Its a Hagwon Life part 2

by Mr Mike
Its a Hagwon Life part 2

Its been about a month since I accepted the new job but I still have another two before I can leave my Hagwon.  Things here continue to spiral downwards and reinforce my decision to leave as soon as possible.  I’ve collected a few anecdotes over the last weeks to illustrate how things have continued to deteriorate.  Read Part 1 here!

III. Substitute Teaching

A few weeks later the foreign teachers’ principal (Jane) came into my room around 9:05 and opened with

“I’m sorry.  I have to ask you a favor.”

Uh oh.  I thought to myself as I  said “Sure, what is it?”

“Its Jason teacher, he won’t be here today.”  She began while handing me a pink post-it.  It read “Mike 10:50-11:20 Math Pelican”

“Okay.” I paused.  I already knew what this meant but I wanted to hear her to say it.

Awkwardly her gaze wandered around the classroom.  She refused to make eye contact as she said “I need you to cover for him.”

Well, that’s how substitute teachers are found at a hagwon.  They take away prep time and pretend its no big deal.  Lets not forget that 99% of the teachers don’t have sub plans ready and almost certainly didn’t leave any notes.

Luckily I had a handful of math games I use for my class ready to go.  I introduced Pelican class to centers and they had what may have been their favorite math class while practiceing addition & subtraction facts in 3 stations.

IV. Curriculum?  What’s that?

Its the the Monday before Christmas.  We only have class two days this week.  Luckily I’ve got plenty of lessons ready and other activities planned because the school has yet again failed to provide any semblance of a plan or curriculum.

In our weekly Monday meeting Jane asked us to teach “week 1 of January.”

“We don’t have that curriculum?” I responded.

“What do you mean?”  Jane retorted.

“I mean you still haven’t given us the curriculum for January.  I prepared plans for the week but we should have a curriculum in advance so we can use it to make our plans.”  I answered her and got a few looks from my coworkers; it was clear that I was voicing a majority opinion.

“Okay, just do week 4 again for December.” She retorted.  Clearly a little annoyed that I pointed out she failed to do her job in front of everyone.

Lack of curriculum doesn’t bother me too much anymore.  I have come to accept the fact that this hagwon does zero planning even though they expect us foreigners to diligently complete everything on a tight schedule.  The attitude towards punctuality in Korea reminds me of “tico time” when I was in Costa Rica.  Everything gets done… eventually.

V. At level books, appropriate resources & schedules.  Who needs em?

As the day continued I thought I would have a chance to stop in my Principal’s office and offer her some advice about the curriculum for next year.  I also wanted to discuss the grossly under leveled books I was just handed for my book club.  The year started with ~50 page books which my students could eat up in one sitting.  I finally convinced them to get real chapter books when suddenly one of the principals hands me books that are practically identical to my first 2 sets.  Even if you don’t know anything about the books the sheer difference in number of pages is evident from the pictures below as we went from Fudge or Judy Moody books, to my new Arthur series.


As I was saying, the plan was to use my preps to discuss this with my principal and give her some honest advice.  Plus, she asked me to stop in and talk about the money for my airfare.   I thought I’d just remind her I don’t want to pay and there’s no way I’ll pay without a receipt of my payment.  For better or worse this meeting didn’t get to happen today.

Instead the day’s schedule was completely rearranged without informing any of the foreign teachers.  The Korean teachers seem to know whats going on but I only found out minutes beforehand that gym class was canceled.  At least I got slightly more notice that we had music rehearsal after lunch.  When I finally dropped my students off at music rehearsal the music teacher was idly eating lunch with my principal while my Korean teacher and I ran rehearsal.  After the music teacher disappeared another class showed up and the two Koren teachers took over.

The CEO/owner of the school didn’t take his eyes off me for about 20 minutes while I assisted my coteacher.  It was clear that I knew nothing about what goes on in Music class; but why should I?  this was my first time attending it and the only reason I didn’t leave right away is that I felt bad leaving my coteacher alone.  When the 2nd Korean teacher showed I excused myself even though the music teacher was still no where to be found.

Lets not forget about the repetitive late paychecks, 2/3 of the administration leaving.  This hagwon nightmare ends in March and with new job and it can’t come fast enough.  I’m excited to be working in an actual school again instead of this “international society!”

Mr Mike

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Half a paycheck, still no pension | Live, Learn, Travel, Teach January 10, 2014 - 8:51 pm

[…] doesn’t cover on these occasions.  Her main responsibility is to develop our curriculum (which she fails to do) and online shops or chats on her phone most of the day.  She deals with parents when the need […]


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