Hey all! So I know what you’re thinking. I’ve been M.I.A. and not really posting much. Well, that’s because I kind of got involved with a few more performance projects. Yay!
Venue: Shinjuku Gyoen Sound
When: August 11th, Show Starts @8:00 p.m.
Entry Charge: 2,000 yen + 1 Drink Order = ~2,500 yen.
Venue: Gyoen Rosso 198
When: September 1st, Show Stars @8:00 p.m.
Entry: 2,000 yen + 1 drink order = ~2,500 yen.
Both venues and shows are LGBTQIA+ welcoming! If you want to have a fun time with some gender subversive entertainment, check out these two shows. Thanks!
If I was ever to do a “Ten Things I Hate About Japan” video, for the most part I would just spend 8 out of those 10 things complaining about the summer and the summer heat. #1: The fucking humidity, #2: The fucking heat #3: THE HELLFIRE COMBINATION OF THEM BOTH-!
I’d figure it out. But until then, I do know one particular aspect of Japan that drives me up the wall: forcing sick kids to go to school / class.
One my students today came in- let’s call him Nashi – coughing up a lung before he even walked in the door.
“Hey, are you ok?” I asked him in English.
He responded with, “I have kaze.”
Kaze is Japanese for “a cold.”
I sighed and let him in. Nashi coughed and coughed throughout the whole class. He could hardly breathe. Every single time he tried to talk he would have a fit. On top of that, his twin sister – let’s call her Natsu – was in the beginning stages of his sickness getting passed to her. Both of them proceeded to spend most of that class time DYING from coughing and coughing and coughing.
For some reason their mom prepped Natsu with a water bottle, but Nashi got nothing! I actually stopped the class about ten minutes in to grab some water for him so he could at least attempt to get through class without coughing his voice raw.
This is a class of four students, so that meant 50% of my class was sick. Because I’ve been in very similar situations before, I’m predicting the other two kids are gonna get sick. Both of them will still come to class. Fast forward to three weeks later, and I’ll be sick.
As Nashi and Natsu left I asked them, “Where is your mom?”
“Oh,” Nashi said as he sipped on the water I gave him, “she’s at home. She’s making dinner.”
And I couldn’t help it, I got a bit judgmental. So a stay at home mother just forced her sick kids into a closed in space with me and two other much younger kids? And she also forced them to go to school? I didn’t say anything, I just gave them stickers, told them to take care, and off they went.
This aspect of Japanese culture is perhaps the one aspect I cannot tolerate very well. In the United States, if a kid has a fever, they stay the hell home. At least in my generation, anyway. We don’t force kids to fight through fevers and coughing to show up to class miserable. I’ve heard that nowadays some schools have ridiculous absentee rules, but back in my day (she said like a granny) the kids stayed home to get better and then come back to school healthy. This way the germs didn’t spread around to half the school population and take out the whole class with a sickness.
In Japan, if you’re still able to lift your head and not pass out, you’re going to school. Even with fevers, I saw my high school kids come into my classroom with glazed over eyes and obvious red cheeks that signify “I am super sick, yo, someone take me home!” But they would only maybe go to the nurse’s office to sleep for an hour and then right back into the next class!
Technically, if you have a fever of over 40 degrees Celsius you should go home, but I’ve seen kids be throwing up with no temperature to match. It’s crazy to me that at so young an age kids are already being trained to kill themselves for the sake of school and then work. Health should take priority over one day of school, right?
I don’t know, maybe I am “too American” in this mindset, but I feel like science would also support my idea? Stress is considered a strong factor in keeping a sickness lasting longer than it normally would. Wounds are shown to heal slower if someone is stressed versus staying in bed. Not to mention that Japan already has a problem with stressing their children into becoming hikikomori – wherein a person wants to stay inside and never leave their house due to overwhelming anxiety.
In addition to all that, making children go to classes and school while sick is actually the opposite of the collectivist outward thinking of other people that Japan usually prides itself on. The sickness will always spread to another person, regardless of face masks being used or not. Whether it’s the student in class or the teacher or someone on the street/in the train/on the bus, you get the idea.
So really, forcing them to go to class doesn’t really help anyone. It doesn’t help the kids, it just keeps them sicker for longer. The sickness always spreads to other kids, and to teachers. Therefore, it’s not helpful, it’s detrimental in every conceivable way.
