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Author Topic: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?  (Read 29408 times)

Offline mcclain239

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Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« on: March 03, 2013, 12:44:31 PM »
I'm sure this question has been asked before but I could find the topic in the search box.  I hear about all these horror stories with hagwons.  I would like to know and hear about any legitimate bad experience with the EPIK program and if it was enough to make you decide not to renew your contract or even consider a midnight run:)

Offline catsoup

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2013, 01:07:40 PM »
I've liked working at hagwons more. I wouldn't say working at my public school has been bad per se, but you're not really going to know until you get there. However, you can do more research before taking a job at a hagwon.

What I don't like about the school I work at:
  • Nobody (and least of all, the English teachers) speaks English.
  • At the elementary schools, I have no role other than to stand around and occassionally say things when cued. It's not rewarding work at all.
  • No control over the heat or air conditioning.
  • Deskwarming.
  • A week of mostly useless training spent living in a dormitory with a roommate and a curfew.
  • No respect from anyone I work with. My desk doubles as storage space. Anything going on doesn't take me into consideration. People more or less think I'm stupid.
  • If you get into any kind of trouble outside of school, they can use it as an excuse to fire you. I guess hagwons can do this too, but most won't.

And as I write this, my pay is a week late. I've been suckered into working on my vacation days in the past. There have been plenty of meetings and such that I've had to attend that were entirely in Korean. At least with hagwons you have more of a leg to stand on because somebody else's money is at stake.

Offline newb

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2013, 02:35:56 PM »
Nah.

But I witnessed numerous midnight runners.  Half of them ran to China.  One school produced 4 consecutive runners in a year.  Finally, the local POE really hammered the school and they've mellowed out for the 5th NET.   ;D
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Offline Darkeru

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2013, 03:15:24 PM »
I'm sure some people have had a bad EPIK experience - the question is biased towards the negative though. You might get ten replies saying yes and three saying no, just because it's about bad experiences only.

Personally, at my first school (SMOE-EPIK Middle) I had an overall good experience, but with the typical problems - not hearing about things until last minute - dragged into all Korean speaking 'meetings', non-English teaching staff doesn't speak English (but I didn't expect them too) and a couple English teachers had terrible English, deskwarming, etc.

At my second school (GEPIK Elementary) there have been no major problems so far and even the non-English teachers speak to me and act friendly. A bit of not hearing about things til last minute, but usually in a way that benefits me ("dinner with other teachers today? Sorry, I already have plans - should have told me beforehand").
« Last Edit: March 05, 2013, 02:51:35 PM by Darkeru »
[In Korea once more - Working in Pyeongtaek]

Offline Ley_Druid

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2013, 04:18:07 PM »
I worked two years in GEPIK and one year in EPIK, in Busan. I felt that the schools and structure of EPIK was better. I felt more confident in my job and in the management, but they will never ever budge an inch if there is anything that you need outside of the contract.

The difference between EPIK and GEPIK is that EPIK is ultimately controlled by the POE or MOE, but GEPIK gives much more powers to the schools and, as far as I have ever heard, won't help much if the school violates contract, and so that is why so many GEPIK teachers have to go to the labor board.

However to put this in complete perspective, I found that on average, any public school is better than any hagwon, as far as payment and treatment as a human being. Only a few public schools are out to make money off of their native teachers (yes, some do when it comes to after school programs and the principals pocket tons of money). I think there are some major differences between the two. I can't remember who, but someone said well over a year ago on Waygook that "The best hagwon is better than the best public school, but the worse public school is better than the worst hagwon."

I have had experience in both a hagwon and public schools, and I would take a public school over a hagwon anyday. HOWEVER, I think if you are a super duper outgoing person and you believe what you teach and are strong enough to take care of yourself, you might find a hagwon is a better place, especially if you find the right one.

But, getting back to the question, I had a decent experience in EPIK and I am returning to an EPIK contract next month. I prefer to know all the rules at the beginning even if they are less flexible, but I absolutely believe that EPIK is a good program. But in the end, it all depends on your school, co-teachers, students, area, ability to cope with Korean culture, transportation, housing, and contract rules and regulations.

