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  • Gomdori
  • Veteran

    • 83

    • September 17, 2010, 01:29:51 pm
    • Seoul
Teach high school???
« on: March 25, 2011, 12:41:01 pm »
Hi everyone!  I am filling out my EPIK application currently, and trying to decide which level to teach.  I have been teaching elementary kids for two years now, so I am leaning toward a change and going with high school.  Could some of you high school teachers share your experience with me?  Do you like teaching high school?  What is the biggest challenge?

Also, when filling in the application, how many of you were placed in the your first choice of location?  Were you placed in the level that you selected? 

I really appreciate all of your input on this matter!  Cheers! :D


  • shhowse
  • Featured Contributor

    • 726

    • August 25, 2009, 08:49:24 am
    • Mokpo
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2011, 12:57:09 pm »
I whole heartedly LOVE my high school position. I'm in an all girls school which is part of what makes my job so great but besides that, I just really connect with this age group. It is awesome to go into class and be able to realy communicate with (some) of the students, and the range of topics you can hit upon is much broader and more interesting. They can still be "cute kids" but they are also more responsible. The personalities and talent you encounter will sometimes blow you away.

Downsides to high school: They will be exhausted, all the time due to late night studies. They will want to sleep in your class, especially if you are not responsible for giving a grade. You will most likely not know anyone by name since there are too many classes which you see, usually, only once a week. They may not be interested in a lot of the games you have used int he past with younger kids, even bomb games.

As for when I applied (though not through GEPIK) I was able to get the level that I wanted at the time. I also received my first choice location (in a smaller city).

  • EPSK
  • Veteran

    • 140

    • September 07, 2010, 07:52:55 am
    • Daegu, South Korea
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2011, 01:06:58 pm »
I was placed in my second choice (I put high school as first, elementary second). Honestly with your extensive elementary experience, they will probably put you in elementary or middle. However, from what I've seen the criteria for choosing who goes where can be really arbitrary (ie - scarier/tougher looking guys goes to high school). So even if you put high school as your first choice, don't be surprised if you don't get it. Also, you won't know what you teach until after you arrive in Korea.

Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2011, 01:09:51 pm »
i've never taught high school, so i don't have a whole lot of perspective on its advantages or disadvantages other than what i've heard from friends. some really enjoy being able to have real discussions with older kids, while others feel frustrated by the students' negative attitudes and unwillingness to participate in class.

i teach middle school right now, and i've taught elementary school in the past. from my experience, i can definitely see a general decline in the students' enthusiasm to learn English as they grow older. a lot of them are so preoccupied with trying to be cool that they're no longer impressed by our efforts to make fun games and activities.

as far as EPIK goes, it's kind of a hit-or-miss process. i was placed in my No. 2 choice (daegu), but was originally told I wouldn't get any of my top 5 choices. in the end, everything worked out, but it was kind of a struggle. i was placed in my first choice of middle school, more than likely because it's the most needed position. it's good you're not looking to teach elementary school--those are the hardest to get!

  • FMNY
  • Adventurer

    • 64

    • March 04, 2011, 08:42:04 am
    • South Korea
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2011, 02:11:52 pm »
I remember at EPIK orientation they told us that not so many people pick high school. So if its your first or second choice you will get it, but true if you are well qualified they may place you where they see you might be the most effective.
I love teaching HS! I really can't stand little kids no matter how cute they are. I am at an all girls school and my girls are awesome. Its true they are very tired there are always two or three knocked out. I can't blame them I am ready to pass out after lunch and they still have to be there until 9pm. They are worried about looking cool but if you are able to engage all/most of them they will participate. I don't know what a boys high school would be like but I am very happy here.

Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2011, 02:20:40 pm »
My high school is really low level.  And many of them don't plan on going to university.  So, it just depends where you get put.  I like my students, but they can be difficult to manage.

Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2011, 02:23:15 pm »
I've only been in high/middle school for about a month, after a year of elementary school, but I love it. It's just a better fit. Have you considered middle school? They're still excited like elementary school, but not yet burned out.

There's a big difference between HS and ES besides the age of the students. In short, ES you follow a strict curriculum, while in HS you have more freedom. This is in general. Individual school may differ.

Elementary school - you probably will be teaching all four grades (3, 4, 5, 6). I saw my kids twice a week so that was 8 lesson plans/week (plus after school classes). However, there's a well-planned syllabus and you really can get by with no lesson planning and just swiping things off Waygook.

High School - there's no standard book or curriculum so you'll probably have to make up your own lesson plans. This means a lot more prep work. However, HS tend to be bigger so you can use the same lesson plan many times with 7-1 class, 7-2 class, 7-3 class, ... 7-8 class...