The only argument “for it” bothers me. “Well, when they grow up, they’ll have to go to work sick too!”
But once again, science kind of says otherwise. Until you’re about 18-21 years old, your immune system isn’t developed enough to handle viruses like a fully grown adult’s body. That’s why we need kids vaccinated for the flu: they can literally DIE from strands of that yearly virus, unlike a healthy adult that can bounce back from it.
Demanding that children perform to the same expectations as an adult seems a bit of a ridiculously impossible expectation. Kids’ bodies just are not developed enough to handle the bombardment of illnesses and stress all at once.
I don’t really have any solutions to give here, I’m just a foreigner with an outsider perspective, but I worry, I really worry about my kids. Be they Nashi and Natsu who are only nine years old with colds to my high school teens with obvious flu-like symptoms, I worry about what kind of message they are learning from being forced into class and school with a sickness.
Because perhaps the thing that bother me the most is the underlying message, that your well being doesn’t matter as much as what you’re supposed to accomplish. Sacrificing your health, your wellness, your mental strength, all for the sake of…what? What does it really do for kids but set them up to feel like their wellness and health don’t matter? Not in comparison to the things they’re supposed to get done. Tests, exams, tests, exams, studying, studying, studying, all for the sake of the exams!
I don’t know, it just seems like prioritizing exams and tests over kids health is such a bad way to go all around. Once again, I’m coming from a different generation and from another country, so maybe I’m wrong. Still, I think it’s not just a cultural difference at play, there’s also a kind of cultural dissonance too. I’m sure that the kids will be alright, but I worry what it does to them.
After all, I’m a teacher, that’s kind of part of my job.
Now that I’m back in the eikaiwa schedule, let’s talk about a few things real quick, mainly about how the irregularity of these schedules can be maddening.
I understand that everyone gets the warning in the application process that some people will get more hours than others, and that some days will be more busy than others. But holy hell, man, sometimes when I get home I’m just EXHAUSTED. And it occurs to me as I sit at home eating crap food because I feel like crap that these schedules are so freakin’ weird.
I get some of the schedule irregularities. It’s business and customer service oriented, so when we do taiken (trail) lessons then we need to set aside time for those. Alright, fine enough. But then there are times when I’m working a day of back-to-back classes and I go, “Gee, wonder why this turnover rate is so damn high?!”
I can understand wanting to keep customers happy, so you prioritize their time over the employees. But I also don’t understand why you’d fail so hard at scheduling things that your employees end up wanting to quit.
My hard day is Saturday, where-in I teach four back-to-back classes in the morning. This wouldn’t kill me if it weren’t for the following classes in the afternoon, which are all kids group classes. Young kids, as in toddlers and elementary school kids. The amount of energy required to “teach” them, as in play in English with them, is more than the energy I actually have in a week.
This particular schedule has cycled through three other people before me, all of whom based on those who worked with them, also hated the schedule. It was apparently a factor in one person leaving.
And I know for a fact many eikaiwas do this practice of impossible workloads with demanding time constraints because god forbid we pay you a full lunch hour instead of the allotted forty five or actually give you overtime hours for doing extra prep.
Nope, gotta keep them labor costs down.
I get that owning a business is difficult, keeping customers must be a difficult endeavor, but consistently making impossible schedules isn’t going to fix those problems. Making schedules that give little to no prep time means that students get little to no quality in classes, it means teachers having little to no energy to get through the day, it means students leaving because they’re paying for these lessons and they want good quality for what they pay.
In the case of this Saturday schedule, they’ve added more children into my toddler class. I can already foretell a trend of adding more students into other classes of mine. I guess that’s because I do good demos, perhaps because my class times are more convenient for moms. But a really obvious solution, one would think, is instead of adding more students into an already full-ish class or shoving make-up students all into this particular day, would be instead to hire one more teacher for the school.
But we can’t because gotta keep those labor costs down, right?
It drives me crazy to think about how often these schedules happen in eikaiwa work, and they’re needlessly bad. If you can tell on paper that a schedule is causing a turnover, then maybe it might be a good idea to, I dunno, fix it?
Or even prevent it from happening! “Prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is a quote I often think about when it comes to problem solving. If you already tell there’s going to be a problem, then do your best to prevent it from happening, and maybe you’ll be better off for it. It’s simple, but in the eikaiwa industry they often seem to shoot themselves in the foot and ruin good instructors by demanding too much with harsh schedules.
