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Thread: The Unbiased Truth About Nova

  1. #201
    Regular Member –¼–³‚µ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brooker View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by BlogD View Post
    That policy prompted the formation of a union which still exists to this day
    Wow, I had no idea Nova had a union. That's weird.
    Troubled NOVA Staff Slams Work Conditions
    The union has been fighting Nova for three years to secure a stable work environment in which its teachers can have indefinite or long-term employment agreements instead of annual renewals, and to allow teachers to qualify for social security insurance.
    NOVA Union

  2. #202
    Œp‘±‚Í—Í‚È‚è bakaKanadajin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glenski
    I don't agree completely. Think of the ideal situation, where a business actually DOES take the time and spend the money to hire someone with credentials and/or experience. Since the company is run by Japanese, and many Japanese managers know squat about teaching, it is only fair to assume that your professional teachers know enough to plan curricula. They are your expert consultants in the fielf of teaching. You leave them out of the loop, and you might just as well hire monkeys.
    You're right, the J-staff do rely on teachers to augment and improve the current curriculum and materials, and they're an integral part of the entire enterprise. But I'm referring to the managerial issues moreso. Sales tactics, quarterly objectives, training initiatives, etc. Specifically I had something in mind from the article:

    "Furthermore, most schools ..often rely on their 3 -days to 1-week training programs to transform graduates of other fields into suitable language teachers. To improve the work environment at my present school, the management needs to raise its expectations of the foreign staff; the teaching staff needs to be encouraged to be actively involved in suggesting ways to improve the teaching and student services of the school"

    I could be misinterpreting it but this teacher seems to think his/her input is of value to the company. Using your native language abilities and sharp thinking to flesh out that which exists and make a 45 - 50 minute lesson out of raw material is one thing, but with so many teachers and differeing points of view, I think any teacher that assumes their 'expertise' is needed to improve the business' structure and go beyond the text books is missing the point. Japanese people know Japanese customers, teaching is all teachers can do. When the schedules were thin or sales were down, I'd hear from other teachers 'Oh they should do this, ah they oughtta do that'. But alot of those ideas were pretty hair-brained and lacked Japanese perspective, or business perspsctive, yet that disgruntlement remained and professionalism suffered. Teachers should know their role and seek to improve their teaching and just their teaching.

    At any rate I don't think we're in disagreement, teaching quality should be high, period. My point was just that beyond teaching I don't think they need to be in the loop, I don't think it'd contribute to professionalism. If anything it would just cause more bickering and posturing.

    To your second point, at NOVA there was in fact a chain of command, e.g. going from teacher to co-ordinator to AT to BT to AAM, AM and beyond. There was room for advancement and attempting to advance was encouraged with lots of talk of 'making a difference' and 'having more control over how the school is run' etc.

    relationship is one that has a gaijin with strong Japanese skills and plenty of experience here to understand the business culture. THEN, you have someone with the savvy to hold his J boss at bay while he deals with the problems that the gaijin teachers have, and vice versa.
    As far as Nova goes (I have no other experience), in the upper ranks you do in fact find individuals who started out as teachers, worked their way up the ladder, have decent Japanese capabilities (usually gained from a genuine interest in the culture, long-term exposure over time, etc. which is mirrored therein by their continuing commitment to the company) and as a result have a far better understanding of Japanese business practices and interact closely with Japanese staff. Usually an Area Manager is someone who fits this profile. A good Area Manager can have a large impact on several schools, tens of schools, and bring Block standards up quite high. But, even then, that connection is a difficult one because at some point even the best get tired and move on, usually because their experience and Japanese skills allow them to get a better job right there in Japan.

    And that kind of begged the next point, which was that incentives are key in ANY business to keep people around. If the salary was good those people who moved on to better jobs within Japan wouldn't move on so quickly, (I'm just guessing), and/or teachers would be more inclined to give it that extra 5-10% of genkiness. In the classrooms, sometimes that's the difference in morale that'll get you those extra sales, or at least staunch the complaining and staunch the early ship jumpers.

