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Teaching English in Japan – Some Feedback

Part 6: Most of you have seen the numerous job advertisements for teaching English in Japan. Many of you know the story of the former eikaiwa (English conversation school) Nova’s business practices and ultimate downfall (I really want to mention another school that I believe will follow a similar path but that’s another story). Are you interested in the experiences of rookie or veteran ESL/EFL teachers in the Japanese classrooms?

I have received a couple of responses from posters at a Japanese blog regarding my Teaching English in Japan with Ato series. A few of the readers wrote that pictures of students should not be posted here on the blog. I believe that the students -like the one pictured in today’s post- should not wear certain things in/out of the classroom. Another poster said that the picture of the girl with the skirt hiked up too high was a typical Westerner’s view/fantasy of a Japanese schoolgirl or from some dude into lolicon. I explained that the picture shows a student that does not conform to what is expected in Japan. The poster countered that cheerleaders or other “fast” girls in the US that show T&A are also non-conformist. True but Americans as a whole are expected to “do their own thang” (be it right or wrong in this case) instead of following the group mentality. One person had a legitimate concern that a teacher posting pictures of his/her students on the internet should be fired. Agreed, depending on the type of picture and how the picture was obtained. By the way, “Where in the hell are the parents that allowed their kids to wear this crap?” I mean, were they “too drunk to give a f**k?

Anyway, most of the posters at this particular blog were stuck on the type of pictures used (saying that the pictures did not relate to the story) instead of focusing on the content and the problem. As I explained to them, ALL pictures were pulled from the internet and used to relate to something in the post. My main point in this series is that all is not as it appears in Japan (which is why I run a blog called, Black Tokyo). The US school system has problems also but we are not talking about advertisements targeting Japanese language teachers to teach in America, “I” am talking about the English racket in Japan!I will continue to post the BT’ers experiences. With that said, here is a story from KikiandLala on a “generic” school in Japan. Although the company is not named, their mission statement is posted for you. You decide for yourself if the advertisement is as interesting as the rest of the story!

We are infuencing Japan’s future in a positive way, one child at a time.

Generic Eikawa teaches children exclusively. Students range from two years old to 15 years old, making for a dynamic teaching environment that is activity and game-oriented.

Generic Eikawa focuses on providing an interactive, energetic and creative lesson so teachers can counteract the fatigue of their students and get them excited about learning English. It can be exhausting some days, but the rewards a teacher receives at the end of class, such as a genuine smile or a “thank you” hug, make it all worthwhile.

By reaching out to the students and paying attention to their needs we are influencing Japan’s future in a positive way, one child at a time.

Teaching children is not always easy – it requires a great deal of energy, patience and genuine kindness. The children we teach often come to us at the end of an incredibly long day full of school, sports clubs, study groups and numerous other activities. On some occasions, some of our students may feel Generic Eikawa is just like another ‘chore.’ This feeling can make a teacher’s work incredibly challenging to show the students that English is not just a ‘chore’ but a fun and useful skill that provides many benefits.

KikiandLala: “I think Ato’s writing has been spot on. I taught at an Eikawa (English language school). The good: I worked 4 hours a day. The bad: Some of the students and some of the crap that went on there.

I taught kids ranging in age from two to fifteen. My memories are fading when it comes to names, but I had two favourite students. One was a 15-year-old guy that was self-motivated and really wanted to learn. The other was a 7-year-old half-Brazilian prodigy with a love of languages. He even started learning some Putonghua since he had just became friends with a Chinese emigre. The kid already knew Portuguese and Japanese, plus he had developed the vocal muscle skills for English.

The youngest kids were frightened of me, while the 12-13 year olds were bored as hell. I understood where they were they where coming from and what I was up against but the worst kid I had by far was this 7-year-old boy that I called Mr. Octopus.

Mr. Octopus will grow up to be a chikan master (a.k.a. subway groper)! He kept wrestling down the little girls in the class in order to shove his hand down their crotch to grab away. Since he had the girls in an “octopus hold”, you couldn’t simply pull him off a girl. I felt like a fool and a pervert trying to take this little guy’s hand off a 6 or 7-year-old girl’s private part and since he’s got his fingers dug in, I couldn’t pull his hand off without seriously hurting both of them. Finally I took that kid’s arm and gave him an Indian rope burn and then he  let go. Unbelievably after that he went over to molest some other girls!

Generics policy for disciplining kids was to give the kid a hard glare. All the trainers kept giving an anecdote about how that’s all it took to make the little monsters settle down. One trainer even mentioned how when he told one kid that he was going to tell the kid’s parents on him – that the kid became so distressed, he started vomiting in class. Heh, none of the kids I had were fazed by the “stare” so I had to roll with it.

Man, I still shiver at Generic’s two-week training course. I had zero experience teaching kids anything barring some volunteer work for school credit. The training course felt like cult indoctrination since we were constantly being told by our trainers that by the end of the training course, we’d be the best of friends. This was not likely especially since we had a couple of Aussie guys who came from a rougher part of Melbourne and had it in for FOB Chinese. I was alright in their books, but I could never get comfortable with that.

To make us all one shiny, happy commune – the trainers would do things like singing ABCs on the subways and had us all eat out together. I had far less starting money then everyone else so I was able to use that as an  excuse to duck out of the bonding activities. Since we were staying in the R&B  hotel at Umeda, Osaka – butting out let me go check out all the bands that were  playing at the bridge overpass by the Henshin railstation. That was great, but even if the kids playing on streets sucked – it was still something to get away from that training group. Towards the end of the Generic training period (shivers) – the trainers were able to get most of us singing and dancing in the subways (shivers again).

I got canned after two months of work at Generic. This is mainly due to the annual Parent-Teacher (PT) week that happened to fall in a period when it was the second or third time that I got to see one of my classes. I rotated so much (one week teaching in one town and then another in a different town – with no class repeating themselves in that week’s period). With the Christmas holiday and my company deciding my vacation time, I ended up missing three-weeks of work. When it was my time to teach one of “my” classes, the parents observed and they were not impressed, especially when I singled out kid to clean up a toy that he deliberately slobbered all-over.

The company was worried about my performance during the PT week and gave me a warning at a company meeting. Later that night they called me and instructed me report to the head office the next day. So I reported to the head office and it turned out that they were asking for my resignation, since they had just given me the required warning. Since I didn’t know my rights at the time, I did the stupid thing and signed. I later talked to a friend and he said it complete BS, he saw teachers who did far worse including being absent all the time and they got little more than a reprimand or a town shuffle.

A year later when I talked to my friend, he informed me that he quit Generic because the company changed their policy regarding PT week – no first time teacher had to face it, instead they got experienced guys like him to take over for that day. Also there was a territory war going on between native teachers and expats, as positions were getting cut during a corporate re-shuffle. At it’s height Generic had organized trips to Hawaii for students and instructors, I came in during a time when a number of the places didn’t have functional heaters.

Getting booted was rough, but after all that I honestly can say that I loved being over in Japan and I would go again if I could make a living there or at least do a few holidays.”

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