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Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« on: February 26, 2015, 05:08:20 pm »
Hey guys. I quit a really crappy Hagwon job a while back and was looking for a new job for the past few weeks. I went to interview at a public school today and after me and the principal had lunch I signed a contract to work there. I jumped at it because I think the worst public school job is still going to be a step up from hagwon hell that I just went through.

The school is in Paju and only has about 60 students in the whole school. I get the feeling that the only reason I got the job was because other people didn't want it. It's a lot to do with location, but I don't mind as most of my friends live in Ilsan and instead of taking weekend trips to Seould I'd rather go to Ilsan.

I am a little bit worried about teaching at a small rural public school. Any potential pitfalls of working at a small public school like this one?


Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2015, 05:43:18 pm »
Low student English ability.

Low co-teacher English ability.

Not much to do outside of school.

Of course, the first two might not always be true, and I personally like the quiet and calm at my rural school.
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Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2015, 06:12:17 pm »
Low student English ability.

Low co-teacher English ability.

Not much to do outside of school.

Of course, the first two might not always be true, and I personally like the quiet and calm at my rural school.

None of that is a problem for me. I worked at a kindy hagwon so the English levels don't really get much lower than that. I also like a calm working condition. I live in ilsan so I have to decide whether or not I want to live in Paju or live in ilsan and commute.


  • macteacher
  • Expert Waygook

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    • September 03, 2012, 09:59:00 am
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Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2015, 06:20:26 pm »

Maybe having to teach multiple grade levels multiple times a week which means many lessons to plan.


Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2015, 07:31:02 pm »
I just finished a year at a small public school with EPIK at the outskirts of a major city (about 600,000 people). Despite being in a big city the school only had about 50 students. Last year I was at a much bigger school (about 600 students) in a much smaller town of about 20,000 people.

Because the school was right by a big city most of the kids went to hagwons and some of them had pretty good English skills, definitely better at the larger small town school.

Only thing I really didn't like was that to make up my 22 hours, most of my classes were afterschool, with large classes (like 15 to 18 students sometimes) and NO CO-TEACHER. With no co-teacher the kids were just awful most of the time, and I got zero support from any of the teachers, including their homeroom teachers. If Korean teachers don't have any responsibility for something they will not budge at all to help you. I freaked out about this at first but eventually just gave up on worrying about it because nobody really cared what I did as long as I just basically babysat the kids for an hour or two, so I just ended up doing a lot of bingo games and worksheets. Kind of depressing but it kept the kids from running around like maniacs ignoring me.

Comparing the small school to the big school I'd say these were the pluses:

- basically no drama. A big school has a way bigger top-to-bottom hierarchy and everyone is constantly micromanaging people below them and causing drama. At the small school there was pretty much never any kind of issue that I had to deal with. Anything administrative was really simple, unlike at the big school where it was like pulling teeth just to get my vacation days scheduled or getting an hour off to go to the bank or the doctor.

- Very few last minute class changes or cancellations. This happened all the time at my big school, and I was always doing makeup classes because there were so many unannounced class trips and other random crap. As a result I was still teaching the textbook in February, because so many classes had been cancelled. At the small school we were done by early December, so I just showed videos for the rest of the month and the February classes.

- Actually getting to know the kids...at the big school I only learned a handful of kids' names, I'm bad enough about Western names and have trouble with Korean names. At the small school I managed to learn the names of all the kids that came to my classes. They behaved better once I got to know them and they got to know me.

- Lots of free time...pretty much all of December I was just playing video games, because I didn't have any more textbook classes. I only had to do a week of summer camp and winter camp, which meant more time deskwarming, i.e. playing video games.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2015, 07:32:36 pm by MayorHaggar »
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Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2015, 08:11:47 pm »
Hey guys. I quit a really crappy Hagwon job a while back and was looking for a new job for the past few weeks. I went to interview at a public school today and after me and the principal had lunch I signed a contract to work there. I jumped at it because I think the worst public school job is still going to be a step up from hagwon hell that I just went through.

The school is in Paju and only has about 60 students in the whole school. I get the feeling that the only reason I got the job was because other people didn't want it. It's a lot to do with location, but I don't mind as most of my friends live in Ilsan and instead of taking weekend trips to Seould I'd rather go to Ilsan.

I am a little bit worried about teaching at a small rural public school. Any potential pitfalls of working at a small public school like this one?

of course each school is different, but of course you will (generally) get less support from co-teachers and lower ability from the students.  The flipside to this is you (generally) will have less responsiblility for this and that.


