The Greenlist of English Schools in Japan

Thoughts and Opinions on Teaching English in Japan, plus many lists of good schools in Japan at our homepage. You can post your resume or job for free too. Check out the homepage!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

About the Greenlist

The Greenlist of English Schools in Japan does its` best to inform you of the best English schools to work for here. We are not infallible. We need your help! If you know of a good school to work for in Japan or work for one and want to tell us about it. Post at our forum or Email the moderator.

This list is only as good as you make it! This list is for all of us.
People deserve to know about the good schools to teach at in Japan.

Kevin Burns

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Friday, December 29, 2006

For Americans Wanting to Teach in Japan

"U.S. citizens planning to work in Japan should never enter Japan using a tourist visa or the visa waiver, even if they have been advised to do so. Such actions are illegal and can lead to arrest, incarceration and/or deportation."

--from a pamphlet at the Japanese consulate in Seattle

"The Catch 22 is: if Americans don`t enter Japan on a tourist visa, however, they often cannot work in Japan, as often it takes just too long to secure a working visa. Companies would rather hire someone who already has the appropriate visa, someone who can get the visa quickly, or someone who is willing to break the law, by entering Japan on a tourist visa with the plan to work in Japan by changing it to a working visa. Illegal? Yes. Necessary though? Definitely! Sometimes laws don`t coincide well with reality, and sometimes laws downright discriminate against certain peoples."

-- an English school chain owner in Japan

The citizens of the following countries can secure a working holiday
visa to come to Japan:
New Zealand
Republic of Korea
the United Kingdom

According to the Japanese consulate in Vancouver, you can secure a working holiday visa in as little as three days! A treaty was negotiated between these countries and Japan that allowed for the creation of this visa. This visa allows Australians, Kiwis and Canadians, to name but three, to work in Japan for 12 months and it can be renewed in some cases or switched to another visa after it expires in many cases. Often this kind of visa is secured for work as an English teacher, or for other work such as working in a hotel or a restaurant to name but a few.

Americans who have the yen to come to Japan to work, can only come with a tourist visa or a working visa. Switching from a tourist visa to a working visa happens all the time. Though you won`t catch a Japanese Immigration authority talking about it much. It is one of those open secrets so common to Japan. Certainly, most Americans simply don`t tell immigration that their goal is to come to work in Japan. They say they are sightseeing.

One website about how to get a teaching job in Japan claimed it was a scam if an English school
asks you to come on a tourist visa. It made me chuckle in front of my computer monitor. Getting a working visa can take up to four months. So on the one hand, an Australian can get her visa in a matter of days, but an American can at times wait months.

How does this happen?

Japanese Immigration of course is a government bureau and requires the government to
provide it with money. They use this money to hire personnel amongst other things. If many
people from other countries try to enter Japan at the same time, which usually happens between March-June of each year, there is often a backlog of unissued visas. There are simply
not enough immigration clerks to process the demand at times. So if you are lucky enough
to be able to get a working holiday visa, you can get it in three days and these visas of course
are given priority--they are the first class visas. The working visas are economy class. They
are processed last.

It is too bad that the American government simply doesn`t want such an agreement with Japan. To this author`s knowledge they don`t have a working holiday agreement with any nation.

"The Working Holiday Scheme is intended to promote a greater mutual understanding between our respective countries, and to broaden the international outlook of our young people. The Working Holiday Scheme makes it possible for citizens of one country to enter the other country for an extended holiday while encouraging in temporary employment in order to supplement their travel funds."--Japan Association of Working Holiday Makers

On the Japanese side, perhaps they don`t want a working holiday visa agreement with America simply to promote more diversity in Japan. They want to encourage people from other countries to come. This could simply be the case: restrictions on Americans for diversification of the foreign population here. It would give Japanese a broader exposure to many different nationalities here in Japan, and therefore, a broader view of the world (perhaps it is hoped).

For whatever reason, the Japanese authorities are doing an excellent job of discouraging businesses from hiring Americans, and opting instead for an Aussie, Kiwi or Canuck. In these days of terrorism and war, securing the proper working visa for an American can take up to four months. Though it usually takes much less time.

