The trouble with teachers

As a hagwon owner, and having connections with other hagwon owners, the stories reaching your ears about teachers screwing stuff up does spark up the imaginations, and can easily create a negative attitude that remains as a cautious tale within the memory for future teachers to deal with.  ESL Teachers in Asia are their own worst nightmare, and they make it difficult for all of their colleagues to have a good career.  To be completely honest, I do feel that more than enough of expats (irregardless of their nationality and position) can make it more and more difficult for all the other expats to do business in Asia.  I am not always surprised at how some Asians do have a bad taste in their mouth when meeting Westerners, especially if they experience or hear the stories I have  heard AND experienced.

The Contract

A big problem in South Korea is the contract, or the seemingly lack of value of the contract to ensure the rights of the teachers.  A contract is an agreement between two people.  Many employees seem to forget that.  There is also an implied, unwritten, meaning to the contract.  A promise that you both will try to attain a certain goal.  A school, especially a smaller hagwon, does not have the capacity to just lose a teacher, so when a teacher chooses to exercise his right to quit his job (which I am in support of, don’t assume differently), a Korean academy owner cannot just replace the teacher on the fly, and will try to do anything in their power to try and keep the teacher there until they can find a replacement. The problem is, if you have studied a bit of Game Theory, there is always a problem with what we call the End Game.  When two individuals don’t trust each other, but they have an ongoing relationship, the chance that they betray each other is very low, due to the fact they need each other, but once one party has decided to finish the mutual beneficial relationship, the probability that either of them cheat is practically 100%.

This is why, ending the cooperative relationship, especially between two people from completely different cultures and no other connection apart from the one they are, the ESL market is in such dire straits.  Teacher should be very aware of this situation.


Single Expats who are flush in cash and young are probably the worst representation of any culture.  Alcohol, hormones and cash are probably a very good way to get the worst out of people.  Not all succumb, probably very few do, but the problem with generalizations is that they are quickly made when they put the local populace in a better light, especially on the battle field of acquiring female attention.  Most people willing to accept teaching jobs in Asia are single, young people, needing to pay off loans or comparing their potential incomes in different situation. People are not idiots, and earning more money is better than earning less money.  Teaching is not the hardest job, it doesn’t require special skills that can only be learned by a happy few.  I am not talking about being a good teacher, I am talking about the act of teaching.  They come over, earn around 2.000 dollars in cash and don’t need to pay rent.  Even if you have to pay off a loan, the fact that you have no family to maintain, no rent to pay, most of that money becomes disposable money.  Add the potential boredom of having no family and no long time friends (the fleeting expat friends …), the mind needs a distraction, since dealing with kids 6 hours a day can have a detrimental effect on mental stability, and a healthy lifestyle.    What am I trying to get to?  Recipe for trouble, is what I am getting to.  Why do Big companies only send families to expat positions, exactly for the reason that their business will suffer if their representative gets into trouble.

I am not going to tell you what you should and should not do.  I am not going to sermon about ethics and morality.  I am just telling you how I perceive the situation, the reality of what is going on.  Yes, my opinion is biased, and so is yours.  The difference is, I know your point of view, but you do not know mine.