Sept. 1992, Geos hiring office, Vancouver, corner of Howe and Nelson, 3:38pm.
"Thank you very much, Junko and Kyoko. I hope you enjoyed the lesson. Enjoy your stay in Vancouver." I walked out of the room.
I had just given my demonstration lesson to a couple of Japanese high school students doing home stays in Vancouver at the Geos hiring office and I was walking back to the interview office. The students were now filling in questionnaires about my lesson and the video tape of the demo was being critiqued by the hiring staff.
TOZA used to be a mid-sized eikaiwa until it went bankrupt in 1998. The TOZA situation built up slowly over a period of a few months. I didn't know it at the time, but all of the teachers at TOZA hadn't been paid their complete salaries in 4 months. They had received 20%, 30% depending on how bad their situation was; usually just enough to pay the rent at the gaijin house. They hired me in February of 1998 and nobody told me that they hadn't been paid since Christmas. I was surprised that nobody told me. Their response was," If we told you, would you have worked here?"
When I joined GEOS I was a very willing teacher. I would have done almost anything for the company. I thought being a teacher was a noble thing (still do), after all, you're not trying to convince somebody or sell something. I looked forward to a career in the company. The recruiting office in Vancouver had told us all about the wonderful opportunities in the other divisions of GEOS: travel, publishing, management. I figured I'd like to make a go of it. I thought I could be the kind of guy who works for a company. I thought I could get something marketable from the experience.
Many thanks to our Deep Throat for providing these documents. She tells me that these attendance sheets are nothing but a headache for managers when a student asks to see them. They are something that she would never show to a high level student and would use every excuse in the book to keep them from being read. For low level students, she would cover and read them, making up a BS story the whole time. Read them. They speak for themself.
When I was teaching in Chiba, I found out that one of my students was an ex-GEOS manager. There was an instant connection when I told her that I used to work for GEOS as well. We talked about our experiences and this is the result.
Update March 20, 2002: Anybody who has been reading the ESL message boards here and at gaijinpot.com over the past couple of weeks is aware that some major fur is flying in regards to Antonio Ferreira, a self-styled equalizer for gaijin who have been wronged. James Gibbs, the Webmaster of the now defunct japantraveller.com, first brought Antonio to our attention in 2000. We posted James's comments about Antonio in this Interac story and that seemed to be the end of it--until recently.
Background: Rob and I both worked at GREGG and know the situation pretty well. The turnover of Japanese teachers is faster than that of the foreign teachers. The Japanese staff are pretty much thrown to the wolves without any training; zero support, zero training, zero material and zero psychiatric counseling at the end of the day. I remember meeting a poor soul who started the same time I did. She was older, trying to get some work, make a little pocket money. She had lived in the States for a while when her hubby got transferred there so she could speak English well enough.
The thing with this school is that they have a solid core of senior teachers who know the game and get all of the great gigs. They know not to teach X course at X location. When you see the add in the paper, they are trying to fill a position for the course nobody wants. Why is that course so undesirable?
I made it to work at 10:45 am, the unofficial official starting time for GEOS gaijin staff and punched in. They told us in Vancouver that the starting time was 11:30 am but that's not true. Punch in later than 10:45 am and eyebrows were raised all the way to head office. I started the coffee maker, put the flowers I bought that morning in a vase, put them on the counter, grabbed the paper and headed for my room to prepare for my 2:30pm class.
About 15 minutes later, Tomoko, the sales manager walked in. I was half way through a (Mike) Royko column when I heard the shout.
In 1993 I spent my first Christmas in Japan. At that time I was a faithful GEOS employee. I did a lot of things for the company that would be unthinkable now. I really wanted to get along with everyone and do my job the best I could. I even considered a career at GEOS! I had bought into the program.
During a school meeting in early November the subject of the school's annual Christmas party came up. "Cool!" I thought.