My second opinion went up just a few hours ago:
I had to truncate the original that was above 1500 words (published here a while back) to this 796 word version:
Advice for Teachers
By Brandon Na
I work with many English teachers on a daily basis. I’ve heard almost every story or complaint. Many come from a desire to improve the working environment and teach well.
At the same time, many complaints could have been easily solved by doing a bit of research on their school, asking specific questions and getting as much possible in writing. The following is my advice for future teachers who plan on teaching in Korea:
(1). Do you have a curriculum? Ten years ago, the answer was mostly “No” despite what the recruiter said. They had no curricula. Today, many schools still have various levels of curricula, but English academies (a.k.a. hagwon) have come a long way.
If they don’t know, request details or a copy of the materials in class. You don’t want to be the person who spends hours everyday cutting and pasting together lessons to teach the students.
(2). It says that you get several days of vacation. How is the vacation time selected? Most academies don’t have backup instructors. So, they’ll want you to take your vacation at a specific time. Also ask if the weekends are included in the vacation period.
(3). Are there split shifts? Most hagwon cater to younger students and can operate right after school. However, there are many schools who take advantage of the school breaks during the winter and summer (approximately six weeks a year).
When hagwon offer classes during this period, there’s a chance you may have to work extra classes. It’s not easy, but good academies at least pay you for that time.
The positive is when it is finished, you realize how dreamy your life was before, only having to teach about five-six hours a day and prepping for about 30 minutes to an hour or two.
(4). How are the holidays handled? It’s hit and miss if you get the holidays off. It’s nice to have the time off, but if you’re paid hourly, it’s better you’re working. Find out if during “Chuseok” or “Seollall” you get the two-three days off in addition to the weekend.
Sometimes the schools don’t know because of the difficulty in planning so far in advance. Schools depend on client sentiment at the time. If all the parents are happy, it may be easier to get time off, but if the parents are dissatisfied, they may un-enroll their child because they aren’t getting more education bang for their won.
(5). What is the realistic range of pay? You’ll be able to see from most ESL boards these days that most English academies pay about 1.75-2.5 million won. To be frank, most of the over 17,000 English teaching jobs throughout South Korea are supported by “for-profit” ventures. The business needs to be smart about how they run.
To pay over three million won, a hagwon would need to literally send their customers into bankruptcy. The Education Ministry also sets standards for tuition fees, so there is a limit. Realistic range: two million won up to three million won. Places paying between 2.5-3 million _ you’re dealing with either a very smart academy or one that’s about to go out of business.
(6). Do you train your teachers? How are teachers transitioned into their schools? Do they just throw you into classes unprepared?
(7). When do you reimburse my airfare? When do you pay my bonus? When do you pay people? Have you ever had a late payment to the teachers at your school? Get to the nitty gritty and find out when money will be distributed.
(8). Can I talk to teachers at your school? If they say “No,” that is one of the worst possible signs, in my opinion. The fact of the matter is that they should have good relations with their teachers.
(9). What kind of housing will I get? What’s the allowance if I choose to do it on my own? Housing is one of the biggest issues for all instructors in the country. It’s your home and it’s your place of rest. So, you want to be happy. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to do a little research into all the different types of housing in Korea.
(10). If I show up smelling like alcohol and I beat my kids in my classroom, will there be any negative repercussions? Of course this is an obvious stab at humor, but more importantly it wouldn’t hurt to ask an “off the wall” question to your recruiter to see if they can understand you.
If they fail to understand something as simple as this, they may fail to support you when you get there. Also, you may do it simply to test their sense of humor. If they have none, can you imagine what’s going to happen when something does happen that requires a sense of humor?
Brandon Na is a director and faculty manager of English academies in Busan, Changwon and other cities in the southern region of South Korea.