Don’t work for the Wonderland chain in Korea

It’s nearly been two years since I was fired from a Wonderland chain in Korea. Despite this I continue to look on the Internet hoping to find other people’s complaints and problems. It’s been like a hobby. I should just move on from it. It’s hard because it was my first real job. It also had a tremendous negative effect. But to let the healing process begin, it’s time I shared my own experiences with the chain.

It was fall 2010 when I was hired. Of course I too my doubts about Wonderland. I may have been more wide eyed and naive back then but I wasn’t stupid. I checked the Internet and read the complaints. But I trusted my recruiter because I knew someone who got a job through them as well. They were enjoying their time in Korea. So I believed my recruiter when he said, “They’re not all the same.” and “People are more likely to report their negative experiences than their good ones on the Internet.” Maybe I’m being lenient when I say I don’t blame my recruiter. He has a respectable business that strives to find a good placement in Korea for potential ESL teachers. As I would later see my boss was very two-faced. It is possible he was just as fooled.

Two years ago I didn’t think working in Korea would be a horrible experience. I thought my experience wouldn’t be like those I had read about. But it sadly did. I hated working there so much by March and April. I called home every chance I got after a while. But it wasn’t bad at first. It wasn’t until around the fourth month mark for things to turn sour. Sure I could focus on the normal complaints you read everywhere. Long working hours without breaks or holidays, the wacky curriculum, and having to serve the children lunch to name a few. Maybe I will write about that in the future. But I want to focus in on my boss who made the experience a living hell. If not for her, I believe it could have been a better experience. I want to hold onto this belief.

This woman remains the worst boss I have ever had to work under. She was clearly not fit for this job. But she had the job because the manager knew no English and she was very good at it. She was such a bitch on some days. After the holidays and New Years, she started getting on my case about everything I did. I don’t know why because I am someone that likes to do my job correctly. I try to follow the policies and rules of my job. The problem was she was a control freak, and loved to micromanage everything. Things had to reach her standard of perfection. If it didn’t then it wasn’t good enough in her eyes. This caused tremendous stress because I was worried about not meeting her expectations. I’m sure my coworkers felt the same way. But there wasn’t any cohesion between us. We all did our own thing keeping our feelings to ourselves.

For being my supervisor, she was extremely unhelpful too. She would explode about the dumbest things. And give mixed signals about what should be done. One time when I was leaving work, I asked a question about the event that would happen the following day. We were going to be divided into two teams for the sports day. We all had to wear our team’s color. I wanted to just double check what color I was. But she exploded in front of all my coworkers. “I already told you!” She sighed. “You are on the white team!” She got upset over such a little question. In the end it didn’t even matter because all the teachers were told to put on animal costumes that day.

On another occasion during recess, she got angry because I wasn’t in class and on my cell phone. Even though it was recess period. There was another time at the start of the second semester where we were distributing out the new textbooks. Having learned not to ask questions, I just distributed them out accordingly. I figured if the number of books matched the number of students for that class then they must go to that class, right? Wrong. Apparently I got the two classes mixed up and my boss was angry about it. Why did they order more books than the amount of students? That made no sense.

There were also many things I was criticized for. But was never informed how I should handle the situation. Discipline was a big issue. My boss said it was entirely my problem and I had to handle it alone. When I did try to handle the situation myself, I was criticized for the methods I used. I didn’t understand what she was looking for. I was not a native teacher, and I didn’t know any Korean. There was no way I could discipline the students verbally. I was new to ESL teaching and given no assistance on how to improve. It left me feeling helpless. It only added to the stress each day. Many nights I would have nightmares where I imagined the kids running around my apartment. Making noise and I had to attend to them. I was burned out by that point.

When I was finally fired without notice, my boss actually expected I would continue working. I declined saying that I wanted to talk to the manager. When I went in that same day to discuss being fired, my boss said to me, “We need teachers who know what they are doing.” This was coming from the same woman who had said my first day there, “We were actually a little worried. From your photos you didn’t look very photogenic, but seeing you here I’m relieved.”

I was hired for my looks and not my credentials. To hell with her statement about not doing what I was never informed about. I received zero training or outline what should have been done in those kinds of situations. I hated my time working in Korea because of this woman. She made the entire work place a negative place to be. She was just as nasty to the children as well. From what I last heard she is no longer working there because of health problems. I breath a sigh of relief. I wonder how things are doing now? I don’t even if the place is still open today. They haven’t updated their personal blog since 2012, but from those photos it looks like it might have turned into a better place.


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