While researching ESL opportunities in Korea, I knew that public school was the path for me.
In short, ESL hopefuls have two main options in Korean educational institution – public school (EPIK, JLP, etc.) and private academies (학원 (hagwon)).
Public schools offer daytime working hours (9:00-5:00), more vacation days, and often fewer teaching hours (capped at 22). However, teachers often have to produce more lesson plans. Moreover, vacation dates are often restricted to the school calendar.
On the other hand, private academies often give native teachers a pre-made curriculum. This equals less pressure to produce lessons. Academy teachers can also negotiate for higher pay (public-school salaries are fixed on a pay scale).
However, private academy teachers often work a later schedule (typically 2:00 to 10:00), have fewer vacation days, and have more in-class hours.
I’m a morning person. At Kentucky I loved rising at 5:30 to eat breakfast, lift weights, and waltz into my first class feeling accomplished and unhurried.
I cannot imagine thriving when my work hours extend late into the night. While I have done so before while working in bars and restaurants, a night owl lifestyle is not my M.O.
As a result, I am beyond thrilled with my current position. I wake up every day at 4:45. I meditate, exercise, sip a cup of coffee while studying some Spanish, and stroll into work with a relieving sense of accomplishment. Sometimes there’s time to sit in a convenience store and read my Kindle.
“Everything else I do today is a bonus,” I think. “I’ve already accomplished so much.”
However, morning larks have a debt to pay when the sun sets. I often struggle to do anything of value after making it home and eating dinner. Some evenings, I will eat my veggies, tofu, fruit, and protein shakes, collapse on my bed, inadvertently nap for an hour, get up, do the dishes, and then re-recline for sleep.
When I consider the big picture, I see nothing wrong with this. I front-load my work for the express purpose of permitting nightly relaxation. However, sometimes I yearn to enjoy my evenings more consciously.
I do prefer to be in bed by 9:30 to facilitate my requisite seven hours of beauty rest (Ian Teacher needs to stay handsome). Yet sometimes I drift into naps as early as 7:15 and sleep as early as 8:00.
Lately, I’ve employed some principles of behavioral change to appreciate my evenings a bit more. For one, I am striving to break the habit of resting on my bed after finishing dinner.
“It’s only one minute. Check your Kakao messages and then get back up.”
“No. I know what happens after one minute. It becomes two, three, and then 60.”
“No. Let’s do the dishes.”
Oftentimes changing a habit requires changing the environment. For me, staying in my apartment renders me comatose after eating a big meal.
So I vow to leave my apartment every evening after finishing dinner. My evening wanderings often lead me to a local cafe. For one, this gets me moving. Some evidence suggests that walking after meals can benefit digestion. Movement also just relieves my sleepiness in general.
As a result, I’ve explored at least six new cafes in the past month. I often take my Kindle or Korean textbook, sip on some tea (perhaps also beneficial for digestion), and just relax for an hour or so. I’ve found it a perfect cap on a busy day at work.
In addition to planning cafe nightcaps, I’ve also scheduled a couple of evening activities. On Mondays, I visit a Mokpo orphanage to practice English with middle school girls. On Wednesdays, I meet a Korean tutor.
Not only do I consider both of these activities very rewarding, but it also keeps me active in the evenings. The thought of letting others down can be very motivating. Whenever we include other people in our commitments, the pressure to follow-through often drives us to persist through fatigue. No one likes a quitter or a flake (except for fellow quitters and flakes).
I wrote before that I seek new challenges in my second year here. I want to extend myself beyond my comfort zone and freshening and ever-staling routine. Evening activities are one such challenge. By finishing my day strong, I sleep stronger and live more fully.