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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

THE ZEIT GIST

Nova's culture clash

Community Page readers respond to Tony McNicol's article on Nova's nonsocialization policy for teachers

Going to extremes

Your article about the Nova no-contact rule was interesting, but seemed to overlook (or at least de-emphasize) one important aspect of the rule. It not only prevents Nova employees from having romantic or potentially romantic contact with any Nova student from any branch, but it also forbids nonromantic contact, to a sometimes silly degree.

If a teacher finds an English-speaking dentist and then finds out he is a Nova student, the teacher is expected to abandon the dentist and find a new one. Why the need for such a policy? -- Jennifer, ex-Nagoya

Free-for-all danger

I feel that Tony McNicol's article was slightly one-sided. I think that a company of any size has to have some kind of guidelines. If it was a free-for-all, who would benefit? I have met a lot of people from a lot of places . . . and I would not want them all teaching my kids. -- Mark

It's a man's world

I found your article on Nova very interesting, since I was a Nova instructor for a year. You mentioned that many of the managers were married to ex-students. Where I was working, it was definitely true that teachers and former students (or former staff!) were engaged or married.

I thought it was amusing that this was almost exclusively a situation between male teachers and female students. Many of the female students developed crushes on the male teachers, but the male students, while quite willing to grab our behinds or stare at our chests, never wanted to go on dates with the female teachers. Interestingly, the staff encouraged any infatuation by scheduling that student with her crush and helping students write love letters. We even had some students that quit because they thought that would give them a better chance with their crush.

We were told very directly that Nova had this policy because they didn't want to lose students over jealousy or a messy break-up. Of course, this was from the managers -- the official training line was that if you worked for one of the other schools, you would be forced to go out with students all the time, whether you wanted to or not, and that Nova didn't want to put their instructors in that situation. Another part that was not mentioned in your article was that the staff, at least from what they told us, are discouraged from fraternizing with the teachers, too. We were told that this was so that they would feel comfortable reporting teachers to the head office if they did anything wrong.

Demoralizing experience

I do not work at Nova but rather another chain language school. There the staff are so wrapped up in sales that little concern is given to the quality of product or satisfaction of said "students" or "instructors." All of this is quite demoralizing and is forcing me to consider returning home in the middle of my one-year contract. -- Party Boy

Shag motive?

What exactly does this have to do with sex ? Are we to infer that teachers automatically prey on students for sex ? Or that they choose to hang out with their students routinely and that this would lead to a sexual situation?

The author of this article only strengthens the dictum that English teachers are "in it for the shags," but in a very incidental fashion. Nova has declared that students are students, teachers are teachers and outside the classroom, never the twain shall meet. That is fair enough surely? They aren't saying "no sex with your students." Or am I missing the point entirely? I usually do.

'Baka' policy

Your the man, Tony! My girlfriend wants to start taking Nova lessons, but since I'm a Nova teacher she can't!!! How "baka" is that?! -- Daniel

Encourage interaction

Nova's position is totally ludicrous! Some of the best times I had in Japan were meeting after hours with students of the eikaiwa school where I was teaching. It was also beneficial to the students to meet after hours.

In the less restrictive atmosphere of the local bar or karaoke studio, the students felt a lot more comfortable using the English they had learned in class than in a stuffy classroom where they were afraid of making mistakes in front of their fellow students. I think this type of interaction between eikaiwa teachers and students should be encouraged, not forbidden. -- William

Brutal

I agree with Tony McNicol's article. I work at Nova and I share the same sentiments as those people in the article. Nova often goes too far with their policies, which they enforce with brutal consequences (ultimately termination of employment). The company treats many of the staff like children with a blatant disregard for civility.

Missed opportunity

I am a Nova teacher who understands that Nova wants to protect its business from the poaching of students for private lessons, but I am at a loss as to how they can justify forbidding even friendships with students.

No sex: probably an unreachable but somewhat understandable policy to "protect against cultural misunderstandings." No private teaching of Nova students -- justifiable. But are they seriously thinking Japanese and foreigners can't understand each other well enough to be friends? Is this even worth examining? The fact that the sweet old retired gentleman who so badly wanted to guide me around Nara one day had to be refused to protect my job is one of the more ridiculous experiences I've had in Japan. -- Dave

Absurd 'protection'

Your quote from Nova's company profile illustrates nicely the absurdity of their comment about protecting people from cultural misunderstandings. Indeed, we need only remember the TV commercial Nova was running a year or two ago, which featured a shy Japanese woman in a nightclub lacking the confidence to speak to a handsome foreigner. Then she joins Nova, gains confidence, and in the last scene she is talking happily with the guy. The message of this, of course, is that if you study English at Nova you will get to socialize with foreigners. Do the customers know when they sign up and part with significant amounts of money that the teachers are forbidden from socializing with them at all? -- Robert

Give due credit

It seems to me that Nova has every right to expect professionalism of its staff, and to protect its reputation, but its current contractual stipulation regarding socialization with students outside of the workplace also seems to be based on the assumption that foreign employees cannot be trusted to behave.

In a few cases this may indeed be true, but anyone foolish enough to behave in a grossly inappropriate manner towards clients of the company is also going to be foolish enough to disregard a few rules on a scrap of paper.

Also, may I suggest that a large number of its foreign employees, having lived in Japan for years, have a much better grasp of Japanese culture than they're credited with.

Furthermore, I wonder if Mr. Ishimatsu has ever been inside a Nova school, if he has the gall to assume that we'd be spending all our time kissing students if there weren't rules to stop us.

Distorted views of Japan

I think a lack of cultural understanding, due to feeling like a criminal if we spend time with students, often distorts many Nova teachers' view of Japan, though I find it's best not to mix business and pleasure. Who wants to see an ex at work on a regular basis anyway? -- Daisuke

A dire experience

(sic) i to believe that clause is ridiculous as it states in the latest lonely planet working for a chain school is dire. u really r treated like cattle. s**t co to work for



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