The Time Is Right
November 2007 NOVA, one of the big chains of language schools in Japan, collapsed.
April 2010 GEOS, another of the big ones, collapses.
Aeon? Gaba? ECC? Shane? Surely it's only a matter of time before another one bites the dust.
My company just shut it's New Zealand branch. We can't afford new textbooks to replace tattered ones in the schools. Student confidence can't help but be shaken by what's happened with GEOS after NOVA. Maybe it won't make students leave, although I'm sure students will seriously consider whether or not to renew - but I think the affect on potential new students is going to be huge.
Teachers come and go from language schools, but the sheer number of teachers leaving from my district - experienced teachers; teachers who have been around for a long time; good teachers, is quite staggering. I can't help but think that this will persuade any teacher worth half a grain, to seriously consider other options now - and not wait around for the whole Japanese language school industry to come toppling down like a neat little row of dominoes.
And with the departure of good and experienced teachers, will come the departure of loyal students. I'm not saying inexperienced teachers won't do a good job - we all started somewhere, but with a lack of support from experienced colleagues, the potential to learn from others just goes.
RIP Industry. I'm glad I'm getting out while I still have the choice.
On another note, I'm glad I'm getting out before I go batty from hearing things like:
- First year university students don't work hard because they're so tired from their entrance exams;
- It's okay for kids to sleep in class if they're tired;
- It's good for kids to go to cram school at kindergarten age because they need to get into a good elementary school;
- Kids don't need free-time - it's healthy for them to get up at 5am, spend an hour travelling to school, go to their music/tennis/flower arranging club after school every day and then go to cram school and then go home and do their homework before going to bed. And it's good that lots of Japanese kids spend Saturdays being shepherded from swimming lesson to English lesson to music lesson. Okay, I'm paraphrasing slightly on this last one.
- I've just had enough now of seeing babied / overly tired / uncontrollable kids. We're teachers NOT babysitters. Not every child is suited to the environment we teach in. That's a fact. If you're going to come to exhausted to a lesson - have an energy drink. Or don't come. If you're too tired to catch a ball and too tired to keep your eyes open in the lesson if you sit down, then what are we, as teachers, expected to do?
I adore some of my students but others should definitely be either at home sleeping or running around a football pitch to expend their energy. They shouldn't be coming to us.
And unlike some organisations where students attend 2 or 3 times a week for 90 minutes at a time, how on earth can people expect to progress when they come for 30, 40 or 55 minutes once a week and can't be bothered to study in between lessons. It's a struggle to teach them. They don't show progress because they don't put the effort it. They choose to study for whatever reason but I don't think the reasons are 'solid' enough. The courses are ongoing. They never end. There's no goal. There's no exam at the end. There's no progress check before going to the next level. Many of the students have never gone abroad. Most of them are certainly not brave enough to go on a trip that isn't an organised tour. They don't NEED English. They know this. And that's half the problem. The number of students who came back from a trip abroad who, when asked if they practiced their English when away, said they didn't is staggering.
There. I said it. I said what I really feel.
I'm not talking about every Japanese person. I'm not even talking about every Japanese student of English. But for the majority of students who come to our schools, it feels like this is the case.
Things that once seemed amusing to me are now just irritating. The time really is right to get out.
On even more devastating news: my external hard drive, containing thousands of photos, documents, movies, songs, etc has died. I've tried freezing it. Nothing. Am gutted. Hopefully a data recovery service can work some magic - and without charging an arm and a leg for it.