What To Expect From Chungdahm’s Training Week

Your flights are paid for, your housing is provided, and you’re paid a decent sum of money. You require no teaching experience, nor certification beyond a university degree in any discipline, and the benefit of being raised in an English speaking country. It’s an easy job to get – but what many candidates don’t know is that when they board a flight to Korea – they’ve not signed a contract, they’ve simply entered the last stage of the interview process. These were my experiences and reflections with the misleadingly named “training week” of the English academy Chungdahm.

Getting To Korea

The airport bus had just pulled into Gangnam, and an array of both foreigners and Koreans debarked and headed towards the taxi ramp. Several foreigners and I stood silently alone, papers in hand, casually glancing around and pondering the chances of meeting someone else with our company. Finally, I hear someone mention to another “Are you with Chungdahm?” and within a few moments, all of us gathered together, expressing relief that we found others in our same situation.

We caught taxis to our hotel, taking in our first sights and sounds of Korea’s capital. Quickly checking in, we retired to our hotel rooms to sleep off the effects of a 14 hour journey. The next day – a Sunday – we spent our afternoon exploring Seoul and adjusting to the time difference. Little did we know we had an intense week of learning and evaluation ahead of us.

Training itself depends entirely on how many other candidates are being trained along with you. Some will find themselves in a one on one session with an experienced instructor, while others will find themselves in groups of 5 or more. Training will either take place in the morning or afternoon, for approximately 3 hours per day. During these hours, instructors present material that they have prepared as per CDI’s (Chungdahm’s) standards, and are critiqued by each other, and by the experienced instructor. Each day varies a little, with extra sessions thrown in here and there, but the general layout is as follows.

The Training Schedule

Monday – An introduction to company philosophy, and a sample class is presented by the experienced instructor.

Tuesday – Thursday – Sample classes are prepared by candidates, presented, and critiqued.

Friday – Final presentations are made by candidates, and a decision is made whether those candidates pass or fail training.

The aim of this training session is to evaluate candidates, and prepare those successful to teach their first class according to company pedagogy. While no person I met felt they were adequately prepared for their first week of classes, the week certainly did help. At no point during the week however did candidates participate in any session outside of company philosophy. There were no sessions related to Korean culture, language, emergency situations, or even a basic welcome session. Time was tight, but seminars like these can really help those who have never had an international experience before.

With only three hours a day, the training seemed like it was going to be a breeze. What many of us didn’t know is that there was an intense studying aspect associated with each day. Candidates are required to watch several hours of videos, and complete online tests every night. Several large diagrams also had to be memorized perfectly – to this day I still don’t understand how they related to our jobs.

What Happens If You Fail?

It’s not impossible to pass training successfully – most participants (myself included), do every week. Participants need to however be aware of the inherent risk when they “accept a position” with Chungdahm.

Flights are reimbursed upon successful completion of training and the first few weeks of teaching – so candidates who fail training are left stranded with no accommodation in a country that is all too foreign to them. Stories indicate that candidates have had their visas cancelled by the company so they were unable to look for other jobs. This means that candidates who fail training will need to purchase an additional one way flight home almost immediately after purchasing a flight to Korea – both of which will not be reimbursed by the company as originally promised.

You’ve Got To Work Hard

While you might tell yourself to work hard and follow all instruction to the letter, the training and teaching styles for Chungdahm are based on their specific corporate philosophies. It’s a common complaint that experienced and qualified teachers find these methods difficult to adapt to, and many of the failed applicants in our class were in fact teachers with years of experience.

What makes these methods difficult to adapt to is the amount of leniency teachers are allowed. Instructors with Chungdahm are informed by the company that they are in no way allowed to deviate from these often dry lessons in order to bring something different to the class. It’s explained as bringing a level of standardization to each individual academy – so no matter where students go they can expect the exact same education. Unfortunately this often results in students being disinterested in the material and instructors being blamed and disciplined.

Overall, the week helped me in becoming a successful English instructor, but for a few of the friends I met, it was an expensive mistake that tainted their perception of Korea forever. Before accepting a position with a teaching company in Korea – be sure to read contract specifics, and justify to yourself whether you can afford this risk. Have you really signed a contract, or are you simply just attending the most expensive job interview ever? Happy job hunting!

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