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Teaching English at a South Korean Hagwon, What to Look For

Teaching English at a South Korean Hagwon, What to Look For

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Published by Paul Delaup
What to expect and what to request when taking a job teaching in S. Korea
What to expect and what to request when taking a job teaching in S. Korea

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Published by: Paul Delaup on Feb 07, 2010
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1 TEACHING AT A SOUTH KOREAN HAGWONWHAT TO LOOK FOR  by Paul DelaupThere are several variables to look for before teaching in Korea. Many would be deemednecessary, others would not even be thought of as having to appear in a contract The mostcommon place to teach English would be within a business better known as a Hagwon. AHagwon is a privately owned school established to increase fluency in English---writing,reading, and speaking. Some of the students are adults, but most are children. They can range inage from pre-K to high school level. While these are in no certain order, try to decide what youwant in your teaching position in Korea, and try to obtain as many as many of them possible.1) ACTUAL WORKING HOURS of 120 HOURS or LESS per MONTHThe standard amount of working hours expected by you according by most contracts is nomore than 120. This can vary among companies. Some will require more, but actually allowfor less hours. I have worked for a company requiring 135 and for a company requiring 88hours a month. Be sure that fair compensation will be paid. Some will require extra hours eachmonth for you to work and will compensate you with overtime pay or standard pay. This caninclude teacher’s meetings, participation in school activities, open house, etc...Sometimes, this can increase the number of students to your school and make your job morestable with a higher pay upon completion of your contract to your school; sometimes, itcould only mean less hours of sleep and more headaches.2) LIVING WITHIN CLOSE PROXIMITY to WORK Some schools will have an apartment for you a few blocks from work, others will require youto take a 30-45 minute subway to work, each way. Many schools will not reimburse you for travel expenses, or the actual time spent traveling. While most schools do have a reasonableamount of time necessary to travel to school, be sure get to an estimate as to how long it willtake. The temperature while traveling can range from - 10 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degreesor greater.3) FREE HOUSING, FULLY FURNISHEDFree housing is standard, although it will probably be in a studio apartment. Some may callthis “cozy housing”. Make sure you have the following items: hot and cold running water; both A/C and heating–a fan will not replace A/C in the summer; a bed, TV, desk and chair,refrigerator, washing machine, oven and stove, and cable hook-up.While all of these may seemstandard and without argument, many are not given, even after being requested.
4) NO SPLIT SHIFTSSome schools will have you work from 7:00 am to 11:00 am and then 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.While this may not matter if you live a couple of blocks away from work, you will rarely seeit. If you would have a 45 minute commute to work, you will be spending 3 hours travelingif you don’t stay at work. Many will offer a bed on the premises, but you are still “at work”15 hours a day. 5) NO WEEKEND SHIFTSMany schools will tell you that weekends are mandatory; some will say every other weekend.Don’t fall into this trap. Upon accepting only 2 Saturdays per month working, the request couldeasily come to work all 4 Saturdays Some will offer overtime pay, but for an 8 hour day. Mostteachers do not come to Korea to work 6 day weeks and more than 8 hour days. Some come totravel abroad and explore new cultures, some will come to gain overseas teaching experience,some may come primarily to learn how to speak Korean. Your reasons could be different.6) REIMBURSEMENT FOR FLIGHT and VISA EXPENSES.Some will do this before your arrival, some could end up paying you in one month Read thecontract. Be sure you get reimbursed before any work is performed. Your teaching visa caneasily be obtained from your own country–quicker and easier. That also incurs expenses:application fee, express mail fees (sometimes ), issue fee, etc. They may have to fly you toJapan to apply for and receive your visa. Once again, be sure that you are reimbursed beforeany work is performed. There will normally be a $200. per month deduction from your incomefor 2 months. This would serve as you renter’s deposit. Reimbursement should be at the end of your contract.7) BONUS PAID AFTER COMPLETION of CONTRACT.According to the Korean Labor Law, the annual bonus equivalent to one month of theemployee’s salary must be paid to the employee on the last day of his contract. This is paidregardless of whether you decide to renew your contract. Sometimes, a bonus of one half of . your monthly income can be paid to you after completion of a six month contract. Quite often,employers will offer lower pay to help compensate themselves for this bonus. If they don’t,then you can consider this to be another perk for working with that company.8 ) WIDE RANGE of TEACHING MATERIALS AVAILABLEMany schools will offer a couple of different teaching materials. These could entail onlyreading and writing, and composed by the same publisher, at only different levels of  progression. Quite often, you could be instructed to complete all levels and then go back and review all over again. This could easily contribute to the monotony and boredomof the classroom. Some schools will have many teaching materials available. Thesecould include books on reading and listening, along with the use of tapes to be played
from a tape player; the use of both student books and workbooks, to help teach materialin full; different brands, or names, of books to keep the students rising at even higher levelsand still maintaining their interest; and books that involve a broader range of teaching to allowthe student to progress at a faster level----such as books on phonics, translation, dictation,teaching from past newspaper articles,and also with advanced levels of TOEFL,to keephighly fluent students to remain in the school. Open discussion classes could be available for  both adults and children. Some schools will require 3 or more classes in one day, back to back, but with shorter periods of class time. Still some schools will allow students to sit in the sameclass more than once, at no extra charge, or allow the free time of an instructor to offer drill,or review, classes to keep the student at an appropriate level. This could be one more way of keeping the “customer” happy and continue the influx of new students.9) ABILITY to ” WORK WITH THE CUSTOMER ”Some schools will have the means to compensate certain needs of the student. These willinclude offering classes at other than normal teaching hours, having unique teaching materialsavailable for a smaller minority of the students, being able to “ make room ” for the classof only one student,etc. Being able to fulfill the wants and needs should be the primary goalof any Hagwon.10) HAVING the AUTHORITY to DISCIPLINE the CHILDRENMany children feel that they have the right to act out of order; possibly obnoxious anduncontrollable. Once they enter the doors, they feel that they are out of their real school.While some students are more serious than others, many can sit through classes simply because their parents want them there. Interrupting others or not paying attention doesnot falter them a bit. Granted, the school is actually a business, and if students are unhappy,they will complain to their parents. But since most parents do not speak English, much lessbeing fluent, they could possibly not be aware of the progress of their own children. Theycould believe that keeping them at the school will increase their fluency proportionately.This is easily debatable. Most parents will have to take the word of their children on their own progress. Some schools have found ways to change this problem. A steady regimen of quizzes andexams is one way to show both the student and the parents of the progress, and success, of the student’s performance. Issuing some assignments or work to be done at home is another way. Marking attendance on a roll sheet will inform parents of their children’s attendance.Sometimes an occasional written evaluation by the instructor to be sent to the parents willallow the instructors to “cover themselves” in case of any complaints about poor teachingmethods, or not showing enough attention to the student. Last, reprimanding the students for speaking Korean, or any other foreign language besides English, in class should quickly assurethe student that the school is 100% serious in teaching. Only speaking Korean is one way for the student to ignore the instructor and make the class more enjoyable for themselves. It isdefinitely not a way to learn English. Asking the instructor how to say a word or phrase in

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