Thursday, May 12, 2011

Damned If You Do; Damned If You Don`t

I think there comes a point in which most half-way decent English teachers in Japan say to themselves, `Fuck! If I work hard I get fucked over. If I am a lazy bastard I get fucked over. The union is a joke and management will not listen to me at all. What is the point of trying anymore.` I have seen this happen to several teachers. They simply give up and only keep coming to work everyday because there is money to be made. This is a sad situation, but one I see far too often. I still wonder, What causes this situation?

The finger of blame could be pointed at many suspects. Are foreign management to blame? It is true that often, but with some exception of course, foreign management attacks other teachers for their own self-centered agenda. They are usually an aggressive bunch carrying a cold blooded nature about them in general. It is common for them to only care about protecting their own position. Dealing with such management could easily make many teachers give up all hope. I have seen some brutal shit come from foreign management. Let me be clear, I have also seen some damn good, honest and fair foreign managers who really tried to improve lesson quality. Yet, this is rare and not the norm.

Can we put the burden of blame on Japanese management? The `end game` purpose of Japanese management is to turn a profit. They should have little care for lesson quality or the welfare of the teachers. It is not their concern. They usually prefer to spend their time crunching numbers and battling it out for position. The amount of arrogance and unfounded pride which flows form them will make any dedicated teacher sick to their very soul. Most Japanese management will make it very clear to you, by way of their dismissive attitude, that they don`t care about you. You, the teacher, seen to be a necessary evil to them. You are not human in their eyes. Rather you are more of a product to be used for the purpose of turning a profit. Dealing with such folks could easily make any hardworking teacher not give a fuck about their job or the duty they have to the students.

Yet, can we also point the finger at the teachers themselves? A lack of a backbone perhaps? You must be a strong person to live and teach English in Japan. Remember you are a gaijin which makes you a minority. A stranger in a strange land. No one really invited you here. Trust me, it has taken me a long time to accept that fact. To really be an elite teacher you must develop a deep passion for teaching. You have to love this shit! Not only must you love it, but you must also say this fact out loud in public from time to time. You must be willing to love you fellow brothers and sister who try hard to be a good teacher and dismiss the ones you are a sack of dog shit. Those who at least try to be a good teacher deserve a little respect. When they need advice or help working out a lesson, for fucks sake offer a little guidance and leadership. This whole idea of being a self-centered little shithead really does not help anything. It actually hurts everyone in the long run. If you think no one notices your `fuck you because I think I am hot shit` attitude then you are mistaken. If you really are a good teacher then spread the goodness to others who are also trying hard. Be the leader that is needed when foreign management waste their time playing politics and attacking anyone in kicking distance.

So who is to blame for the sad situation which often occurs with English teachers in Japan? I think that overall it is a combo of everything I mentioned in this post. Our profession in Japan is in a very sad state. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Greed, laziness and protectionism has created a fucked up situation. You know who suffers the most? It is the students who take the majority of the pain of our own shortcomings. I must end this post by saying, if you cannot handle what I just wrote then get the fuck out of the English teacher biz in Japan! Reality is a motherfucker.    


Chris said...

I found a way to open my own School and never looked back. No bullshit from anywhere. My parties rock and my students kick ass and everyone knows that. Despite being mentioned in the local paper by name for fighting a few years back I still know the golden rule....results>everything

I get em' so I thrive. The system and Japan sugoi types who come here for travel and Japanese language study have a lot to do with why this countries system is broken...IMO

Jon Doe said...

@Chris--You know, opening my own school has been weighing heavy on my mind since early last year. I still want a bit more experience and, if possible,I want to get a CELTA or TESOL certification. Yet, I try damn hard to teach English as best I can. Most likely I could handle running my own school but I don`t know were to start.
My biggest concern is having a Japanese person to help me with the Japanese side of things. You know like setting up the business, getting the legal stuff out of the way, contracts with the students and writing things in Japanese when needed.

Kathryn said...

Well said. And I think people who don't pass on their knowledge only hurt themselves in the long run.

I worked in the corporate world in Aus for a long time and you get people who are so scared/insecure that someone is going to take over their jobs that they hoard all their knowledge and experience to themselves. And because of that, they get stuck in dead-end jobs because they are the only ones that can do it.

I guess English teaching is pretty much a dead-end job anyway - I mean in so far as working within system you can only advance to the middle management level.

I recently had an interview with a guy in Nippori that has set up his own school. If you want, I can pass on his details to you and you can see what info you can get from him.