The QiRanger Adventures


with 4 comments

Fall in the Park

Fall in the Park

Things have shifted at work… and not for the better. Since 1st September, my employer has consistently made poor decisions.

First it was the implementation of Creative Writing Books that he saw at another school. The addition of these books destroyed a well articulated curriculum of classes and presented the idea to staff on the day they were to start teaching the new process. As a result there was a lot of confusion and complaints. In fact, it took nearly two weeks or polishing the process to get something that was remotely educational. I still believe the process is a waste of time. The reason is this: under the old curriculum, students received 45 minutes of hands-on learning experience with a teacher regarding how to write an essay. Now it’s all homework. The quality of the current writings show that.

Then it was the infamous name-tag incident. Enough said.

Third, I had a row at my employer over a basic contract issue: payment. In Korea, employers think nothing of paying an employee late. I was told the previous month, on payday, after the banks had closed, that they didn’t have enough money to pay me. That they would pay me in full a week later. So I had a little sit-down with the owner and explained to him that doing so breached our contract, that I no longer trust him or the organization, and that if he expects me to show up every day and teach, then I expect to be paid in full each month. If he could not honor that basic agreement, then I didn’t need to be working there, and if he could not pay me in full when expected, I’d tenure my two week’s notice on-the-spot.

I also had a discussion regarding my managing responsibilities. I was asked to serve as an academic consultant to help improve the functionality of the school and assist in teacher training. However, all they wanted me to do was sit in classes and take notes on students and look for problems with teachers. I explained to him that this was a waste of resources and that there were enough problems that needed to be resolved at the moment, that sitting in a classroom trying to “give a man fish” wasn’t as productive as “teaching a man to fish” and develop tools to resolve the problem across the board.

Last week, I had to stop what I was doing once again, to develop a new curriculum plan for the school, because he changed the way classes were offered to such a poor rotation, that nothing synced. Therefore, I spent two days working out a new schedule and a third presenting the idea to the owner. The General Manager presented the idea the day before and he shot it down. I had to take it up once more and finally it was accepted. It was a draining process because when the rest of the management saw his proposal, it was instantly recognized as being bad. It was frustrating to waste three days of work fixing something that anyone with a logistical background could instantly see and inherently wrong.

The problems continued yesterday and reached a fever-pitch, which will make work interesting today, and for the next few months. The day started with the General Manager wanting to take away a break in our Tu/Th schedule. Teaching Staff is expected to work from 3pm until 10.05pm. This would have created a situation where teachers would teach for 6.5 hours straight (8 classes) with no breaks. I pointed out the fact that in a meeting with the owner in September he promised the staff one dinner break on those days and that according to our employment contracts that we were entitled to a diner break each day. They really took offense at me pointing this out, but hey… I want to eat, especially since I have to be there at 2pm. They even went so far as to bring in a sheet of Korean Law stating that they have no legal obligation to provide a break since the total work shift is only 7 hours. I pointed out, that he needed to uphold the agreement he signed with the teachers. So it looks like we’ll be going in at 2pm and having a lunch. Which is great, because we need more prep time to take care of the next issue.


I’m a firm believer in putting in a hard, honest day’s work. That employment is an agreement between the employer and employee to accomplish specific tasks during the work day as negotiated during the hiring process. As such, the employer promises to compensate the employee for their work. The aforementioned definition of sorts is a western view. Because jobs are so hard to come by in Korea, most Koreans are simply thankful to have a job that they sacrifice any sense of self to keep that source of employment. They will work countless hours for no pay and always put the company first.

I believe that everyone within the organization should strive to make the company the best it can be, but when the goal of the company is serve money at the expense of its employees, then it’s not worth the time of effort to stay employed. Work is work and doesn’t need to be a rosy party, but employees should be treated with respect. That is something that is now lacking at this school.

The management continues to pile on work that cannot be completed during working hours and the staff is bring up the point that this requires them to work off-the-clock. Now everyone knows that in teaching, or in most jobs, a little work-at-home time may be needed. This isn’t the case. This is asking teachers to put in another 10 hours of work for no pay. In addition, our employers have continuously changed the deadline dates on lesson plans (as well as requirements) and are asking teachers to spend even more of their free time to work on them. While it is true that most teachers are getting paid to work on said lesson plans (W4,000/hr in the final calculation of project size vs. hours needed to complete it), they don’t seem to grasp why teachers aren’t energized to spend all their free time working on the project that nets them $2.94 per hour.

It’s created a heated environment. One where a teacher that had previously renewed their contract is thinking about not returning from his vacation. In fact, at this juncture, the other nine teachers aren’t planning on renewing their contracts and are looking at the terms of ending their contract early.

I’ve also learned that the recruiter that placed me hasn’t been paid by the owners for placing me, or the four other teachers that they palced for the school. Based on my experience at the school, I’ve told them not to accept any job placement offers there until things turn around (hopefully).


Written by Steve Miller

October 23, 2008 at 9:37 am

Posted in Education, General Update

Tagged with , , ,

4 Responses

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  1. That sounds bad… I hope things get better…but all it takes is lousy management to screw up a perfectly good system…..


    October 23, 2008 at 12:13 pm

  2. Yup… and this management is really good a screwing things up.


    October 23, 2008 at 12:35 pm

  3. Awful. Is the school run under a policy which restricts the number of students per class? Well, I think ten teachers is not a small number if the school is an average-sized hagwon with no more than 100 students.

    Also, wouldn’t it be nice to have classes with, let’s say, 8 to 10 students on average each instead of the four which I believe you are currently teaching? This would make a reasonable, if not plenty, time to prepare teaching materials and have time for tea breaks or dinner.

    As for the abrupt changes in the way the school is run, I don’t think the problem can be resolved any time soon.

    Wish you the best and I hope everyone takes it easy.


    October 23, 2008 at 8:06 pm

  4. Actually, as it stands the school is about to self destruct. I was lied to – flat out – by the owner. I’m not down with that. One teacher has already confirmed that they are ending their contract early and two others are looking into exit strategies. At this point, there isn’t a single teacher looking to renew their contract and most are looking to leave early.

    As for class size, I’d love to have 8-10 per class. The amount of activities you can do is much more vast. While my class size is capped at 4, I only have 5 classes that have that many students in them. Most have 2. No wonder why they can’t turn a profit.


    October 23, 2008 at 8:50 pm

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