One thing we have noticed with our teammates is that many of our teachers are very conscientious about time. As teachers, especially here in Japan, their time is their most valuable commodity. It is what they need to “sell” or portion out to make sure that they maximize the best results for the limited amount of time that they have.
From a school perspective, we are very aware that we are on a tight schedule. We know that kids who learn English are going to need about 2,000 hours of direct instruction to become basically fluent in English. Consider this time commitment as well if you are studying Japanese. It takes a lot of time. To make sure that we get the best quality of investment of time from our students and their parents, we are relatively precise about how time needs to be used in class. Thus, we do not waste time with silly theoretical nonsense that has questionable value. We do not play games. We do not run about. We do not dance or sing or do jazz chants. We have a big job to do and we need to be smart, and empathetic, and have kindness and empathy, and a strategy to reach the kids.
I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. The kids have limited resources of time. They have school, and piano lessons, abacus lessons, after school study, homework, swimming lessons, ballet lessons, art classes, sports events, and maybe if possible, time to just play and hang out too. Somehow we need to wedge in 2,000 hours worth of English education too. You can see what we are up against.
From our teacher’s point of view they are here in Japan, far away from home. Japan may have been a dream location to learn about something cultural, or an exciting adventure to work and learn and grow in a very cool environment. Our teammates, while very serious about work, and doing some unbelievably effective teaching, also need time to get away from our classrooms too. They have friends. They have relationships. They have things they want to do. They have travel plans. They want to study language, or art, or try something uniquely Japanese, like play the shamisen or take kendo lessons.
We need to make sure that as a school we provide a good place for our teachers to have a fulfilling job, but also to not infringe on what is the precious time that they keep outside of work to have their own lives, and to pursue their own interests.
I have been in this line of work for about 20 years now. I know how ESL employers abuse their staff’s time. I know all about the extra meetings, the preparation for events, the handing out of marketing material, the special projects that are asked to be completed on the weekends, the interview practice after hours for “special clients”, the requests to come to functions (it’s just like a party really…) that happen on your day off, the filing and lesson planning that is expected to be done on your own time, and all the other little things that nickel and dime your schedule away.
Suddenly, the 40 hour work week you had expected is now 50 or 60 hours. You cancel plans to “catch up on work”. Your life begins to revolve around your teaching job, and little by little you have no time to decompress or develop meaningful relationships. I’ve seen it a whole bunch of times.
When we started this company, this was one thing I was determined not to do to our teammates. We will not be having people come in for extra days work, especially on weekends. When the odd time crops up we negotiate with the teacher and compensate the time in full for another day, or we extend holidays, but under no circumstances will we ever go beyond a 40 hour work week averaged out over the course of one month. That is not what we do. In Canada, I see teachers staying at all hours in their classrooms, and spending part of their salary on basic things for their kids; like food or school supplies. We can do better, and we must do better.
Be careful with your time. You can only give it away once.