Guest post by John Russell
Thinking of teaching English in Hokkaido in Japan's most livable city, Sapporo? How about historic Hakodate or scenic Asahikawa with its large national park? Well, whatever you do, make sure that you make EC your absolute last choice for employment in Hokkaido.
Don't be confused by the name:
ECC: legitimate English school using professional materials
EC: a complete joke run by lunatic slave-masters that use so-called original lessons which are actually complete garbage.
EC's reputation is so bad in Hokkaido that they don't even bother recruiting teachers there. They interview in Tokyo or try to get people from overseas (especially Canada) because anyone who knows about the school would never work there.
Let's go through the process of becoming an EC teacher and then show you some of the fun in store for you when you finally have the "privilege" to work for this joke of a school.
(1) Training (???)
In their advertisement, EC claims that they provide TESL training. This is a complete lie. Nobody with TESL training would come near this place. EC requires all teachers to go through approximately 2 weeks of "boot camp" and if they don't like you after this 2 weeks, they tell you to hit the road. So if you're coming from a foreign country directly to EC, you could be stuck in Japan without a job after two weeks. ADVICE: never agree to more than 2-3 days of training at an English school in Japan unless you are paid full wages. It's only an excuse to pay you nothing for teaching classes. EC gives no salary for the training period and gives a whopping food allowance of 2000 yen/day. They provide housing but the place is a dive and the front desk people are actually spies for EC so if you come back late after drinking or bring a girl or guy back to the room, you will be reported to EC and fired. EC sends Japanese staff members to follow trainees during lunch and dinner breaks. Who knows what they think trainees will do during this time but that's the mentality of the place.
Once training begins, EC tries to screw with your head and destroy any self-respect that you may have so when you actually try and teach EC's garbage lessons, you think you are actually accomplishing something. The first week of training is spent with one of the Japanese managers, usually Mr. Eiichi Yamaya, and the second week is spent with a foreign "trainer".
One of the highlights during the first week of training is practicing the EC method of saying "Hello" to students. First, there is practiced under the watchful eye of said Mr. Yamaya. All you do is say, "Hello" to a poster on a wall, pretending that it is an EC student. The esteemed Mr. Yamaya gives such helpful comments as "You must smile more when saying 'Hello'",
"You must use your diaphragm more", and "Your 'Hello' must come from the heart". After a half hour of this nonsense, you are left alone in the room and told to practice saying "Hello", and only "Hello", for 60 minutes by yourself to the poster on the wall. Some training!
During training trainees are secluded from the staff, forbidden to talk to regular EC teachers, and kept until 10 or 11:00 at night (starting time 9:00 A.M.). Obviously, the reason is that most teachers will tell you that EC is the worst school to work for. MORE ADVICE: try and meet with current teachers from any school at which you are thinking of working. The good schools will be happy to comply. The joke schools, like EC, will not permit it.
The second week of training is done with a foreigner. This is the person that you want to be most wary of. Never confide your true feelings to one of these turncoats who has sold his soul to the devil. Normally, he or she will act like your best buddy, and after spending a week with the Japanese manager, this person will seem like the coolest person in the world. But be warned: don't trust any foreigner who works in some upervisory role at EC. These are lifelong losers who finally have some sense of power and will stab you in the back at any chance.
At EC, foreigners are simply a necessary evil with round eyes and big noses. Most Japanese students like to study English with foreign teachers so the Japanese owners and managers must hire foreigners but any foreign worker will be treated like a piece of meat. While not all Japanese-owned English schools treat their teachers this way, it's best to be careful when looking for work. Usually, the bigger the school, the worse they treat teachers.
EC requires all new teachers to go through a 2-3 month probationary period. This means that EC will not sponsor a work visa nor will they pay the minimum salary required by law, 250,000 yen/month. EC requires that you work using your tourist visa (US) or your working-holiday visa (Canada, Aus., NZ). The reason they do this is that so many teachers quit EC soon after they join because it's such a terrible place to work. MORE ADVICE: try to find out how long the teachers at a school have worked there. If a school has a majority of teachers who have been there 2-3 years, then most likely it is a reputable place. At EC the only people there longer than a year are losers that think they've died and gone to heaven compared to their last job of pumping gas in some hillbilly town.
(2) Now you're an EC teacher
Once you start teaching, you will be amazed at the garbage that EC gives you to teach. Most reputable schools use textbooks and other professionally prepared materials. EC uses "original" lessons that are actually nonsense written by past EC teachers. EC pays its teachers 8000 yen to write a lesson and the only teachers that write any are the money-hungry clowns that don't mind whoring themselves even more than they do by just working at this joke of a school. Most lessons have no value whatsoever and only make the teacher feel like a complete jerk for trying to teach them. After a few months of tearing your hair out trying to teach this garbage, most EC teachers simply lose all self-respect and turn into robots, just spewing out the worthless drivel day after day. The real losers are the students who are seriously trying to learn English and spend US$ 3000 to join this school only to be given completely useless lessons.
If you get sick, EC does not permit you to take paid sick days. If you don't work, then you don't get paid. So naturally, if someone is sick they come to work anyway in order to get paid and the other teachers wind up catching whatever illness the first teacher had. The law in Japan states that workers are entitled to 12 sick days a year, called Yukyu. However, EC illegally disallows its teachers from using this. Recently, a local magazine printed an article about a foreign teacher who had to return to America for two weeks because her mother was dying. She informed EC that she was taking her Yukyu, but when she returned EC fired her without any warning by claiming that many students complained about her poor performance. She is now suing EC for wrongful termination of employment. This teacher had been at EC for over a year and had learned about Yukyu from a teacher at another school. Rumor around Japan is that an English school will fire any teacher who even mentions Yukyu.
My personal horror story occurred when I had to enter the hospital for an operation on my elbow. Originally, the doctor suggested that I remain in the hospital for 2 weeks. Upon hearing this, the Japanese manager called the doctor and demanded that I be released after 1 week because "EC is very busy and cannot find a replacement teacher." As mentioned before, at EC foreign teachers are treated like pieces of meat. ADVICE: find out a school's vacation and sick day policy before working for one.
(3) Leaving EC
If you try and leave EC before the expiration of your first contract (1 year), they will try to pressure, threaten, and bully you into staying. They feel that any teacher leaving before one year disgraces their honorable school. One common ploy is to threaten to revoke your work visa by contacting the immigration office and saying that you are unemployed. Most foreigners fall prey to this act and stay a year. ADVICE: any contract that you sign does not require you to work there if you don't want to. So go ahead and quit any school that you don't like. However, one problem is that most apartments require foreigners to have their company act as a sponsor so if you quit, you must either find a new sponsor for your apartment or move.
EC does not want teachers to stay much more than a year or two. By then foreign teachers discover all the nonsense going on at EC and "corrupt" the new teachers. As the woman mentioned above found out, after one year EC will fire you faster than you can say "slavery lives in Hokkaido".
Well, good luck with your job search in Japan and do yourself and the English students in Japan a favor and stay as far away as possible from EC.