My new mantra – “2 more months!”

I apologize for interrupting your regularly scheduled programming of travel and leisure to bring you back to a show we recently canceled and are re-airing as “2 more months!”  At least this time my principals had the good will to inform us first thing in the morning that we wouldn’t be paid on time.  We “might get paid by Thursday” when the 5th was technically payday at CPIS.

In other news we also found out the owner/CEO (aka guy who causes all the problems) has been stealing our pensions.  Yep, he takes it from our paycheck but not only fails to deposit his matching share but fails to deposit anything into our pension accounts.  The pension money isn’t a huge sum but its even more of a slap in the face from this asshole.

The sliver of good news was that we were given permission to have “more play time” today; you better believe every student had a blast today.  Even without the most recent salary shenanigans we were all beat from our trips and planned for an easy day.   I’m fighting off what I hope is simply a cold I brought back from the Philippines and I know I wasn’t alone in being exhausted on this lovely Monday morning.

At the end of the day I was planning on meeting with my coworkers to discuss our plan of action when the director called me into her office.  Her first order of business was a suggestion from the accountant that she deduct the airfare from my salary to which I flat out refused.  I reminded her that there was no chance of any transaction without a documented receipt and used this as an segway to bring up the pensions.

“I have to check my pension and my paycheck but based on some of my coworkers it appears that [the owner] has been deducting our pensions from our monthly pay but failing to deposit the money in our actual pension.  That’s stealing.  I understand the school may be having troubles and while I am quite angry the paychecks are delayed, again, I can understand.  He is blatantly stealing our pensions and we won’t stand for it.” Continue reading

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

Its a Hagwon Life part 1

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.

I. Starting to Feel Like a Police State

Last week my principal abruptly called me into her office.  I saw my coteacher leaving and sat down as I pondered why she needed to talk to both of us.  She asked if a fellow teacher had spoken to me today.

That’s strange, I thought to myself.  Yeah (insert coworker’s name here) stopped in to let me know she “name dropped” me in a previous meeting where my resignation had been discussed.  She apologized and it was over right?

I thought about how to respond when I realized they have CCTV; suddenly my mind did a double take.  I had just finished reading The Hunger Games and wondered if this is what it feels like to be under constant surveillance like Panem, 1984, or some other police state.  Well, I saw no reason to hide our minimal conversation so I told her.

“Yeah, (insert coworker’s name here) stopped by my room.  I was teaching and she mentioned that she spoke to you about an incident the previous day.”

My principal went on to give me details about the incident which were omitted by my coworker.  She told me how a parent had considered removing their child from the school and then asked me how I felt about it.  That’s a strange question from your new boss.  I assumed she was trying to ascertain if I would cause an incident that might make her lose students.  I assured her that I had no intention of causing any problems before she asked me the most shocking question.

“Do you think I did the right thing?  You know, with (insert coworker’s name here)?  I mean I had to do something right?  I’m the director.  Did she need more discipline?”

Wait.  Hold up a minute.  Is my new principal (who I told I was leaving the school 2 weeks after her first day) asking me for advice? I felt incredibly uncomfortable about her divulging information from private conversations with my friend and parent of a student that I am in no way involved with.  I thought she was being unprofessional but, she’s my boss, so I answered as candidly as possible.

“I’m not an administrator, but yes, it is your job to handle situations that arise.  I can’t comment on what actually happened and any intent that may or may not have been present. To the best of my knowledge the teachers all do their best to keep the students and parents happy.”

We continued talking a little longer but the conversation kept going in circles.  I was getting annoyed since she already kept me from doing anything productive during my only prep that day.  I’m don’t know how a meeting could have been worse without anything bad actually happening to me;  I excused myself to go teach.

II. A Second Strange Encounter

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Pseudo Strike Day 5

It has now been a full week since the teachers at CPIS were supposed to be paid.  No paycheck today but we were told “maybe Tuesday or Wednesday” so there’s a slight chance it’ll come tomorrow.  I could go on about how I’m not doing any work with my students but that would be a lie.  Its too tough to sit here and just give them playtime for a whole school day!

In a surprise move our school officially has a new name with the same initials.  They put up new stickers all over the school changing the words “primary” & “school” to “place” and “society.”  We suspect that has to do with the inspectors coming back a few times over the past few weeks since we know our school doesn’t follow the guidelines required to be an “international school.”  (I would love to post the name but need to keep this anonymous while I’m still employed here)

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Psuedo Strike day 3

Still no paycheck so work at CPIS today continued in a similar capacity to yesterday.  I hate to say it but it is really tough to “not teach” these kids.  Its more boring and less fun to just let them have DEAR (drop everything and read) and playtime.  We did our morning meeting, took spelling tests and practiced our Christmas songs before I had to teach art and sent them to lunch.

At lunch I checked my account for the first time today.  I wasn’t expecting anything to be there and that was quickly confirmed so I grabbed some cheap gimbap for lunch before going up to to eat and decompress on the roof.  At least it was a nice day out.

I gave my class an extended playtime after lunch before showing 2 “how its made” science videos on cloth and paper.  We colored firemen to discuss fire safety & stop, drop & roll in social studies before  cleaning up and getting ready for centers.  I brought out the CRASH game (sight words), 2 matching math games and a short vowel sort for centers.

My normal centers include a station where I am teaching and another where they are doing math or phonics independent work rather than just all 4 stations as games.  I’ve got a new Uno sight word game for my more advanced students and word wheels that I want to start using.  But, without a paycheck or any payday in sight the teachers resolved to do minimal teaching so I followed suit.  The sad truth is that its difficult to get motivate myself after being told the owner of your company is embezzling your salary.

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