I prefer EPIK to all other major programs in Korea, including universities and hagwons. Sure, there are some greatly universities that I'd love to work at and I am sure there are also some freaking awesome hagwons, but I am not willing to risk it, and as they say, it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Offline nen33

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2013, 04:47:56 PM »
There are positive and negatives to any situation. As someone said, the worst hagwon is probably worse than the worst public school.

That said, I used to work for a pretty hardcore hagwon - one week of vacation, no national holidays, highly structured curriculum, decent pay(not great, and never any raises) and while English learning was treated as a business, I found the job to be okay. Not great. Not bad. I left because there was no chance of ever getting a raise. I worked there for two years.

I would not stay another year at my technical high school.

The students largely don't want to learn English. Some of my coteachers don't want to teach English, and therefore provide very little support or help in the classroom, provided they don't leave the classroom during class. The students' English is not at a high enough level that I can discipline them effectively - some of them honestly understand zero English. At least one student last year could not read.
Attempting to teach them using games works only some of the time. With a good coteacher it goes well. With the flakier coteachers, they will send me out of the classroom because "the students aren't interested."
While some of the students, and some of my coteachers are great, the frustration of the rest of my experience makes me long for my hagwon days.

Offline newb

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2013, 05:31:17 PM »
Quote
I would not stay another year at my technical high school.

Stay away from TECHNICAL high schools.  Those are the prisons for unwanted junvenile delinquent students in Korea.
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Offline sweetjane2011

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2013, 05:49:49 PM »
I've only worked with EPIK so far, I haven't been down the hagwon route yet, so I can't really compare the two, but in terms of bad experiences with EPIK, I haven't heard of  many real horror stories, just little things like crappy apartments or bitchy co-teachers. I've known a couple of people drop out too, but most of the people I know through EPIK seem fairly happy.

The biggest things that suck about EPIK are not being allowed to actually chose your school or your apartment, it's pretty much a lottery. Also, you'll probably be the only foreigner at your school which can be a little isolating at times.  The textbooks are pure nonsense as well. Co-teaching can be hit or miss. Maybe you'll have some freedom or control in the classroom but chances are you won't. Most of the people I know, including myself, are tape-recorders a lot of the time. The desk warming gets quite tedious as well. Although if you're doing a Master's degree or some other kind of study, it'd be great.

I think a job with EPIK seems fairly stable, the chances of being fired or your school suddenly closing are very slim. You get more vacation time as well. Orientation is also a good place to meet new people. I like my job, it's pretty easy although it's far from perfect. 

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2013, 07:24:42 PM »
I had a bittersweet time in EPIK.  I now work in a small hagwon, which I prefer, and I would never go back to EPIK.  I suspect that some provinces are better to work in EPIK than others like I think Busan would be better and more professional than Gyoungbuk, for example.  I also think GEPIK is a better organization than EPIK, but that's my opinion, because the parents have high expectations and it is a more affluent province, in my opinion, than the more rural provinces.  I had by far better co-teachers in GEPIK who often had graduate qualifications and degrees in English or Englidh Education than i did in EPIK, where many of the teachers i worked with and met for the most part only had whatever training the MOE sent them to.  However, there were a couple of teachers, but only two that i worked with in EPIK, who had done the six month professional TESOL training program and they were very good to work with.

Offline star32569

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2013, 02:45:17 PM »
I have been with Epik for 6 months and am not enjoying the experience. I asked about my school prior to coming heard it was good. Then I came and found out it was the school for students who could not go anywhere else. I had to pay a bill left from a previous teacher and asked epik and they did not get back to me. Till this day my bills are all in someone elses name. Then I did not receive the TV and I was asked to work an hour later everyday. Vacation notice was given to me days before I needed to take thm and the communication is almost nonexistant. I would not renew if given a choice, I think the program is unprofessional and it varies. Some schools are good but from what I see most are not. My biggest complaint is I am teaching and not an assistsant like I wanted. The co teachers do nothing I reported all my complaints and nothing was done.

