Discovering Hope in Hagwon
I came to Korea simply wanting to learn the language and to learn about its rich culture, particularly its older music and arts. For the first two years here, I worked at a hagwon that worked me from 9-6 or 9-7, depending on the day, with few breaks in-between and no time to plan for lessons. I worked on two different campuses, and with two or three midnight runs at my hagwon, I had to take on many more responsibilities after already feeling fatigued and underappreciated. Needless to say, I was trudging into work every day miserable, and as soon as I finished work I had no energy to actually learn what I came here to learn in the first place. When it was time for me to find a new school, I put a great deal of effort into finding a hagwon that wouldn’t be like my last. My first interview with Twin.kle Mokdong came as a surprise to me. The interviewing process was thorough and informative, and Jayson, the vice principal at this branch, was friendly and patient as I inquired about a multitude of concerns that I had. He was more than willing to answer my questions and even offered several teachers’ contacts to allow me to talk to them and ask them how they really felt about the school. The school really seemed to be a scam, since there were amazing perks, such as working hours until only 4:30, no afterschool elementary classes for kinder teachers, independence for teachers to do what they wanted with the curriculum, etc. Due to my concerns, I asked Jayson to meet in person, and again, he was very open to the idea and completely erased any of my worries. When my journey with Twin.kle began, I did have some struggles. The school was introducing a new 6-year-old program, and there were few students joining at the time. I found it to be challenging to teach such a small class, but I felt supported when I voiced my concerns and the people I worked with were incredibly nice and understanding. Twin.kle values the students and parents, as I believe most hagwons do, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn how much they also value their teachers. The owners and the vice principal have consistently supported me, trusted me, listened to me, and even offered friendly critiques and praise when they sat in on my class or heard about my class’s work. I have been encouraged to do what I believe is right for my students, and I have been able to help shape the curriculum to better suit my students’ age group learn better and have more fun in the class. In addition, something I am extremely appreciative towards Twin.kle for is how kind and understanding they are if I get sick. At previous hagwons, I faced such backlash from my employers for even considering taking a day off even if I was sick with a fever and struggling to move. At Twin.kle, they believe me when I’m sick, and they encourage me to see a doctor and get rest when I need it. Of course, they can’t always guarantee I can get a day off if there isn’t a sub, but they really try and work around it. After two years of working at Twin.kle, I am still more than grateful to be working here. I think every hagwon should aim to be more like this school—more welcoming, more trusting, more supportive, and less controlling in the classroom. With less stress from school, we can have energy to take care of ourselves and do what we want outside of school, and with a more healthy work environment for us teachers, we can be more prepared to teach students with more passion, excitement, and patience.