Essentially in giving instructors enough time to plan, enough time between classes for set-up, and that forty five minute break, the quality of lessons will be better. It seems like common sense, and yet I saw this in Coco Juku before this current eikaiwa. Schedules are often designed on some days to simply cram as many students in as possible. Once again, I understand the need for a customer base, but if you have more customers than instructors for classes, that’s an over-extension of resources no matter how you look at it.
Now in fairness I’m actually really, really lucky. My boss chose schools that were close to my apartment, so I’m not spending two hours on a train to go to and from a school. My Monday through Thursday hours aren’t back-to-back madness at all, mainly because I get a full hour of prep on these days. These schedules are well designed to maintain a regular customer base.
But all too often the consistent customer base isn’t a part of the “quotas” and “targets” of an eikaiwa school. Constant customer growth is higher on the ladder. Quotas and targets won’t keep customers coming back, instructors do. Allowing the system to ruin instructors is how eikaiwas go under, just look at NOVA for that reminder. Push people too hard and something will give, be it in the form of a one month notice or a lawsuit or an angry tirade on a blog…
I’m well aware that this post won’t really solve anything. I’ve already spoken with several people about the harshness of that Saturday, and everyone basically shrugs their shoulders and says, “Yeah, Saturdays man,” and go on with their lives. Also, it’s not like one day out of the week is gonna make me quit (lived in Japan for seven years now, please, I’ll be here a while longer).
And yet, I worry about the new people, the ones who came half way across the world to be instructors and might have way worse schedules. I worry about my friends who talk about their eikaiwa work where they get zero personal days, just days without pay, sometimes even a whole unpaid summer. Instructors in the eikaiwa industry have little incentive to stay loyal with any company what-so-ever, scheduling is just one of many factors that bothers me about this work.
Once again, I’m lucky. I work for a company with personal days, paid leave, insurance, so the basic non-slavery-like package deal. And yet, I can already see cracks in this foundation. I can already start to see parallels to problematic system practices. I wish that things could change.
What kind of changes? A cap on back to back classes would be a good start (like perhaps three-four), a minimal ten minute prep before each class, and a standard hour of a lunch break (because come on, everyone uses it for prep time, who are we kidding?). But I know those changes are never gonna happen. A person so low on the ladder is never gonna get the attention of the big administrators and the company heads, there’s just no way that’ll ever happen.
It’s nice to talk about it, though, at least just a bit.
Firstly, much love to everyone who stayed on the poetry series with me. It was a labor of love, and I’m glad to receive love for my work in return. It’s just awesome!
And so, it’s been suggested by a few friends here and there to go for a poetry book. Having no funds for such a venture, I decided it is time to get a Patreon page.
I haven’t set up monthly goals yet, but I essentially want to make exclusive content for the Patreon givers such as previews of the book that I won’t show here on the blog.
I also want to get back on the YouTube content making horse, putting up more tourist friendly things on Patreon with more day-to-day vlogs here on the site.
Basically, I have a thousand ideas, I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m going for it anyways. I want to do more, like way more, but without a little support here and there I just can’t do it.
So if you’d like to support my poetry or my blogs or vlogs, head on over to the Patreon page. I’d appreciate even a dollar or two! It’s taking my work one step closer to getting out there!
Love you all, thank you!
Many friends speak of regrets
and deep hate for their teen selves.
Too much trouble,
too much anger,
or too arrogant for
Then there is you,
a girl stuck in books
saving the world,
and studying in between
all the novels hoarded
Be good, you think, always good,
and no one will leave.
Not again, anyway.
Yet still be ready,
for they might still
at any moment decide
you’re just not good enough
to stay and love.
Oh, if I could tell you…
Don’t beat yourself into
a suicidal crunch.
Let in your friends
so they will help you.
Don’t carry this hidden burden
of singular responsible child.
Let your mother see the letters
you stashed away on bad days.
All these things, but also more.
I would tell you the truth
that you’re ill prepared to hear:
You are worthy
of the love you seek
and the adventure
Someday, you’ll seek it out
beyond these green hills
and across the sea
you’ll find it all there
Keep going, brave little girl,
you’re almost there.