Offline newb

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2013, 02:58:44 PM »
I have been with Epik for 6 months and am not enjoying the experience. I asked about my school prior to coming heard it was good. Then I came and found out it was the school for students who could not go anywhere else. I had to pay a bill left from a previous teacher and asked epik and they did not get back to me. Till this day my bills are all in someone elses name. Then I did not receive the TV and I was asked to work an hour later everyday. Vacation notice was given to me days before I needed to take thm and the communication is almost nonexistant. I would not renew if given a choice, I think the program is unprofessional and it varies. Some schools are good but from what I see most are not. My biggest complaint is I am teaching and not an assistsant like I wanted. The co teachers do nothing I reported all my complaints and nothing was done.

Why do you put up with BS?  When you complain and/or raise questions, don't give up until you get satisfactory responses.

If you'd like to be assistant, don't get in front of the class and just sit/stand behind the classroom until co-t starts the class. :P
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Offline Morticae

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2013, 03:05:43 PM »
My biggest complaint is I am teaching and not an assistsant like I wanted.

I was sympathetic until I read that.  :laugh:

Offline kevin76

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2013, 12:54:09 PM »
I had a bad settling in period in my school for the first 2 months.

It was really difficult acclimatising to Korean culture and their ways of teaching. My main co-teacher and I didn't get along after about the first week. she is a really nice person but she was stressed about having to do a huge amount of paperwork, do English competitions and get used to working with a new teacher. I on the other hand felt a little bit stressed with the way i was being treated. I was thrown in at the deep end and with a "just do it" attitude, with little or no information. However, after some "quiet moments" between us, we just sat down together and talked things through. It was difficult and awkward but we just talked about it. Words were chosen very carefully on both sides and due respect as well. Things changed dramatically after that.
 I have been fortunate in my school. They are really nice (staff and other teachers)
I think it is because the teachers are much older and are nearly at retirement age
so they are really chilled. It's not the most exciting working environment but
overall I have a nice VP and P. They have been really flexible with me in terms of
letting me take time to sort out bills, banking issues and little things.
They also treat me like a Korean teacher in most ways so I am very fortunate when compared to the horror stories that you read here.

The great thing about EPIK, besides the obvious negatives, is the pay and conditions.
A lot of younger teachers that come fresh out of University think they can become "teachers of English" immediately and can supersede their co-teachers because they speak English. I feel this is a major faux pas on their part and usually leads to trouble.
Korean society is hierarchical in nature (as is most Asian countries). Therefore, most of your co-teachers will be older and way more experienced than you. It is just the way it is here. you might be lucky and get a teacher younger than you or similar age to you (depends on the school you are in) but i only know one person who is working has had young teachers at their school. Most people I know work with older people. So, you will generally be a mouth piece. It also depends on your age and experience and how open minded your co-teachers are.

I'm in my late 30s, have experience etc etc. the last person that was before me was much younger and he had to do things I never have to do. That person's work load was completely different to mine. As was the way that person was treated in terms of responsibility in the classroom. I seem to have more than he did, maybe it's because I have more experience, i'm not sure. But I seem to have an easier time than  that person did.

So it all comes down to luck and a number of other factors I believe. your age and experience does matter in my view as does the staff and co-teachers. However, if you get a good school, you'll get a school that will accommodate you, and treat you with respect. The contract is very fair with Public Schools. The EPIK orientation is somewhat useful if you never have taught before. I was very frustrated by it and saw it as a complete waste of my time. But horses for courses!

Hagwons you work later, less holiday time. And seem to be at the mercy of the type of boss you have. Less holidays is a major factor for me. you need a break of more than 10 days a year. Working later into the evening is also not the best for most people. Doing your regular 9.30 to 4.30 or 5 seems to give you a better weekend and evenings to be able to do things with other people. That might be factor as well.  Not being able to meet up with people during the week to do things etc. Might not be a huge thing but if you are alone and haven't made any friends it makes it more difficult to meet people. Not impossible but it makes things a week bit more isolating.

