After finishing up my charity work at FORDEC in Samrong, Thailand, I landed a job at CYJ Academy in Mok-Dong, Seoul, Korea. It was spring 2016, and this was my second job in Korea, and I was anxious to get back. CYJ is a growing, fast-paced after-school academy (or Hakwon) in one of the most ambitious neighborhoods for competitive studying in Korea. Mok-Dong is a reputable neighborhood for driven and high caliber students, but it doesn’t have the notorious reputation for Gangnam’s inhumane all-night classroom work and facilities that provide illegal 2am study halls with attached sleeping pods. Children in Korea don’t get to take after-lunch naps like the kids in Thailand. CYJ Hakwon kids take a test every day, in every class and get plenty of homework even though we send them home on little yellow buses at 7:30 pm every day. The classrooms are tiny and many, each with its own projector and PC for pre-planned PPT guided lessons. I had an average of 130 students in 16 different bi-weekly classes at this academy, with daily tests in each class. We also taught a special Saturday morning themed class every second week. For our Halloween themed event, I dressed up as The Hulk from the Avengers.
I was grateful for this opportunity and I built up my teaching skills with the heavy load of weekly teaching hours. CYJ helped me hone my skill as a teacher, which excellent management who trusted the teachers to do the best we could, and gave us space to make mistakes and sincerely learn our craft with some small, helpful suggestions. I also edited several promo videos for the CYJ website. These Academies are small businesses. Many Hakwons fail to stay afloat financially because they can’t impress the clientele, who are demanding parents that are sending their children into an increasingly competitive world. At some Hakwons, this financial stress resounds in the stress of the workplace, and the Korean bosses take out their anxiety on the hardworking teachers. My superiors at CYJ were gracious, and I never felt touched by this dynamic. Seoul is a study machine, and in neighborhoods like MokDong and Gangnam, the engine is cranking. I had so much fun with my students given the circumstances. I did my part as a small gear in that machine, and worked until I finished one year. After that, I was ready for a very different opportunity the likes of which I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams. Two years of Korean Hakwons was interesting enough. My Hakwon career was over. More to come…
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