    I have one individual in mind, a Japanese lifer from America (married a Japanese wife, has children, had taught for several years at the same school, in possession of JLPT2 bordering on JLPT1). Here's someone who'd be a prime candidate for upper management, keeping gaijin/nihonjin relations at a large Eikaiwa amicable. But, obviously the incentive for him to go beyond teaching was never there because he never did, he turned promotions down at every corner, and eventually he quit, got his JLPT 1 and got a better job.

    So a small bonus for completing your contract would really help prevent people from going home early. A further bonus for re-signing another contract (exists at NOVA) also helps. Incentives for promotion, well at NOVA you get a mere 10,000yen extra a month for becoming AT, and usually have to change your schedule so that you're off Sundays. Well guess what, working Sundays pays a 10,000yen monthly premium or something like that, effectively cancelling your raise. Plus you get to do more work.

  3. #203
    Just me Glenski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bakaKanadajin View Post
    You're right, the J-staff do rely on teachers to augment and improve the current curriculum and materials, and they're an integral part of the entire enterprise. But I'm referring to the managerial issues moreso. Sales tactics, quarterly objectives, training initiatives, etc.
    On this point, I agree about 95%. I still think a professional teacher can provide input to training of teachers (and initiatives), and make valuable suggestions for some marketing ploys, mostly centered around curriculum ideas. You're right that we agree about most everything, though.

    Specifically I had something in mind from the article:
    "Furthermore, most schools ..often rely on their 3 -days to 1-week training programs to transform graduates of other fields into suitable language teachers.
    Take this statement with a grain of salt. "Suitable" usually means that a newbie has seen what the school expects of him and knows what the teaching format is supposed to be. Nothing more.

    "...To improve the work environment at my present school, the management needs to raise its expectations of the foreign staff; the teaching staff needs to be encouraged to be actively involved in suggesting ways to improve the teaching and student services of the school
    "
    I could be misinterpreting it but this teacher seems to think his/her input is of value to the company.
    As I wrote above, I agree with the author on this point. I hope you can see that now.

    If not, let me give you 2 examples:
    1) At my eikaiwa, a Japanese teacher of English suggested that they create a debate course, mostly for higher level people (his old HS teaching cronies, but anyone who had the skill could join). I co-taught it for 2 years. It was a raging success and is still in progress 6 years later.
    2) At the same eikaiwa, the staff recognized my background in science, and they asked me to create a new course based on that. I did, Science Topics, for high level professionals in the science field. I taught it solo for the last 2 years I was there. It was a success, too.

    Another item in this affair could be how teachers interview prospective students and provide input as to what level the students are, so they know which classes to take. At my school, all I could do was interview them and make suggestions. If the students had the cash, the stupid staff let them sign up for any class they wanted, and teachers often had to suffer. I'd certainly want input on this managerial matter!

    Japanese people know Japanese customers, teaching is all teachers can do.
    I think I have shown the inaccuracy of this statement.

    When the schedules were thin or sales were down, I'd hear from other teachers 'Oh they should do this, ah they oughtta do that'. But alot of those ideas were pretty hair-brained and lacked Japanese perspective, or business perspsctive, yet that disgruntlement remained and professionalism suffered. Teachers should know their role and seek to improve their teaching and just their teaching.
    My old eikaiwa had some pretty "hair-brained ideas" about advertising and certainly didn't understand what was needed. They were very lucky in having deep pockets from a parent organization to keep them afloat. On top of that, the building they were in suffered flooding problems when pipes burst, so they got money to fix up the place and stay in business longer. If that hadn't happened, they were going to go out of business in a year.

    To your second point, at NOVA there was in fact a chain of command,
    I know that, but NOVA is the largest eikaiwa chain around. My point was that few eikaiwa have such structure.

