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Troy Jodoin - Hagwon Owner in Korea

Listen to Troy a hagwon owner in Korea give great advice and offer in-depth information for newcomers. He also talks about classroom management, money, and gives advice on choosing a location.


Here is a transcription of the video:

What's your name? Troy Jodoin.

Where do you come from? I am from a city called Burlington a city close to Toronto, Ontario.

How long have you been teaching and living in Korea? I have been teaching and living in Korea for a little over 8 years now. I have been teaching in many cities in Korea: in Gwanju, Seoul, Suwon and Cheonan.

How long have you owned your own business? I have had this school for three years now. Beforehand I was working for about 5 years in other schools. Teaching and managing. Basically gathering skills to open my own business.

What is the name of your school? Elite English Academy in Cheonan about an hour south of Seoul.

How does your hagwon compare to others? I'd like to think it's the best (laughing). The reason why I opened a school in the first place was that I was sick and tired of the hagwons being a business and not a place for education. So I opened up a school based on trying to get children to read, write and speak in English as fluently as they can before they go on to middle school. I am dealing primarily with elementary students.

Some teachers have difficulties living abroad. How do you think you can avoid these? It depends on your personality and the attitude you have before coming abroad. If you are all gung ho about your country and think "we are number one" then you are probably not going to make it too long living in another country. You really have to come with an open mind and remember that they have been doing things in their country for a long time. And they are not about to change even if you think your way is better. So the more adaptable you are the better. If you have a positive attitude towards things it will help makes things a little more smooth as well.

How do you manage your students? Classroom management. Basically I tell my teachers that they have to control their students and that if they do have any problems then I am there to support the teacher and to ensure that problems are solved quickly. We inform the parents so that they know as well and repeat problems are usually dealt with by having the child leave the classroom. Sometimes if a child is not responding well we usually send them to another teachers classroom. They usually don't like that cause they are in a setting with other students that they don't know and it can be a little embarrassing.

They are in an English environment and they might learn something, but they usually don't want to be there. They want to be in their own classroom. So we have different techniques and it really depends on the problem or the students or the teacher themselves. In general I don't have a lot of problems with teachers or with students.

Do you have any rewards system with stamps or stickers? I usually let teachers decide what they think is best. In my classes I don't give them anything. The reward is being educated. But a lot of the other teachers have stickers that will go on a chart if everyone has done their homework. Whatever class has the most stickers at the end of the semester might have a pizza party or something like that. I really leave it up to the teachers. I think that whatever they feel is comfortable is best.

Are the students allowed to speak Korean in the school? In the really lower levels we restrict them and as their level gets higher there are times where they may need to speak Korean to help a friend or for definitions. Usually in the lower levels the students have to put up a hand and ask the teacher may I speak Korean? The teacher will then let them speak.

So what happens if a student does speak Korean? One thing a teacher might do is put the students name on the board and if they get 3 X's they'll have to stay after class or get sent out into the hall. We do report cards every semester - once every four months. That's when the teachers let the parents know everything: how many times the child has not done homework, how well the child is working independently or with other children. I always like to keep the parents involved and if they haven't done their homework 3 times they'll get a phone call and the parents will find out.

When a child hasn't done their homework in our school the teacher automatically sends them out of the room. You haven't prepared you are not ready to be taught. So they go out into the hallway and do their homework. When they are finished they can come back into the class.

What do you think makes a good teacher? There are a lot of qualities that make a good teacher. Patience is very important. In eight years teaching in Korea I have gained a lot of patience working with children and parents. Enjoying teaching. If you enjoy teaching there will be no major problems. Even when I was in Seoul managing I wasn't interacting with the students, so I missed teaching the students. Even though I am the owner of my school I still teach almost full time. I teach 60% of what other teachers do. I can understand the problems that they have and when a teacher comes to me I know the students, so if a teacher is complaining about a student I probably know what the problem is with that child.

How much can a teacher save in a year? It all depends if you want to live off ramen (laughing). I'd say it's pretty easy to save a $1000 a month. At the end of the year you are also given severance pay. So you should very comfortably be able to save $14,000. You can save up until $20,000 if you are more diligent about what you do and spend. I'd say 12-14 no problem. It's quite doable.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of teaching abroad? I'd say you should make a list for what you want in a job and what you don't want. If it is your first time you have no idea what the differences are in the cities. You really have to talk to the teachers who work in the school. If an employer doesn't want to give you that. Then completely disregard that employer right away. There is a reason why. I always give email addresses and phone numbers to anyone who is applying for a position in my school. Even to teachers who worked here in the past. Anybody who doesn't do that right away is not a good school. They obviously have some problems with their staff. It could be cultural or many different problems. Definitely speak to teachers there that are currently working at that branch.

Do you have any advice for choosing a location? Yeah, I think if you are a very active person and very social then I would think that you would want to live in a big city like Seoul or Busan. If you are looking for a more cultural experience then definitely try some of the real small cities that are further away from the metropolitan areas. If you are a really open minded person then you will probably really like it. If you are not then I would recommend to stay in some of the big cities where it's more westernized and insulated from the culture.

Another thing in Korea is the living accommodations. Some schools offer shared or single, so you have to decide what works best for you. If it's your first time coming abroad you may want to have a roommate. If you're just out of university then it's not such a big of a deal. You can have someone who has been here and can show you around. When I first started here in Korea that's how I did it and I appreciated it a lot. The you go on from there on a new contract and get your own place and live a little more independently. There are good sides to both.