I suspect that as an experienced teacher you will be happier at a middle or high school, just because you will have more control. An elementary school, while less work, may drive you crazy!

  • Sully
  • Adventurer

    • 40

    • February 19, 2011, 09:06:32 pm
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2011, 02:37:41 pm »

I have been in Gangwon-do for a month in a mixed vocational High School.  Gangwon-do province was my first choice and I was lucky as I have been placed in Gangneung (a decent sized city with all amenities) -if you choose a province as your first choice you end up in the sticks though.

High school was my first choice - however, it was not as I expected in terms of their level - they are extremely low level and so any complex topic is off limits.  This makes it very hard to engage them sometimes.  Saying that, they are easily pleased with games and fun activities. I have all girls and all boys classes - the girls are generally fine, sometimes they're hard to motivate but they are generally well behaved and willling to participate.  The boys are hit and miss - some classes do not want to be there, do not want to learn and have no qualms in making this known.  I think will all ages you will have pros and cons.

The biggest plus is I have 20 classes who I see once a week - this equates to 1 lesson plan a week! Compared to some of my friends who have Elementary and Middle Schools who plan anywhere between 2 and 20 lessons a week. 

Good luck with your application!

  • flasyb
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1901

    • November 30, 2010, 12:10:03 pm
    • South Korea
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2011, 02:56:07 pm »
I teach at a mixed rural high school which is quite poor and still uses chalk boards and has no projectors although there are TVs. I love it. Some of the kids are bad. Like one time I was going up the stairs to teach my worst class of the week. The co-teacher had told me he was too busy to come to class that day (which is fine, better off without them usually) and at the top of the stairs was a kid bleeding from the hand and being harangued by the mistress of pain (or the punisher) as I like to call her. He'd just punched through a glass door. My kids couldn't have been happier to volunteer to mop up the blood. Another time a few first graders went out drinking soju one lunchtime and came back to class but Mr Kang smelled it on their breath and the mistress of pain tortured the information on who supplied the soju out of them. Parents were called, those kids would be foolish to engage in those shenanigens again.

Like a previous poster mentioned, having only a couple of lesson plans to do for a whole week is a sweet deal. I get paid for after school classes and next semester I won't have to teach the grade 3s so I'll only have 14 hours a week. The problem with only seeing the kids once a week is that they struggle to remember what we did in class the week before. Certainly, the fact that they are working an 8.30am - 11pm day is a contributing factor in this. Sometimes I feel like I'm wasting my time with the slower kids especially but then I realise if they're not learning, it's my fault and I try harder.
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

We are not "guests" in Korea. Korea didn't invite us over for Pimms in the garden. We are paid employees.

  • SBracken
  • Expert Waygook

    • 579

    • March 07, 2011, 07:41:22 am
    • Pohang, S Korea
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2011, 02:58:22 pm »
I wasn't placed at my first choice location or level- but I applied pretty late I guess and it didn't matter much to me anyway.

I'm teaching high school and middle school here, and I've taught elementary back home (and worked with middle and high school students in clubs and such, but never 'teaching' them). At home (USA) I coudn't stand the middle schoolers- I thought they were brats. Here it's the opposite- for me and my schools- the middle schools are all into learning and the high schoolers are just too cool for class. I'm working on getting to know them a bit better, but right now they have practically no respect for me.

My best advice though is just to realize that the biggest factor is your attitude- if you approach Korea and whatever school level with an open mind, expecting a challenge that you can ultimately enjoy and learn from, then you've got the biggest hurdle taken care of.

  • korr
  • Expert Waygook

    • 724

    • July 16, 2009, 12:35:46 pm
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2011, 02:58:52 pm »
I requested elementary (which I got) and a rural placement (which I didn't). I've transferred to middle and high school since then and while I really miss the little kids, I like it a lot better.

One thing to keep in mind is that Korea has a lot of different high schools. I'm at a low-scoring all-girls school out in the country with both academic and vocational classes and teach basic vocabulary. Someone I know is at a high-scoring mixed foreign language high school in the middle of the city and is teaching the students how to take the English SATs. I make two or three lesson plans a week. Other people make ten and teach a ton of evening classes. It's a very mixed bag.

That said, while I like middle school better, I love my high schoolers. Generally speaking the academic kids are more motivated, but my absolute favorite high school class is a bunch of vocational second graders who speak about five words of English put together. I teach almost entirely in bad Korean and charades, but everyone has a good attitude and knows when to have fun. How the class behaves depends on the individual kids more than the school, so even if you request a specific placement, that doesn't necessarily tell you what you're getting.