    And that kind of begged the next point, which was that incentives are key in ANY business to keep people around. If the salary was good those people who moved on to better jobs within Japan wouldn't move on so quickly, (I'm just guessing),
    Oh, it's a good guess, and I tend to agree with it, but there's more than just bonuses. Incentives also include a friendly receptive staff with which to work, no micro-management (often from foreign managers), reasonable paperwork, sufficient office equipment (we had a 5-year old Mac that didn't work, and that was it for computers for a staff of 3 teachers), and contracts that don't skirt the law or restrict employees needlessly.

  4. #204
    Œp‘±‚Í—Í‚È‚è bakaKanadajin's Avatar
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    Its also worth noting that Eikaiwas appear to have many different organizational structures, in these kinds of discussions they get lumped together simply as 'Eikaiwas'. Some lend themselves better to input than others. For example, having the latitude to formulate your own science or debating program would have been great at my branch too, but (again my only experience to fall back on is NOVA, although I think the large schools would operate somewhat similarly simply out of logistical necessity) things like that would take eons and eons to float up to the managers, get approved, come back down (usually watered-down and barely resembling the original idea), OR they'd point to the existing material and say there already exists a provision for this kind of thing. And to a degree they're right, because as limited as it can be to newbie teachers, the NOVA curriculum can be quite effective in a capable teachers hands. But again, having the language available in the text isn't the same as having a specialized class and/or conversation club solely devoted to a thing. The smaller Eikaiwa's definitely seem to have an easier time tailoring and experimenting with the curriculum. Ironically it seems that as any given Eikaiwa grows, it is forced to adopt a less colourful curriculum. For example just a few years ago Nova didn't use the Diplomat it used the Quest text, which was basically just an article or story around which a lesson was built. Far more variability. But due to operational and training requirements a more standardized approach was adopted.

    I'd therefore wager that while quality can always vary, these smaller schools experience less issues regarding morale and professionalism as outlined in the article, it sounds like there's more fun stuff going on and less of a company line to tow perhaps?

    Incidentally, while only the student truly knows what the student wants, my reason in saying the Japanese know their customers best is simply for lack of any ability on the foregin teachers part to provide Japanese explanations and coaching. Often the j-staff came back to us with helpful requests from the students, things they wanted to learn or were unclear about. Students can be shy in class and have aversions to shame and making public mistakes, despite the fact that they're not learning anything by not speaking up and asking. J-staff often served a crucial liason function in this way. Also, and I suppose it doesn't apply to the smaller schools and the disagreement exists because of the lumping of big and small schools together, but at the bigger schools it's just not practical to take any input from anyone, too many teachers and too much money invested in the existing curriculum.

  5. #205
    Just me Glenski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bakaKanadajin View Post
    Incidentally, while only the student truly knows what the student wants, my reason in saying the Japanese know their customers best is simply for lack of any ability on the foregin teachers part to provide Japanese explanations and coaching.
    Huh? What lack of ability are you talking about? Sure, many places try to prohibit the use of Japanese in the classroom, but the bottom line is, if you can't get it across with English, sneak in the Japanese. It is practically necessary for lowest level beginners anyway.

    Not all foreign teachers know enough Japanese to get ideas across, to be sure, but that's when a true professional (that's who we're talking about here, right?) can see that students don't catch something, takes notes, and returns (perhaps next lesson) with a better explanation using Japanese he got from some outside source. Done it myself on several occasions.

    Often the j-staff came back to us with helpful requests from the students, things they wanted to learn or were unclear about.
    Could be any number of reasons (like those you cited) that students didn't get what they wanted. I'll add one more to your list: the fact that they truly didn't know what they wanted.

