What It’s Like To Teach At A Hagwon

I work at an Academy, which is an after-school school designed to help students score better on English tests in an increasingly competitive country. An academy instructor’s job is less focused on actual teaching of the English language, and more focused on teaching students how to beat a test – but I try to put in as much side-knowledge as I’m permitted. This is what it’s like to teach at a Hagwon in Korea.

At a Korean academy, or Hagwon, you can be expected to work anywhere from 2PM until 10PM. At mine specifically, we regularly teach from 4PM until 10PM straight, with no breaks, and are required to be in about an hour and a half to two hours before to prepare all of our material.

Teachers are commonly paid for all of their “teaching” hours, which are all hours interacting with students, however many are not paid for hours preparing material, marking, or grading. Quite often academies require their teachers to physically be present at their desks hours before class, causing frustration with instructors for having to put in time they are not being paid for.

Intensive Camps

In the spirit of the winter holidays, Korean academies band together to offer children the opportunity to spend their breaks from school, participating in even more school. Welcome to the ridiculously long working days for the months of January and July/August.

During the month of January, students have a winter holiday from their public school classes. Korean academies seize this opportunity by offering intensive language camps, and unbeknownst to me, require teachers to put in many extra hours. This is something that’s often not mentioned in interviews, orientations, or even until about a week before it happens. It is vaguely written into a teacher’s contract that they can be assigned extra teaching hours. Whether or not your contract states you will be paid for those extra hours is up to you. Mine was negotiated, so for my 9 teaching hours each day as opposed to my regular 6, I’m receiving about 50% more of my regular pay.

 

The Intensive Schedule

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, my schedule looks like this:

12:30 – Absolute latest time I can arrive at the school.

1:00 – Begin “Intensive” Winter Camp class

4:00 – End Winter Camp, immediately begin regular class #1

7:00 – End Regular Class #1, begin regular Class #2

and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, my schedule is a little different:

9:30 – Absolute latest time I can arrive at the school.

10:00 – Begin “Intensive” Winter Camp class

1:00 – End “Intensive” class, break for a few hours

3:30 – Absolute latest time I can arrive back at the school (or be docked pay)

4:00 – Begin regular class #1

7:00 – Begin Regular class #2

10:00 – End Regular class #2

 

So as you can see, it’s a pretty stressful month of spending almost your entire days at school. Combined with the gym, and getting enough sleep, I almost don’t have enough time to write this blog. For any teachers thinking about making the trip to Korea, make sure you look into intensive classes beforehand, and whether you’ll be required to teach them. While it can be an easy source of income, it can be easy to burn out.

Comments

  1. Wow, that sounds opposite of my schedule as a public school teacher in Korea! During winter break, we have off except for one week of English camp which is only from 9 until 12. Then we can go home early. If you want to continue teaching in Korea, would you consider applying with EPIK?

    1. Hey Lianne, I actually considered working for a public school, but the application timeline didn’t work for me too well. I’m a bit envious of your schedule right now! 🙂

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