On a recent thread in a Facebook Group I am not a member of there was a discussion on how to attract hogwon (aka academy, cram school, private institute) teachers to be members of an association I am not a member of. The discussion was a learning experience for me, to say the least.
Here are some things I learned about teachers who work at hogwons from the discussion:
- They are glorified baby sitters.
- They have backpacks permanently attached to their bodies.
- They don’t care about teaching.
- They do not consider teaching a career.
- They don’t care about learning or developing.
- They are just in Korea for a paid vacation.
- They only provide a warm body to check student work.
- They work incredibly long hours and are tired all the time.
- They are actually lizards pretending to be humans.
- They are in a bad position now but things can be better for them if they accept and are gently pressed into the bosom of K0TESOL and learn the proper ways of teaching and being.
Only 2-3 of these were not said (according to my reading of the thread). I am choosing not to link to the thread here but I am sure the most industrious and resourceful readers can find it if they truly want to. I have to admit that I was surprised at the tone of this conversation as I read it. I was ready for such a conversation because a friend recommended I read it, with the hint it would be interesting in the negative sense of the word. Unfortunately, it was more interesting than I expected or was prepared for. I got the sense that the majority of those commenting were very much looking down on hogwon teachers. I wavered between annoyed, defeated, and frustrated at what I saw as the condescending tone from most (but not all!) people participating in the discussion. I’d also like to mention I think the original poster was coming from a good place with his question.
There was some questions in the discussion if the original poster was talking about Korean or foreign teachers. My assumption is that most of the 10 statements above were intended to be about about foreign teachers working in hogwons. Speaking of assumptions, there seemed to be quite a few assumptions about hogwon English teachers who are citizens of the Republic of Korea, too. It was interesting to see the perceived needs and wants of such teachers and the assumptions about them. I am not in a position to say much beyond, “it was interesting to see” because I really don’t know what professional development opportunities or goals Korean teachers of English in hogwons tend to have. I suspect it is not nearly as uniform as certain Facebook discussions would suggest. I wonder how poised K0tesol is to meet the needs of these teachers. I’d also prefer not to comment on the professionalism or needs of a large group of teachers I don’t know much about.
Before continuing here, I’d like to share 3 posts from this very blog.
a) A guest post entitled, “Why do I work in a hogwon?”
b) “Competitions for Urination Distance” in which I talk about some of the bragging and comparing I have seen around.
c) A post on some lessons I learned about (not) judging people by their teaching context.
I believe these posts are related to this topic and the Facebook conversation that prompted this post. I’d love it if you could just go ahead and read them, especially the first one. This current post will still be here. No rush, take your time.
Welcome back. Where were we? Nowhere, you say? OK.
My focus today is not the mission and purpose of K0TESOL or even the need for it to the teaching population of South Korea, though that might be an interesting topic. I am not focusing on the assumption that a bigger K0tesol is a better K0tesol. I am not here to talk about the best way for K0tesol to attract any specific categories of teacher. I am not here to make friends. I am also not really here to offer advice on how to attract more hogwon teachers for that particular organization. I am no expert on marketing, as you very well know, but maybe not being condescending and attempting to limit pomposity are good ways to attract new members. Maybe? It could be a start. Maybe treating everyone as people who are not less than those who work in other contexts could work.
And now it is time for an attempt at amateur psychology. Maybe, just maybe, non-hogwon teachers find it very appealing to look down upon hogwon teachers because they fear they might be considered to be something similar by students, others or the citizenry of South Korea. Maybe by “othering” and looking down on hogwon teachers some folks feel like they are boosting themselves up. I can’t say if this is an effective strategy but from my view it looks childish or worse. Another thought is many teachers in Korea worked in hogwons before “moving up” to public schools or universities or something else. This could create a desire to differentiate themselves from those doing what they were doing X years ago. Of course, this is just amateur (and armchair) psychology here. I’d welcome any other theories or perspectives on this.
I’d also welcome people (ideally those familiar with the conversation, I imagine) to tell me they think I am overreacting and my outrage is misplaced or unjustified. At the same time I’d like to hear if others felt the same way as I did when reading that thread. Basically, any thoughts on this are welcome.
Finally, I wonder if there would be any interest in hogwon classes for K0TESOL members on “
how not to be a dick” “how not to sound like a jerk.” Imagine it: Beginner Being a Human, Intermediate Empathy. I am, of course, not the person to teach such classes, but I think there might be a need.