    Students can be shy in class and have aversions to shame and making public mistakes, despite the fact that they're not learning anything by not speaking up and asking. J-staff often served a crucial liason function in this way.
    They should, but by staff you also could mean simply the receptionist, who may speak zero English. Or the tiny eikaiwa's owner's spouse, who is equally poor in English.

    at the bigger schools it's just not practical to take any input from anyone, too many teachers and too much money invested in the existing curriculum.
    I would argue that if any school presupposes to be a good school (for students as well as teachers), it would actually solicit input from as many teachers as possible, perhaps even hold (gasp!) a joint meeting, and try to work out the best situation for everyone. That's as practical as it gets. Does it happen in real life? Probably for the most part, not on your life!

    At my old eikaiwa we had 3 foreign teachers. We met with the director's lieutenant OL once a week for 5-15 minutes. Main thrust was to tell us of upcoming events and national holidays, and to ask us if there were any problems. We occasionally brought up situations that needed resolving, mostly by the J staff. Nothing terribly serious or managerial, but still necessary.
    Case in point: We had recently heard from the staff that "students" didn't like a lesson and wanted something changed. We did, and they still didn't like it. We changed again, and there was still dissent. So we asked just what students had asked for the change (out of 10-12 in the class). Turns out just ONE had complained! At our meeting, we diplomatically pointed out how silly this was and how it had affected us and the other students. Case solved.
    Case in point2: Foreign teachers interviewed potential students and assigned them to one or two possible classes based on their perceived levels. Usually this was no problem, but in a couple of instances, the staff ignored us and let a boyfriend/girlfriend with different levels join the same class. Same thing happened with 2 older ladies who were friends. When it was clear that the oddball in each class was way over their heads, and that this affected the other PAYING students, it became a tough matter to resolve. The boyfriend/girlfriend situation ended with both quitting. The old ladies' situation was tougher, as one was doggedly determined to stay and tough it out. Eventually, she quit and let her friend continue, but it was frustrating in each lesson. Case was mostly resolved by staff heeding our instructions.

    I'm not saying things always worked out, but when they did, it was all due to some tactful advice and explanations at regularly held meetings between J staff and foreign teachers. Without them, it becomes a matter of simply approaching the director or OL boss and making a request for change, and that often sounds like complaining when dealing with foreigners. Having the structure of a regular meeting smoothes things out culturally.

  6. #206
    Œp‘±‚Í—Í‚È‚è bakaKanadajin's Avatar
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    Huh? What lack of ability are you talking about? Sure, many places try to prohibit the use of Japanese in the classroom...
    You answered your own question. Plus most new Eikaiwa teachers don't speak Japanese to begin with so its almost always going to be a matter of either shouldn't or can't. Beyond that though, I'm talking about sales and other non-curriculum items not the classroom. Regardless of whether we think sales is a virtuous function of an Eikaiwa, its sometimes needed, (beyond that its the ugly truth) and convincing a headstrong student they need to buy some CD's and listen at home because their listening skills are abysmal is better handled by Japanese staff. Some students need things articulated in such a way so as not to insult them. These are the inner workings of Japanese culture which I won't claim to understand, so in this way (not in the classroom) teacher input isn't needed directly. I did say in both posts 'customers', not students. The people walking into an Eikaiwa can be both, depending on who's speaking to them. Customers need to be spoken to in Japanese, students in English. Also, J-staff (at NOVA) are receptionists but that is the most basic of functions, they're also familiar with the materials and most managers speak some English. There are no separate sales or counselling staff the J-staff have to do it all. Again, to compare a mom'n'pops operation to NOVA doesn't work, the smaller schools rely more heavily on teachers to increase traffic while larger schools rely on advertising, perks, sales, etc. So as I said lumping all Eikaiwas together isn't an option in some debates.

    As for Japanese in classrooms, although my Japanese is good for just 1 year of study I'd be wrong in assuming I have the ability to use it as a teaching tool. My linguistic perspective is not a native Japanese one so a true idealogical translation about why you say it this way, or what this means when we say X, could hurt more than help in some cases.

    For the simple stuff I would agree with you and others like Iron Chef whose Eikaiwas use Japanese regularly to help low level students. No harm in calling a cat 'neko' if it saves a minute or two.

