How CDI-Cheonan (ChungDahm International) Screwed Me Over

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This is a really difficult post for me to write, because I am so enraged and sad about what happened to me at the company I work(ed?) for, ChungDahm International. (Shame on the name!)

Please know that every hagwon and every teaching job in Korea is different. Just because I’ve had a nightmarish experience doesn’t mean that everybody does, and it certainly doesn’t mean that South Korea is a bad place to live and work in. This post is about my personal experience with a specific branch of one company.

A little backstory…

I had been planning on working with ChungDahm for over a year. I heard they pay well and on time, and seemed to be a reputable company. Before I came here, I’d been in contact for months with my recruiter. I should have known by the sounds of her ominous name, Misty Crooks, that something was up with ChungDahm.

I arrived here on May 12th, and, like all other ChungDahm employees, I had to go through a week long training in Gangnam, Seoul.  My trainer, Stephanie Cheong, made the week hell for me. We got off on the wrong foot the second day of training. Why? Because I hadn’t mastered how to use the Samsung tablet that all CDI instructors must teach with, and I didn’t do a very good job during my first mock teaching session.  So basically, she got mad at me because I didn’t already magically know what I was supposed to do. I tried to be civil to her, even when she berated me in front of other people for asking questions about the tablet and the curriculum. Nonetheless, her antipathy for me compelled her to fail me for part of training, the A2 module. I am certain that the quality of my mock session during training week was at par with everyone else’s. She failed me because she could.

My branch decided to hire me anyway on probation. During my fourth week of teaching, a video of me teaching was sent to the HQ in Seoul. I learned last week that I passed probation. Yay.

I just completed my sixth week of teaching yesterday. I thought all was going completely fine. After my first week, my head instructor (HI) reviewed one CCTV of me. She said I needed to improve on classroom management but had good energy. That was the one and only time my CCTV was reviewed. I was given no indication that anything whatsoever was out of the ordinary. I had been getting a lot of great advice from other teachers about what to do and how to act in the classroom. I felt like I was figuring out classroom management, and even building rapport with some of the students. I mock taught in front of Mr. Jeon, the branch manager, and all the other instructors. Everyone said it was fine.  I was getting into the swing of things, and was genuinely excited about becoming a better teacher.

Then everything changed.  On Thursday, Mr. Jeon said he needed to talk to me after class. I knew from the look on his face that something was seriously wrong. During our meeting, he told me my contract is being terminated. He said the parents kept complaining and the students don’t like me. This came as an absolute shock to me because I had never heard of any parent complaints before. I asked why and he said because they don’t understand what I’m saying. I asked how many parents and how many students and during which days and for which classes. He clicked his tongue, shrugged, and produced one of those bullish, nondescript grunts that Korean businessmen seem so adept at making. I asked what exactly the students didn’t like. He grunted again, and said one cried for two hours before coming to my class. And they don’t understand what I’m saying. I was calm and polite during this entire exchange, and did my utmost to change his mind. I told him how much I care about this job, and how much I want to stay. He said that “our” mind has been made up, and there is no changing it. I asked who else helped make the decision, and he refused to give me an answer. I have reason to believe he made the decision on his own. My contract has been terminated, and if I so desire I can continue working at ChungDahm until August 28th. How nice of him.

Something that he said during that conversation struck a bell…”the students don’t understand what you’re saying.”  This comment reminded me of something the mean girls complained about to the front desk after I disciplined them for misbehaving. Basically what happened that day was the students were talking profusely to their friends and surfing the web during project time. They weren’t answering my questions, and weren’t speaking English at all. I separated them into different groups, and guess what? They refused to talk to their new partners. I made them work individually, and blocked their internet because they were only using it to look up some KPop bullshit. I told them to be creative and come up with ideas from their own mind and not the internet because gasp that’s actually totes possible! After they finished their projects, I went over their grammar and made them read what they wrote aloud. Seems reasonable to me. The next class, the students came to the front desk with lies. They told the front desk girls that I’d never let them use the internet ever, always refused to let them work in groups, and started talking about something totally random instead of answering their questions. These students have been with CDI for years and I believe it was these students who did me in. One class period. One justified use of classroom management. No more job for Nicole.

best mistake


Unfortunately, I don’t think there is anything I can do about how I have been treated at CDI. There is a line in my contract that says this: “3.3 Notwithstanding Article 3.1. the Owner reserves the right to terminate this Agreement without prior notice to the Instructor.”

Nicole, why did you sign this contract? Why?

This might be an illegal contract, and Mr. Jeon and CDI’s actions might still be considered illegal. And I might still give a call to the Labor Board.

But more than anything I just want out of Korea. I don’t jive with this country. I’m not saying it’s a bad place. It’s just not for me.

Anyway, that’s another topic for another time.

I want you to see the ridiculousness that is CDI’s tablet curriculum. Let’s start with “Perspective Exploration,” which asks questions about a book that the students were supposed to read but never read.


Note use of words like “gadget,” “formula,” “additives,” and my personal favorite, “headspace vapor analyzer.” If I were to actually explain what was going on in this page, we’d have to have a lesson for far longer than three hours.


Now check out the “Stimulus” page, meant to spark creative thinking.


….Because asking preteens about their history with strawberry yogurt is a sure fire way to prompt discussion!


Now let’s move onto the project guidelines.



Can someone please tell me what a prototype/iterate small group showcase to help you repeat the creative processto refine your topical expressions is?


Usually, after going over each page and trying to explain the contents to the students, projects turn out to be a little something like this.


And this…




Duces, Chungdam.




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