Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Intensive Classes

Summer or Winter Intensive classes. Vacation classes. The Vacation program. What they are called depends on the hagwon you work at. For the most part though they are they same no matter what hagwon you work at. A waste of time.

My 1st hagwon called them Intensives. That was an apt term because they were very intensive. We had few breaks and lots of classes. In 20 days I worked 200 hours. The overtime was nice but the stress wasn't fun. But that is how it affected me not the kids and their parents.

It was a waste of their time and their parents money for the most part. A students level for our conversation classes were based on how they did on a grammar test. Some teachers were given grammar books, the day classes started, and told to use them to teach a conversation class. The books did not suit the level of the students.

Mind you many of the students didn't suit the conversation level they were put in. Most of them knew their grammar but couldn't hold a conversation. Some of the classes had 20 students and they were of many different levels of ability. All of these factors combined to make classes that most of the students didn't get much out of. This didn't matter as long as bodies were in the room and money was coming in.

The 2nd hagwon I was at, the hell hole known as Ivy School, was similar to the 1st when it came to intensive classes. They were disorganized a lot of the time. Mixed up levels. Horrible books.

For one "high level" class I was given a dictation book with 28 units to do in 20 days. The students were to be given a paragraph writing assignment for homework every class along with vocabulary tests every class. Most of the students had never written a paragraph before. Every unit must be taught so they would have to do some of the units as homework. That entire class was a waste of time. While I believe the students learned a little I don't think it was worth the time or money that was invested.

The only up side of Ivy Schools intensives was that they weren't as intense for us as my 1st hagwon's were. Unfortunately for the students and their parents wallets all that mattered to the owners was getting the bodies in the class and the money in the bank.

I once talked with Mr. Kim about the amount of work and the quality. He said it didn't matter. As long as the parents saw all the work the students had to do they would be happy. Scarily enough that did seem to be true. Parents were happiest when the kids were buried with work. Or at least they didn't complain. It didn't seem to matter that they weren't get much out it education wise.

I worked a summer camp at a local university to get the money to go home after the BS with Ivy School. I went in expecting ... well ... the same sort of insanity that took place at hagwons during their intensives. I couldn't have been more off. The woman in charge KNEW her job. Everything was well organized, proper books for students levels, the students had the proper English ability for the level they were put in. When I pointed out that one of the books I was to use had 30 units but we only had 20 days I expected to be told to teach it all. I was pleasantly surprised when I was told to pick out the stuff that is important and go with that. I had a great time teaching that camp and the kids did to. They had fun AND they learned.

My last hagwon never really had intensives. Not as I learned to expect them from previous hagwons. We had vacation classes but for the most part the teachers had a hand in picking the books and setting the curriculum. And it was anything but intensive as each teacher only had 2 extra classes. Since I have left it and a new owner has taken over that does seem to be changing. (I still talk to my friends there.) They are going to be having a VERY intensive summer.

Unfortunately for those working in hagwons my last hagwon isn't the norm in Korea. Based on what I have experienced and heard from others the insane way my 1st hagwon and Ivy school ran the classes is the norm. Instead of having a vacation students are herded into a program where they don't really learn a lot. It is all about getting the bodies in the class and cash in the owners wallet.

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