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20 August 2004
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Korea Life Blog - Bait and Switch


I got the old bait and switch routine today at the contract negotiation. The salary mysteriously dropped by 200,000 won (about $165) per month from the advertised offering. This is what happens when you deal with an "agency". Apparently I'd be working for them and not the actual school district. Great. They told me, as if this would be of comfort, that everyone will be making the same pay. When I asked who would make the higher end, they pulled out this crap (for the first time)that only "head" teachers will make that much, which is a bunch of BS as I'm the only teacher they've found with a relevant degree and lots of experience.

Now get this: there's a week-long unpaid orientation - which I could deal with if the pay was as advertised for the salary - but there's also a month long probationary period where, if students quit (this being an after-school program) or give me a bad evaluation, I'll make even less money: 200,000 won less! If that were to happen, and who knows, even if you do teach well some students' parents may send their kids back to a hagwon anyway, or if the kids don't rate you well because you teach too much or they don't like your big forehead, then that would make a total of 400,000 less than what they said the pay would be. I understand the incentive-to-do-well concept, but it should be a bonus up and beyond your salary, not a possible large deduction from an already lowered salary. Ridiculous!

The whole thing made me angry, really. I had to travel all the way to the last few stops on the Bundang Line (2 1/2 hours from my apartment) to their makeshift office (in the back of some hagwon) for them to tell me the name of the public school which, by the way, is also over an hour from where I live, and give me a contract that didn't even need to be signed today. The meeting lasted about 15 minutes. As if they couldn't have simply called or sent an e-mail.

Well enough ranting and raving. It's just I've been sitting here with false expectations for well over a month now, wasting savings and turning into a bum while waiting to start this job. I really hoped that working in a public school would be a positive change, a good opportunity, that I'd actually take the work seriously - after all the endless clowning around at dubious hagwon routines - and feel good about being a teacher for once. That was my honest intention. Now I just don't know. I have to give them my answer by Monday. Perhaps I'll just call their bluff and command the original offer and none of the BS. I bet they're just playing a hand to try to make more money from me. They do say they desperately need qualified teachers to make a good impression on the school/parents so that more students will take the classes. If they rebuke my demands, in my opinion it'll be their loss, and for me, it'll be back to the drawing board....yet again. Sigh.

Before I sign off, don't get me wrong. I love Korea and living here has been a wonderful experience overall, but I've just made some mistakes (who hasn't?) wasting my time and have gotten worn out a little after four jobs at the kiddy schools. There are other options out there. It's just taking more time than I thought to find them. When you watch the news every night, though, and have visited several 3rd World countries, you realize how lucky you really are and you don't take things too seriously or get down for long. That's my opinion anyway. Most ills, I have found, that aren't of a physical or deeply mental nature, are mostly illusionary. And with that, I will fix up a nice dinner now, perhaps with a glass of wine, and enjoy the rest of the night.

Update: The contract, it gets worse. I'd have to attend a weekly meeting (can even be on Saturday) at the agency's head office. I'd have to submit to them weekly and monthly plans as well as make placement tests and examinations and grades and monthly reports for the parents...Ok that's not too bad, again if the salary was right, but I'd also be required to report to work 90 minutes before my first class even starts for a meeting with the Korean teachers, whom I might add have turned out to be MY assistant and not the other way around as stated before. And the final clause: two warnings for any reason and they can terminate me. Also, I love the clause they put in about "duty of secrecy" where I'm not allowed to discuss any details of my job with anyone. I guess I've already failed that one. Only one more warning left...

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