First Students!

So it finally happened. We have students for the TESOL course. This is a very exciting time for us, and we are absolutely determined to do a good job for the people who have entrusted us to get them through their TESOL certification.

imagesA couple of things I want to make clear for anyone new who is hopeful to start on their own TESOL certification. The first is that we are very serious about SUPPORTING our students. This is not just a “Rah Rah! Go get ’em and GOOD LUCK”, but it is more than that. We will make sure that you get some real educational value out of your experience in working with us. Furthermore, we are going to add elements to the program such as how to teach kids, give opportunities for you guys to come to our classrooms and check it out first hand, and to also point you in all the directions we can to get you that first job in Japan. That is our commitment. We don’t promise a rosy future in all you do, but for our part we are going to help as best we can.

The second thing is that we are going to keep the costs of our program down. I know that the going rate for some courses are pretty steep. You can check out our prices and see if that is more attractive for you. I remember very clearly the rough road I took to get through university. I worked 3 days full-time in a windowless warehouse, driving forklift and pallet-jack, unloading train boxcars of dog food, crates of canned goods, and all the non-perishables you see in supermarkets. That was a hard way to go, and I could have used a bit of help on the way. Keeping costs down is my way of trying to do something right for the next generation of teachers and professionals truly struggling under MASSIVE education debt.

So welcome to this site, and welcome to our program. Contact me with any questions that you have. I’ll do my best to help you get what you need.

Yours,
Mark Groenewold

President, englishbizgoal-without-a-plan-750x466-cf

Videos Made for Kids

Hi again!

I have been thinking about what I can do to show friends and neighbours more of what we do here at englishbiz. One of the coolest parts of my job, and when I have the time to attempt to be a little creative, is making videos. I made a bunch of videos for kids that focus on vocabulary, so I am going to drop them in here and leave them for you to check out.

 

 

 

I made all of these easily enough on my Mac, and am trying to keep to a simple format that simply works. I hope that you thought they were cool, and I hope that it may encourage you as a teacher to think of creative ways to get English to your kids. I also think that you will probably be more creative and interesting than my feeble attempts here! Not great production, and I have very limited skills. But I gotta use what I got!

Thanks so much for coming by and have a terrific day.

Mark

Hiring Mode

Hello, and a warm welcome to this blog!

Today I put out an advertisement for new teachers on Dave’s ESL Cafe website. We have been using Dave’s site for a number of years and we often get some great applications coming in to apply for teaching positions with us. I hope that you are meeting some good results as you are throwing your CVs out to the world, and I hope that you land the job that you need and want.

I should tell you a few things about working with us here at englishbiz that are hard to see in a short advertisement. The first thing is that we live in an unbelievably beautiful part of Japan. We have our schools in the city of Takamatsu, in Kagawa Prefecture. The environment here is simply marvellous, and it permits people a sense of having a “home”, yet not being so far away that you can’t get to Osaka or Okayama easily enough for the weekend. Kobe is nearby, and so is Kyoto. Many of our teammates find time easily enough to get out and explore the areas around, to catch live music and night life after they punch out for the weekend.

Even if you don’t head off to the major cities for fun there is a lot to explore here. We have a beautiful set of islands in the Seto Inland Sea which are there for you to explore. Each island has its own feeling and sub-culture. We really recommend you get out on the ferries that bring people out to those places, and feel the sea wind on your face. In addition, there is an unbelievable art festival that takes place every three years. People from all over the world come here to put up their displays and exhibits all over the islands and in Takamatsu too.

Kagawa-ken is also home to part of the 88 Buddhist Temple Pilgrimage. Taking some time to walk in the footsteps of the great priest Kukai may be the thing to reset your mind, give you some inner peace, and explore the deep culture that lives on today. I have had the chance to go through the temples once via tour, and hope to do it all over again, but next time by foot. Taking some time to walk through the temple grounds, hear the priests and pilgrims pray, and learn something of the local culture, its folklore, and see the architecture can be marvellous. Also, these temples are much more intimate and “closer” to visitors than what you may see in bigger cities, like Kyoto. Here you can touch things, hear things, go inside many of the buildings, and experience much first hand, rather than standing on the other side of a rope meant to keep the crush of tourists away.

