Wangjangnim's perspective

How many do you know that speak English?

Xenophobia in the ESL?

Let me give you a direct link to Adam R Carr‘s blog.

This is my little addition to his work.

The School Directors.

One step beyond the recruiters are the Hagwon owners. Hagwon owners are ultimately the ones that have this decision, and thus culpability, on their shoulders. If anyone is refusing non-white teachers, it has to be them, right?

As it turns out, this is where it gets a little murky. For some perspective on this point of view, I sat down with English speaking Hagwon owner and blogger Wangjangnim to gain some insight into possible origins of these hiring ‘preferences’.

CTDWangjangnim, has your hiring practice ever included race in its criteria?
WJN: My hiring process does not include a selection based on race. Regulations only allow for a limited pool of hires from a global perspective. English as a native speaker
.CTD: Are you ever encouraged by other factors to hire based on race?
WJN: Mothers will make their preferences known in no unclear way. Children do not make a distinction, apart from those where family has influenced a racist view of the world.
CTD: Have you ever received pressure or ridicule as the result of hiring non-white teachers?
WJN:. Every single time I have hired a non-caucasian or anyone older than 30, questions were raised by parents, even though I myself was older than 30 when I started my school.

CTD: Do you feel that this sort of criteria for hiring teachers is in any way justifiable as there is a certain look that is prevalent within the industry (such as pretty young women serving at upscale restaurants in Western society), or do you feel that it is an unnecessary and racist ‘quirk’ that unnecessarily restricts the job market and reflects poorly on Korea?

WJN:. The only thing (imho) that should matter is the overall presentation of the self. If a person cannot abide by some sense of responsibility in regards to their surroundings, one will question their “fit” very fast.

From a business perspective, hiring beautiful people makes more sense. There are certainly aspects that make certain “looks” more appealing in a teaching environment. It is society which makes claims in what is considered more beautiful.



I have neglected this blog for some weeks now, mostly because I have some projects that require a lot of my attention and energy.

I am in the process of selling/letting go of my school.

I have received another opportunity into my lap a few months ago, I thought I could combine my school with the new opportunity, but I was dreaming.  So I had to make a choice, keep my school or go for the other project.

Since I am someone who loves challenges and risk, the choice was quickly made, I will go for the new opportunity.

Currently, I have an interested party in taking over my school.  Nothing is set in stone, but steps are being made.

It took me some time and effort, but I got an incubation office from the Seoul Global Center, and that is a big push in the right direction.

This blog is based on my experience in running a school, so this change has a direct effect on it.  The concept of this blog will change too.  It will become a blog about doing business in Korea from the ground.  I will share my experiences in hitting the pavement and trying to develop the market.

Lately, a lot of hits have come from searchers about the LOR.  I might write one more article debating the LOR, but I am sure the details on the LOR will change coming January, mostly because the principals of the LOR are a disgrace.

I am still open for people to ask me questions related to my business experience in running a school in South Korea.

Trod on!

Article : The Slavery of Teaching English

The Slavery of Teaching English


I guess the game in Spain is lame.

I am not an ageist, not at all, but the article does ring a bell in reference to age and the type of work you are doing.  The main issue is simple, the teacher game at the start of your career is good money, especially if finding another job is close to nill, but you will hit a ceiling pretty fast.  When you hit the ceiling, it won’t be able to sustain a growing family, or even investing in your own future.  As a career, and certainly if you do not walk the academic ladder. You get stuck in a catch-22 like problem where you don’t make enough money to invest in your growth and are stuck in playing the same game over and over again.

One way out is to start your own school and hire other teachers, isn’t it.  That will require capital, of course.

One issue is that we often see a lot of teachers complain about the difference between the revenue generated and the pay a teacher receives. In a way, the teacher is so close to the revenue stream and they make the calculations, that they start to think that they should be making more money, who doesn’t.

Let’s give an example.  A teacher teaches 6 hours, every class has 6 students and each students pays $200. 6*6*200= 7.200.  How much does he make ….  Let’s say 2.000.

Being business illiterate, the teacher comes to the conclusion he should get more money.  Disregarding the added social costs, the real estate costs, the operational costs, etc …..

In business we often look at the “Wages to turnover ratio“, a business where the wages to turnover ratio are over 33% will get into trouble very fast. Therefore, the reason why wages are stuck is because the market decides that that is your value.

A company is willing to pay you a higher wage if the value added is represented by that wage.  It’s perfectly normal people want to earn more, the question that you should be asking is, are you worth it?



The Dredge : Continued

It is obvious everybody goes through this.


To start class today, because it was Monday and because I wanted to wanted to get a few students to share what they did this weekend (and wanted to hear examples of the simple past) I asked the class “What did you do this weekend” and I got no responses. It was so painful I have to question if I want to do this job anymore. At the moment it’s just not worth it.

