Monday, February 26, 2007

Eikaiwa pay is great huh?

Read all the books written by snake oil salesmen on how to make a million yen? Well, the basic salary has been dropping for years. Working hours are also going up. The number of people who have read such idiotic books have been coming to Japan until the number of eikaiwa teachers has increased by fourfold from 1997-2002. And the pay:

According to a labour union spokesperson familiar with the eikaiwa business, teachers in the 1970's received monthly salaries of 300,000 yen for 20 hours of work, which they often supplemented with outside teaching jobs, giving them a total income of as much as 600,000 yen per month, double that of the average salaryman. (See the Sunday 19 June 2005 article on that page).

(I am a bit skeptical of that 600,000 yen per month. It may be true, but I know basic eikaiwa salary in the mid 80s was the still standard 250,000 per month. At that time it was the legal minimum someone on the humanities visa had to earn. Even during the bubble years when I "taught" part-time at a YMCA while working full time at a non-teaching job in a Japanese company, the standard salary for part-time was 3,000 per hour. That has dropped. There were always rumors of some guy making 500,000 per month doing next to nothing, but I only heard about these mysterious folks. Never met one, and neither did anyone else whom I believed. Perhaps there were a few...)

Some of the folks who come here are not such sharp cookies and are willing work for lower and lower pay---at least at first until they see what is happening. Others have no choice as they have bills and a family and cannot easily or quickly leave eikaiwa school chains. Still others are just your backpacking flower-child type who is above the desire for, or need of money. (Mommy and daddy will pay if need be. They always have). A few are just nincompoops.

Berlitz went through this increased working hours/salary cut just before I left (the best thing I have ever done.) I guess they have finally started paying for the full cost of teacher's transportation costs like they were supposed to in the contract. Berlitz never understood that a contract worked both ways---they just figured the teacher had to abide by it and Berlitz might if it did not inconvenience them.

When I look at salaries in the newspaper, many are now at around the 220,000 yen mark for full time per month. Why would anyone work for that?

Generally, an experienced teacher with qualifications---a CELTA is usually more than enough and anything more is unnecessary---who preferably has business experience (you mainly need to understand what a business is and how to conduct yourself in such an environment. You rarely need to teach specific business skills) can get a job as a "corporate trainer" for much better pay. You still won't get rich and you have to work and especially travel a lot. Possibly spend a lot of time between classes at coffee shops too, if you are a contract teachers. But at least they pay you for full transportation! And your per hour salary should be a quite a bit higher. You will have to do more work and prepare for classes, correct homework, and occasionally create materials, etc. In other words, you will have to teach, or come as close to it as you can in this environment. (HINT: beware of working for less than 4,000 per hour unless you have a special reason. You ought to ask why the pay is only 3,500 yen. It is below market average. If you have little experience and no certifications perhaps it could be acceptable.))

You still have to be careful. I took a few classes on the side recently for a company which supposedly focuses on corporate clients. I found out that they are a bunch of first-class incompetents though. The pay was low---3,500 per hour, but it was a morning class close to me so I decided to take it. I was told there would be 3 "main" students and other folks would drop in out of the blue occasionally for a class. This should have been a warning...well, it was. Then I was told, "Oh we don't have a book or anything yet." BIG WARNING number 2. "Oh, we neglected to mention that there is a bus ride on top of the train ride to get there." I should have walked out the door then, but I had already agreed to take it, and I had taken one from them before that turned out OK after a similar rocky start.

This one hasn't. I walked in the class the first day and had NINE students, not three. Their level varied from very nearly a true beginner to pre-intermediate. Luckily, I have plenty of things planned for a first class so I managed to stumble through it. I e-mailed and suggested the books I would need. OK, no problem. They also divided the class into two groups. I still don't know who will show up, or who the 3 "main" students are.

After 2 weeks no books, but the manager, a British guy--told me he was leaving (WARNING).
He then e-mailed me and told me to plan classes using my "store" of materials. WTF?!! At 3,500 yen I am supposed to create or supply materials?

Christmas break came and a new manager started after the New Year. He had no idea of what happened so I had to request books again. Twice. Finally, after calling him and giving him hell over it, the books were sent. (It was not his fault, he was new and it slipped his mind. The rest of the staff appears to be clueless, so I am sure they are no help.)

Anyway, the class got off to a poor start and has never recovered. 4-6 weeks went by before we had any consistent material other than the stuff I made, or occasionally copied (paid for by me.)

Last weekend, I got a letter from them informing me and all the other suckers working for them that they were going to stop paying transportation costs over 800 yen round trip. Oh, I pay them to work for them? Wow. Am I back at Berlitz? No, it ain't that bad, or I would give 2 weeks notice and good-bye. But I have turned down several other offers from them, and will do no more work for them after the class ends in March. The students don't deserve to be screwed more than they have. However, if my main company offered me a morning lesson at the time period, I'd probably take it now and give my 2 weeks notice.

The company's name? I can't really say. They never cheated nor intentionally deceived and lied to me like Berlitz did as far as I know, so I will just say again that there are only maybe 4 companies/schools that I would consider working for in Tokyo in the private sector. None are in eikaiwa, all are in corporate training. Shall I list them? OK. Pheonix Associates, JAL Academy, perhaps Forum (second-hand info) and Simul Academy. There may be others, but I would be very careful of any company which has 9 letters in its namebegins with I and ends with g.

I have seen and heard enough of many others and interviewed at some. I guess I should write up what one should watch for during interviews to learn if you are dealing with up-and-up people, or a bunch of idiots, crooks, or liars. Obviously, I am still learning though.

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