Life at a hagwon

1 Nov

Hagwon is Korean for a private school. Some teachers work at hagwons while others work at public schools. The hours are different, the pay is different, and the vacation time is also different.

At my hagwon, their is fourteen women including myself, and two males. The first male is the only other English teacher along with myself and he is also from the United States. The second male is the Principal. Every morning, the Principal sits with all of the Korean women teachers and talks (lectures) them on how they need to improve, and what needs to change. Luckily, I don’t have to come into work until an hour after the Korean teachers, and when I do, the meeting is over.

When I speak to the Korean teachers who I am pretty good friends with, all I hear is horror stories and how incredibly stressed out they are because of the Principal. Needless to say, my encounter with the Principal is usually just a hi and how are you? and sometimes he’ll say you need to learn Korean now, and I just laugh, but secretly I know more Korean than he thinks and I plan to keep it that way.

Throughout the day, the English teachers rotate from class to class and teach multiple subjects to multiple age groups, and the Principal sits in his office all day long. Oh, his corner office is as big as a classroom, while myself and four other teachers share an office about the size of his. Great isnt it?

The occassional five minutes the Principal does decide to leave his office, he creeps around the school going from class to class, monitoring the teaching going on for about 2 minutes and then moves onto the  next classroom. I never know when he’s going to pop his head in, but when he does for some reason, I’m always yelling at the kids! He rarely notices my tender moments with the children but that’s because the majority of the time, I am trying to be the “serious” teacher.

Besides the creepy, old Principal, everything else about teaching in Seoul is better than I could have dreamed. Great hours, great pay, all of the Korean teachers are sweet, friendly, and truly care about me. Spoiling me with food, gifts, and smiles, we all help each other out on a daily basis.

Not only have I created great relationships with the Korean teachers but also the Korean parents, every morning, myself and the other English teachers stand in the front where the children switch from outdoor to indoor shoes and greet the parents. We give the traditional Korean bow to each parent, say good morning, and usually get some type of compliment, “he/she loves you,” “he/she thinks you’re beautiful,” he/she likes your class,” and to further show their appreciation they bring gifts on a weekly basis. Today, one parent brought everyone krispy kreme doughnuts, a few days ago, they brought pizza.

Overall, teaching in Korea is well worth the trip, so for those of you contemplating teaching, don’t think, just do it.  After all, you get to travel, work, meet new people, learn a new culture and language, and get outside that comfort zone you’re stuck in! What’s not to love?


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