Also...I'm probably alone in this, but I love my little rural school so much more than the big city school I taught at before. It's much easier to get to know the kids.

  • Yu_Bumsuk
  • The Legend

    • 2341

    • March 03, 2011, 02:10:36 pm
    • Hicksville, ROK
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2011, 11:36:26 am »
High schools really, really vary by level and workload. Generally speaking academic HS is a very different ball game from tech / vocational. The downside is, the better the students, the less time they have for practical English.

  • Gomdori
  • Veteran

    • 83

    • September 17, 2010, 01:29:51 pm
    • Seoul
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2011, 11:56:11 am »
Thanks for all of the replies everyone!!  Your comments were very helpful.  I decided to put high school as my first choice, and middle as my second.  Looking forward to getting out of the hagwons and into the public schools!  :D

  • greg052
  • Explorer

    • 5

    • April 12, 2011, 10:34:03 am
    • Daegu
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2011, 10:53:53 am »
You probably won't get what you request. I wanted elementary but they put me in high school.

Now I'm glad they did. I couldn't imagine being elsewhere.

  • NMonk
  • Veteran

    • 205

    • March 04, 2011, 05:39:39 pm
    • Seoul
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2011, 11:02:30 am »
I teach in a High School in Seoul and I absolutely love it. You will be expected do a higher level of teaching than in Elementary (where you will basically sing songs) or middle school (although I have no experience of this). The biggest challenge is to motivate high school kids and keep them on task, just think about what your classes were like when you were at high school. Personally I have so much more job satisfaction with teaching older kids due to the more interesting range of topics I can do, and as a previous poster said you can really engage with (some) of the students. I wouldn't swap my job, but it is all personal preference. Elementary school kids are cute, middle school kids really get excited about games and high school kids are more interesting i my opinion.

With regards to getting your first choice on my orientation there were only 15 high school positions and bout 50 people applied for them as first choice.
Check out for my blog, FREE lesson plans featured by the British Council and general living in Korea resources.

  • erikt
  • Explorer

    • 5

    • June 15, 2010, 08:36:38 am
    • Gumi, South Korea
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2011, 11:36:54 am »
I'm starting my second year teaching high school.  I have a lot of freedom to plan my classes which is go and bad.  It means I have a lot of room to be creative, but it also means that lesson planning takes longer.  Class management can be a problem tons of kids wanting to sleep and fighting to get off task.  Overall I was happy enough with my experience to stay a second year here and don't think the lower levels would be ask rewarding.

  • dwebsterlfc
  • Veteran

    • 153

    • September 15, 2010, 10:24:21 am
    • Incheon, Korea
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2011, 11:39:02 am »
It really depends what you're looking for. If you want structure and guidance then elementary is probs the way forward. I love working in my highschool, some of the kids can be a pain but all in all it's a great job.

  • sonicfife
  • Explorer

    • 8

    • February 07, 2011, 04:33:41 pm
    • Cheongju
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #17 on: April 12, 2011, 12:03:58 pm »
As others have mentioned, what type of high school you teach at makes a huge difference.  Most academic high schools do not employ foreign teachers, as they feel it is of no benefit to the students - the goal of these schools is to have their students score well on the K-SATS and go to a good university, which in turn increases the school's reputation.  English conversation doesn't help them with that (which of course raises the issue of the conflicting goals of English education in Korea, but that's a topic for another thread).

Unless you get a foreign language high school, the majority of your students will be unmotivated to learn English.  The trade-off is not a lot of work, as others have mentioned.  I work at a foreign language high school, which is A LOT of work but also very rewarding.  I can't think of a better teaching job in Korea, other than working at an international high school.  If you're applying through EPIK and want a foreign language high school, you either have to be highly qualified or have worked a few years in the same province and know the co-ordinators well.

  • Erik627
  • Explorer

    • 5

    • September 10, 2010, 11:49:24 am
    • Incheon, South Korea
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2011, 12:10:42 pm »
I agree with the others, it varies a lot from person to person. I teach elementary, and personally, love it. There's minimal planning to be done and kids are way awesome. But High School has its obvious perks as well.

  • sroetem
  • Explorer

    • 5

    • November 11, 2010, 03:24:39 pm
    • us
Re: Teach high school???
« Reply #19 on: April 12, 2011, 12:14:19 pm »
I love my high school, but it is very low level.  Many of the students are unmotivated.
But, the ones that are..........

Easy for me.  Not for everyone.  I just have a good connection with the students and staff.