My job has changed in countless ways, but I'll try to explain a few of the most significant ways here.
Chinese university students vs. Korean middle school students
Now, most of the students I work with are about 13 years old and are native Korean speakers. I do have a handful of native Chinese speakers, native Japanese speakers, and occasionally a student of another language background, but the majority are and will be Korean.
Before, all of my students (except 2 out of the 2000+ students I taught at the university over 3 years) were Chinese, and most of them were native Mandarin speakers. That made contextualizing things in the classroom very simple. I could relate everything to Chinese culture and sometimes even bring up connections between Chinese language and English (based on my very limited knowledge of Chinese language).
Now, when I contextualize, I have to make sure to include all of the students. I have had to learn about Korean and Japanese languages, at least to the point where I can draw connections between what they already know and what they have to do in English. My first pronunciation lesson in one of my classes this semester was on differentiating between the /l/ and /r/ sounds, a common problem for Korean and Japanese speakers, but rarely an issue for Chinese speakers.
Having multiple language speakers in the same class and at the same school does have the advantage of forcing everyone to speak English more often, and as a result, some of the students see a huge improvement in their oral English. For example, a Chinese-speaking student who began the school year with very limited oral English ability and is the only non-Korean speaker in his class, now speaks incredible oral English because the only way he could communicate with his classmates was in English. It was a constant war for me at the university to get my Chinese students to use English to practice with one another. Even the best students would switch to Chinese when not communicating with a native English speaker, so their oral English really suffered. It is nice to be in an environment where some students really have no choice but to speak English.
On the other hand, it can also be isolating for them when the Koreans use Korean instead of English. Since about 80% of the students at our school speak Korean, it is unfortunately very common for them to use Korean when a teacher isn't around to make them switch to English. Many of the non-Korean speakers feel left out and uncomfortable because of this problem. This is something our school is still trying to work on, and it's not an easy problem to fix.
One last thing I'll point out is the vast difference between university-age students and middle school students. I had never had to incorporate methods like giving out candy or reward coupons into my teaching before coming to work with middle school students. The threat of a bad grade was motivation enough for my Chinese university students. When I provided candy or cookies for them, it was just an extra special fun treat. It wasn't an expected part of the learning process! My middle school students actually expect to be rewarded via candy or other tangible "bribes" when they demonstrate their learning. Many of them don't care about low grades, but they will do anything for a five-cent piece of candy!
Flexible working schedule with 12-16 hours actually spent in a classroom vs. strict 7:30-5:00 5 days a week spent at school
This has probably been the hardest part for me to get used to. I love flex-time work; always have, always will. Most of my jobs have had very flexible work hours, which works for me because I'm a workaholic, so I actually will work from home. It's awesome being able to work in my pajamas or take breaks from work to wash the dishes. Also, as an introvert, I love being able to be around people sometimes at work and other times do my work alone at home.
In this new job, I have to actually be there at school all day every weekday. There is very little break time away from people. I have to wake up really early, and during busy seasons when I am behind on lesson plans or grading, I also have to stay up very late. My body naturally prefers getting about 10 hours of sleep a night, so that hasn't been fun. I have a thirty-minute break for lunch on most days, from the end of one class to the start of the other class. So that's not just 30 minutes to actually eat. That's thirty minutes to walk from the classroom to get my lunch, heat up my lunch, eat my lunch, go to the bathroom, and then get to class on time. It is RUSHED! When I worked at the university, I had a minimum of two hours for lunch because the Chinese students and teachers need to take their 休息 (nap, or rest) in the afternoon. It was really tough for me to switch to a basically 15-minute eating block.
My body is getting more used to less time for sleeping and eating, so it doesn't aggravate me as much as it did in the beginning, but I do really look forward to weekends and holidays much more than I did before.
Teaching EFL writing and oral English vs. teaching ESL science and pushing in to mainstream classes as a support teacher
The final thing I'll mention about the differences is how much my actual teaching has had to change at this new job. Right now, I am working half as a classroom teacher, teaching science and English to students who have tested lower in English and aren't quite ready to be incorporated into mainstream classes, and half as a push-in teacher who circulates around the room of a mainstream classroom helping students who have tested high enough in English to be in the mainstream classrooms but still need a little extra support.
I definitely prefer being a classroom teacher rather than a support teacher. It's been difficult learning how to support another teacher rather than be in control of my own classroom, lesson plans, assessments, etc. It requires a lot more flexibility, communication, and patience to be a push-in teacher. At the end of the day, the good thing about pushing in is that you're not technically responsible for the students or their grades; the mainstream teacher is. But I still prefer being in control.
Next year, I will likely be only teaching and not pushing in, so hopefully that will be much less stressful for me. For now, it's been a good experience to see both sides of the ESL world, but I'm ready to get back to pure classroom teaching.
In addition to the actual style of teaching/supporting, the content of what I teach has had to change a lot. At the university, I taught an entire semester-long course purely on English writing and a semester-long course purely on oral English (speaking and listening, with an emphasis on speaking). Now, I have to integrate all English skills (including vocabulary) in one class that I teach, and in another class that I teach, I have to integrate all English skills in addition to teaching science content. I have always been terrible at science, so it was really scary to me at the beginning of the year that I would be teaching science! Fortunately, I have been able to understand most of the concepts enough to teach them to the students, but it has definitely been a challenge I wasn't expecting. Another side benefit is that my score in Trivia Crack on the science category has really improved since starting this job.
That's all for now. I'll try to write more later about some of the specifics of what I've been doing in this new job.