  • Mister Tim
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2015, 08:50:18 pm »

- Very few last minute class changes or cancellations. This happened all the time at my big school, and I was always doing makeup classes because there were so many unannounced class trips and other random crap. As a result I was still teaching the textbook in February, because so many classes had been cancelled. At the small school we were done by early December, so I just showed videos for the rest of the month and the February classes.


Counter-example:  I've taught at three different small schools ranging from ~65 all the way down to 39 students, and I had constant last minute changes and cancellations at all three of them. On top of that, I had regular problems with students strolling in to class five to ten minutes late like it ain't no thang, though I don't know whether or not that has anything to do with the schools being small and rural. After I scolded one class that had been coming in late every day for two or thee weeks, they told their homeroom teacher I had scolded them, and their teacher told my coteacher to tell me to stop scolding them for being late  :laugh:.

I agree with some of those other upsides, though, like getting to know your students. I've never worked at a large school, so I can't compare how well I could get to know kids there, but at each of my small schools it got to the point that I knew who was out in the hall just by the sound of their laugh.

Due to EPIK downsizing, the remaining teachers in my province are being stretched out pretty thin this school year. That means I'll be teaching at four small rural schools a week starting this March, so I'll soon find out how common my experiences so far actually are  :cheesy:.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2015, 08:51:55 pm by Mister Tim »


  • Kingeudey
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    • December 16, 2010, 08:57:02 am
    • Korea
Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2015, 09:31:49 pm »
Same pitfalls of a big school.  If the co-teachers and staff are good and the students are good (behavior wise), then it's fine.  I currently teach at 3 very small middle schools.  Main school is 16 total students between 3 grades (I'm assuming that number with a supposed 6 incoming in 1st grade).  It was bigger with a 3rd grade class of 11, but they graduated.

2nd school is my biggest at 50-60 students.

Last school is the smallest with 14 and I love that school.

The levels are generally low, but the kids are genuine and fun.

I hope it works out for you!


Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2015, 09:49:48 pm »
As for Korea in general, your co-t can make or break your stay.


  • draco888
  • Super Waygook

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    • August 11, 2013, 09:11:35 pm
Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2015, 08:15:38 am »
wow! and I thought I was at a small school and there are 200+ students!


  • Kingeudey
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    • Korea
Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2015, 08:20:03 am »
Yea, my first school was a high school of 1200+.  I was there for 3 years.  Went home for a year because my mother died and returned and was on an island.  Taught 4 schools ranging in size, but generally very small.  Now I am back on the mainland and the three schools I mentioned earlier.  Very small.  But I like them.


Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2015, 09:32:26 am »
I teach at a small public school in Gyeongsangnam-do. I have no troubles with the school, and teaching small class sizes is great and much easier. The only pitfall I have is that I am in a rural area and I have to depend on my car to go to work everyday. Right now my car is on its last leg and I need to get rid of it. The bus trnsit connection to my rural schools I teach at are very lame-duck. Taking a taxi helps but the taxi fare in the countryside is high. I hope I can get my old car replaced very soon.


  • ShanaC
  • Veteran

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    • August 27, 2013, 03:10:13 pm
Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2015, 10:09:51 am »
- As someone said, with recent downsizing, teachers are being spread out. Starting next week, I'll have 3 schools of about 15, 21, and 41 total students.

- Classes are often combined: 1/2 together, 3/4 together, 5/6 together. In the same class, I'll have some who can carry on a conversation, and others who can't read.

- Commute is long. I'm up at 5:45 am, and home generally at 6:30 pm. I take two buses each way. Snowy days are dangerous.

- Classes are regularly changed, schedule for the week changed, and students come in late. With a small school, it's easy for the homeroom teacher to just message the English teacher and my day is totally different than expected.


  • pantsu
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    • Jeonbuk
Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2015, 11:19:37 am »
Pro: You get to know the teachers and students better. Even the principals were buddy-tier. Played a lot of gym sports after classes.

con: Longest commute of your schools. These schools are usually remote. Low ability students across all subjects are sent here.


Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2015, 10:11:26 pm »
Yeah if you have multiple schools then you can get spread out pretty thin and it can be more awkward and unpredictable than if you are at one school every day.

But if you're only at one school all week long then you're probably going to have to do afterschool classes with no CT and the kids can be wild.

