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Interview on My TEFL Journey

Part 1 of a two-part interview with yours truly on My TEFL Journey.

Although you once taught at an Eikaiwa, you don’t anymore. Why did you choose to leave?

A mixture of disillusionment and boredom with the job. The disillusionment came from the realization that being a salesman was more important than the teaching itself. During the hiring process in Vancouver, GEOS played up how I was beginning a career while casually throwing in, “You’re OK with approaching students and asking them to renew their contracts, right?” I wanted the job so of course I said yes.

But once in Japan, teachers and managers came and went every few months or so. There was even a stretch of at least 3 months where my school didn’t even have a manager. The weekly meetings consisted of the manager (when I had one) telling us how much we needed to make that month in terms of new student signups and contract renewals. During renewal campaigns, head office would send faxes excoriating under-performing schools, demanding that they do better. This wasn’t anything like the picture painted for me in Vancouver.

02/09 Correction: In the first interview, I wrote: Nova’s rivals, such as GEOS and AEON, quietly switched over their fee schedules to monthly schemes to avoid the wrath of their customers and avoid any potential lawsuits over lesson refunds. A reader pointed out that this was incorrect for AEON (and I believe GEOS, too). Both AEON and GEOS still charge everything up front.

I stand corrected. Don’t know where I got the notion from. Probably got it confused with children’s lessons, which are charged on a monthly basis. Thanks for the clarification.



Similar to my experience.
I was always befuddled by the lack of negativity directed at the workers - "You're useless, you're dirty, just quit you're that bad!"

But do you not think that GEOS is like a microcosm of all that is 'wrong' in Japan (I put wrong in ' ' because I don't want to criticise the Japan way, me being a 'gaijin' and all ;)) ? Not enough people standing up for what they think is right, or against that which is wrong? Not enough seniors criticizing policy and decision making? 0 creativity and inability to tackle 'new' problems (Global Financial Crisis? Friendship campaign will save us!). "If it ain't broke don't fix it" attitude? Even when you are talking about the Eikaiwa equivalent to a grammar phone?
I know most if not all Japanese-run companies are like this. it's not a defense of GEOS. But do you not think they are a symptom?

Cheers for the blog, keep it up.

When you say workers, do you mean the instructors or the Japanese staff? The instructors didn't get much, if any, flack because GEOS understood that it's not smart to piss off the product you're selling. The Japanese staff, on the other hand, took all of the abuse.

Is GEOS a microcosm of all that is wrong in Japan? Nah, it's just a poorly-run company. They constantly harped about being professional but the reality was that we were working in a dingy school with dirty carpets, and hand-drawn posters. GEOS cut corners everywhere.

We should be careful not to equate Japanese management with being really good. I think good management is the exception, not the norm. All companies have the potential to be exceptional, but it all comes down to the personalities at the top. The smart ones listen and go on to be successful. The GEOSes and Novas of eikaiwa are run by egotists who are more interested in money and the trappings of power and status that come with being the head of a company than teaching English.


Thanks for the answers.

Sorry yes, I did mean the Japanese staff.
And, yea, you're probably right. I just see parallels everywhere I look.


It shoud be obvious that Eikaiwa is just a holding pen, created by Japanese bureaucrats, to put Working Holiday vistors and other short-term outsiders.

The Japanese want the ability to send their young people overseas on working holidays, so they have to do SOMETHING in return.

And like all situations where the Japanese (with power) are being forced to perform their half of the bargain, it's a half-assed result. (That Shinto god of Spite again.)

There wouldn't be any Eikaiwa at all if Japan didn't have to make a half-ass attempt at labor exchange.

I am surprised the Embassies haven't pointed this out long ago. But I guess they don't want to mess up their exotic foreign posting, so they just look the other way . . .

I agree it's a holding pen, but the reason the result is half assed is because they wanted to have their cake and eat it too. ie make easy money off it, like they did out of the construction projects etc: and they did jmake easy money for a long time. Too bad the party's over.

I just don't understand the stubborn refusal of some people here to the notion of just setting things up in a way that works out well for both sides.

It's like the minute you start to do a deal, you can see in the people's faces, that they are trying to find out a way to skirt out of it or twist it into something that isn't going to last.

These Eikaiwas should have been tightly regulated from the get-go. Pretty much like how everything else that's serious is regulated in Japan. But, for some reason, they weren't.

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