LAST WEEK AT CPIS!

With only one week left at CPIS (my hellhole of a school) you’d think things would be winding down smoothly.  Then again nothing about the past 6 months has gone “smoothly” so why should this be any different?

Between the school’s buyout and an incredibly unprofessional new director we’ve had our share of lies, surprises and “extra fun” meetings.  It all started with my director shouting at me on the street.  She was accusing me of going to Yonsei University (where I’ve never been) and telling all of the parents that we hadn’t paid in 2 months (which isn’t true).  She began screaming as I tried to complete my bus duty.  Somehow I stayed calm and she eventually went inside (only about 30 minutes late for work).

Every few days she would bring up some gripe that she had with me or one of my colleagues.  90% of it was false and it seemed like her attempt to find a scapegoat for all the issues the school was having.  We did our best to maintain composure and keep teaching but when we had merely 6 workdays left we couldn’t take it any more.

The silver lining to all this was that I’ve been moving into my Hyewha apartment every weekend and by our breaking point I was completely moved in.  I’ve got a bigger apartment with a larger kitchen, a balcony, tons of storage and a REAL SHOWER.  My new queen-size bed is set up and had been sleeping there for a few days.  The bad news was I still had 6 days at my hogwon.

CPIS, our school (I use that term loosely) was sold last month and as far as we could tell they were trying to screw us out of our severance and possibly even the last paycheck.  Some of us were threatened with lawsuits, deportation or just plain slander.  We all felt uncomfortable working without a new contract or letter of release; there was no guarantee we’d be paid so we organized a sit in.

Then we found out the school hadn’t been paying rent for 5 of our apartments… for the last 4 months!   Continue reading

Counting down the days

Two and half weeks left.  12 schooldays at my crappy little hagwon.  16 days until I am done with this place for good!  I’ve already moved about half of my things to my new apartment and just ordered my new bed!  It should be delivered this weekend which means I’ll start sleeping there soon.  Definitely on the weekends; I’ll probably move in for good and commute for the last week.

Last payday at noon they told us we’d be paid by about 6 or 7 pm.  A few hours late but acceptable considering the last one was more than 2 weeks late!   By 9 pm there was a fit of rage texts going around a group chat with our accounts still drearily low.  A new foreigner in the building from 5-6pm was hidden from our view and not allowed to talk to us helped everyone arrive at the realization they just didn’t want us complaining about the pay in front of a new hire.  Plans for how to respond ranged from going straight to the ministry of labor to not going in, having a sit in or flat out quitting.  Fortunately when I woke up at 7am I found out we were paid around midnight.  Things have settled down slightly after our “on time” payday.

No one knows what the delay was about but we’ve been guess it has to do with the sale not going through.  That means our best friend [school owner] is still responsible for paying us.  At least he came through without waiting 2 weeks this time.  For me there’s not much else to worry about.  Even if the next paycheck is late its the last thing he owes me and I’ll be done with this whifferninny.

My coworkers who are owed a severance aren’t so sure things will go smoothly.  We were told that we “don’t have to come in on February 28th,” even though their contracts say they work until the 28th.  When we check our academic calendar the 28th is listed as “vacation” but the Korean teachers have to work and we were told its a required day for anyone staying next year.  Well, none of us are staying so we presume there’ll be new staff and they don’t want us to share our stories.

Then we got to thinking about the severances again.  Technically if we don’t work a full year we aren’t owed severances.  That means I’m obviously not owed one but everyone else is.  After some quick googling we discovered that the law states severance isn’t owed if we work even 1 day too few.  Guess that means everyone will clock in that Friday morning to guarantee severance. Continue reading

Still working, still no pay

For those of you following the travesty that is my current workplace I want to reassure you that its still full of things that are so awful that the only thing I can do is laugh.  So yeah, why not call it funny.  Its more politically correct than telling my boss he’s a scumbag(or thief, which I may or may not call him every time he passes me in the hallway.)  Don’t worry, he doesn’t speak English.

Last Friday most of my coworkers met the buyer and future owner of our school. (I took a “sick” day for my birthday).  He allayed some of the fears and spoke a little English but the meat and potatoes of his conversation was still “trust me.”  Maybe he doesn’t need to tell us exactly where he’s getting the money from but he assured everyone that he would be pay us whatever he owes us.  Who pays us depends when the sale actually occurs.  Whoever the owner is on payday is responsible for paying us that paycheck.

The new guy at least showed some signs of intelligence (which the current owner has failed to do) when he mentioned he won’t be buying the company unless all the bills have been paid.  Unfortunately the only difference that made was 2 months worth of pension pay.  We are still owed 3 more months of pension and lets not forget the remaining 2/3 of our latest paychecks.

