Teaching in Korea: Korean Parents

I absolutely LOVE my students. I have fallen in love with each and every one of them for one reason or another. That being said, parent meetings were this past week. The hagwon I work at isn’t like normal hagwons. It is set up like a normal school back in North America. It is almost like I work at a legit school. I feel like a real job, I feel like a real teacher. These things are definitely positives. But… there must be bad to validate the existence of good. This potential for bad lies within the parents of your students. Let me explain…

So most of the parent meetings went well. I told the parents about their children, then talked through and addressed their concerns, and some parents had things they wanted me to keep in mind. I accepted it all because this is their children’s education, their hard-earned money, and a large part of their child’s life each day. Education is super important to Korean parents. So much so that they often put their life savings into the extra schools during their child’s school life. Many parents asked me to please take care of their child. Now… I am about to be 23, fresh out of college, and this IS my first legit teaching job. I say this to preface what I am about to say:

Korean parents have high standards for their children, their children’s schools, and the teachers who teach at those schools.

I am qualified to teach EFL. A degree in Applied Linguistics where I focused in Second Language Acquisitions and I am TEFL certified. The parent who was most up front with this said that she wasn’t happy with my age or lack of experience and is worried about me teaching her child and that she feels the school which she pays good money for is just hiring any-old-body. Thanks, Mom. Thanks. Felt that one right between the ribs. She even scoffed a couple of times while I was talking in our meeting. I also learned that several of the parents from my class will be meeting with the director. This should be fun.

These parents aren’t taken into consideration at all my qualifications, only my age (which is a big social thing in Korea) and seeing that I have no experience. I don’t believe experience means you are good at what you do, just you have been doing it a long time. I could have spent 5 years at a hagwon that just had me teach from a book and that would NOT prepare you for what this school requires. I am actually glad I was hired at this place because it is teaching me what a real school is, but that experience equals quality is wrongly guided. And since education is so important, mothers here want the best. Schools will cater to the parents’ every whim, even make you change how you teach or what you teach. This is a problem at many hagwons because they are businesses that depend on having students. IF the student and their parents aren’t happy, they aren’t attending your hagwon, and you are left jobless in a foreign country. I understand they want the best and that isn’t a problem. I want to do the best for my students. These kids are so bright and full of potential, but the parents can be downright vicious. Just a heads up if you land a hagwon job!

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