I had problems with my kids coming late, that is a pretty common thing in Korea as any of us know. They'd only come to my classes on time if the teacher of their preceding class told them to clear off and go to English. My attitude is if the kids and their teachers don't take my classes seriously, neither will I. At first I'd plan an entire 40 minutes of class per period. Later I'd just plan for about 10 or 15 minutes and expect to waste the rest of the time with kids coming late and leaving early and generally being disruptive. If there was any leftover time we'd just watch Mr. Bean or play badminton or dodgeball or whatever. I got the kids to shape up about a lot of stuff and they got better about coming on time, but I after a while I refused to let myself get worked up about stuff like that. If Koreans refuse to change their culture of timeliness that's not my responsibility.

« Last Edit: February 27, 2015, 10:15:19 pm by MayorHaggar »
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  • tamjen
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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    • June 19, 2013, 08:08:14 am
Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2015, 02:23:48 pm »
I am about to sign my 5th contract with a public elementary school. It has about 20 students.

I also teach at 2 other schools: elementary and middle. thus  I have 11 different classes comprising a total of about 100 students.

The fact I am signing my 5th contract should say it all, it's enjoyable. The students are nice, countryside polite and well behaved.

My main school lets me come and go as I please. I do not desk warm. It's not something we talked about. I simply don't go to school on those days and nothing has ever been said.

I have never made a lesson plan - although I have asked if they need one - I never prepare for classes because we have a textbook and an CD.

I am scheduled for 18 classes a week but have never had all 18 in one week throughout 4 years. Last year I didn't have one single week with all 18 classes. I would estimate I averaged about 14.

No man...if you have a rural countryside gig like me, you are grooving baby. No problems.
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  • ShanaC
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    • August 27, 2013, 03:10:13 pm
Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2015, 02:28:17 pm »
tamjen, that does sound pretty sweet. Mine has not worked out so smoothly. I have to be there for all deskwarming days (often with no heat/AC in my room). We have two weeks of vacation camp, even if only one student decides to show up. I can't leave until 5 PM. My afterschool elementary classes are 50 min. instead of 40. I don't have a textbook for any afterschool classes (do you?). etc. I think small schools here are as much of a crapshoot as bigger ones.


  • tamjen
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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    • June 19, 2013, 08:08:14 am
Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2015, 08:37:08 am »
I agree with your sentiment about school quality being a crapshoot regardless of where you are. However, I would say the odds are better in a countryside school. Of, course, you have to enjoy being in a quiet and rural area. I do, I like the [eace and quiet and I find countryside folks to be a little friendlier.

I have had summer camps 3 of my 4 years, each was 3 days long from 0900 - 1200 there was a co-teacher with me and the classes were small, 6 or 8 students. I have had 2 winter camps with the same numbers. The school has adjusted the camps around my vacation.

Tomorrow, the 1st day of the new school year, I will find out when school is closed for summber break. Then, I will tell my CT what days I am taking off for vacation, and if there is going to be a camp, they'll work around my time off. They're very good like that.

I have 1 after school class which is 40 minutes long and has a CT. There are 4 students. I picked the textbook off the internet. It's colourful and fun, has a cd and a workbook. I told the CT "buy this one", she did and everyone is happy.

Maybe I did get a bit lucky, but the other foreigners here in this small town all seem to have a very similar gig. I know others who work in small towns as well, and of course several who work at those monster sized school. In my experience, all the small town FT's have it easier than the big city FT's.
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Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2015, 01:08:20 pm »
I am about to sign my 5th contract with a public elementary school.

The fact I am signing my 5th contract should say it all.

If you have really been 5 years at the same robot public school job in Korea, same environment, you might want to reevaluate your life to figure out what's not going correct.

Do you have any goals at all in your life?



  • tamjen
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1180

    • June 19, 2013, 08:08:14 am
Re: Any pitfalls of working at a small public school?
« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2015, 06:31:00 pm »
I am about to sign my 5th contract with a public elementary school.

The fact I am signing my 5th contract should say it all.

If you have really been 5 years at the same robot public school job in Korea, same environment, you might want to reevaluate your life to figure out what's not going correct.

Do you have any goals at all in your life?

This is rude and uncalled for. Not all of us are young and starting on our path to professional growth.

I have been there and done that. I have been married for many years. I own a house, it's filled with stunning hand-carved solid hardwood furniture, I have a truck and a motorbike and when I hang out in my yard I look at palm trees, pomello trees, lime trees, papaya trees and a banana tree. I don't owe a cent to anyone. Everything is paid for and I have money in the bank and in a few years will collect my retirement pay. I'm here padding my bank account doing a very easy job for too much money.

I have one goal in life. Enjoy it. That's it and that is freaking all. This is my last year in Korea, then it's home to the tropics and hammock and beer time.

Where will you be in one year? Still looking at another 20 or 25 years of work I suspect. I'm done with that jive. It's time to relax.
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