Sooo, the hakwon thing didn't work out

And I’m typing this back in Boston.

Long story short, I was going for my masters in education and looking for some experience while simultaneously hating the living shit out of my job so I decided that teaching at a hakwon (private institute) in Korea for a year would be a solution to both situations.

Welllll, anyone who has taught at a hakwon can tell you that they’re kind of a gamble. You’ve got some good ones and some bad ones, and I wound up at a bad one. Specifically, I wound up at a bad one after my first hakwon reneged on the contract before I even started, and I was sent down south to the second one to work without any pay, ID, insurance, or visa for two months. I was an illegal alien for almost two months before I was able to get to Japan to get a visa. I eventually got my back pay.

That part, while a pain in the ass, wasn’t so bad. I had friends from my army days whom I was able to look up, and it wasn’t like I was in any danger or without any recourse. I also had a Korean friend who was a grad student when I was at the library. I wasn’t living on the streets, and people were looking out for me.

But the school!! Most of the kids were awful, and the hakwon director was fucking psychotic. I later found out that in the six months since he took over, I was the third teacher to quit. Well . . . actually, I quit, then they asked me not to quit, then I said “OK, I won’t quit,” then they said “You’re fired after this month,” and here I am wondering exactly where I went wrong . . .

And I got off lightly. A friend of mine in the same town at a different hakwon had his foreigner ID card and fucking passport illegally confiscated by his hakwon because they didn’t want him to leave on his vacation which had already been approved by the school and paid for by him. Crazy shit goes on in these hakwons, and I count myself lucky that it wasn’t worse. As bad as it was, it could have gotten a hell of a lot worse.

Then again, if it weren’t for the fact that I have to find a job in this economy, I wouldn’t sweat it. Thanks to my grad school friend, I have a part time English teaching gig over Skype, I have a book on lesson plans and going through it to get better at this, and I can always take out loans and go back to finish my masters in education. While I liked the town, I missed my wife terribly. I’m going to be here for a little while.

I have absolutely no regrets. I got to see Seoul again, and learn a bit more Korean (I really should think about getting some formal Korean classes somewhere here. I must be at least conversant in this crazy language by now). I knew the risks when I got on the plane. My old job was going nowhere, and I had to do something else. I’m glad I took the chance. In this economy, I was a gambler who took a gambler’s chance. I love all things Korean as much as I ever have; I just had some bad luck with some bad people, that’s all.

Just so you all know, I didn’t post much, but I enjoyed reading the Dope while I was stuck in the PC rooms chatting with Mrs. Fresh before I was able to get Internet, and you all kept me going. This place is like a little slice of home wherever I go, and I’m glad you all were here.

Sigh . . . off to find a job washing dishes somewhere until I get my diploma or the economy turns around. Things have been worse. If Solzhenitsyn could do a few years of labor camps and exile in Kazakhstan, I can get my hands dirty here for a few months until things turn around.

So Happy New Year, everyone, and I’m glad I’m back!!

I am very sorry it didn’t work out for you this time around and that you can get some classes in korean, and perhaps even get back and work in a decent hakwon. At least you got the chance to give it a try, many people never get the chance [or take the chance] to try something new and different.

Thanks, aruvqan. I honestly have no regrets. My former job was going nowhere, and I still believe that the worst thing that I could have done was stay at that library waiting for something that was never going to happen. I gambled and I lost, but at least I gambled, had fun, and even wound up with a part time gig back in the states. I got to connect with old friends and see old sites as well as many new ones. In the 15 years or so that I have been away, Korea–at least the part outside Seoul–has changed beyond recognition. The small towns that I remember from the 90’s have given way to sprawling cities without much rhyme or reason beyond mad growth.

As far as going back to work, well, I’m not sure. My impression is that once you get fired from a hakwon–even if it wasn’t really your fault–that’s it for working in Korea. Still, there’s always Japan, China, or maybe something in Europe . . . if I decide to go away at all. I missed my wife, and I missed the states. If I go back–and that’s a big if–I’ll go back with a certification or two and try for a job in the public school system which is far more reliable than the hakwons.

