Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Coming to Korea

A reader emailed me recently and said she was toying with the idea of coming to South Korea to teach. She was kind of worried about being screwed over by a recruiter or hagwon. Job offers had come in but it seemed to good to be true.

That is the problem when dealing with most recruiters and hagwons. They will tell you what they think you want to hear. When you arrive in Korea you find out things are different.

The recruiters (for the most part) aren't really concerned about what you are looking for. They want to fill a position and make some money. Then move on. They will tell you whatever they have to in order to get you to South Korea and at a school. What happens after that is not their problem.

One woman who came to work at the hell hole called Ivy School was hired by such a recruiter. She told the recruiter that she did NOT want to work with kids. Only adults. The recruiter said no problem. So of course she found herself at a school that taught kindergarten up to middle school and had NO adult classes. The lieing assholes that ran the school never corrected the comments of the recruiter because they wanted a teacher ASAP.

Even dealing with Hagwons directly doesn't guarantee getting what you are looking for. As mentioned above, the hagwons will lie to you as well. One of the problems with talking to current teachers is that you can't be 100% sure you are talking to them or getting the truth. It is a good idea to try and talk to them but you have to be able to separate the chaff from the wheat.

For example many hagwons will give you the email address for a current teacher. But it is really them. The ones with poor English usually give themselves away. Some are more devious and get people who have good English pretend to be the teacher. after I stopped doing recruiting for them Ivy School would get current teachers to email prospective teachers BUT they had to send the email from work. Sometimes a Korean teacher, like the bitch of an office manager, would read what you sent. Someone with good English who would know if you told the truth about problems or bad schools. (The truth being that there are problems.)

Even when it comes to phone calls you have to be careful. Once again using Ivy School as an example, they would have you call people form the Hawgon. They would stand behind you and listen (or have someone with good English do it) to everything you said. These tactics will make some foreigners hesitate to speak the truth about schools.

It isn't always the Koreans that will screw you around either. At my first Hagwon the owner offered 300,000 won to any teacher who brought in new teachers. Matt brought in 2 new teachers, a couple. He lied and held back information because he wanted the money. The guy in the couple was a friend of his. Greedy assholes like that will screw you over just as quickly to make a buck as a recruiter or hagwon owners.

This doesn't make it easy to actually trust anyone when you trying to get to Korea for the first time. Just remember that the ONLY person you can count on to look out for your interests is YOU. Don't expect the recruiter to do it, or the hagwon, or even a friend. They all have their own interests and goals.

The best thing you can do is to research. When the recruiter gives you the name of a hagwon or school interested in you google it. A little research can go a long way. One reader once asked me about a school in Daegu called Andover. Language School. A simple google check set off a LOT of warning bells. If you have friends already there get them to ask around about the school in question. There is even a Facebook page about schools in Korea.

Not to keep repeating myself but I am going to anyway. :) Don't count on anyone to look out for your best interest except you. Do your homework. The chance of being screwed over or jerked around will be lower.

1 comment:

  1. Andover ... It started off relatively well and then things just started going south. Foreign teachers are basically just there to do the work the Korean teachers don't want to do. Books are piled onto their desks and expected to be checked almost immediately. Korean co-teachers very seldom communicate with their foreign teacher - probably because most of them can just about speak English. They're rude and disrespectful to the foreign teachers. Even the owner treats the foreign teachers like crap. We work long days with no breaks. Events are left up to the foreign teachers, but their ideas are shut down. We're just there to clean up. Korean teachers spend 99% of their administrative time on the computer doing nothing. Foreign teachers are expected to use the students' computer room to do any kind of computer work. Management has tried to swindle foreign teachers when it came down to paying their 13th cheques, flights home, and deposits for housing. They've also avoided paying pensions (which is illegal). Management doesn't take to kindly to staff leaving or complaints and will avoid you and treat you worse than before.
    The lessons are rushed and students don't learn anything. They're given pages and pages of homework - whether or not they've covered that work during the lesson. Games played at the end of the lesson have to be centred around the work learnt - so shitty games like Hangman and Bingo are expected.
    Andover is definitely not the best place to work, and I'd advise anyone considering it to give it a miss. Unless you want to be suicidally depressed. However, I have heard of worse places.
    I hope anyone searching for Andover finds this and steers clear from them.