I think one of the biggest fears that many newcomers have when working for ChungDahm is getting to know the Korean staff. At my branch, Gangdong, they are more than just administrative staff. We acknowledge them as 'Korean teachers' since they do way much more than just answer phones. If you are part of the April Program, you do have Korean co-teachers (not to be confused with the Korean administrative staff). As a teacher who has been working here for 5 years, I’ve seen a number of the Korean staff come and go but I still stay in contact with them. One of the reasons why I haven’t left or changed academies is because I love the people I work with. The Korean staff have become my friends and strongly I suggest that you get to know them as well during your time teaching in Korea.
When meeting the Korean staff members, remember that your culture and their culture are different. I have found that many Koreans seem refrained or afraid of Westerners, but that really isn’t the case. They tell me there is so much that they want to say to us but they are afraid of being wrong. So if they are not busy, I believe that you should make an effort to get to know them. There are numerous times where I finish prepping my lessons for the day and I go sit and talk with them. Sometimes, they are afraid to speak English because they are afraid that they will mispronounce or not speak correctly. I tell them that I will mispronounce Korean too so let’s just try our best. Many times, they have helped me improve my Korean and I have helped them with their English.
Besides that, it is extremely important to have great communication with them. The Korean staff is really important to our school because they are responsible for dealing with the parents. Many of my students say that their parents are like ‘Tiger Moms’ in which the parents control the everyday activity of their child. As teachers, we need to give the proper feedback to the Korean teachers so that they can talk to the parents and tell them about our students’ performance. At times, it can be super stressful for the Korean staff member, but if you are there to help them with their duties, they will be there to help you with yours.
Furthermore, there have been occasions where I was not able to manage a student appropriately. There is no such thing as a perfect school with perfect students. Some students fall asleep during class, cheat on tests, or have even cursed in Korean to other student’s in front of me. For this situation, I think that you should tell your student that you may not know a lot of Korean but you definitely know the curse words. This will help you manage the amount of profanity in your class. But in any case, there may be times where I have had an unruly class and I would need a Korean staff member to come and talk to my students. Afterwards, everything settles down and then you can continue teaching again.
Despite the activities that the Korean teachers must do at work, I have found them to be great people outside of work. Luckily, I have been close to the ones I work with. It is normal to go out and grab a bite to eat or have a few drinks after work with them. For most teachers, I think they would find that it was not normal that I do other activities not work related with them. They have helped me prepare for going on dates with Koreans for instance. They have helped me settle issues that I may have with my apartment or cell phone as well. We have biked the Han River as a group and have even climbed mountains together. We also went on vacation to the Philippines together! I’m so thankful to be surrounded by this group of people that I am with.
I strongly believe that the Korean staff members are necessary to have a successful branch and a great working environment. If you get to know them, they will want to know you too. The work stuff is important, but I am really thankful for the friendships that I have made with them as well. Take some time out of your day, talk to them and thank them because they put a lot of hard work in to make the company run smoothly.
After working for five years in banking, Marc decided that it was time for a change before he got too old. He left the stress from his 9-5 job to do something new and different. After coming to Korea with a group of buddies, he landed in the Gangdong Branch in Eastern Seoul. When he's not teaching and doing head instructor duties, he is out about traveling Korea, looking for the new, old, and undiscovered places to visit. Follow him on Twitter @geonmakku and on Instagram @geonmakku for the latest happenings in South Korea.