Why I'm still in Korea part II - Pohang POLY

Last week I told the story of why my first TEFL job in Korea didn't go so well. By the end of that snafu, I thought my exodus from Korea had been delayed until about June of this year. Unfortunately, not all went well.

I still had to deal with Pohang POLY.

As you may remember, I had 30 days to find a job after I was informed I had to leave the previous one. This didn't give me much time to shop around for the right job. With about a week to go, I found a hagwan (cram school) offering a job across the country in a city called Pohang.

I interviewed a few times with the head foreign teacher (we'll call her Meg), asking as many questions as I could think of. During this process, I found out that the school taught kindergarteners early in the day, and elementary schoolers in the afternoon. I had no desire to teach kindergarteners, but I was assured that I was being hired to teach only elementary. Despite this, I was expected to come in at the same time in the morning as the other teachers. Confused by this idea, I asked why I was expected to be present for five hours while I wasn't teaching. The answer was that I was expected to help other teachers out should they need it. The times I wasn't helping, I would be planning for my upcoming classes. In addition, I would be paid less than everyone else (ostensibly for teaching fewer classes), but equal to what I made at the job I was forced to leave.

For some reason, this all made sense to me. I accepted the job, packed my things, and hopped on a bus to the other side of the country. 

For the first week or two, everything seemed copacetic. Apparently, I was hired quickly to replace a worker who was assumed to have quit his meds and gone a bit "off," and everyone seemed to appreciate that he had been replaced. After a week, I found out that one of the other teachers was leaving as well, but that Meg had not yet found a replacement for her. and In the interrem, I would be expected to take over the morning kindergarten classes.

Robot races at POLY.

To be honest, the school seemed pretty cool, too. They had field trips, robot days, water gun days, and other cool activities for the students. There were computers in every classroom so you could show videos to the students. Sure, there were some issues, but overall, it was actually a pretty cool place to teach. 

Not everything was shiny once you got a bit past the polish.

Two weeks in, after a promise of elementary teaching, they had me teaching young kids. And not just young, but preschool level. The way Korean's count age is weird, so when they say I was teaching five-year-olds, I was actually teaching three- and four-year-olds. 

Let me put it this way: one of the kids was so young, that his response to not getting his way was to piss his pants. Or worse.

But this was to last only until they had replaced the other teacher. Luckily, this ended up being just over two weeks. The last Friday I taught the little buggers, I practically danced home, rejoicing that my torture was nearly over. After going out for dinner, I returned home to find a bag hanging from my doorknob. Inside the bag was a new schedule informing me that after a week, I would begin a new kindergarten class. 

So, the next week I went to discuss the idea with the director of the school. During this discussion he offered a minor pay raise for my trouble (but not equal to my peers). After a while, though, it came out that he doesn't hire teachers who don't work with kindergarteners. In response, I assured him that I had asked about that multiple times during my interview, and would not have accepted the job were that the case. He called it a misunderstanding. I told him I would only work for him for another 60 days.

So, the real problem here was the head foreign teacher. From what I can figure out, she hired me knowing that I would at some point be working with kindergarteners, and lied to me to get me on board. She treated most of the staff terribly, often yelling over petty matters, and talking trash behind people's backs. Unfortunately, once I tendered my resignation, I became the object of her undying resentment. By the time I found another job, she had embarked on an internal slander campaign which went so far as telling the director that I was stealing from the academy.

The director took everything in stride. While he never stepped away from his stance that the whole ordeal was a "misunderstanding," he did make multiple offers to get me to stay. When he saw that I was having difficulty finding a job in Busan (the only place I would accept a job), he called the recruiters he knew and asked them to help me. When I did find a job, he asked me to come back and visit if I ever came back through Pohang. He's a really nice guy.

Long story short, by mid-September, 2014 I moved to Busan, started a new job, and signed another year-long contract. So now I'm headed home in September this year. Even though I originally planned to be in this country for 12 months, by the time I leave I will have been here for 21. 

C'est la vie.

Backing away from unwanted advances. POSCO, Pohang Steel Company is in the background.

Honestly, though, this whole ordeal is emblematic of what is happening in the country right now. But you'll have to come back another week for information on that...