At the end of the day I taught one class. That was my training over. Two hours of listening to Debbie talk and seven hours of watching teachers teach. I’d really learned nothing except that appearance was all that mattered. The kids clearly weren’t learning anything, and most of the Korean teachers spoke almost no English. The place was a joke. If I decided to jump about and spout gibberish I would have been considered a good teacher… as long as I smiled and wore a tie.

I decided I could teach better than those idiots, and so I strutted arrogantly into the class and found Mr. Park, Debbie and three Korean teachers sitting at the back of a room of twelve ten year olds. I froze. It was one thing to have kids watch me, but adults?

I stood in front of the class and tried to copy what I’d seen, and mix it with what I’d been told to teach. I had two pages of a textbook to teach for forty-five minutes, and after six or seven minutes, those pages were finished. I didn’t know what to do, and the kids weren’t happy. Mr. Park was sitting at the back of the room, shaking his head. His face was redder than normal. I tried playing a few games, but with the director, supervisor and three Korean teachers in the class they were too scared to move. None of them would say a word.

I began to realise that the kids really didn’t want to be there. It was early evening and they’d been in school since eight in the morning. After school they went to academy after academy, learning nothing and getting bored. I thought before coming to Korea that the kids would be eager to learn a language that would open realms of possibilities in the lives. But evidently I was wrong.

I looked at Debbie, pleading with my eyes for some help. This was my first class and I’d received no helpful advice or specific instructions on how to teach. Most of what I knew came from the information Thomas and Karen had given me between classes. Debbie just stared at me stupidly, and then looked down at her notes. She didn’t know what to do, either.

When they got bored enough, the children realised that they could act up. None of the Korean teachers attempted to control them, even when it became obvious that I didn’t know what to do. One boy – whose name was “Thunder” – jumped up on the table and began running in tight circles, pretending to be an airplane, as the others laughed and screamed.

“Thunder!” I shouted, after spending twenty seconds staring in disbelief and struggling to remember his stupid name. “Get down! Stop it! Thunder! Sit down!” I threw every simple command I knew at him, but it did no good. I wanted to scream curse words at him and explain that he was ruining me in front of the people who now owned my soul, but he didn’t know a word of English. I didn’t speak his language and I wasn’t physically threatening him, and so he wasn’t about to listen to me.

Another kid jumped on the table and began running with Thunder. This child’s name was “Rion,” which was a misspelling of “Lion.” I shouted at both of them in futile despair. By the time Rion picked up the CD player that had been sitting on the table, and held it above his head in a Godzilla-like grasp, I wasn’t shouting. I was pleading with him to not cost me my job. Didn’t he have any sense of decency? Wouldn’t he listen to reason and spare me this huge pain? I couldn’t take it anymore.

The other kids laughed and screamed as Rion threw the CD player down upon the floor, spraying its brains across the linoleum. Only then, only after I was ruined and branded forever as a degenerate without the ability to even stop a small child from misbehaving, and thus destroying any potential respect or trust that might have developed between myself and anyone at the school, did Debbie and Mr. Park intervene. I swear those bastards were whispering encouragement to the students. I bet they made them misbehave and told them to ignore the foreigner, and to cause as much damage as possible. They wanted me to look like a damn fool, and they succeeded.


For thousands of young Westerners, South Korea is an escape from reality. It is a place where money is easy and booze is cheap. By day they toil in crooked cram-schools, teaching the peninsula’s violent, video game-obsessed youth. At night they cut loose and embrace Korea’s famous drinking culture.
Among these disaffected young teachers is Alexander. Young, naïve and a little drunker than most, he is struggling to cope with life on the “wrong side of the world”. In The Dog Farm we follow Alex from girl to girl, beer to beer, across Korea, to Japan, and back again, in an unlikely love story.

The Dog Farm is released next month. Pre-order it for only $9.99.

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DAVID WILLS is the managing editor of Beatdom Magazine, and the author of The Dog Farm and Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult'. You can learn more about him on his website.

22 responses to “Excerpt from The Dog Farm

  1. Nat Missildine says:

    I’ve had moments like this in charge of kids, where everything spills over into chaos, or just to the edge. With ESL, sometimes the tower of babel is too tall. Sounds like your training was deeply helpful.

    Will order a copy of this, anxious to read more.

    • Thanks, man.

      ESL is a bit of a joke for the most part. I know there are good teachers out there and good companies, and it’s possible to get some damn fine training… but I’d guess that for the overwhelming majority of teachers who end up in places like South Korea, the first day goes something like this.

      Even when I started my other jobs (I’ve worked for a lot of schools) it always went this way. Of course, by then I’d learned stuff on my own and I knew how to control a class, so it wasn’t a disaster. But there was never any training, any support, or a shred of respect for the foreigner.

  2. […] The Dog Farm, is now available online at The Nervous Breakdown, a wonderful literary website. Go read it. Pretty […]

  3. Aleph says:

    I’m glad this is a fiction piece somewhat based on those unfortunate people who have no idea of what is required to teach

    Koreans waste their money in hiring people with no background in educaition. Someday they will wise up
    and start hiring real teachers who can teach and get what they pay for.

    I’m a teacher… YES, a real one! Not just someone with a college degree in basket weaving.

    People like the one you describe in your story gives the rest of us a bad name.

    • I learned to teach simply by teaching. Of course, I was terrible at first, and for a long time after. I’d been teaching for about three years before I went for my TEFL, which did help me improve. Of course, I realise a TEFL is a silly little qualification, but it helped.

      Anyway, I’d never claim that I’m a real teacher. I have the utmost respect for real teachers, and hopefully my contempt for the silly hagwon system comes through in this book.

  4. Aleph says:

    Yes, I do realize I have a typo in the word “education.”

    • Here’s a true story that almost made its way into the book:

      Back at my first hagwon, I used to be made to write evaluations for the students. These were required once a month, and the director demanded that each month, the students’ evaluations improve, regardless of the students’ actual abilities. After a while, my co-workers and I realised our evaluations were translated by the staff, and that the parents couldn’t speak a word of English. Moreover, the evaluations were translated to whatever the staff felt like… So we started fucking with them by using words like “edumacation” and “evalamation” in the reports.

      Immature, but quite amusing at the time as a sort of petty revenge.

  5. Gloria says:

    Congratulations on your book, David! This sounds fabulous. I’m super stoked for you and look forward to reading it! 🙂

  6. Geetanjali Joshi says:

    this is great…!! Im excited…

  7. Congrats, David! I’m looking forward to reading the whole thing.

  8. Joe Daly says:

    I’m so fucking stoked to read this book. I’ve said it before, your stories transcend the whole cultural fish-out-of-water thing and take on real tension. Which makes the humor all the edgier.

    Congrats, man!

  9. Erika Rae says:

    I love every story I have ever read from you, David (and I remember this story from another post long ago – still fantastic). This book is going to rock.

  10. dog says:


    […]David S. Wills | Excerpt from The Dog Farm | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

  11. […] a look at my Goodreads page and mark The Dog Farm as “to read”. Or go back and read the excerpt one more […]

  12. […] review. You can also help us by supporting the book on Goodreads and Facebook. For an excerpt, see TheNervousBreakdown. […]

  13. ESL says:

    He was infamous hate blogger in Korea,well-known racist among expat community .Now he is editor ? God help us all.

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