Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why I Don't Teach Privates

For those of you not on the peninsula, teaching privates is a lucrative sideline which most foreigners do at least occasionally. Basically, you meet with a student and frequently just have an hour-long conversation with them in exchange for $40-50. Sounds good, right? Yet, I haven't done them in years, partly because my free time is worth more than that to me. Mainly, though, I don't like teaching one-on-one. I'm not a big chatter, and neither are students that need to pay someone to speak English to them. You know when talk shows have guests that don't talk? That's what it's like. For an hour.

Unfortunately, for me, my school has a student about to interview for a boarding school overseas. About two months ago, the parents realized he couldn't speak English and now that it's his last four weeks, he's coming to see me ten hours a week. One-on-one. I'm not a miracle worker-- two months of twice weekly lessons has not made him fluent. Now, I've got to get him ready for an interview. Sigh.

Here is a breakdown of our daily two hour session:
About 20-30 minutes of actual work.
Three trips to the bathroom, not during his break.
At least thirty minutes of robot/ machine gun sounds.
My "firmly" reminding him to sit down, about every other minute, sometimes more frequently than that.
Him saying, "I'm not doing that," as each new task is introduced, while simultaneously pretending to fall asleep.

Despite the fact that he has been pulled out of school, he has not had time to do any of his homework yet. So, a fair amount of the precious few productive minutes are spent on work he should have done at home.

The best part? This is at school, so I'm making OT, which is considerably less than private rates.


Robin said...



You GOTTA get a better job, chica.

Chris in South Korea said...

Does his mom ever sit in, watch him, keep him on target, tie him to his chair, etc. etc. etc.? Just some thoughts... Never taught privates, but I have worked with kids - games usually worked as a motivational tool.

I'm Chris in South Korea, by the way - found you from Roboseyo's post about female bloggers. Nice to meet you :)

Jen said...

Ahhh... it's not a real private, it's OT at school, so she *could* watch on our spanking new CCTV, but she doesn't, and games are right out.

It's not horrible, and I can completely understand that he's in third grade and has to stay at our hagwon five hours a day. I'd be about he same in his position. Mostly, I'm upset with his parents for subjecting him to that. I can't imagine that this plan has evolved so suddenly that he would need three months of intensive lessons rather than a year or so at a more reasonable pace. IMHO :-)

Karl said...

What Robin said. How old is their little jean-ass?

Brian said...

You can't say no? Or limit the time? Sure, fuck him if he's not going to do anything and his parents don't care, but that's a lot of time to waste and a lot of frustration for, what, 12000 per hour?

Well, at least they're trying to get some extra training. I had a kid last semester who came to me to proofread his application the night before it was supposed to go out. Christ, it was bad, and it was insulting on a number of levels. The biggest insult was that a kid---and his mother, who came into school to give it to me---thought they could just throw any old garbage together and get into a public school in the US. The thing was a series of open-ended questions. He left several blank, and gave typical Korean b.s. answers for the rest.

Why do you want to study in the US? I want to learn English.

What do you hope to learn from your host family? I will English very good.

What challenges do you expect? Korea is family-centered, and US is individual, so that is hard.

One-line answers to questions designed to guage whether a student has what it takes to study with American students his own age.

The worst part? He ended up getting in. ajfeoqj028jf02qj3.

Sorry, but I'm sick of people who see my country as nothing more than a line on their resume. And I'm sick of people thinking they're entitled to study English, and that feigning interest alone is good enough. God, sometimes I want to hold these people accountable for this crap.

Jen said...

Well, it's done-- he has to go to Vietnam early. He's not nearly so bad as the SAT students who want writing "help" for their uni app essays. Those are usually atrocious and the students (and parents) seem to think that help is a code for paying us to write the essay for them.

I remember writing page after page when I was trying to go study in Germany in high school. I definitely didn't think a line per answer was enough, but I have to wonder if things have changed all over since then. Expectations seem to be lower at home now than when I was in school-- walking uphill in the snow both ways. :-)

I'd feel bad refusing to it, though, because enrollments are down. At least my school pays 25k for OT. For 12, I'd have an easier time saying no. :-)

Anonymous said...

All Korean ESL which by the way should be called EFL is B.S.