Most of the teachers have been showing a significant number of Disney movies and doing the bare minimum, perhaps less.  I’ve stopped my centers and phonics lessons.  I do the bare minimum bookwork required and give a lot of playtime.  It makes me a little sad for when I’ll have a job I actually care about and go back to doing real work. Many of us are leaving after our last class rather than desk warming until 6:00 everyday.

I wrote this yesterday, January 21st, our latest “maybe payday” we were told but alas the accountant is MIA.  The CEO is MIA and so are our paychecks.  We’ve lost any remaining faith in this guy’s ability to pay us and are trying to figure out how to best play our cards.

After repeated talks with a lawyer and the ministry of labor their best advice is to keep working and file a formal complaint.  The only problem is the formal complaint puts our jobs in jeopardy so we thought we’d wait until March so we don’t get fired early.

Today we found out the CEO told the Koreans we’d be paid “Friday or maybe next week.”  In the foreigner meeting they told us we’d be paid “maybe tomorrow.”  This contradiction increases the feeling of being strung along.  Oh and did I mention the CEO has fled the country?  Maybe he’s on a business trip?  Maybe he’s on vacation?  Maybe he’s putting all our money into a Swiss bank account?  All I know is I don’t trust him.

I don’t know what to do but I told the principal I am going to the ministry of labor first thing in February if we aren’t paid.  Plus I decided to leave a note in the CEO’s office for whenever (if) he returns.

I just keep telling myself 23 more days!

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CPIS = awful hagwon = 28 more days!

The hagwon life at CPIS continues to baffle us; Friday we were given slightly less than half pay(which was already 5 days late).  Monday I found out the Korean teachers got even less.  My director hinted that she’s skeptical about the key money we were previously told would cover our lost pay if the CEO closed the school.  She had a disturbing meeting with the CEO where he deflected and laughed off every question she had about paychecks, pensions and the $1 million key money (deposit) he had on the building.  She translated that to us as “it may not be there.”

28 more days!

After a laborious staff meeting that kept going in circles we realized there is a divide between the Korean staff and native English speakers.  The complaints were universal but when it came time to see who was ready to take action the only raised hands were white.  So far our new director is doing a good job of keeping us in the loop. Unfortunately the resulting discovery of [the owner’s] refusal to communicate left us with an even greater feeling of hopelessness.  It seems that she shares this frustration and also feels powerless to negotiate with him.

Today is Wednesday January 15th; my latest birthday present was the news that [the owner] is in fact selling the business.  At first I thought that was a good thing but now I’m less sure.  We don’t have any answers about how the sell will effect us and have heard stories of teachers being fired in the 11th month to avoid paying severance.  Who will take over paying us and the pension?  Will we have new contracts, will it void our old contract?  We are suspicious that this is a ploy to get out of some of what we are owed.

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Its a Hagwon Life part 2

Its been about a month since I accepted the new job but I still have another two before I can leave my Hagwon.  Things here continue to spiral downwards and reinforce my decision to leave as soon as possible.  I’ve collected a few anecdotes over the last weeks to illustrate how things have continued to deteriorate.  Read Part 1 here!

III. Substitute Teaching

A few weeks later the foreign teachers’ principal (Jane) came into my room around 9:05 and opened with

“I’m sorry.  I have to ask you a favor.”

Uh oh.  I thought to myself as I  said “Sure, what is it?”

“Its Jason teacher, he won’t be here today.”  She began while handing me a pink post-it.  It read “Mike 10:50-11:20 Math Pelican”

“Okay.” I paused.  I already knew what this meant but I wanted to hear her to say it.

Awkwardly her gaze wandered around the classroom.  She refused to make eye contact as she said “I need you to cover for him.”

Well, that’s how substitute teachers are found at a hagwon.  They take away prep time and pretend its no big deal.  Lets not forget that 99% of the teachers don’t have sub plans ready and almost certainly didn’t leave any notes.

Luckily I had a handful of math games I use for my class ready to go.  I introduced Pelican class to centers and they had what may have been their favorite math class while practiceing addition & subtraction facts in 3 stations.

IV. Curriculum?  What’s that?

Its the the Monday before Christmas.  We only have class two days this week.  Luckily I’ve got plenty of lessons ready and other activities planned because the school has yet again failed to provide any semblance of a plan or curriculum.

In our weekly Monday meeting Jane asked us to teach “week 1 of January.”

“We don’t have that curriculum?” I responded.

“What do you mean?”  Jane retorted.

Continue reading