The same characters tend to pop up again and again in my Korea experiences. I see myself, or past shades of myself, in several of these.
The Firm Hand
FH was a high school chemistry teacher for six years before switching gears and coming to work abroad. FH seeks to run their Korean classroom just like they would in their home country. Nope.
Pros: Thoughtful lesson plans, professional attitude, happy to talk methodology in the staff room with the teacher trainees.
Cons: The yelling. So much yelling. This teacher expects the students to be just as attentive and obedient to them as they are to native Korean teachers. When kids tune them out, stroll into class late, or get gabby with their deskmate during an exercise, The Firm Hand will scream. And punish. And work superduper hard to be taken just as seriously by the students as any other teacher on staff.
Despite the high-veg and low-cholesterol Korean diet, this teacher's blood pressure must be through the roof.
The Kardashian Mom
KM didn't really like school that much, but got along great with those young cool teachers who high-fived students and looked the other way when everyone got drunk at semiformal. KM started the teaching contract with the vow to be "the Anthony Bourdain of ESL."
Pros: Great at facilitating conversations in English, even after class. Voted "coolest teacher" by students. Will be invited to do a sexy Rihanna dance with a group of 3rd graders in the annual talent show.
Cons: Colleagues feel hugely undermined when, in the midst of giving a punishment, KM saunters up and starts cracking jokes with the kids.
After being chummy with students for weeks of games, KM will have a Sisyphysian time getting them to crack a book once midterms loom near.
One Foot out the Door
OFOTD isn't actually a teacher. This gig is more like an extended travel experience to save a bit of money, recharge the batteries after a supergruelling Ivy League undergrad degree, and plan out grad school applications to, you know, get back to the real world.
Pros: Holds students to a very high standard. Knows the best sushi place in the neighbourhood. Sets out to master the Korean language in two months' time.
Cons: Accidentally (?) offends anyone who is serious about education as a career field. After two months, will pronounce that learning Korean is "not really practical with the way things are going, globally."
If it's not clear already, I can't stand this person.
DG organizes weekend hikes and outings to the kimchi festival for anyone interested. Thanksgiving is an open house potluck. Christmas Day is an outing to the local orphanage.
DG is out at the pubs every weekend, usually running a toy drive for the children's hospital or a fundraising 80s Night for landmine victims.
Though DG's career goals aren't in language teaching, they will spend hours of each day researching methodology. It's only fair to the students that their teacher commits to the work 110%.
Pros: A heart as big as all outdoors.
Cons: Makes you feel lazy by comparison.
DG is always promoting causes, so bear in mind when you pal up on Facebook that you'll be getting invitations to sixty events per month.
Floater finished university a few months ago and didn't quite know what to do with that new arts degree. Teaching seemed fun, though Floater doesn't know if that's what (s)he wants to do as a career. Always says the word "career" in a burdened, almost sarcastic voice, the way a fierce liberal would say "small government."
Pros: Open-minded, adventurous, hesitates to complain because they don't want to rule things out without giving them a fair chance. Will meet at least 50 fellow Floaters during EPIK orientation.
Cons: Might stay in Korea for years, growing tired of the students and culture, simply because they can't choose between an apprenticeship in New Zealand or NGO work in Angola.
Floater will spend five months entertaining the idea of being a professional travel blogger. Their monetized teacher blog will yield about $2.85 per month, and they will get jaded after writing a 6-piece series for a TESL recruiter's site, which goes bankrupt and never pays them.