    And again, my own perspective is limited to large Eikaiwas where immersion is mandatory and a sales promise. I myself still used some Japanese here and there but at this point (I think) this discussion is more about larger trends and generalities and how they contribute to a non-professional work environment. Overall immersion is still a proven methodology and many students pay for this and expect it. The ability of a teacher to adjust his/her language and circumlocute for the student is one more thing teachers can do to increase a students learning without resorting to Japanese.

    I don't disagree that teacher input is necessary for coaching as was the case with your mismatched classes, NOVA also seeks input from teachers for counselling purposes. But again I think there's a difference of experience here between big and little schools. Whatever sources you used for curriculum at your school, it was obviously malliable and flexible beyond the material found at larger schools, which by contrast is branded, copywritten and expensive to issue. Changing the curriculum at a larger school based on daily teacher input juts isn't possible and basically amounts to a business decision since it'd involve overhauling thousands of books and sales materials.

    Phew what a discussion

  7. #207
    Regular Member Sukotto's Avatar
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    I hear there are a lot of "Asians" doing construction jobs in Japan.
    Quote Originally Posted by Glenski View Post
    I hope this was meant tongue in cheek, because you otherwise show a total lack of knowledge about the work force in Japan. Nuff said.
    By the above, I meant undocumented Asian immigrants, not the fact that Japanese are Asian.



    Anyway,
    that was some of what i felt in past years about some stuff. Maybe now it is different. Everyone has a right to change their mind. Maybe I should not have been so wordy as to why i did not want a college degree which someone asked me. Or maybe I should have just PM them. sorry. It's just the world is so different from the one I was presented growing up. Perhaps I am still freaking out about this?



    As far as Nova & other private English language schools go, I had been under the impression that a lot of adults wanted to improve their language skills and at least practice them. I imagined conversations would not be a small part. So for this a degree in teaching wasn't necessarily needed. Just a degree to show that at least these native English speakers were competent.

    I'm not saying I believed there were more adults than children attending these schools. Just that a lot of Japanese adults wanted to practice/improve or keep up their skills. No doubt it might take different skills to deal with different aged people and unless these companies really have mastered some sort of techniques for their employees, things might not be as easy as being a good conversationalist.

    So, if requiring only a degree in anything for teaching at these schools, why not no degree? After all, what is a degree but a piece of paper. Especially when it is seen in the light of these schools. Which one could have even a degree in underwater business administration or on the sun basket weaving and still get employed there. The companies had their ways of teaching all worked out. So, did one really need to have superb teaching skills?

    It appears from what is in this string that the companies really don't have it all worked out. And maybe a simple college degree in anything isn't enough at all. It merely shows one is able to jump through hoops to a finer tuned degree and makes the companies look professional. Not that degree holders are just hoop jumpers. Other things require fine tuning of skills too. Cleaning, mechanic, teaching...

    Along with the language aspect of English language schools is that of cultural exchange. So I find it kind of disappointing that some of them forbid teachers and students from interacting outside of class. Still, I can understand their concerns, I guess. Especially if they employ people who come to Japan for only one year and want to get out as soon as they can.


    Maybe before I felt guilty for being lucky enough to have been born in one of the rich countries. Afterall, I've found out, our countries are not rich because of luck or pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. Maybe partially luck.
    Japanese director Mamoru Oshii was one of my many teachers over the years to this respect, although I did not know who he was until recently. Using his art he reflected a part of reality with these non-fictional lines:

    "Blood-drenched economical prosperity created and sustained by those
    countless wars. That's what's behind our peace." -ARAKAWA, Patlabor The Movie 2 (1993)

    So maybe it is no different living in the US or Japan? We both benefit from empire & live under corporate rule and the truth is hidden in the fictional worlds of pop culture.

    Ah, sorry.
    Nova.
    Perhaps the Japanese government should require these schools to at least require a teaching certificate along with the degree, since a non-citizen cannot work period without a four year degree (or certain types of work visas).
    check out this awesome shirt.
    If You're Really a Goth, Where Were You When We Sacked Rome?
    no, i got nothing against goths. just think the shirt is neat.

