I have one class with only 2 girls in it – Cherry and Clara. I taught a lesson about money and to explain the difference between ‘bills’ and ‘coins,’ I pulled out a 1,000 won bill and a couple of 100 won coins from my wallet. Once I explained the difference, Cherry asked me, “Teacher, you use Korean money?!” 😂 Of course teacher has to use Korean money in South Korea, Cherry!
Last year my school was only Chungdahm but then the school got combined with Wiseman, a math and science academy. I wasn’t at the school in transition and I was okay with the combination when I first began my contract. The two academies didn’t really clash with each other even though we share the same floor. I don’t really talk to the Wiseman teachers because they don’t speak much English anyways. The most I say to them is 안녕하세요 when I walk into the office to clock in.
But recently, the director has been changing a lot. Or maybe she’s just finally showing her true colors. Last week she made all 7 teachers from both academies sit for four hours slipping coupons into packages of Wiseman pencils.
We packaged for 1 hour on Thursday and 3 hours on Friday and altogether we packaged over 2,000 pencils. On one side of the coupon was advertisement for Wiseman and on the other side was Chungdahm. I figured since they were Wiseman pencils, I would slip in the coupon so that Chungdahm was facing the outside. But nope. The director saw me and told me, “Amy, reverse. Wiseman outside, Chungdahm inside.” She tried to explain that the QR code is on the Wiseman side but I think she wants people to see Wiseman first before Chungdahm.
The director doesn’t care about Chungdahm at all. According to my manager, every since the director combined the schools, she’s been changing a lot of things. Chungdahm teachers didn’t have to work Saturdays before but now they do during the major holidays. Chungdahm was relatively decent to work before the combination. The previous teacher stayed for two years and another teacher would’ve renewed if it wasn’t for the director changing everything.
Anyway, this entire week she wanted all of us to go out to the public schools and hand pencils out to students as they’re leaving to go home. This makes absolutely no sense to me because kids in South Korea are already in school from 9am to 10pm. They’re not going to go home and say, “Hey mom! I got free pencils at school today. Can you pay for me to study even more at this academy?” I told my manager this and she agrees with me. Apparently this stunt pulled in ONE new student last year and she ended up dropping out anyways.
Despite this, I’m torn between leaving the school or renewing my contract. I love my manager – she’s awesome and I bet she’d she a great director if she opened up her own school. I also love the easy classes. I barely have to prep anything because my academy isn’t full English immersion like other Chungdahm academies. BUT there’s also the director and having a terrible co-teacher. I know I can find a better academy but do I want to risk an easy schedule? I need to decide soon because my contract ends in August. What to do, what to do…
If you just signed a public school contract, most likely you’ll have a Korean co-teacher in the classroom with you. And based on the stories I’ve heard on Facebook and from my friends, Koreans co-teachers can either be a hit or miss. They are either going to be fantastic teachers and help you in the classroom or be awful teachers and leave you to fend yourself in the classroom half the time.
My current situation is a little different. I don’t work in a public school. I work at a Chungdahm branch but my school is really small. It’s just me and two Korean teachers (both who are fluent in English). One teacher is also the manager of the English academy and with many years of experience, an overall great teacher. The other one, however, is… Well to put it bluntly, he’s the worst teacher I’ve ever had to work with. He’s THAT bad.
I’m trying to keep in mind that this is his first time teaching in a classroom setting. At his previous job, he told me he worked one on one with students and mostly focused on reading and writing. Okay, he lacks experience but I wasn’t a great teacher when I first started teaching in South Korea either. I almost ran away in my first month (that’s another story). But this teacher… Let’s call him Nick. I feel like his inexperience isn’t the biggest issue here: it’s his lack of common sense. I swear this guy has none at all.
On Friday, we had to give a book test to our April students. All of the test booklets were already printed out and stacked in the test drawer in the teacher’s room. Nick teaches a phonics class from 2:30 to 3:50 and he asked me to check the test material while he taught class. Unfortunately I was tasked with tedious advertising labor (you can read about that here) that I didn’t get around to it until 3:45 (the test starts at 4:00). At that time, I took all the tests out of the drawer, counted them, printed out more copies as needed, and stacked them neatly on the table. They were pretty hard to miss.
So it turned out that Nick has no patience whatsoever. I guess he was worried that the test materials wouldn’t be prepared in time and was panicking about it?? This made him leave in the middle of his class (around 3:10) and look for the test papers himself. He looked through the drawers, couldn’t find them, and instead of asking me where they were, HE PRINTED OUT NEW COPIES. We are talking about 30 new 10-paged booklets that we already have! He left his students in the classroom alone for 15 minutes instead of teaching them like he’s supposed to. What pissed me off the most was him TEXTING me to explain the situation. Really, the first thing he should’ve done was ask me.
Having extra test papers, whatever. We could live with that. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll get classes that are bigger than 8 students and we’ll have reason to use all 20 tests. It’s just annoying that he asked me to do something then decided to do it himself. What the actual fuck. Plus parents are paying good money for their kids to learn English at these academies and yet he has the audacity to leave his students alone in class while he goes off doing something completely unrelated to the lesson?
And this isn’t the first time he’s fucked up. He does it every. single. day.
Another example is when we teach Sprout 1 and Sprout 2. We alternate these classes so on Mondays, I teach Sprout 1 writing while he works with Sprout 2. On Wednesdays we switch and I do writing with Sprout 2 while he works with Sprout 1. Each class is 40 minutes long and somehow he never finishes the lesson in time. When I asked why, he said he spends a lot of time on discussion questions. By a lot of time, he means half the class period. Yes! 20 minutes on one or two questions.
A bit of background information: the ideal schedule of the class should be: 5 minutes chunk test, 5 minutes chunk writing, 5 minutes listening, 5 minutes speaking, and 20 minutes writing. From what he told me, his class schedule goes something like: 5 minutes chunk test, 5 minutes listening (and he skips an entire speaking page), speaking for 20 minutes, writing for 5 minutes, then he lets them out 5 minutes early. He usually only gets up to the idea map then tells the kids to write their paragraphs for homework.
The kids already have to do a writing notebook every week so it literally makes no sense for them to write down the same exact two paragraphs in their writing notebook AND their practice books. The practice book is like the first draft while the writing notebook is like the final draft. The kids know this so they usually only write in the notebook and as a result, their writing is terrible.
I talked to him about this several times and even showed him examples of the students’ writing when I teach them compared to when he teaches them. Oh boy, what a big difference there is in quality. Whichever class he teaches, their writing is significantly shorter and half the time they don’t make any sense. Sprout 1 and Sprout 2 are learning to write paragraphs for the first time so they need to consistently practice. Sure, speaking is important but not important enough to spend 20 minutes on a question or two.
There are so many other things this idiotic teacher does but I’m not gonna get into them. I am trying so hard to understand that this is his first time teaching in a classroom setting but it’s been 3 months and 3 months is enough time to know what the hell he needs to do. And to be fair, he wasn’t trained properly. The previous teacher that trained him didn’t really know how to teach the April lessons either. Adding his lack of common sense and experience to the mix doesn’t exactly make the best recipe.
I feel like at any other job, this incompetence would’ve led to him being fired already. But unfortunately, hagwons are more business than education and it’s the money that really counts. Heck, I didn’t even pass my training and I still got hired at my first school (story here).
Phew. As I was writing this, I came to the conclusion that the best way to handle this situation is to train Nick all over again. I’m going to make it my mission to help him improve his overall teaching skills. Let’s just hope he’s not as bad as a student as he is a teacher. And if he is… Well I just gotta survive 4 more months until the end of my contract and I’m outta here. I’ll never have to see him again!