Employee recruitment companies in Tokyo are also reporting that securing working visas is taking much longer than before, though this seems to be across the board and for all nationalities. If you can get a working holiday visa in three days, you greatly increase your marketability.

Sometimes Japanese laws are unrealistic. The law may state one thing, but the reality of the matter is another. English schools need teachers. Often they need them quickly. Teachers sometimes don`t give any notice and just quit. The English school must hire someone quickly.
It doesn`t mean the English school is bad or out to scam you. They need a good teacher to
fill a vacancy. They may ask you to come on a tourist visa if they really want to hire YOU, and
not someone else.

You do have to go in with open eyes and make sure you are getting into a good situation.
But because of the above mentioned bureaucracy, it is sometimes necessary for Americans
to come on a tourist visa. It is simply a fact of working life in Japan.

Americans themselves, being law abiding citizens on the whole, don`t want to break Japanese laws either. If an English school says, "Come on a tourist visa, we need you now, then we will switch the visa over to a working visa, don`t tell Japanese immigration." Naturally the prospective American teacher is suspicious of the school. The school is essentially telling them to break the law. The school realizes though that the law is forcing them into an untenable situation: They need teachers now! Not in 2-4 months!

One good thing about Japan is that the law often bends. The fact is many Americans if not most, come to Japan on tourist visas then switch to working visas. This is simply a fact of working life in Japan, as few teachers quitting their positions in Japan give more than one months notice. You do the math. It doesn`t give schools enough time to secure the working visas for Americans. So they either have to hire a citizen of the Commonwealth, or tell a US citizen to come on a tourist visa and switch it over.

If I were American, I would complain. Ask your government to negotiate a working-holiday
agreement with Japan. It would benefit both countries. More ideas can be exchanged and both
Japan and America can learn a lot from each other.

I would come on a tourist visa, and tell the Japanese authorities, how I am so looking forward to sightseeing in Kyoto!

by Kevin Burns

For More Information on the Working Holiday Visa Program for Japan see:

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Be Careful What You Read

by Peter Walker

At many of the forums the negativity is rampant. They distort the reality of teaching in Japan. At one popular forum, one of the moderators dispensing advice hasn`t taught at an English school in years! But she is advising people on how to get a job at one.

If you teach in the university system as I do myself, it is a new game. The hiring practices and everything else are different. You can`t equate them to the hiring practices of English schools. Yet one moderator seems to. She tells people (incorrectly) how to get a job in Japan, and many at her forum are taking what she says as gospel.

At one forum I found a person based in Asia was listed as the moderator for the teaching in Africa forum. I think you are starting to see what I mean. Amateur hour! In a way it is ironic that so many at the forums claim our profession in Japan is a joke, the forums themselves are jokes, and can`t be trusted.

So what I am trying to emphasize here is that a lot of what you will read on the internet is not well researched, is hearsay or worse; vindictive gossip. Amongst all of that there is some truth. But you will need to sort through the sludge to attempt to find what it is. This of course is very difficult if you have never lived and worked in Japan.

Further, a lot of the websites are hobbled together with volunteers and someone hoping to make a buck through advertising. The emphasis
is on bulk of information, not quality and certainly not integrity in many cases.
Controversy and angst bring more hits and more advertising revenue. A peaceful forum is a boring forum. Dirt, sleaze and heated debate bring more people to rant and rave. The google ad revenue and other sources add up. The webmaster is the only one laughing.

In one forum, the moderator stated that schools here won`t hire you unless you are already in Japan. In fact, most schools will hire you while you are outside of Japan. Why? They have to. If you have a school in one of the mid to smaller cities in Japan--which comprises most of Japan, you don`t have many teachers banging on your doors to teach at your schools. These schools must accept resumes by Email or post, and interview by telephone, or they can`t hire teachers. I am talking of course about the smaller schools.

Most of the teaching profession in Japan is comprised
of these smaller Mom and Pop schools, and they tend to be the best of the lot.

If you choose to work for a large school here then good luck to you.
Some love it. Others hate it. At a small school, you will get to know
the owner and manager well. You will also become friends with your
students. The above is very difficult with the large schools.
Some of which, have an infamous non-fraternization policy.

Indeed one of my main points is that some of the so-called experts are anything but. Yet they are espousing their opinions on the internet and you are reading them, and sometimes taking them at face value.

