The Greenlist of English Schools in Japan

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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


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