Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tales from the Hagwon

Today was yet another day when I received a parent complaint. Yet this one came entirely unexpected.

I teach a class that we just finished a book and so everyone got a new book. Not all the students received their book on time, but eventually they all did. This change of book set me up for the problem that occurred later on.

Today, I conducted the class as usual. The students keep their books at school and before class they go and get them from a room. As class started today it seemed they were confused about who's book was who and so checked for their name. To me it looked like they worked it out and so I moved on in the class.

But one girl Lucy confused her mom. It turned out her book was really at home. But Lucy in class was using the absent boys book... I did not know this.

So kid goes home, Mom asks how did you learn if the book was at home... kid was probably confused... and so Mom calls school and speaks to my Korean co teacher.

Co teacher than asks me what happened.

I explain to her that the kid had a book. We then figure out that she had the absent boys book.

But then things turned ugly.

The Korean co teacher obviously became upset and asked me questions like:
  • Why don't you tell me anything?
  • Are you angry at me?
  • Why didn't you write their names on the book?
This last question I feel shows the whole problem here. Because I didn't write their names on their books they got them mixed up.

She wanted an explanation but all I could say was that I didn't do it, that I made a mistake. She had a hard time believing this, as if it is impossible for me to make mistakes.

The real issue here is this:

  1. I didn't put their names on their new books.
  2. I didn't tell my co teacher we started a new book.
  3. I work at a school where if a parent complains then that means you have opened the gates of hell.
The amazing thing is this:
  • When I was confronted I feel I responded in a professional and calm manner. I gave my explanations, over and over again despite being asked many times. I tried to explain to the best of my ability. I offered an apology and I said it wouldn't happen again.
  • Therefore I believe that I have changed my attitude when dealing with this kind of crap at my school.
The next problem will be:
  • I am going to hear about this from my supervisors sooner or later. They are going to ask me Why and I will tell them but they won't be satisfied. Following this they will explain to me the importance of putting names on the book and keeping up communication with my coworkers.
  • But instead of reacting angrily I will be professional and say "yes, I can". Also I will take a notebook and write down their words.
My only hope is that they would see that overall I am trying to get this job done right. But ya know there are so many variables that I find it virtually impossible to be perfect all the time.

Anyways needed to get that off my chest...


  1. The shopping looked awesome. I finally get to do some of that myself tomorrow night. Have you been to Dongdaemon shopping area? It is crazy great. And prices are pretty good if you find your sizes. Good luck with the work situation!

  2. It seems like there is so little room for mistakes. It's crazy...your human and if you are a first year teacher (I am not sure of your background) mistakes just happen b/c it's new.
    Can your recruiter help you look into another position and/or can they advocate for you? I think there are public schools, but some recruiters are better at finding them even right now. I was still contemplating private school, but it just seems so hit or miss as far as good fit. Even though public schools aren't perfect at least (from what I know there's more security, right?)

  3. Thanks~ I tried with 3 recruiters to see if they can land me a public school gig nowadays, but they all said wait till the hiring season in Feb. I have settled on this conclusion. I have to gather my documents anyways.

    But it would be a dream to easily switch right now. But I try to stray away from living in fantasy land. Ah well I somehow try to imagine that things could be worse!


  4. I'm free on Sunday and I'll be in Seoul if you want to meet up? I'll email you my cell number=^^=

  5. I know the public schools here are always hiring ... as are many private hogwans.

  6. Terry if you know HOW I can get my nose into these public schools that would be grand.

  7. Public schools are ALWAYS hiring. Hell, I think mine in Anyang is STILL looking for a teacher--and I left in May and it was a great job, great coworker, great apartment!

  8. Ahh I am pretty sure there are schools out there that need someone. Yet even still I must have all my documents and give my work 2 months leave so to be fair and square with everyone. So we are still looking at a couple of months here. But in general it is good to know that schools are hiring around the clock.



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