While I’m here, I might finish up my masters or get quickie-TESOL certified and try again for something in the states (I’ve always wanted to move to the west coast, and LA or Seattle look like they might be nice fits for what I want to do.). I’m currently poring through books on writing lesson plans to learn how the pros do it as well as revisiting some job-search strategies. It’ll be slow going for a while, but that’s what it takes sometimes. I’m alive, I’m happily married, and no one took my passport in Korea, unlike my poor friend I mentioned above. I’m far from homeless, and I’ve got a bit to live on for the moment. All things considered, I’m breaking even, and sooner or later, I’ll be back in the black.

*Still, there’s always Japan, China, or maybe something in Europe *

Take this from the guy who has taught English in China for 7 years:

You’ll get jerked around much, much, much more here than you did in Korea. And much worse, too. For example, you know that “stolen passport” phenomenon you mentioned? I can think of at least 5 people right off the top of my head (possibly more if I try harder) who have had that happen to them. If I didn’t speak Chinese and wasn’t interested in living in China for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t have come here.

You know, Vancouver is nice, I hear, and Canada’s economy isn’t as far in the shitter as the US’s. Just sayin’. :slight_smile:


Your courage to travel to a potentially hostile Asian conuntry, solo, with no guaranteed means of support is very admirable.

Well, there was a contract. For all the good it did me. And thousands of people do just that. And anyway, I went to Korea, which isn’t exactly what I’d call hostile. It wasn’t like I was trying to teach English in Kabul. These things happen, and I stand by my remarks that this is just one more thing in life that was–and might still be–worth the gamble. Teaching experience. Hard cash in hard times. A chance to learn about a foreign country and its culture and language. I wasn’t physically hurt; it was more of a pride thing, and I’ve still got a roof over my head.

Some things are worth the risk. I’m not talking about going to Iraq and trying to convert the armed insurgency to Christianity, but sometimes a calculated risk is just the thing you need. Again, if I could get a job in the public sector–rather than private schools–in Korea or Japan, I’d stand a much better chance of a professional position where people acted professionally. Not China, though. Not after reading kidneyfailure’s post, and anyway I never really wanted to go there.

In any case, I’m staying here for the next few months at least. Grad school or another job, I’m not sure, but I don’t feel like tackling foreign travel again for a while, at least until I get certs or a masters degree. I’m sure they need ESL teachers somewhere in the states, or I might try something a little more pleasant and less out there than the Far East (Do they need English teachers in Greece, I wonder?). But again, I have no regrets. I learned some hard lessons in these past few months, and I’ve come back a better man for it.

What was awful about the kids?

US citizens can’t teach in most of Europe - we don’t have EU passports.

South Korea isn’t hostile toward the USA.

US citizens for the most part can’t work in Canada either.

Schools in the USA have been closing down whole schools and laying off teachers and staff.

If you speak multiple languages fluently - you might have chance of finding a job in a school.

Having a Masters might hurt you looking for work here - they have to pay you at a higher level - and they don’t want to do that.

Interesting. If I may ask, how might speaking multiple languages fluently help me find a job in a school. Would it be as a language teacher, and if so, would I have to get certifications before I could do that?

Thanks for your input.

There is a huge surplus of unemployed teachers in the USA. Certain areas need teachers, teachers who can speak multiple languages fluently - usually Spanish - sometimes other languages, also being certified to teach high level maths or sciences. Being certified to teach the emotionally disturbed. In other subject areas you are looking at 500 or more applications for each job. Given the economy many programs are being cut, schools closed, educators laid off. To be competitive you need an edge to find a school job. You will have to stand out in the crowd. Simply look at the school sites in your area - look at what jobs are available and the criteria for that job - listen to the news of schools closing and schools cutting budgets. Plan now if you are in school.

Lint, I think you should try Japan.