ESL Issues No. 9: Eikaiwa Grease-part TWO

I alluded, in my last blog, that there was another area which was rather greasy, and that this is the area of eikaiwa teachers themselves.

Now, I must first put forth the FACT that our current staff that we have at englishbiz are unbelievable. They are conscientious, thoughtful, articulate, considerate, kind, professional, and very very very dependable. I am delighted to know them, to work with them, and we are very committed to making certain we do our best as team leaders to make their work with us enjoyable, rewarding, and fulfilling. We are committed to working with them in terms of what THEY want for their teaching experience, and do our best to compromise with them to make mutually beneficial relationships.

But things have not always been this way. I have some stories to tell you but I will not use the information of anyone that has previously worked with our company. I will, instead, tell you of several situations I worked with when I was an advisor, and HR leader, with a language school I worked with in Kanazawa, Ishikawa-ken. I also have  few from a friend of mine who is also a language school owner. There are some humdingers.

Here we go.

p12-gaba-a-20140617-870x549One particular teacher decided that it was his duty to try to date as many students as possible. This was a school where there were adult and university student clients, as well as mothers for small kids. He had varying levels of success, but in the end one spurned lover learned of another, and reports were sent to the owners of the school, threats of lawsuits ensued, and cars were scratched up with keys writing out some nasty horrible things. It was quite a spectacle.

One particular teacher decided that the existing textbooks that belonged to the school Stealing-Stationery-620x350she worked for were her own personal bookstore. Stealing many books, texts, dictionaries, and CDs she sold these items to her private students outside her regular job. There was an issue with her not getting vacation days she requested so she thought that robbing her work place was “fair”.

One particular teacher had a child in preschool and was having a sports event at school. frenchSurely these days are important family matters and a day off was requested. The problem of another teacher having booked the same time off several weeks in advance made it impossible for this teacher to do the same. Instead of discussing it rationally, or simply accepting the fact that sometimes everyone cannot have the same day off they request, an ultimatum was issued and the teacher said he would not come to work on that particular day. The employer took it in stride and said nothing. Classes were cancelled and refunds needed to be paid out. A couple students also quit the school. But a year later this particular nuisance was out the door.

One particular 38 year old teacher, after interviewing for a plum management job, bad-student-teacher-grades-classroom-funnydecided that he could not move away from his teenage girlfriend in Tokyo. When Monday came to escort him to the office, a pile of orientation papers, keys for the apartment, and a note apologizing was left behind. He left in the middle of the night to chase his teenage love.
One particular teacher decided to completely trash the apartment lent to him by his employer. He smashed the paper windows, pulled up the tatami mats, and wrote obscene pictures of the owner’s wife on the sliding doors. The entire apartment was un-livable and several thousand dollars was spent to get the place looking and smelling human again. This teacher also left in the middle of the night, rather than face his employer like a human being to talk or discuss his differences.

I think that it is not easy to live far away from your own country. I think that being in a new place, being culturally and linguistically isolated from others is hard. It can be lonely. It can amplify your emotions and multiply your reactions, which under normal environmental conditions, would be okay. Japan can stir you up, and homesickness is a real thing.

But. But. But.

That is no license or excuse for some of these behaviours. Damaging the reputation of the school by romancing its clients is very problematic. Stealing from your company or employer is wrong, and illegal. Demanding and berating others at work is counter-productive, and bites you in the backside later on. Promising to do something and then slinking away in the night is devoid of human character. Smashing up the apartment that your employer paid deposit money, key money, cleaning fees, and first and last months rent, is completely and totally idiotic.

I think we can agree.

So, what are our teachable moments in all of this, dear reader?

You have trouble? Try to work it out, or work around it. You want payback? Take a deep breath and count to ten. Be smart, look around, and try to leave your bridges unburned.

The sad thing is that these rotten apples really damage things for people who come along next. There are LOTS and LOTS of very nice teacher-types who work honestly in Japan. The problem is that one rotten foreign teacher can ruin a lot of good will that would have come to the next person in the same job later. The pool gets dirty, and greasy.

In our case, we used to do a lot more, and pay a lot more up front for our teachers. But, we have been burned in the past too. And as a sad result, we have to have some harder policies in place, to keep our company safe. I do my best to explain these things to our team, and they get it. I know that they do. But I am always a little saddened by the people who have damaged how we used to work because of theft, slander, vandalism, and some unethical behaviour. We need to keep englishbiz safe for the next twenty or so years, and to do so we need to have some tougher guidelines.

The good thing is that we still remain eternally optimistic and operate under the premise of “giving trust to get it”, “giving respect to get it”, and “giving loyalty to get it”. With our team today we have succeeded very well. We hope to keep moving forward too, avoiding the grease spots on the path ahead, and like you, in the end do a good thing, do a good job, and stay true to who we are.

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