An evolving English school organization? That’s right. We have come a long way over the years. This first segment explains why I decided to build my own Smith’s School of English here in Japan (17 years ago). It was one of the best decisions of my life.
That Other English School
I worked for “that other English school” for 8 years. With no experience, I found their initial training to be very rushed and stressful, yet I was “teaching” English in 3 days. A textbook with 8 mandatory steps to each lesson. Dress code- suit, tie, dress shoes. Lots of rules, very structured and mechanical. I became quite good at it, but didn’t enjoy it.
Promotions came my way but salary increases weren’t much. I was “the trainer,” training all the new young people. Most were fresh out of university and looking forward to their experience in Japan. Because the 3-day initial training was so fast and intense, I felt they weren’t ready to teach on the fourth day, and wanted to provide more support. Some of the young women cried during my training, so I left the prescribed requirements and adjusted a bit to try and make it more comfortable. Soon thereafter, I found myself in trouble because I wasn’t following the rules. Long story there…
We were required to teach 8 lessons a day, 5 days-a-week, with 10 minutes between classes. How long could I endure this? The average teacher called it quits after a one-year contract. I have a family here, so I needed to hang on. So in October of 2004 I started my search for something better.
Smith’s School of English Japan, or That Other English School?
I found Smith’s on the web and read through the website. Smith’s seemed to offer a lot more freedom than the slave job I was in. But I wasn’t convinced, and shut it off.
That “Other English school” wanted me to continue moving up, but I wasn’t interested. The management’s answer was “step up or step down.” I held tight, and against my will, they scheduled an interview for promotion in December. I was to prepare a presentation, and an interview would follow.
The next weekend I filled-out the application to open a Smith’s School of English. I hit “send” and Mark Smith was ringing me 15 minutes later. We talked for an hour, feeling each other out. I was still undecided, but felt better. Another week of thinking, another conversation with Mark, and I said “yes, I’d like to open a school next April.” Done deal.
Final Weeks at That Other English School
A week later I took the interview for promotion at “that other English school.” They didn’t like my presentation at all- a proposal to “extend initial training from 3 days to 5 days.” It “wasn’t cost effective for the company.” I took a verbal beating from a panel of 3 area managers, but continued to reply that the trainees weren’t ready and confident enough to do the job. I gave them honest answers to every question while they frowned. Needless to say, I failed that interview.
Following that they cut my training hours and added more teaching hours to my schedule. I had no time to help the new people, do paperwork, etc. I found myself going to work an hour early (unpaid) to keep up. A month later one of the “big wigs” came to the school to observe one of my lessons, with a follow-up meeting afterwards. It was one of the best lessons of my time there, but it wasn’t “by the book.” As he entered the room for the follow-up, I handed him my resignation and said “I’ll be finished on March 31st.” There was no meeting. I imagine my “boss” was relieved.
An Evolving English School Organization- Just the Beginning For Me
The first week of April I travelled to Osaka; Mark Smith meeting me at the station. I was wearing nice clothes and a tie, and the first thing he said was “you can lose the tie and dress comfortably!” The next 3 days were spent with Mark, learning about the company. “You can present and teach the lesson point any way you want,” said Mark. “It’s your school. We are here to support you.” That was nice to hear. A week later, I opened “Smith’s School of English” in Sagamihara.
It was upwards from there. And guess what? “That other English school” went bankrupt 2 years later! I’m looking forward to writing more about this evolving English school organization- Smith’s School of English, Japan. There has been a lot of positive change over the years. To be continued…
Jim, Smith’s School of English, Sagamihara, Japan http://smithweb.co.jp/sagamihara/
very interesting story of a new beginning.. i look forward to your next instalment ..
Thank you Jane!
Great story. I too am looking forward to reading part 2.
Thank you Edward; Looking forward to writing about it.
Thornton Wheeler says
Quite a story Jim… Lived through it from another angle, only as an instructor…