EPIK, korea, Life Abroad, travel

A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Korea

There’s a lot of people who ask me exactly what it is that I do every day. In an effort to answer these questions, here’s my (rough) daily schedule as an English teacher at an elementary school in South Korea.



7:30 AM – Wake up. Stare at wall. Contemplate skipping school. Remember that I’m the teacher.

7:40 AM – Actually get out of bed. Get dressed, shove food into face. I’m gonna need it to deal with all the kiddos. Elementary schoolers have enough stored energy to fuel a nuclear reactor.

8:10 – I walk to school, which takes about half an hour. If I’m running late, I’ll take my bike to shave off ten minutes’ commute time, but I’ll be damned before I take the bus. Buses run on money and save you fat. Walking is the other way around, and I need to burn those extra calories if I’m going to binge on Korean goodies later.

When I lived in the countryside, I had the most gorgeous ride to school.

8:40 – Arrive at school. The overly-enthusiastic, narcoleptic gym teacher wakes up long enough to shout a greeting at me as I sit down in my office chair. I fix one of the yellow packets of instant coffee that are so popular in Korea. It doesn’t taste anything like real coffee, but I am assured it contains caffeine.

9:00 – Classes for the day begin! I teach between three to five every day, with four being the average (just in case you’re real bad at math). My classes are forty minutes long, and I have a ten minute break in between each one.

I teach third and fourth grade. My co-teacher opens the class with a basic alphabet phonics review, which I think is an excellent idea since some of my students still have issues reading. I plan all of my own lessons based on the textbook and teach the majority of the class. Meanwhile, my co-teacher helps out the lower-level students with much more basic English, ranging from practicing writing letters to sounding out words. I really like how my co-teaching is structured, because it means that behind students actually have a chance to catch up instead of getting left behind in the metaphorical English dust. If I need help with discipline or if something needs to be explained more fully to the kids, my co-teacher steps in, to ensure the class runs as smoothly as possible.

My kids playing a game to practice numbers.

13:00 – Lunch! I eat in the school cafeteria. No matter what the menu is, you can rest assured of three constant factors: there will be soup. There will be rice. And, there will be kimchi. God bless us, every one.

13:40 – 16:40 – I lucked out and don’t have any classes in the afternoon, so I have plenty of time to stalk people from high school on Facebook  plan my upcoming lessons. This is the prime nap time of the narcoleptic gym teacher. He talks a little in his sleep and I make a game of trying to make out the mumbled Korean words. He seems to like bikes a lot.

Under the coat is a man sleeping.

16:40 – Jailbreak time! On Wednesdays, I do a language exchange with one of my coteachers. It mostly consists of her asking about very sophisticated grammar patterns and high-level vocabulary while I alternate between using the Korean of a two-year old and the Korean of a drama protagonist. (Oppaaaaa! Kajima!) It’s not a great combination.

17:10 – Get home, if I’m not making my coteacher’s ears bleed that day. I normally straighten up my tiny apartment a little, from the mess I caused in the morning from being in a state of ‘white girl can’t even’ when I get up.

18:00ish – Dinner. I like to cook a lot, since it’s the only way I can really be assured of proper Western food. (Though sometimes I do make some simple Korean dishes, like kimchi fried rice). I normally read or watch something while I eat. I grew up with three siblings and parents who insisted on eating family-style at the table almost every night, so eating alone is actually a pretty nice change of pace, since nobody is having a meltdown.

After dinner – Mixed activities. Sometimes, I go to the library and read (there are magazines and books in English!) or study Korean. There aren’t a lot of proper bakeries in Korea, so I bake a lot in the evenings as well. In the winter when it’s cold out, I like to turn off the lights, roll up in an enormous comforter on the floor, and pretend I’m a bean burrito until spring comes back. When it’s warmer out, I like to go on walks or ride my bike around. Since I’m old and my back hurts (actually, I just have scoliosis. But my back does hurt, especially the upper bit) I do yoga. And, of course, sometimes I just lie in bed and watch Netflix, just like I would back at home.

I’ve gotten super into baking during my last three years in Korea. Need some puff pastry from scratch? Sourdough? Homemade truffles? I’m your girl.


So, that’s my average weekday! What’s yours like?

Have any questions about my days teaching English in Korea? Let me know in the comments below.



All photos are mine. 

2 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Korea”

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