But that is my two cents...People from hagwons can tell you their opinion and will be able to give you their side of why Hagwons are better. I will say that if you have experience and work in the EPIK programme  you get more money than if you work in a Hagwon, having 2+ years experience and a CELTA or TEFL (2,500,000won). If you stay an extra 2 years your salary goes up to 2.7 million. It would be hard to find better paying work here doing so few teaching hours.

« Last Edit: March 06, 2013, 01:55:17 PM by kevin76 »

Offline timephone

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2013, 01:01:22 PM »
I've heard plenty of "horror" stories from other EPIK teachers, but you have to take into account the personalities of the native teachers themselves. The picky eater, loudmouth, control freak NET is gonna have a bad time almost anywhere and generally rub Koreans the wrong way--so when this person complains about his/her "awful job" take it with a grain of salt.

On the other hand, I've heard decent testimonials from very passive, easy-going NETs who teach at what I'm pretty sure are the worst schools around. Entire "technical" high school classes who don't speak or even bother to stay awake, ignore the teacher, and with co-teachers who couldn't give a ****. I asked one specific teacher if his high school job was tough and he said "no", b/c it's the easiest job imaginable if one doesn't really care.

EPIK jobs are as difficult as you make them. The schools themselves will always be a grab-bag, with some insanely awesome positions (in wealthy neighborhoods where you're treated like a king, taken on week-long "field trips" outside the country) or some from the depths of hell. But not a single school expects you to work more than 22 classes a week w/o extra compensation. From bell to bell in a typical classroom you're making at least $20 to speak your native language for 40-50 minutes, with some simple planning thrown in to spice things up.

Compare that with a hagwon teacher I know who's teaching 40+ classes a week. No lie. No matter how "good" the hagwon is, you can have all those jobs to yourself.

Offline Chuckthebear

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2013, 01:14:12 PM »
Quote
I would not stay another year at my technical high school.

Stay away from TECHNICAL high schools.  Those are the prisons for unwanted junvenile delinquent students in Korea.

I had a technical high school, while i would say maybe half the classes where the students knew they would never use English were by far from my cup of tea.  There were still some students who put in effort despite most of the class not wanting to.  The other half the classes were amazing.   It really depends on you as a person and what you can convince your co-teachers to help you with.   Also google.com/translate as  bad as it is, is still a life saver if you know how to utilize it properly.



I also had late pay a couple of times but if you are persistent about it which you should be of course it will be fixed.   

it's about the same as hagwons but I would say the worst public school has nothing on the worst hagwon experience. 

Everything else is really how you make it.  It's as simple as that.

Offline ritum

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2013, 01:43:38 PM »
I've been in Korea for over a year now. I started at a hagwon, then worked at a university, and now I'm at a public school. Similar to many other people I have heard tons of horror stories about public schools and co teachers but my experience has been quite different. Granted, I also enjoyed my hagwon job, but I definitely prefer this.

My school went above and beyond to get me a really nice loft. I know it was above their budget but they really wanted me to be happy. They also gave me my settlement money of 300 000 right away and helped me find furniture, get it delivered, etc. My co teacher is incredible, she studied English in Australia, speaks fluently,  and makes the lesson plans with me on a weekly basis. We work together in all the classes, with me teaching the majority of the older class (and then she does an activity) and she teaches the majority of the younger class (and I do a fun game or activity). I eat lunch with all the co teachers and they always try to include me in their conversations, I have also worked on my Korean so I can easily make small talk with them. I go out with my co teachers for lunches, dinners, coffee, and they have ALWAYS been there for me. Whether it was a visit to the hospital, or needing help buying something, or trouble paying my bills.

The school itself is incredible and quite organized. We have just over 600 kids, and I teach about 250 of them. They are well behaved and really interested in learning English. The school is clean, with tons of facilities, and I love all the access I have to technology. During the winter my principal let me go home at noon every day instead of desk warming. I also needed an extra day during winter vacation and they allowed me to use a sick day. I have never had an issue with pay at all. I have my own office with a massive desk, my own computer, heater and ac, and a couch (which I have often slept on).