The people who post at forums rarely post anything positive about any of the schools they work for. There must be some positive stories but you won't read them there. This website was set up by Kevin Burns to combat some of that. To be of service in pointing out some of the great schools here that deserve a pat on the back for a job well done, and for being a beacon of hope in a sea of despair. There are many great schools in Japan, and you will find some of them listed here and at our forum.

Even if you are "Debunking Eikaiwa," as the Let`s Japan quote reads, surely you should alert people to some good schools to work for? The forums and the sites they are attached to, are not doing their job of educating people in a balanced way about teaching in Japan. Or maybe that isn`t their purpose? Perhaps it is one of pure entertainment?

To my knowledge, there is no list of good nor bad schools to teach for at any of the major websites on teaching in Japan other than this one. Yet such lists do exist for the universities here.

Unfortunately, I heard of a teacher from America, who is quoted at the end of the article, and she felt Let`s Japan was so negative that she was debating whether to even come to Japan. If the situation were so bad here in Japan,
then the forums and the websites they are attached to, would be doing
everyone a service.

But it just distorts the actual reality of teaching English here.
Many of the teachers who post have had a bad experience at one school,
yet in many cases still continue to teach there, and rant about it continuously
at one of the forums. Perhaps someone can recommend a good counselor.

You won't find the people who enjoy their jobs posting much. If they do, they will take a lot of abuse from the trolls already ensconced there, and they are too busy enjoying their lives to log on and post. Happy people don't usually rant.

Some people did not enjoy their time at Geos. Perhaps the profession and not the school were to blame? Perhaps they just weren`t suited to teaching? Or maybe Geos is not a great place to work for many people. But to tar all English schools with the same brush is irresponsible and incorrect. If one doctor is bad, do you say all of them are? Are some doctors not good or great?

I would like to point out, that in general, the smaller schools tend to be great places to work. They are run in a more relaxed way, they are often a family
business, so the owner really cares about her business, her students, and of course her teachers. If teachers are not happy afterall, that hurts the business.

I know of a man who loved Geos. He loved the fact that he had his own classroom, would brag about the fact in his animated way, and enjoyed teaching and his students. He doesn't post at the forums though. He is too busy enjoying life. He is very outgoing and friendly. This kind of person tends to
thrive in a teaching position here, where the students tend to be quiet.
Someone inherently quiet themselves, has a difficult time
teaching English in Japan. They just don`t suit the job.
They sometimes blame the school for this.

I am confident in saying that some of the bitter people at the forums fall into this category. They really need to find a line of work that suits their character. I think they also need to realize that part of the blame at least, lies with them.

At times some of the teachers seem to want to pick a fight over things so inane. In one story, a teacher said "Sayonara," to his students as they were leaving. Being an English school he should have said, "goodbye." His manager told him not to do it again. Had it been me, I would have simply said, "Sorry," and said "goodbye,"to my students the next time. But this teacher argued with his boss over it. A person was called from head office to have a meeting with him. I gather his local manager felt she couldn`t get it across to him that what he had done was enough to make some students quit.

I can see both sides, but a simple sorry it won`t happen again, would have defused the situation. I agree with the teacher that it is a pretty silly thing, but students quit over silly things, and a lot of arguments are over them too. Some teachers can be pretty immature. It is amazing at times.
Then some have the gall to rant about it on the internet.

By all means read as many articles as you can about teaching in Japan. You may relate to things you wouldn't like, but keep in mind that all Geos managers are not the same. Personality conflicts occur everywhere.

My point is, I am in favour of being fair and I am worried that some people believe the negative postings at forums. I am concerned that it affects them to such a degree that they choose to teach in another country. That really is a shame when there are many good schools here, and it is a great, safe country to live and work in.

Lastly, take a good look at some of the so-called "Mom and Pop" schools of Japan.

As pointed out above, they are generally better run, and care about their teachers and students. In general, they are just better quality schools. To tar them with the same brush as the BIG schools, is completely unjustified.

"After reading what they had to say in the forums there, I almost decided to go to Korea, it is so negative. When I did ask, well what schools are good to work for?-no one answered." --A.P., USA--commenting on Let`s