Ok, well enough about where we are. If you come our way you will have time and space to explore that on your own. We need to also to also talk about the job that you may be taking.

In short, I think that the big thing that separates us from our competition in other ESL or eikaiwa schools is that we are very keen to get real results. We need and want our students to succeed, and we design our classes and curriculum to take kids from literally zero English to complete fluency. We have not seen any of the local schools come close to the organization and dedication we have towards education.

The typical ESL school is a lot of activities, with music, and cooking, and colouring, and dancing, and messing about with the illusion of education. Sounds harsh? Maybe so, but we know that kids absolutely NEED 2,000 plus hours of solid language education to be able to use it in any meaningful way. When I see some other school mixing up brownies for English class I can only think that I can buy my own brownies, thanks. What I need is education for my kids.

Also, we don’t need to know about American culture.

Sorry, we just don’t need it. America can take care of itself. What I would like our teachers to do is to help kids learn nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, subject-verb agreements, how to use the past tense, how to write English letters, how to perfect their pronunciation, how to make a sentence, how to ask questions, how to ask for clarification, how to structure a paragraph in English, how to sound out new words, how to ask “What does this mean?”, and to develop a sense of “I can do it” when they study English.

We don’t need the dancing, guitar playing, or brownie making class. We just don’t have the time. Sorry about that.

We like our teachers to love teaching, and to love the art of being “in the moment” with the student, and to inspire them, encourage them, and help them towards the next plateau of learning. We love teachers who love to teach. If you have a passion for learning, and books, and personal development, and want to mentor and coach kids, that is awesome. You should send us your CV.

Also, you do not need to be a “native speaker”. If you are, that is great. I am one too, and it has some advantages, but it is not a “deal-breaker” at all. In fact, we find that our teachers who speak multiple languages (including English, we are going to need that one) have a deep sense of care and empathy for kids who struggle. Having gone through the process themselves, they know what it is like, and what it will take to master English.

Send us your CV, and all the other info we need (photo, copy of degree, certificates, letters of reference, etc.) to englishbiztakamatsu@gmail.com .

Many many thanks for reading and coming by!

Yours Truly,

Mark

Teaching Position Open!

As always, thank you so much for coming by! Things here in sunny Kagawa remain, by and large, the same. I am getting off my keister to get this blog active and to do my best to add more and more content as we go along. I just realized the other day that I have been doing this kind of work for over 20 years, and maybe there are a few things I can share with you that might be of benefit. And if it is not so much of benefit, I hope I would have amused you.

help_wantedRight now I would like to put out a notice that we are interested in interviewing prospective teachers to work with us at englishbiz. I usually put out an advertisement for the position on-line using various venues, but I would like to put the information about the position here as well.

In short, we are looking for a person who is:

  1. Already in Japan and who has a visa which grants them permission to work.
  2. Flexible, easy-going, friendly, well-mannered, honest, and who enjoys working with students.
  3. Self-reliant and self-sufficient, who can find things on their own in town and who can be resourceful.
  4. Punctual and understands that being on time is not only necessary for a job, but it is good manners too.
  5. In possession of a university degree. This is a MUST. No degree, no interview.
  6. Looking for a school within which they can grow.
  7. Looking for the possibility of working long-term, and perhaps having “a piece of the pie” that belongs to them.
  8. If not looking long-term, can commit to the minimum of a year contract. This is okay too!

If you are someone who is looking for a teaching job in Takamatsu, Kagawa-ken, please feel free to drop me a line. The best email for that is englishbiztakamatsu@gmail.com . In your correspondence please send a copy of your degree, a copy of your valid visa, and some information about yourself, your current situation, and what kind of teacher you are. That would be wonderful, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best regards,

Mark

Cartoon of the Day- Help Wanted

Time: You’ve Only Got So Much…

1001f18One 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.

Overworked

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.

slave-time

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.

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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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