I'm sure everyone's experience varies but I know I work my butt off on lesson plans, special activities, crafts and prizes for the kids. I volunteer to play sports, help Korean teachers with their English, and participate in all school events from graduation to meeting new parents. I make sure my kids are having fun and learning as well. I work with my co teacher and support her, and in return my school treats me really really well! I know this post was about bad experiences but I think its important to know that there are people having an amazing time as well!

Offline acostello

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2013, 02:06:36 PM »
I'm at a technical high school as well. I'm technically under EPIK contract, but I think this school by a private institution. Or something like that. Regardless...

The majority of the students are unmotivated and don't want to learn. They have a very low level of English, which made it really hard for me to figure out how to teach them. They can be obnoxious and rude, so that's bothersome. Still, considering their circumstances (like how there isn't even a fail system at this school), they aren't as difficult as I would imagine.

Overall, though, I feel fairly fortunate with my job. The teachers have been extremely nice and friendly to me, even though most of them don't know much English. My relationship with my co-teachers has been very good as well, and I'm glad that they always come to class with me to help teach and translate. I haven't experienced any problems with getting paid late; I always get paid on time. Best of all, I had a nice, long winter break with no winter classes and no desk warming :) Plus, my school is letting me take a week off in April for when my parents come to visit me.

Of course, I think part of the reason my school is being so nice to me is because my predecessor took a midnight run. I suspect that they want to keep me happy so I don't do the same. And that's fine with me ;)

Offline Smaug

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2013, 02:13:31 PM »
I had terrible schools. The lady teachers did not come to class. The little kids could only say hello and thankyou. They blamed me the kids were bored. They made me use the boring book. The book movie CD thing was hard to understand too. It was in Korean.

Then another school the teacher was sullen. I think he was mad how much cash I made.

Both schools had me deskwarm.

My current school is great. They gave all semester break(--edit-- yeah all the semester vacation not I was working the semester) off. Then they gave me most of February off.

EPIC is all chance. Sometimes you get a nice school with teachers who help. Sometimes you get a bad school with teachers who dont help and make you desk warm.

But, yeah I agree. Most often Hawkones are garbage. Kids hate them. And the hours are terrible.

Best option is to just become a wandering Kung Fu hobo. Then you can walk the West and fight cowboys with guns with your king fu.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2013, 02:41:18 PM by Smaug »
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Offline ithinkinailedit

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #18 on: March 06, 2013, 02:17:23 PM »
I've only been in Korea for two weeks.  In the beginning EPIK made it very clear to me that I could not teach middle or high in Seoul, only elementary.  So I spent six months thinking I'd be an elementary school teacher, then spent a week at orientation learning how to sing to children and praise them.  After orientation they stuck me in a middle school.  I was surprised and a little freaked at first, but I knew to expect the unexpected when it came to teaching in Korea.  I really can't complain.  The school got me a studio within 10min (walking) from Hongdae.  It's extremely small, but really new, clean, and modern.  I wouldn't be surprised if I'm the first person to live in this studio, the appliances still have manuals attached to them.  So I guess in the end it's really just the luck of the draw.  My school could turn out to be a nightmare, but I'm very happy so far. 

Offline newb

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Re: Anyone with bad EPIK experience?
« Reply #19 on: March 06, 2013, 02:30:06 PM »
I've only been in Korea for two weeks.  In the beginning EPIK made it very clear to me that I could not teach middle or high in Seoul, only elementary.  So I spent six months thinking I'd be an elementary school teacher, then spent a week at orientation learning how to sing to children and praise them.  After orientation they stuck me in a middle school.  I was surprised and a little freaked at first, but I knew to expect the unexpected when it came to teaching in Korea.  I really can't complain.  The school got me a studio within 10min (walking) from Hongdae.  It's extremely small, but really new, clean, and modern.  I wouldn't be surprised if I'm the first person to live in this studio, the appliances still have manuals attached to them.  So I guess in the end it's really just the luck of the draw.  My school could turn out to be a nightmare, but I'm very happy so far.

Made me lol.  Enjoy your happiness while it lasts.
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