As I had the opportunity to go through a number of teachers (not a compliment) these issues come up all the time.

1. Passive attitudes in class

2. Irrational competitive attitudes that lead to emotional reaction

3. Extreme attitudes to teacher, you give a finger they take a hand, you don’t give a finger, you are too strict

4. Teaching to the wall. Zombies falling asleep in the classroom

The issues is that these four experiences are inconsistent with each other, but somehow all happens in the classroom, at the same time.

The second issue, is that often school management doesn’t really support the teacher to deal with these issues, especially not in private academies.  Since students are the Kings, it is difficult as a teacher to establish a role of authority towards the student.  Without an established role of authority, it is impossible to control the classroom.

You will face these issues, and you are going to have to find a way out of it.  My only cure to the problem is comedy…  Not in a clownish fashion though, because then you’ll get a nr.3 on your butt.  I tend to use a more mocking kind of comedy. I tend to use a stern period in class, and a relaxed period in class, keep the kids out of balance and focused on tasks.  The thing is, when the task is just outside of their competence, Koreans kids tend to go in zombie mode, if the task is too easy, their competitive nature comes up rather than trying to do a good job.  When you ask them to do the same thing three times in a row, they’ll throw their hat and just “get over it”.

Keep the kids confused.  That’s my answer!  :)

Habits : a two edged sword in education

Let me first apologize for missing last week, there were simply too many things to take care of to even consider writing.

Habits.  I believe in the power of habits. Habits though have a way to become counter productive very fast, especially in an educational setting; for students and teacher alike.

Let’s look at some habits Korean education uses.  A lot of people refer to it as rote memorization, to memorize “ad verbatim.  I am not a big fan of this method since I am dyslexic and simply doesn’t work for me.  Therefore I cannot teach it.  Since it doesn’t work for me, there must be people that are extremely happy in using this method.

Let’s look at extensive reading.  A system that relies on letting students come into contact with as much language as possible in a relaxed environment.  One problem is I have met more than enough people who do not enjoy reading.  Extensive reading falls flat on it’s face if the participant is not willing.

There you have it.  This is my idea on education.  I have a serious distaste for homogeneous teaching methods. It is neglecting the individual in the system, even though we believe the system to be build for the individual.  It cannot be.  The real struggle of anyone who takes being a teacher seriously is the ability to identify which method(s) fit which student.  Teaching smart kids is easy.  Teaching motivated students is easy.  But it isn’t that straightforward.  Sometimes the  smart kids act stupid, so they can let of some steam.  Sometimes the motivated student wreaks havoc in your class because they are upset.  Sometimes you see a glimmer of hope in the dimmest of students.  Sometimes, the student with the negative attitude makes the class happen.  That is education.

I myself constantly use different techniques to let students develop their own experience of what they are good and bad at.  They will resist that.  They will resist it because they are not used to drilling different parts of their abilities.  Experimenting with another way of writing the same story.  A gamification of the rote memorization.  A strict adherence to rules when writing a creative story.

Ultimately, it is experience that matters to the student. Experience that allows them to know themselves better.  To come to a better understanding how they can be of value to themselves and others.

Like any job, we fall into a grind, it is no different with being a teacher.  But it is exactly the grind that reduces the effectiveness of teaching.  It should be about exploring, trying, challenging; not about doing it in a certain way all the time.

It is the individual that has to recognize they have fallen into a grind and need to change things around a bit.  Rip the texts apart, throw out the dictionary, not turn that computer on.  Teachers and students constantly need to be looking for a change of pace, and especially teachers should enforce this change of pace.

There is no one way to solve all problems.

PS: Please visit fellow Korea Bloggers on our facebook group

Let’s talk about school trips

Sewol happened.  Death toll surpassing 150, will continue to climb when they find them.  It’s a tragedy, and I don’t care about your opinion on why it happened.  The tragedy made worse because MOST of them were children.  Young adults getting ready to show their potential.

Let’s talk about school trips.  Why do we keep doing it?  When I was a kid, I loved school trips cause we could bum around for the whole time.  Teachers loves school trips cause they can get out of the dredge of teaching.  Did any “education” happen.  Not quite sure.

In my 6 years of running the hagwon, I have performed exactly 3 school trips.  Every single time I questioned it’s effect vs. the costs.  After the third one I simply decided it was not worth the effort, energy and money it took to get them organized. I still stand by the idea that schools should NOT organize school trips, for the simple reason that the people organizing it do not have the proper experience in organizing such a thing, especially with children in tow.  They also do not have the proper motivation to keep the children safe, like parents.  Most of the time there are also not enough adults to keep the students in check.

It doesn’t make any sense.  Never has, never will.

Parents always resist school trips, they have a huge number of questions regarding safety, or even the effectiveness of the trip.  I do not advocate Mother Goose tactics when dealing with children, but putting a big bunch of kids in one small room with few adults around is asking for trouble.  When chaos erupts, kids loose all sense of direction and each child needs 100% attention of the adult, or even two. Then why would you send 10 kids per adult?  Just keeping the kids focused on what is going around them takes a lot of energy.