  8. #208
    Just me Glenski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sukotto View Post
    As far as Nova & other private English language schools go, I had been under the impression that a lot of adults wanted to improve their language skills and at least practice them. I imagined conversations would not be a small part.
    I don't think you have a clue what eikaiwa is about. Sorry to be so blunt. Yes, conversational English is an integral part of eikaiwa. Heck, eikaiwa itself means "English conversation". But you don't just sit there and chat. Only in some freestyle courses do you do that. Otherwise, the whole point of eikaiwa is to teach conversational English. There is often a textbook. For adults, this is a reminder of the 6 or more years of English they had to study in school, plus a guideline for what the lesson is about. Teachers should not speak more than 20% of the time, if students are to be given a chance at practicing and making mistakes. Only lazy teachers will sit and gab with students.

    So for this [conversations] a degree in teaching wasn't necessarily needed. Just a degree to show that at least these native English speakers were competent.
    I can see where this is leading, but more later. For now, the degree is needed for immigration purposes. Sadly, any degree major will do, and with certain visa types, you don't even need a degree. Yes, most eikaiwa teachers are native English speakers. Is that so strange a concept? The government (and probably most employers) prefer people with college educations for whatever reasons they choose. I cannot speak for them, but my best guess is that they want to know people have had the sense of responsibility to complete tertiary education. That's all. To say that any old native English speaker (degreed or not, but you seem to harp on the latter) can teach eikaiwa is incorrect.

    I'm not saying I believed there were more adults than children attending these schools. Just that a lot of Japanese adults wanted to practice/improve or keep up their skills. No doubt it might take different skills to deal with different aged people and unless these companies really have mastered some sort of techniques for their employees, things might not be as easy as being a good conversationalist.
    Again, being a conversationalist is not the point in teaching. You are not hired to converse with students. You are hired to teach them, and that means speaking as little as possible.

    So, if requiring only a degree in anything for teaching at these schools, why not no degree? After all, what is a degree but a piece of paper.
    I just explained that, and you seem to be waffling again, and trying to bring the discussion back to a "degree needed vs. not needed" issue. Please get off it!

    The companies had their ways of teaching all worked out. So, did one really need to have superb teaching skills?
    No, of course not, but your assumption that any non-degreed person is qualified to teach is weak.

    It appears from what is in this string that the companies really don't have it all worked out. And maybe a simple college degree in anything isn't enough at all. It merely shows one is able to jump through hoops to a finer tuned degree and makes the companies look professional. Not that degree holders are just hoop jumpers.
    Nope, you completely misunderstand the whole situation.

    Other things require fine tuning of skills too. Cleaning, mechanic, teaching...
    non sequitur

    Along with the language aspect of English language schools is that of cultural exchange. So I find it kind of disappointing that some of them forbid teachers and students from interacting outside of class.
    They are looking out for two things:

    1) They don't want teachers boinking students and taking that baggage back to work, especially if the relationships don't work out.
    2) They don't want teachers giving private lessons to students, whether consciously or just by osmosis in their goings-out. Purely financial aspect here.

    Nova.
    Perhaps the Japanese government should require these schools to at least require a teaching certificate along with the degree, since a non-citizen cannot work period without a four year degree (or certain types of work visas).
    A "non-citizen" can work without a 4-year degree in Japan.
    spouse visa
    dependent visa
    student visa
    cultural visa
    working holiday visa
    All of the above permit work without a degree.

    Your idea of requiring a teaching certificate has some merit, but it it probably won't work. First, there is no policing of teacher certification here. Second, there are many types of certification, including online with no practicum. Third, I suggest you read this little jewel to see the differences in professionalism between certified teachers and some eikaiwa managers. Eye-opening. Enjoy.
    http://www.eltnews.com/features/special/015a.shtml

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