Survey Results – Part 5: Co-Workers

Survey Results – Part 5: Co-Workers

The previous parts of this series can be found here: Part 1 – Dating & Downloadables, Part 2 – Lifestyle and Pets, Part 3A – Teaching Resources (Hakwon vs Public School), Part 3B – Hakwon vs Public School Workplace Satisfaction and Part 4 – Websites Used.

Nabunu needs people who can help out (think blogging, etc), check out what we need here:

Update: The raw data and downloadables can be found here:  Question 28 had 59 hakwon teachers respond and 179 public school teachers,  Question 29 had XX hakwon respondents and 160 public school respondents and 59 hakwon respondents).

This post flows on from the previous one which was all about resources in the Korean workplace and other non-human factors.  Today the focus shifts to professional relationships in the ESL workplace and, in particular, co-workers.  I’ve tried to uncover what the biggest pain points are when it comes to teaching English in Korea.  Let’s get started.

Korean Co-Workers

The comparison of how hakwon teachers feel about their Korean coworkers vs public school teachers.

This was question 28: “How do you feel about your Korean coworkers?”.  I really should have split this question into two but I was trying to condense the survey.  When looking at the above graphic just bear in mind that the percentages reflect how many people chose that response and that respondents could choose as many or as few options as they liked – that’s why the percentages don’t add up to 100.  The strongest positive response I gave as an option was “They’re awesome, I love working with them” which was chosen by 20% of hakwon NESTs and 36% of government school NESTs.

ESL-ChalkOn almost each individual answer choice it appeared that public school teachers were getting along better with their Korean co-workers.

A somewhat contradictory response was that whilst public school teachers felt their co-workers would back them up in an disagreement with a student than hakwon teachers did (11.5% vs. 3.3%) they also felt that their co-workers were more likely to deliberately undermine them in front of a student than hakwon teachers did (4.9% vs. 3.3%).

To me though, these figures were surprisingly low as I remember me and my friends all feeling like our co-workers were deliberately undermining us or taking a student’s side in a disagreement (I had a student who was wearing a t-shirt that was visible under his school shirt that had a swastika in a wreath being carried by a hawk, I asked the co-teacher to explain gently to the student that this isn’t really appropriate, she took his side saying “No, it’s not inappropriate, it’s German”).  I was expecting these figures to be in the 70-80% range so it just goes to show how misleading personal experience and anecdotal evidence can be.

This question had some high quality comments, here’s a sample of them:

  • “Everyone is polite when necessary, but I’m generally ignored.”
  • “Some are very helpful. Some play on their smartphones at the back of class.”
  • “I try to stay on their good side, knowing that they’ll throw me under the bus in a heartbeat.”
  • “last year I had a totally psycho one who lied to me and made me do all sorts of bizarre tasks just because she could.”
  • “There are tons of them. Each one is different.”

That’s just a few, each of them was just one a several that were similar to it in essence.

Western Co-Workers

Well, not much to report in terms of comparison between hakwons and public school as 87% of public school teachers reported not having a western co-worker.  I was surprised though that 20% of hakwon teachers also reported not having western co-workers.  In my mind I never imagined hakwon teachers not having western coworkers.

A look at how hakwon teachers in Korea feel about their western co-workers

For hakwon teachers the most popular answer was that they got along fine with their western co-workers (42%).  There were of course people who had negative things to report about their western co-workers like “They can’t stop complaining” (10%).

For this question there was also some interesting comments like this:

  • “One is my boyfriend so I have to like him”
  • “All my foreigner coworkers need to learn Korean and enjoy this country.”
  • “We hang out, but they really are unprofessional. They drink a lot every night and come to work hungover. They dress slutty and are not good at handling kids. It gives the rest of us a bad image.”
  • “Each coworker is different!”

Interesting points all but the first one is probably my favourite.


A picture of a lecture hall because finding ESL Korea related photos is really, really hard.

Generally speaking it seems that for the vast majority of language teachers they either feel happy or ambivalent about their co-workers.  In fact, more people reported having negative feelings about their western co-workers than their Korean ones.  It seems that there are some people who have nightmarishly bad co-workers and those are the ones we see posting on popular forum sites about their experience.  But this survey suggests that those experiences are the exception rather than the rule.

When taken in conjunction with part 3 of this series it appears that for most teachers neither resources nor co-workers have a negative impact on their workplace experience in Korea.  For me personally this was rather surprising.  As we’ll see in future posts there are other factors that are more important.  The next post deals with the student aspect of the Korea NEST ecosystem.

Question:  If given the choice would you rather teach a class 1) by yourself, 2) with a western co-teacher, 3) with a Korean co-teacher and why?

Photo credit: smallestbones via photopin cc

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