The only thing that has been successful and effective are the language holidays, but, these are organized in such a manner that kids are either in a safe place, or a place where they get all the attention they need.  300 kids on a boat?  I think not.

The waste is immeasurable, the pain, unbearable.

Requirements in running a money making hagwon

The following list is not going to be exhaustive, please add you own concepts that I forgot or neglected.

1. Marketing Genius

Before anything else goes, how you market yourself is going to be the single biggest influence on your success.  Ultimately, teaching English is teaching English.  It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how many qualifications you got, or even the experience in teaching you have acquired.  First and foremost, know how to sell the idea of teaching that mothers are looking for.  It isn’t as easy as it sounds.

2. Develop a full package

To retain students, you are going to need some level of substance in your offer.

a. Curriculum; you need to get stuff into parents hands so they can see some results.  Probably why a lot of sham schools are successful is because they are effective in keeping up the appearance.  I neglect most of this. :)

b. Results: Blow your results into the biggest possible proportion.  If one little kid wins even a class competition somewhat related to English.  Make sure everyone knows you made it happen.  Let’s forget the efforts and sacrifices of the kids.  I neglect this.  The only ones touting around should be the kids who made it happen by sitting in a boring classroom and going through the hard work to make a difference.

c. Homework: Make sure you do not loosen your grip on the kids even at home.  Mothers will love you if you can pile up tons of homework on top of their daily schedule of sitting in your classroom.  Let’s forget the basic principles of Decreasing Marginal Utility and long term negative effects of lack of sleep.  This is a mentality I have yet to defeat.

d. Teachers: Blond and blue eyes are the most effective teaching tools available.  When the children are mesmerized by the perfect cut, there is no other way than to be instilled by his flawless English.  I am blond and I have green eyes, so I know how effective they are.

e. Internet: Apart from all the paperwork they take at home, let’s not forget the online component that allows parents to micromanage their kids even more effectively.  Keep those grey cells working, the prodigy has to show itself one day.

f. Reporting : Make sure the parents are informed at the click of a button or the flick of a wrist on how their kids are stellar in their performance.  Sow no doubts about your effectiveness, but do keep parents afraid of the future.  If their children do not achieve A,B and C by X time, they will miss out on the gravy-train!

3. Networking

Try to join as many community services as you can to bolster your image.  Try not to spend any energy or money actually helping people, that will take it away from running your business effectively. The more people see you, the more people want to be you.  They just have to go to your school. Don’t forget to talk to other small businesses like yours, but not quite the same, to see if you can barter students with each other.

I actually wanted to make this post a bit more serious, but it got out of hand.  What I am trying to say is; When image is the effective tool in being successful as a school, and parents do not take the mental/physical health of their kids to heart, all they are doing is paying for an empty box, not only in cash, but also with the future of their kids.


Becoming a Brand?

A good way  for any business to retain customers is to generate brand recognition.  Brand recognition brings with itself a status that parents can carry around like a badge.  The problem with branding is it can easily bite you in the ass too.

When I first opened my school, I asked people around and they immediately said “Ohhhh looks expensive!”, even though prices in Korea are regulated ….  I thought that image might have been in my advantage but it seemed to work against me.  Since people had the perception of me being “too expensive” they didn’t bother inquiring.  When schools advertise, they have to add their prices in their advertising, it is just that no school does that, and no punishment is given, at this point.  It is also dangerous to do that since you might actively start a price war with your competition.  Koreans are very good at starting rumors, especially bad ones.  As a foreigner, you will have absolutely no recourse against this problem.

This is probably why franchises do better in South Korea.  Since the brand recognition is there.  But most of us silly foreigners don’t get that part, and are convinced we can do better.  We do better, but your customers don’t know that.  Certainly not at first.

It took me three years to get my “brand” recognized on city level.  It is when I reached my peak that my brand recognition started to backfire.  I had two negative incidents with 2 different teachers not too far apart ( +- 6 months) which turned my brand into a negative added value.  I am still trying to turn back around the negative implications of those incidents.

The customers I have know this, but the customers I don’t have (and would very much like) don’t.  They rely on past information.  It is very difficult to expunge these bad ideas when you are a foreigner.  You have zero control over information spread in your area.  Going viral, as they like to say, is a two-edged sword.

Koreans Trust The Gossip.  The Gossip train is run by mothers who are not pro-actively seeking the truth.  They are very much ingrained with a herd mentality.  What the truth is don’t matter, what everybody else is saying matters.  Exasperating when you are swinging on the wrong side, Exhilarating when you are on the right side.

You want to get that early success, you need to get that Gossip Train work in your favor, but beware, you make a faux-pas, it could well bite you in the ass.


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