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The Korean Public School Hierarchy

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Take the class on Hierarchy-101, by working for a Korean public school! Like many office environments in Korea and around the world, some people are at the top of the food chain, others in the middle and some will be at the very bottom.
  • Who's at the top of this food chain?

1. Principal

At your school, the Principal is the King (or Queen). In fact, being a principal at Korean public school is a very prestigious position and getting that title is very competitive.

2. Vice-Principal

Next up is the vice principal. He or she is next in line for the throne once the principal either moves on to be a member of the board of education or retires.

3. Department Heads

The department heads are teachers who are also in charge of managing teachers of the grades they represent. Therefore, as there are six grades in an elementary school, there are usually six department heads for each school.

4. Home-room Teachers

Next are the home-room teachers. The home-room teachers are in charge of one particular class and are responsible for that class throughout the school year. They are responsible for a massive workload. Not only do they have to teach a variety of different subjects, but they also have the task of planning class events throughout the year, managing student behavior, designing, implementing and grading tests, making report cards and dealing with the students' parents.

5. Subject Teachers

Finally there are the subject teachers. Subject teachers do not have a home-room class to manage and teach many different classes one particular subject, such as English, Science or P.E. While these teachers still have to be responsible for a lot of planning, test making, classroom management and so forth, they do not have the burden of being directly responsible for the students they teach, as that falls under the jurisdiction of the home-room teachers. This means they end up with more free time than home-room teachers. Thus, they're lower on the totem pole.

6. Admin Staff

Every school has administration officials and while these workers aren't teachers, they still play a significant role is the school's operations and therefore they a part of the overall hierarchy. This includes the office workers, human resources and custodial workers.
  • So where do I fit in?
You, sad as it may seem, fit in right at the very bottom, next to the admin staff, but under the subject teachers. Let's face it, in all probability you do not have a teaching degree (apologies if you do, I am mainly speaking for the vast majority of native speaking English teachers that teach in Korean public schools). You did not go through the same rigorous process that Korean public school teachers have had to go through to get the positions they have. So you shouldn't expected to be as esteemed as they are.

But don't worry! You will still be treated with a great deal of respect from your coworkers and your students, because simply working as a public school teacher in Korea entails a high degree of respect. In fact, the overall treatment you get in a public school from students, parents and teachers alike is night and day compared to compared to what you would get in a typical hagwon.

Related Pages

1. Public School Etiquette
2. Korean Etiquette
3. Co-teaching Tips

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