Teaching English in Japan with Ato – Pimped

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Part 14: The new semester is in full swing and naturally it almost seems like taking a vacation was a bad idea; now I have to slowly work myself back up to the level of intensity and tolerance that I was at prior to my vacation.

With that said, I’d like to discuss another aspect of teaching English in Japan – namely, some of the companies that hire the teachers. As most of you probably know, the wage case against NOVA and it’s obviously corrupt president, Nozomu Sahashi, was dropped.

Kamen Hanya wrote: Sahashi deserves punishment to the full extent of the law. Too bad for the crusty NOVA people who didn’t get paid, but I have to say is what goes around comes around. There’s an old saying that probably originated in Japan “…stand by a river long enough and you’ll see the bodies of your enemies floating by.” This situation has rendered quite a few visible corpses I’ve seen. I don’t feel the LEAST bit SORRY for ANY of them. Besides, all the rinky dink “eikaiwas” in the Kansai area have proven to be the best sympathizers.
There were just as many good things as bad things about working there:

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Some of the good:
  1. Having one textbook used in all the schools (for the most part).
  2. Pre-set lesson plans.
  3. Other foreigners to speak to during your downtime.
  4. Mostly adult classes resulting in less stress.
  5. A ready supply of poor gaijin to take your shifts if you were sick, hungover or just plain didn’t feel like dealing with it.
Some of the bad:

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  1. Being treated like a child (especially by managers with no managerial experience who were often children themselves).
  2. Not being allowed to speak Japanese to students.
  3. Coming all the way to Japan to experience the culture, then spending 8 hours a day in what I like to call the “gaijin cocoon.
  4. Having to sit in the same tiny teacher’s room with the same annoying people day, after day, after day.
  5. No paid summer vacation.
There were also the extreme cases of utter disrespect for the teacher:
There was the time when…
  • …a teacher broke his finger on the station platform on the way to work, sent a photo from his keitai to his friends at work and his managers of his finger bent backwards at an impossible angle, called in sick and went to the hospital…only to discover that he had still been docked some of his pay.
  • …they made it seem like the NOVA-affiliated insurance policy was the ONLY policy available to foreigners in Japan – which cost substantially more than National Insurance for the first year (which was how long most teachers stayed anyway – and NOVA knew this.
  • …payroll decided that even though teachers were not paid extra money for coming in early, they would deduct money from one of the teacher’s salary because she was on paid vacation (lucky for her she noticed it on her paycheck, was a lawyer and scared them off)
  • …I was paying 72,000YEN a month to live in a tiny three-bedroom sty…with 2 other people…an hour and a half from work.
But I digress! The point that I was going to make is now that I work in the Japanese school system with my paid vacations and independence and being treated like an adult, I find that the company itself isn’t that different to NOVA in how it views me, the teacher.

Basically, I’m pimped out to whatever school finds me attractive, the Board of Education (BOE) gives all the money to daddy, then I’m given a very, very small amount from this money, slapped in the face and put back out on the corner tired and sleepy.

Everyone has different reasons for working for my company:

  • Some like all the free time it affords them.
  • Some like to be able to work at other places. when they’re not working for the company.
  • Some find working with kids rewarding.
For me, it’s all of the above and the fact that I only have to communicate with my company and co-workers in person fairly infrequently or over email. When the phone rings, I simply don’t answer it. Leave a message or send me an email. But there are signs that this independent lifestyle may be coming to an end.
The company has recently put out a series of books in an attempt to persuade the BOE that it should be allowed to continue sending teachers to its schools. These books are half-assed to say the least:
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I love living in the Country of Tokyo. I’m thinking about getting a re-entry permit so I can visit the country of Kyoto.
For now, it is suggested that we use these books, but with the public school system here changing as it is, I don’t think it’ll be long before they’re mandatory. What’s worse is that though the teachers were informed of and allowed to view these books (once), none of the teachers have been assigned said books. Instead the company saw it fitting that the schools be provided with a copy first, with the result being teachers arriving at schools and having entire lessons planned around a chapter that they have never seen:
Japanese Teacher: “Here’s the lesson plan.”
Gaijin Teacher: “What’s this?”
Japanese Teacher: “It’s the book from your company. They said that all the teachers should be familiar with the lessons in this book.”
Gaijin Teacher: (flipping through the book) “I’ve never done nor seen this lesson before in my life.”
Japanese Teacher: (looking disappointed, frustrated and surprised all at the same time) “Oh!”
The company comes out smelling like roses and the poor gaijin looks like exactly what the Japanese teachers expect – disorganized, lazy and unmotivated. These were the same kind of underhanded tactics that were being used by NOVA before it’s demise.

Maybe my days here are more numbered than I thought!

Black Tokyo Monogatari: Teaching English in Japan
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image credit: www.adrants.com

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