Starting a new school year – Korea

by Mr Mike
Starting a new school year – Korea

The 2015-16 school year started at the beginning of March and its been a whirlwind of excitement.  I still can’t believe I’m almost finished with 2 full years living in Seoul.  Time certainly files by and I miss each and everyone of you reading this back home!

I am the new 4th grade team leader and inherited a number of responsibilities with said promotion.  Sure I’ve had lengthy meetings and spent time helping our new teachers adjust but I love it!  Its given me a chance to help pick the direction of our classes and school while honing my leadership skills and satisfying that primal urge to be the boss.4-3 classroom

Every school year presents new challenges but Korean ESL classes are uniquely different from those I taught in America.  My new crop of Korean 4th graders are as cute as ever and I have a huge range of English abilities.  Some kids already come up to me everyday and chat away about their family and home life while others are still working at a Kindergarten reading level and developing beginner speaking skills.

To help cope with this spectrum of abilities and adapt to a new schedule we are incorporating centers every week.  I’m working closely with my Korean coteacher (Mr. Kim) who thankfully has the best English I’ve seen in a coteacher.  We’ve got a wonderful relationship and have bonded over his time studying in Texas among other things.  He is the 4th grade Korean team leader and surprised me the other day by offering to share some of the burden when we are slotted to teach 36 students at once!

Speaking of that schedule a few of you heard about the new Korean laws that forced our hand.  The government is apparently trying to shrink the English education in South Korea and has limited the hours that we can teach English.  As a result we adapted the schedule and hired a few more teachers.  So far its working well in my grade but we’re bound to hit some rocky patches eventually.

I started a chess club this year and its already going strong in its 3rd week.  They capped me at 16 members even though I had 31 sign ups.  Normally I wouldn’t mind the smaller class but I get a stipend based on numbers so am still trying to weasel a few more spots.  The kids love it; we start each week with a quick chess lesson about tactics or how to mate with certain pieces before spending about an hour playing against each other.

There’s a lot of last year’s 4th grade to look forward to as well.  We are still planning a number of field trips (including the overnight to Gongju!).  My administration is the same as the end of last year and fight for better English programs but they unfortunately are sitting backseat to the Koreans.  Its to be expected but we are hoping for more equality in scheduling, planning and the rest.  We’ll see how the give and take goes but whatever happens I know I’ve got a great job!

Mr Mike

You may also like


Natasha April 2, 2015 - 9:37 am

Mike, this all sounds great! I hope you have a great school year. The chess club sounds awesome, too. My favorite grade is 3rd and 4th…sometimes 3rd is a bit of a challenge for me because of the language barrier, but as far as cuteness and their interest level — 3rd and 4th grade is where it’s at 🙂

Mr Mike April 2, 2015 - 11:07 pm

Thanks Natasha! The club is so much fun 🙂 I spend about 20 minutes doing a minilesson on some move or tactic and then we just play for an hour. They love it and I think its great for them, especially for Korean kids who don’t get a lot of playtime at home and hagwons.

I’m doing Yoga in a newspaper! | Live, Travel, Teach March 16, 2016 - 5:18 pm

[…] the craziness of moving while in Seoul.  Perhaps it was going to be an update on how fantastic my new school year is going (although still quite busy).  Even more interesting would have been the longtail boat ride […]


Leave a Reply