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The “I have the best students” trap

In the world of English teaching in Korea, there is a whole hierarchy of possible jobs, starting from the worst of the worst private institute (Hagwon) to a top job at a university or international school. Anyone with a bit of ambition and some networking skills can move up in the world onto bigger and better things each year beyond their first year. And why not? You’ll have some combination of: higher pay, more vacation, less teaching hours, less stress and supervision.

Some people luck out in their first year and get a decent job. Those people should just thank the universe and be happy with their lot in life.

Except there are plenty of people working at less than ideal jobs who stick around in them far too long because they say, “I have the best students.” It’s actually a trap. The thing is that there are “the best students” and “cute kids” and “good co-workers” anywhere that you go and that staying at a crappy job because of any of these reasons is actually a terrible idea.

It’s not just English teaching, but it’s actually any field. Staying at a job that sucks or is less than prime for dubious kinds of reasons (you’ll be able to identify whatever they are in your own field) is bad news, not only for your mental health today but for your future financial health and well-being in the future.

It’s not all about climbing the corporate (or the educational field) ladder for the sake of climbing the ladder, but I think it’s about being compensated for what you’re actually worth. For example, I’m actually a really good teacher who knows what I’m doing and can teach almost any English-related thing with reasonable competence. If I was still working at some crappy private institute, teaching only basic conversation for slave-labor wages, I wouldn’t be making what I’m actually worth.

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