions and display eager interest in wanting to learn about your culture, and are easy to motivate because they are often excited for English because it's a break away from their rigorous schedule and an opportunity to learn something new and exciting.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2018, 10:51:58 AM by Periwinkle »

Offline gagevt

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2018, 01:51:07 PM »
Also, I think a lot can depend on how long you are thinking of sticking around.  If you get a good school in your first year and fancy staying then it can be very rewarding that you can see the students grow from year to year.  Also depending on how well you can control them.  I taught at an elementary and middle in the same tiny village for seven years.  So all my elementary students graduated to the middle, so I taught most of them for six years.  They were my favourite classes as we knew each very well and what we expected of each other. 

When I first came I had two middle (seven years) and two elementary schools (four years) in the middle of nowhere.  Four years together and then it was just the middles for three years.  The elementary schools allowed me free reign for everything, but not without challenges.  One being the 6th grade teacher disappeared for smoking time, leaving me his badly behaved class, I battled for a couple of months and got control.  Then I taught them all in middle school too and they were great.  Really enjoyed it.

Then with the total cut of middle schools in my city I got put in two elementary schools and it was hell.  It was like I didn't exist.  My main elementary co-teacher had no idea, about English, in relation to students, control or how to make the classes interesting, but wanted no help from me.  The other elementary co-teacher just told me to sit at the back and don't do anything.  It was like I was invisible. I think elementary teachers teach little kids and so sometimes find it hard to not treat others like they're little kids too.  Middle school teachers less so. I escaped and went to the girls' middle and also had classes at the boys' middle for a year.  Now, I'm in high school and have been for three years and love it. 

High school all the way.  I'm not taking a step back now.  The other high school teachers are brill and they're not poking around as they're as busy as me so they have no time.  I have genuine affection for all my students and some of their English speaking, ideas and personalities are brilliant.  It is really tough for them, and speaking English or having a different kind of class can be a release for them.  Middle school is next and I could conceivably teach for a while in middle as I did, because you can have discussions with students outside of class and they are starting to grow up.  The elementary environment and the lack of conversation, lack of doing anything too hard in class, and the pointlessness of having you there (TBH) is a one year or two year thing at the most.

On the contrary, I've been teaching at one of my elementary schools for 3.5 years and another for 3 years now, and it has been a real joy to watch them grow (most of them). There are still a few students who make you wonder how will they make it in middle school either from a discipline or an ability standpoint.

I concede that it can be tiring after a while when you don't have much control over your classes. I can say confidently that these past 6 months have been the most enjoyable from a teaching perspective as I've had almost complete control over the lessons and style of my classes as well as supportive homeroom teachers helping out in and out of the classroom. The "cherry-on-top" of it all is seeing the positive results at the end of the semester/year.

At the end of the day, I think we just come back around to the old adage "your mileage may vary." And each situation is unique.
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Offline Dave Stepz

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #18 on: March 15, 2018, 02:53:46 PM »

On the contrary, I've been teaching at one of my elementary schools for 3.5 years and another for 3 years now, and it has been a real joy to watch them grow (most of them). There are still a few students who make you wonder how will they make it in middle school either from a discipline or an ability standpoint.

I concede that it can be tiring after a while when you don't have much control over your classes. I can say confidently that these past 6 months have been the most enjoyable from a teaching perspective as I've had almost complete control over the lessons and style of my classes as well as supportive homeroom teachers helping out in and out of the classroom. The "cherry-on-top" of it all is seeing the positive results at the end of the semester/year.

At the end of the day, I think we just come back around to the old adage "your mileage may vary." And each situation is unique.

Absolutely, I'm with you on everyone's situation being unique .  My first elementary was fine because I could teach what I wanted.  The second stint, where I was invisible, has soured my opinion with elementary.  If you're not even trusted to teach something simple like 'Is this pen yours?' then you really have no reason to be there.  The Korean teachers can do that.  By middle and high, a majority of Korean teachers don't have the confidence to speak English freely in class, which is kind of where we could be more useful (dwindling middle and high school native teacher numbers speak for themselves). But it depends from school to school.  I think that you've shown your responsibility and experience and that the other teachers love that, so they're happy to see the benefits of you teaching the students.   ;D I had that in my middle school for seven years, before I went back to elementary school, and now I have that again in buckets.  Almost all high school decisions for English get put past me before a decision is made.  Which is nice. 

Offline gagevt

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Re: Which do you prefer working in - Elementary, Middle, or High School?
« Reply #19 on: March 15, 2018, 03:27:38 PM »
It would be wonderful to get that kind of weight to your opinions for the subject you teach. I don't think I'm quite there yet, but it was a nice change of pace to have almost every homeroom teacher (between 2 schools) come to me and ask me how I think we should run the class. The only classes where I don't really have a say is the ones where I have a dedicated co-teacher. :laugh: Needless to say I much prefer the classes with the homeroom teachers.

It used to mean more work as different teachers favored different methods and approaches to teaching their students English, but this year I've pretty much got everyone on the same page. Instead of worrying about how each class will run, my role in a particular class vs. another, or how a teacher might prefer one set of materials to another (do I even need materials this lesson?), I can now focus all my energy into the materials themselves, the delivery of said materials, the pacing of the lesson, students' preferences, etc. etc.

I think that you've shown your responsibility and experience and that the other teachers love that, so they're happy to see the benefits of you teaching the students.   ;D

While that would make sense in the case of one of my long-term schools coming around. The school that actually gave me free reign first and from the very beginning was one I just started teaching at last September. My former main school (now 1-day-a-week school) came around this school year. At my rural "Monday school" I've been teaching 3rd to 6th grade alone for a couple years now, so I have free reign. It was a struggle at first (still can be) before I learned how to control them better.
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