Its a Hagwon Life part 1

by Mr Mike

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.

I. Starting to Feel Like a Police State

Last week my principal abruptly called me into her office.  I saw my coteacher leaving and sat down as I pondered why she needed to talk to both of us.  She asked if a fellow teacher had spoken to me today.

That’s strange, I thought to myself.  Yeah (insert coworker’s name here) stopped in to let me know she “name dropped” me in a previous meeting where my resignation had been discussed.  She apologized and it was over right?

I thought about how to respond when I realized they have CCTV; suddenly my mind did a double take.  I had just finished reading The Hunger Games and wondered if this is what it feels like to be under constant surveillance like Panem, 1984, or some other police state.  Well, I saw no reason to hide our minimal conversation so I told her.

“Yeah, (insert coworker’s name here) stopped by my room.  I was teaching and she mentioned that she spoke to you about an incident the previous day.”

My principal went on to give me details about the incident which were omitted by my coworker.  She told me how a parent had considered removing their child from the school and then asked me how I felt about it.  That’s a strange question from your new boss.  I assumed she was trying to ascertain if I would cause an incident that might make her lose students.  I assured her that I had no intention of causing any problems before she asked me the most shocking question.

“Do you think I did the right thing?  You know, with (insert coworker’s name here)?  I mean I had to do something right?  I’m the director.  Did she need more discipline?”

Wait.  Hold up a minute.  Is my new principal (who I told I was leaving the school 2 weeks after her first day) asking me for advice? I felt incredibly uncomfortable about her divulging information from private conversations with my friend and parent of a student that I am in no way involved with.  I thought she was being unprofessional but, she’s my boss, so I answered as candidly as possible.

“I’m not an administrator, but yes, it is your job to handle situations that arise.  I can’t comment on what actually happened and any intent that may or may not have been present. To the best of my knowledge the teachers all do their best to keep the students and parents happy.”

We continued talking a little longer but the conversation kept going in circles.  I was getting annoyed since she already kept me from doing anything productive during my only prep that day.  I’m don’t know how a meeting could have been worse without anything bad actually happening to me;  I excused myself to go teach.

II. A Second Strange Encounter

Earlier this week she stopped by Brian’s room (another coworker) while we were chatting before our afternoon classes began.  She wanted to speak to me again, and brought up her administrative procedures involving another teacher’s conversation.  This one at least related to me but it was as if she was trying to catch me in a nonexistent lie.

“I know that you spoke to (insert coworker’s name here).” She opened accusingly.

“Yeah, I talk to him regularly.  What’s up?”  I calmly responded.

“The email he sent me.  He said that you told him things.  I thought we had a deal.  You don’t need to tell the other teachers private things.”

“I’m not sure what you are talking about.”  What was she trying to get at?  The tone of her voice reminded my coworker of our old principal and she acted as if I had said something wrong.  I was completely open with her about resigning and correctly assumed thats what it was about.  I waited for her to say it before reminding her how things evolved.

“You spoke to him about the letter of release and the payment you still owe.” She said

“Yes, I spoke to a number of my coworkers when you approached me about buying my letter of release.  I asked Korean’s too.  I wanted to find out if this was a normal Korean practice and everyone said it wasn’t.  I’m still not comfortable paying for my release letter and frankly I still think its illegal, in America we call that ‘extortion.’  I told you all of this in our previous conversations.” I kept my cool but didn’t like what she was implying.

“But you don’t need to talk about private things with the others.  He emailed me and told me what you told him.”  She kept insinuating something that wasn’t there.

“I’m not sure what he emailed you but I have been completely open with you and my other coworkers about the details of my resignation.” I responded.

She kept talking about this email before asking “Did I do the right thing with (insert coworker’s name here)?”

“I’m not clear what happened or why anything needed to be done?” I told her as I grew impatient.

“He emailed me many things and not all of them were good.” She responded.

“Mrs. (Insert principal’s name) I have to go teach soon.  You are the administrator and need to do as you see fit.”  I ended it as peacefully as possible while quite agitated that she ate up my entire prep yet again before excusing myself to teach.

After we left the building (I was really paranoid about the camera’s at school by now) I asked my coworker who sent the email.  We laughed about the situation as he offered to show me the email.  The last time he emailed her was with a set of recommendations that we wrote together.  We were trying to give to the administration some hope at saving the school after all 11 of the foreign teachers left.    It was like she was hoping I had said something wrong and was trying to catch me with non-existent evidence.

Check back tomorrow for part 2!

Mr Mike

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