I’ve been back in New Jersey for twelve days. I was debating over whether or not I should write about why I chose to leave Korea, and I’ve finally decided that I would.
Working in Korea was making me very unhappy. Not the kids or being in the classroom, but my superiors and their actions. I felt anxious all the time, to the point that there was a constant knot in my stomach. For those that don’t know, many hagwons use CCTV to watch students and teachers. Whenever I tried to do something fun in class, my boss would pull me aside after and tell me “no games, we must promote more study.” I’m sorry, but how are you supposed to teach a nine year old without the use of games or activities?
I was also getting very tired of seeing other teachers hit and discipline students so harshly. That’s something I’m not used to seeing in America and, by sitting quietly on the sideline, it made me feel like I was condoning child abuse, which I most certainly was not.
Additionally, the Korean teachers at my hagwon kept to themselves and there was very little communication. Often, I would walk in and find papers or new schedules on my desk with no explanation of what they were or what I was supposed to do with them. Sometimes, I would be given about five minutes notice that I was supposed to administer a test to a class. If I got courageous enough to ask someone for help or clarification, I mostly got blank looks. And, of course, still no explanation.
My breaking point came after two events. First, I was given a new class with very little notice and was expected to come to work about an hour earlier than I had been coming in all year. There were also no materials and the other foreign teacher and I were supposed to find time to make some from scratch (we had no knowledge of the level of the students, either). Second, (I will not go into this in great detail because it is not my tale to tell) one of my coworkers was berated and belittled in front of the office for standing her ground on a matter that affected her personally. In response, she was called names and was denied the things she asked for.
For me, this was absolutely a toxic environment and I had to remove myself from it. I packed up all my belongings and left without telling anyone at work.